Words and Photos by Joanna Pilla
The classic ‘tourister’ question I get whenever people I know come up to Baguio is “where are all the good food joints?” and even if there is a restaurant named “that damn good sick joint” I always find myself answering “OMG” literally, actually, because one of my most favorite restaurants the entirety of Baguio is Kidlat Tahimik’s Artist Café/Restaurant, ‘Oh my Gulay’.
A classic Vegan café/restaurant serving only the finest and freshest produce of Benguet, which says a lot since a huge amount of produce in our local marketplace and grocery actually comes from our friends from the North.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always held myself as the classic meat eater. Slap a homey steak on my plate and I will eat it, no questions asked. So it’s really a mystery how a person whose diet hinges around a variety of meat would have their favorite eat-out spot be Vegan. If that does not tell you this is the best vegan restaurant in Baguio I don’t know what will.
But OMG’s food isn’t the only thing that puts it up the food pedestal. Being inside the restaurant is a whole other experience in itself. The owner Kidlat Tahimik, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and one of Baguio’s, nay, Philippines’ amazing artist made sure that OMG is not only a feast for your mouth but a feast for your eyes. The classic rustic, vintage, almost hipster design gives off a feeling of the authentic countryside in the middle of an urban city like Baguio.
Once you step inside, a scene of vines and woodwork will instantly greet you. Since it sits atop the highest floor of the La Azotea building in the middle of busy session road, you’d never expect to see paradise in a sea of people and buildings. To be honest, this is one of the many reasons you’ll fall in love with the place.
A tiny Koi pond will start your journey in this ethereal themed garden. A small bridge will officially lead you inside this masterpiece of a restaurant.
On the left is a stage reminiscent of the countryside bungalow with the elevated space and a small ladder to lead you up. Depending on the event, or the day you visit, the stage will either be decorated by theme or just simply decorated by a handful of woodwork from Baguio’s finest carvers.
On the right are dining areas that opens up to a lovely view of the city.
Going further inside is a staircase that leads up to the second level of the café.
This area gives a beautiful overlook of the whole place. Kind of breathtaking, to be honest.
It just really makes your appreciate the work and effort put into such a place. It comes alive with its character and its own personality.
The second level for me is the most ideal place to dine in, especially in the evening. The lighting is brilliant, and like the first level, it also give an overlook of the whole city. Just don’t look down or you’ll find yourself disheartened by the chaotic roads.
There’s a small bridge that connects the first area into a second one, at the heart of it, a classic wooden boat, or half of it at least.
A little bit further, you’ll be greeted by a dining area inspired by the Igorot’s dap-ay or a place of gathering where everyone in the community can eat, talk, and perform (the traditional dap-ay often holds community folk dances).
This is beautiful in essence I think, because in a way, cafes are sort of like the modern dap-ay of not only the highlanders but also the lowlanders. It’s where people gather to eat, talk, and perform. It interweaves culture and modernity, like Baguio maintains its cordilleran roots while keeping up with the Urban sprawl.
As you get to the other end of the second level, you’ll get a feel of what the first area wants to give off.
On top of it houses a small sort cottage guarded by the door of this beautiful woodwork of an ancient ancestor.
The second level hosts a lot of classic woodwork reminiscent of some of Benguet’s furniture design.
If you find that you’re a bit hungry, OMG makes the most of its name in its menu. The witty monikers given to the food and the best vegan meals are what make Oh my Gulay ready ‘OMG’ worthy. As expected of Kidlat sometimes mixing humor in his art. He simply does the same with his menu. The food is not as expensive as most vegan joints. The price is actually very friendly ranging from Php 90- Php 250.
The food is to die for by the way as a range of Organic pastas and brilliant dessert will leave you wanting more.
But more than the food and the artistic values of the whole place, the reason that I always find myself going back time and again is because of the beautiful representation of art and culture in a place that you would least expect it. An old building in the middle of session road presents gem worth digging for. At the end of the day, character and personality is what wins in my book. What’s even lovelier about the place is that Baguio’s culture comes alive in it. As a person who studied the depth of culture through Communication, my heart is instantly captured by a joint that could exhibit its city’s character and culture. A café that can come alive on its own is as spectacular as any other high end restaurants maybe even, dare I say, better?
Oh My Gulay
Session Road, La Azotea Building 4th Floor, Baguio City
Contact No: +63 74 446-0108
Oh My Gulay Facebook here