My companions wanted something different from the usual fares. The fact that we were in Baguio, we should shy away from the fast food restos in the mall, which, are a dime a dozen in Manila. Since my Baguio friends were raving about it, and the sorry fact that I, who consider Baguio my second home, has not gone to this much talked about restaurant. I suggested Oh My Gulay! (OMG). It was a quick decision, so off we went downtown and proceeded to La Azotea building along Session Road. We preferred a quick lunch since they were scheduled to leave Baguio in mid-afternoon and I was also about to meet my college buddies for our first reunion after more than two decades.
From the stories about OMG, I learned that it is a haven for Baguio artists. So, more or less, I had an inkling of how it looks like--art pieces here and there, bulul sculptures, paintings, etc. But then, I was wrong. My expectation pales in comparison with what I was seeing. The last flight of stairs leading to the top-most floor of the building where OMG is located has already amazed my artistic senses. How I regretted leaving my my dSLR in the lodging house! So, I just had to make do with a point and shoot compact camera that is not even my brand!
I thought we were in for a real different dining experience. The staircase itself is an installation from usable wood scraps turned into a fascinating art form that effortlessly gratify one's senses. You would even be more amazed as you enter the heart of the restaurant--and one can immediately say that everything in it, is a work of art, and where all you can say is WOW!
Inside, we were greeted by a small koi pond matched with a foot bridge (and you can actually walk on it!) and water plants. To the left from the entrance is a stage where Baguio's performance artists would hold their acts usually at night. To the right is the two-level dining area. The wooden loft is is accessible by a staircase--all from recycled wood. The loft is a bit rickety. Perhaps, it was designed as it should be. This reminds me of an informal settlement in the slums of Manila, which are made up of scrap wood that seemed hastily and thoughtlessly joined by nails--only a cleaner and artsy version of it. Perhaps, that is the whole idea of this functional installation art. Straight ahead from the entrance, one can see a castle-like structure, which "houses" the toilets for men and women, and where Victor Oteyza's portrait by National Artist BenCab is hung.
We chose the set of tables on the loft that offers a good view of both the "ground floor" and panoramic Burnham park. We were given the set of menu. We realized they only serve pasta, sandwiches and salads. later did I only learn that going by its name, Oh My Gulay!, only serves vegetarian food. So, we proceeded to order our pasta/ noodle and salad dishes. I have a penchant for spaghetti putanesca, and got more excited when I read "spicy" that I immediately asked for one "Anak ng Putanesca", including tossed green salad (which I can't rememember or forgot to take note of) and iced tea. I thought that is enough for lunch. I was heading to a reunion with lots of food, anyway.
While waiting for our orders, I looked around and took some photos, which I would need for this travel blog. Unfortunately, it took more than a year for this blog entry to be written. I tried to capture every possible angle and every piece of artwork. No one seemed to care about me taking photos, anyway! It was lunch time and there were very few customers, which augured well for my photography as there would be no one blocking my viewpoint. Not long enough, our food was ready.
I would say, I enjoyed my salad and spicy putanesca. There is something different to the taste of the salad. Perhaps the fresh oregano and basil that come with the vinaigrette. My spicy putanesca was definitely a "10" for me. I just love the aroma of fresh basil. The spicy-ness was just right to the taste. Not too hot. Just enough spicy tang that lingers in the mouth. I was looking for capers and more black olives on it, but then, it is a different version of putanesca! No more complaining. My tummy was full enough not to complain anyway.
OMG reminds me of the Baguio Arts Festival, back in the day. If my memory serves me right, it was in 1985 when Baguio Arts Guild held its first art festival. It just saddens me that BAG disbanded and there are artistic factions, depending on what medium they are in or if they are modern or traditional artist. Anyway, back in the day, installation art always fascinated me, which compelled me to linger more than usual--with my untrained eye--trying to digest what the installation was about, before I would read a written synopsis about it. It was like comparing my interpretation and that of the artist--and I was glad that in many installation pieces, I shared some of their thoughts. Not bad, for a mere observer, huh!
OMG, by the way, is really an artists' haven before it is a restaurant. It is also called VOCAS or Victor Oteyza Community Art Space. I think it is owned by Kidlat Tahimik. The welcome poster says it all:
To VOCAS, an energy centrum for the creative talents of the Cordilleras, built in the memory of Victor Oteyza, the Baguio artist who was one of the 13 modern group in the 1950s that pioneered in Philippine modern art. This movement in post-war Ermita included H. Ocampo, V. Edades, C. Legaspi, L. Tabuena, A. Magsaysay-Ho, among whom the only Baguio boy was Vic.
VOCAS was designed to host visual arts, exhibits, original music concerts, homegrown theater and literature, local films and traditional art from the Igorot culture. Hopefully, this will inspire more Indio-genius creations from the North.
Victor Oteyza, your spirit lives on...
To cap it off, dining at OMG is an altogether unique experience, as one is able to appreciate Cordillera art and culture and at the same time able to relish the good food it serves. It's out-of-this-world interiors that offers a semblance of a theme park, is just comfy enough to exude that inviting dining ambiance.
And I hope to catch a glimpse of the art performances sometime in the future.
I am just glad to share some photos with you through this slide show. If your internet connection is slow, you may go to my OH MY GULAY Flickr set to view the photos individually.
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