Cinema Leonardo: A Silent Hill Retreat in Baguio

It was nearing midnight of a Friday and as I sat at Victory Liner's Cubao terminal, a man being chased by a cop ran beside the post near from where I was sitting. He embraced the post like his life depended on it, to avoid being cuffed by the policeman. With all the reports of summary execution by cops, he might have a reason to hug for dear life. The cop's reasoning was, the tattooed bum was suspected of an attempted bag snatching. My friend, the hipster mum Gaye arrived to witness the end of the low key stand-off, and as the cop dragged the uncooperative suspected thief to the police headquarters, I kind of wish him a day in court and a smooth journey into the usual process of our justice system. 

Spacious ground
I feel glad I am on the side of the law and the only journey about to start was our weekend sojourn to the City of Pines. Soon Monette and Melo arrived to complete the foursome ascent to the summer capital of the Philippines. I've been to Baguio many times in the past, more than half of them before I graduated from high school, as it was the favorite place of my family and our neighbors to spend our summers. Lately, I've been dropping by the place en route to other destinations such as Sagada and Mount Pulag

Fogs of War
A friend of mine Chin, whom I've traveled with to Guimaras a couple of years ago, invited us to stay at her friend's place located on a top of a hill called Cinema Leonardo. The bus ride was a bit uneventful as Gaye was surprisingly silent most of the way because her seatmate Melo was dozed off cold, while myself was half asleep and Monette busy playing "Smurfs" on her iPad. We arrived in Baguio at around 7am, quickly had our breakfast and headed straight to the market to buy ingredients needed for Sinigang, alcohol and breakfast for the next day.

2nd room doubles as a cineplex
Cinema Leonardo is located at approximately 20-25 minutes from the city center. We took a cab and passed by an eerie portion for the cliff-side road filled with thick fog. Along the way I saw the Cooyeesan Hotel where Manny Pacquiao often stays and trains each time he prepares for a fight. We got lost momentarily by turning right to the wrong side street, finally we reached the correct street but wasn't able to locate the house right away. I told them to wait for me while I get off the cab and try to knock on a random house for direction. Already having gotten the direction from a kind lady, I turned my back to walk towards the cab, but was surprised to see the three of em, Monette, Gaye and Melo already walking towards me. They told me the cab driver was spooked and wanted out of there in a hurry and told them to get off the cab.

Breakfast of Champions
We walked a paved road up a hill and there it was, occupying a spacious ground with a view of the surrounding hills and only a few houses within the vicinity, we reached Cinema Leonardo. We were met by the two caretakers who gave us the key and quickly disappeared after, leaving the whole house for us to wreck havoc on. The house has two huge bedrooms (good for five each) and a room for two at the ground floor, plus two other bedrooms on the second floor. There's a big living area, kitchen and a dining table that can sit a dozen people. There is a space on the second floor that doubles as a cineplex and was used in the past for film showings. The house is owned by the family of independent movie filmmaker Khavin Dela Cruz.

The Chef's assistants Gaye and Monette
Melo was our designated cook, we had pork sinigang for lunch. Most of the day was spent sitting around the dining table just talking and making jokes, plus guessing who among our friends were gay. (though we've come up with a probable list, it will be treated as any top secret CIA file). Gaye was forever threatening to burn the small red mole (I'm shy to call it a 'wart') on my right arm with a cigarette, that I feel the need to keep the kitchen knife nearby just in case. 

That afternoon, Kaiz - a Maxene Magalona look-alike, arrived straight from her work. With no sleep and all, she managed to board a bus to Baguio, falling asleep and banging her head in the bus window countless times. At that time - all of us had a short nap, the weather was cold but manageable. The fog that was present the whole day intensified and visibility outside was almost zero.

The house has 5 spacious bedrooms
We had dinner at Pizza Volante along Session Road in the city, where we were joined by my friend Grace who earlier in the day drove up to Baguio for a work related errand. There is an entertaining quip about Grace's entry, as Gaye would love to retell. Thing is, I never told them that a friend of mine will be dropping by, and Grace's bubbly personality was in display when she came in "Hi hello, nice to meet you" on our table that took the rest by surprise. It turned out great as our table was given with a new leash on life and conversations flowed mightily again amid our tired and sleep deprived bodies.

Living room
We called it a night after the lengthy talk at Pizza Volante. Before the next sun rises, another twosome friends of ours, the cool couple of George (a dead ringer to Lourd de Veyra) and Izzy arrived. I found them aboard the taxi cab outside the gates of Cinema Leonardo at around 4am, as they got off, they told me their cab driver was also starting to get spooked out. I think it was the place, the hill, the fog and the dead end street nearby. If any, the setting of the house is eerie in a good way. A total contrast of the many crowded hostels, inns and houses for rent found in the city center. 

Channeling Sadako by the wishing well. 
The morning after we had breakfast of champions and just hang around the house truly savoring every minute of our stay there. Wish we could spend another weekend in this house atop a hill soon.


For more information about Cinema Leonardo, please visit their Facebook Page.