By Mari-An Santos

I was seven years old when I first set eyes on Baguio—and it was love at first sight. Though I do not remember this, my father would later recount that I told him then that one day, I would live in this city.

Fast forward to 20 years later, I was at a crossroads in my life trying to decide what to do next. I went up to Baguio with a friend after five years of not seeing the place. On a whim, I applied for a teaching post at the University of the Philippines Baguio and was accepted. I took it as a sign that I should live out my childhood dream.

It was not easy. I was very nervous and afraid of what lay before me. I did not know anyone there. My father knew two people who lived there, and one of them agreed to let me rent a room. I, who had never lived alone, had to live away from my family.

I bought a map and on weekends, I would pick a place and explore it on foot. Soon, I could answer competently when tourists ask me for directions.

Thanks to my friendship with fellow teachers, I got to know other people in the community. And soon, I was on speaking terms with various artists in Baguio.

I also got acquainted with some restaurant owners, since I would frequent their establishments. They are now my friends.

I knew how to cook but it had been some time since I went to the wet market. From experience and referrals, I found out where to buy organic vegetables and cheap fresh seafood.

Now, I even know more people and places than many local Baguio residents. That’s because I stepped out of my comfort zone and went from the familiar to conquer the unknown in my life. I never thought that at 27, I would still be able to forge new friendships and discover different talents and passions. As I so happily discovered, learning has no age restrictions.