Strawberries, mummies, Igorots, silk, and Mt. Pulag. These are the things that got into the mind of this new person I have met when I told her I was from Benguet. Probably, these will also be the things that would enter other people’s mind when they hear of the word Benguet.
But these are not only what Benguet has to offer. There are more things to see in this treasure-filled province.
Benguet is the roof of Northern Luzon and the gateway to the Cordillera region. It is the homeland of three tribes — the Ibalois, the Kankana-eys, and the Kalanguyas — collectively referred to as Igorots. These people have a rich culture, and they also have a homeland full of wonderful sights and views.
Every time I introduce myself to someone else, it is always with great pride that I claim I am from Benguet. This is not only because my parents belong to the Ibaloi and Kankana-ey tribe but also because of the distinct characteristics these people possess.
The Ibaloi people reside in the southeast part of the province, the Kankana-eys in the northwest, and the Kalanguya tribe in the east.
Hardworking, kind, hospitable, sincere, and humble are the words used to portray the Ibaloi people. The Kankana-eys are also described as hardworking, simple, humble, independent, and business-minded. The Kalanguyas are pertained to as a peace-loving, obedient, kind, and hardworking people.
Although they speak different dialects, these tribes share a common culture. The Benguet folks believe in the existence of the unseen — the spirits and supernatural beings. Accordingly, these unseen beings emanate from the skyworld and the underworld and they are thought to have power over man. When these unseen beings are pleased and honored, they bestow blessings and bounties to the people, as well as pain and suffering when they are displeased. People try to satisfy and win the favors of the spirits through prayers and offerings in a ritual.
They observe common rituals, especially the cañao. The cañao involves animal sacrifice, feasting and dancing. It is commonly performed for thanksgiving, for healing, for entertainment, or for asking a bountiful harvest.
The tayao, a Benguet cultural dance, is done to praise and thank the god, Kabunyan, for the blessings and bounties he has given. It is accompanied by the solibao and gongs. The tayao is usually executed during cañaos and other sacred celebrations.
Native priests are also present in Benguet. These native priests are spiritual leaders well-versed in the belief system. They are classified into three types according to their duty: the mansip’ok / mansib’ok who determines the cause of illness, death, or misfortune, and prescribes the appropriate ritual cure; the manbunong who administers the prescribed ritual cure; and the mankotom / manchiba who interprets omens and signs which the mansip’ok and manbunong may not determine.
These tribes also believe that man has a spirit. When a good man dies, his spirit will join the spirits of his ancestors in the skyworld and will have more freedom, while the spirits of wicked men will join the spirits in the underworld.
There are many things to see in Benguet. I may have not visited them all but merely looking at my own municipality of Kapangan, it proves that, indeed, I am raised in a blessed province.
This province is favored with scenic sites such as caves, mountains, falls, springs, lakes, and rivers. Apart from these gifts endowed by nature to Benguet, there are also man-made structures and historical places in Benguet that are worthy of one’s visit.
Things to behold
Mt. Kabunian in Bakun is believed to be the place where gods and goddesses dwell, and at the same time, it is an ancient burial ground. It is a rocky mountain that stretches for kilometers, making it ideal for professional trekkers and mountaineers.
Located in Itogon is Mt. Ugo, a beautiful mountain offering trails that pass through the native communities of the Kalanguya tribe. It is fast becoming a new favorite destination of mountaineers from Metro Manila and local outdoor organizations. Mt. Pulag in Kabayan, which is the highest mountain peak in Luzon, rises 9,640 feet above sea level, and is considered the “playground of gods.” It is a good site for mountain climbing.
Another beautiful mountain in Benguet is Mt. Sto. Tomas in Tuba. The mountain’s peak offers a magnificent view of sunrises and sunsets and a clear view of the Lingayen Gulf. It is an ideal place for picnics and excursions. Sightseers must not also miss to catch a glimpse of the life-sized fi-gures of the Stations of the Cross.
Exquisite falls, springs, lakes, and rivers are also in the province. The Colorado Falls in Tuba has been a favorite site of Baguio residents for some time now. Three giant falls drop into a natural pool almost 10 feet at its deepest.
In Bokod, they have the Badekbek Sulfur Spring, a natural spring with boiling mud pools emitting smoke. People find this attraction a continuing source of wonder and amazement.
Amburayan River in Kapangan is also a cool spot for outings especially during summer days. The clear, cool water of this river is refreshing as the sound of the water flowing is soothing.
The Bulalakao Lake that holds crystal clear waters is found at the base of Mt. Pulag. This lake has been a three-time consecutive winner of the Cleanest Lake (for Cordillera) under the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran.
Located in Kibungan is Madaymen, which is a vegetable growing area and is considered the “Switzerland of Benguet.”
Strawberry gardens and strawberry picking activities in La Trinidad have also become tourist attractions.
The first ever underground mining tourist attraction in the Philippines, the Balatoc Mines Tour, showcases the thrilling and educational mining heritage of Itogon.
Benguet is also a proud home to picturesque caves. The Ambongdolan Caves in Tublay is made up of clusters of caves and cavelets that have various formations of stalagmites and stalactites. Another cave that exhibits amazing scenes of stalagmites and stalactites is the Bolingaongao Cave also in Tublay. These caves are perfect for nature trippers.
Aside from displaying nature’s wonders, other caves in Benguet also show the Benguet folks’ culture and tradition, particularly on mummification. Burial caves where mummified remains of important men have been laid show how sacred these mummies are for the people.
The Opdas Cave is considered as one of the biggest burial caves in Kabayan. It contains hundred of skulls piled on the sides, and thousands of bones and several coffins placed on the cave’s floor.
Another mummy abode that can be reached by hiking from a jump-off point along Km. 52 of the Halsema Highway is the Timbac Cave, also in Kabayan, which harbors mummies of rich ancestors.
In Buguias, you will find another burial cave — the Apo Anno Cave. Apo Anno, the famed 12th century mighty hunter of Benguet known as a demigod in Benguet tales, has his mummified remains in this cave.
Benguet does not only put on view astonishing places and sights, it also offers historical places that would enliven the memories of the past, especially those of World War II.
The Batarangan Airstrip in Kibungan was used as a landing site by the US Airforce during the WWII. Camp Utopia in Kapangan was the camp of the famous 66th Infantry Battalion during WWII where the late majors Bado Dangwa and Dennis Molintas led the defense of Igorotlandia. The Guerilla Saddle in Km. 26 of the Halsema Highway was the battleground of the Infantry Battalion and guerillas who fought the Japanese Imperial Army.
In Kapangan, the Kaliwaga Cave is the burial place of British soldiers of fortune who came to Benguet in the 15th century. The Darew Ancient Ruins of Civilization, also in Kapangan, is where we can have a view of the ruins of the earliest known settlements.
Other must-see sites in Benguet are the Inodey Waterfalls in Mankayan, the Dalupirip Hot Springs of Itogon, the Cabacab Plateau in Mankayan, the Bridal Veil Falls in Tuba, the Naguey Rice Terraces of Atok, and the Palina Rice Terraces in Kibungan.
In my 15 years of living in this province, I can say that Benguet is a wonderful place to be in. With all its beautiful places and sights coupled with beautiful people with a rich culture, Benguet really has it all.
The author, 15 years old, is from Central Kapangan, and the second of four siblings (all girls). She is an incoming first year nursing student at Saint Louis University. Her pastimes are playing the guitar and keyboard, watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading.