“Gawis ay Mountain Province” is a common motto by the Montañosans, a motto promoting a good Mountain Province. What really makes Mountain Province good? Shall we explore?
Over the towering mountains and jagged peaks of the north lies a beautiful land — our very own Mountain Province.
Inside its municipalities: Paracelis, Natonin, Barlig, Sadanga, Bontoc, Sabangan, Bauko, Tadian, Besao, and Sagada, lay the wonders that can stir the insides of an adventurer.
Allow me to share my experience of how living in Mountain Province is.
My friend and I once decided to take an adventure on our way home to Sagada from Bontoc. We took a ride and stopped at Dantay, some 30 minutes away from Bontoc, and prepared our chubby feet for a long walk over the mountains and the dusty roads going to Sagada. With two bottles of mineral water plus a 1.5 liter bottle of Royal given by someone we met as our only sources of survival, we proceeded on a three-hour walk from Dantay to Sagada. Climbing up the rugged roads was hard yet very exciting. It was very tiring and our skins were turning very brown due to the hot weather but the end was really satisfying! That brought me to think that I have explored at least one percent of Mountain Province. It was just a small area of Mountain Province but as I look at the reigning mountains overlooking us, I couldn’t help but say wow. No wonder our province was so named — mountains are towering everywhere!
I am not a very good trave-ler and I haven’t gone through all the municipalities. However, I am lucky enough to be a native and resident of one of the western municipalities — Sagada.
To reach Sagada means traversing the narrow mountain trails in the Cordillera or conquering the winding, dusty roads around these mountains. But don’t worry — a rugged and dusty road, as they say, will always lead to paradise. Sagada boasts of its cool breeze that welcomes you once you step on its grounds. Paradise does not end there, around the place is a lot more!
Popularly known as the destination of foreign and local adventurers, Sagada features natural sceneries like caves and falls. One spot is the Sumaguing Cave. Known as the home of stalactites, stalagmites, beautiful rock formations, and bright lime stones, it is one of the most visited spots in the municipality. The cave can be explored by non-experts but with the aid of local guides, of course. In case you would like to explore more caves, the Lumiang or Burial Cave would be the place. Inside the cave you can see the culture of the ancient Sagadans in burying their dead. It is an ancient burial cave full of coffins piled one on top of the other, which was the common burial practice in olden times.
Next must-see scenery is the Bomod-ok Water Falls or the Big Falls located at Bangaan, Sagada. Going there is easy because you just have to keep on walking down the hundreds of steps along the rice terraces. Going back is another story — just be careful of cramps and I dare say it’s a stairway to heaven! Bomod-ok Falls possesses a savagely majestic view that can leave your mouth open in appreciation. This is a perfect place to calm and relax yourself. Yoga can be performed there, too.
There are a lot more sights to see in Sagada — the Bokong Falls, the Danum Lake, the Echo Valley, the hanging coffins, and more. All these make Sagada an alternative vacation spot from that of places like Baguio City.
There are other beautiful spots in Mountain Province too, like the Chico River in Bontoc, the tri-boundary view in Besao, the rice terraces in Barlig, etc. So, if someone out there is searching for a semblance of paradise, Mountain Province is the perfect place.
Mountain Province is also rich in its culture. Researched at www.tourism.gov, the Bontocs are the main ethnolinguistic group in Mountain Province. The traditional belief system of the Bontocs and the people in western Mountain Province is that spirits dwell in nature.
They believe in a paramount being called Lumawig or Kabunian.
Mountain Province is also known as “Weaver’s Paradise.” This is due to the presence of various weaving centers sporting different designs that show the province’s cultural heritage. The capital, Bontoc, is acknowledged as the center of rice production and colorful culture, customs, and traditions. All these cultures are presented in the yearly Lang-ay Festival, an annual affair in Mountain Province participated in by all the municipalities and celebrated in Bontoc.
Back in Feb. 26, 2006, the Zigzag scooped what Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog emphasized during the Lang-ay, “the Lang-ay is celebrated not only to showcase the rich and diverse culture of the province but to unite its people to work for a better Mountain Province.”
Modernization has outstretched its hands in almost every corner of the world and this province is no exception. Almost everything has been affected — the livelihood, lifestyle, and even culture. But despite the advancement of technology and modernization, the cultural practices continue to thrive. Though most of the youth prefer modern things like modern music and dances, we have the Lang-ay to remind us of the culture that needs to be preserved. The Lang-ay serves to maintain the balance bet-ween the old ways and the new.
Though the different municipalities differ in their own ways like in their cultures and traditions, there are some commonalities in them especially to those who claim to be Igorots. Children as young as three years old are being taught by elders of the words “inayan” and “lawa.” Young as they are, they are already aware of the dos and don’ts in the society. Respect to other people especially the elders is a value instilled in the hearts of the Igorots.
Having dwelled in our place for how many years, I say my province is a daring one. I say daring because it follows the steps of “Gawis ay Mountain Province” — the PRESTIGE. P for the peace and order; R – reliable, responsible, efficient, effective leadership; E – education, culture, sports; S – social services, health and sanitation; T – treasury and finance; I – infrastructure, tourism; G – good governance; and E – ecology and agricultural deve-lopment.
Mountain Province is a land to be very proud of — the scenic spots, culture, and the people as well. If somebody carelessly says that Igorots are not Filipinos and that they have tails lurking behind their backs, they’re definitely wrong. Having “tails” does not mean we’re monkeys right?
I hope someday, I will no longer be exploring just a percent of my province, rather, a hundred percent of it (erasing the dusty roads, of course). Dream on! Wow, I just can’t wait!
The 16-year-old author is a student of Sagada National High School. She lives at Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province