April 17, 2024

TUBLAY, Benguet – A couple is making the most of a property they bought seven years ago by transforming it into an arts and cultural hub, a campsite, and a farmer’s market.

Located about three kilometers away from the Gov. Bado Dangwa national road, the recently launched Abong ni Tumbilao can be reached by navigating an interior road lined with lush pine trees and other vegetation.

Benguet Board Member Juan Nazarro and wife, Myrna, describe their acquisition of the one-hectare property as an accident for they did not plan to buy one but proceeded with buying it anyway to help a relative.

Two structures standout on the property – a hut made of pinewood and a museum where traditional Ibaloy attire, cooking utensils, and hunting gear are on display.

The owners were able to build the museum through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and Arts. But the development does not stop there. Nazarro said they are planning to build huts representing the 13 towns of Benguet and improve the trails to be used for forest bathing. Another hut will be built where souvenir items, crafts, and fresh produce from the farms of Benguet will be sold.

Instead of tents, the huts will be used as accommodation facility for guests.

The main hut, which Myrna named “Abong ni Tombilao,” or house of sounds, will be used as training area for the youth of Benguet to learn more about their culture and heritage through tutorials in weaving, basketry, playing of traditional musical instruments.

Myrna said their decision to transform the area into a cultural hub was spurred by their observation that a lot of Ibaloy youth are slowly losing their knowledge about their heritage. By having a venue where the youth will be reintroduced to their heritage, she hopes more Ibaloys will pass on the distinct culture of their forefathers for the next generations to come.

“We did a lot of soul-searching before we decided to formally open our place to the public,” Nazarro said and keeps his hope high that if they are able to sustain the area’s operation, they would be able to build a new legacy not only for their children but for the new generation of Ibaloy youth.

Apart from assistance from the NCCA, the couple also partnered with the Baguio-based Pasakalye Group of Artists where a group of artisans will also display their art work.

The Abong ni Tumbilao will formally welcome guests upon approval of the provincial government of Benguet.

Benguet remains closed to tourists. The few tourist spots that were allowed to reopen are limited to residents only. – Rimaliza A. Opiña