April 23, 2024

Nonnette C. Bennett
Among the municipalities of Benguet, it is perhaps Kabayan that has preserved most of the material culture evidences and natural wonders. Apart from Mount Pulag, where ancestors are watching the mortals, many other areas of this seat of Ibaloy and Kalanguya traditions and practices are worth visiting.
On one of the summer leadership training camps of the Philippine Mental Health Association-Cordillera chapter for the Lakas Isipan ng Kabataan (LINK) Clubs in high schools of Benguet, this town’s Kamora National High School played host to some 50 student leaders from different municipalities and Baguio City.
Situated in the upper sitios of Poblacion, the students had space to explore and exercise collaboration because it was also a team challenge. Here, they had to prove the tasks were easily completed if everyone did their part. But most of all, the focus was on being the mental health advocate for their peers. The late Mayor Faustino Aquisan had prepared the cultural tour of the youth at that time. Pardon the errors in the names of the places because this was sometime in 2014.
The Tinongshol Caves were included in the trek that had exercises in team spirit. Passing the trails and groves that were part of the tourism infrastructure development, a good view of the burial caves in this part of the hills awed the youth. They saw how the coffins were laid on the ledges and niches of the caves. Barriers had been installed to prohibit further exploration into the sacred grounds.
The Opdas Cave at Poblacion could not be missed on our way home. One of the most popular burial caves, this is found under one of the houses and belongs to one clan with the bones now neatly arranged. This tells of the way ancestors were buried and the traditions that surround them.
The Lake Incolos is the unique feature of Kabayan that has no visible water and is only felt. The reason being that this body of water is under a thick mat of grass and vegetation that allow one to jump and bounce without sinking into the water. It may be quite a hike to reach it, but one must experience this.
Lake Ambulalakaw is the most photographed in Kabayan, perhaps because it is placid and surrounded by vegetation. The water is clear and there are no houses that surround it.
Lake Tabeyo is the most visible lake that is beside the road and surrounded by vegetable farms. The color indicates that there is some pollution affecting it. The animals are free to wallow in the water.
There was also the change from the concrete jungle of city life to the wide spaces and natural growth that cooled the summer air. The walk through a canopy of trees was also worth the sweat on the way to the lakes. The sweetness of the water purified by the rocks and sand coming out of roadway pipes refilled the plastic water bottles. These will never be had in any other urban space.
The songs that filled the evening performances of the groups or the laughter and untiring chatter after the chores grew louder as each day passed because of the bonds that grew stronger among them. The most fitting evidence was the selection of the next president of the federation of the LINK Clubs which would spill into the new school year, when the work is continued, and the learnings shared with other members of the school clubs. This energy echoes back to the PMHACC, Inc. during the Quiz Bees and the Academic Festivals that bring them together through the year. They have each other to lean on and support as they also allow others to rely on them in the most troubled times. This is with the hope that they have lived their roles as the ones to listen.
This was almost the last summer camp, but the lessons learned had Kabayan’s customs and traditions melded into its memories. They may not have the chance to see it again in the same wonderful way.