Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mt. Kalugong In La Trinidad, Benguet Now Has Its Own Coffee Shop In A Cabin

I spent Valentine's Day writing essays and working on a long overdue art project. I spent the night of that fateful day reading John Gardner's novel Grendel, a weird but great (and humorous) retelling of the English epic poem Beowulf in the perspective of the hideous monster. I turned off my phone, popped a few cans of beer, and read until I finished the book around 2:00 am. In a nutshell, while everyone was romantically productive on Valentine's Day, I was busy typing away on a keyboard and poring over a book on monsters.

On the morning after Valentine's Day, I decided to go for a hike to sort of shake off the cobwebs of the previous day/night. Waking up with a bit of a headache, I went for a short run then headed over to Mt. Kalugong. Since they no longer allow hikers to pass through the "stairway to heaven" in Tabangaoen, I took the long route through barangay Cruz. There were only a handful of people when I entered the eco-park. I paid the park fee and immediately climbed over to the rock formations as everyone seemed to have retired to the picnic tables under the trees. I sat there at the rocks for a long while: thinking, mulling, reminiscing, enjoying the warm sunshine, taking in the view of the La Trinidad valley below, and eating my "baon" (potato chips and good 'ol water).

I explored the rock formations (the ones I didn't get to see during previous visits). It still amazes me how these gigantic rocks made it to the top of this mountain. Geology and how it explains the formation of geological landscapes over thousands and millions of years are very fascinating to me.

With the sun starting to burn through my skin, I climbed out of the rocks and headed over to the newly opened coffee house on the southern side of the park. Except for the lone waitress and two lively and giggly girls enjoying their coffee and chocolate cakes in one of the tables, there was no one else inside the cozy shop. Resembling a cabin from the olden times, the shop has wooden tables, wooden chairs, wooden floors, and wooden walls. You can even catch whiffs of that old wooden smell. It was nice. Cozy. Tranquil. Fresh air. Birds chirping outside. Soft wind blowing in from the open windows. It's paradise for loners and introverts such as myself.

The two women customers left and it was basically just me and the waitress in the cabin. Feeling a bit of hunger, I decided to order something. Looking over their menu board, I jokingly asked the waitress if they serve cold beer. She chuckled. They don't serve alcoholic beverages, she said. Because patrons might get drunk and fall off the rocks, she added. I chuckled. That's a good point. I asked for coffee and cupcakes because they ran out of strawberry cake.

I left the park high on coffee and with a stomach full of strawberry cupcakes. For sure, it was worth the climb.

Here are a few photos I snapped during the quick trip.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Frost Envelopes Vegetables In Atok, Benguet As Temperature Drops Below 0° Celsius

The temperature in the agricultural town of Atok in Benguet went below the freezing point for two consecutive days (February 15 and 16). Negative two degrees Celsius (-2°C) and negative three degrees Celsius (-3° C) were recorded on the mornings of said dates. The low temperatures led to the formation of frost (andap) on some vegetable patches in the town especially those located within Sayangan and Paoay.

Frost is characterized by a coating of ice on the leaves and stems of vegetables. They usually occur overnight and melt away during the day. Fortunately, the kinds of vegetables being raised in Benguet like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and cabbages are  only moderately susceptible to freezing and chilling due to frost. The most susceptible to frost are flowers and seedlings that are yet to be transferred to their plots.

In a Sun Star Baguio report, Agot Balanoy, general manager of the Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative, said that frost has less than 1% effect on the total vegetable production in the area. Balanoy added that it had been windy and drizzly in Atok for the last few days. These helped in mitigating the effects of frost on yet-to-be-harvested vegetables.
Image Source: Helen Simonsson via Flickr.
Frost formation is also a common occurrence in other Benguet towns especially in Kabayan, Kapangan, Kibungan, Buguias, Bakun, and Bokod. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Here's The Schedule Of Events For La Trinidad's Strawberry Festival 2017

It's all systems go for this year's edition of the Strawberry Festival in La Trinidad, Benguet. The town has dozens of events lined up for both locals and visiting tourists. With its theme of "sustaining the fruits of La Trinidad's agro-eco tourism", a lot of the scheduled activities in the festival revolve around the town's status as one of the agricultural and tourism centers in the north.

The main events of the festival will be held during the last two weeks of March. These include the "owik tan tayao" and cultural celebrations, street dance and float parades, strawberry cake fest, "Dongba ni Kavadjo", and the search for Mr. and Ms. La Trinidad. Check out the full calendar of events for the festival below:
File photo by The Cordilleran Sun / Daniel Feliciano.
Image source: Valred Olsim via the La Trinidad Tourism Facebook group page.

Image source: Valred Olsim via the La Trinidad Tourism Facebook group page.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cordilleran Weaver Jason Domling Creates Giant "Pasiking" Backpack (9 Feet Tall)

Here's another good reason why you should give the Museo Kordilyera a visit. The newest addition to the museum's trio of inaugural exhibits is an enormous traditional backpack meticulously woven by Cordilleran artist/weaver Jason Domling. Measuring nine (9) feet tall, the giant traditional backpack is temporarily on display in front of the museum. Although the pack is commonly referred to in the Cordillera region as a "pasiking", it's also called "sangi" especially in the north-western towns of Mt. Province. The tribes from Ifugao also have their own version of the pack they call the "inabnutan".

Domling, the creator of the piece, is a weaver who hails from Sagada, Mt. Province. He is among the most well-known weavers in the region. His expertise in traditional Cordilleran weaving methods is evident in the works he has produced through the years. Aside from packs, Domling also weaves baskets, hats, and other functional contraptions. He has also collaborated with visual artists like Kidlat Tahimik (Eric de Guia).

A "pasiking" is woven using mostly natural materials like rattan, bamboo, and wooden reinforcements. The pack usually has just one compartment with a detachable covering on top. Others don't have the detachable cover. Modern versions of the pack sometimes have additional compartments.
Jason Domling standing beside his giant creation. Photo by the Museo Kordilyera -UP Baguio Ethnographic Museum.
The Museo Kordilyera is located within the University of the Philippines Baguio campus. It's open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission fees are as follows: 25 pesos for non-UP students and 50 pesos for non-UP adults. Senior citizens and PWDs can avail of a 20% discount. The museum is free to all UP students, faculty, admin, and alumni.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

After Attack On Mining Trucks In Itogon, Mt. Ulap Will Be Closed From February 10 To 12

In light of the recent torching of two trucks in Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet, government officials in the area decided to temporarily close Mt. Ulap for a few days. Hikers and climbers won't be allowed to enter the popular mountain from February 10 to 12 (Friday to Sunday). The shutting down of the mountain is for the safety of hikers. Those who are scheduled to climb the mountain on said dates are advised to contact their groups and organizers or the Ampucao LGU for updates and re-booking.

According to news reports, dozens of masked gunmen who introduced themselves as members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) flagged down two trucks by the Philex Mining Corporation along Philex Road in Tapak, Ampucao then burned down the trucks. The drivers and their security escort were left unharmed. The incident occurred between 7:00 and 7:30 on Thursday morning. The trucks were loaded with ore and were on their way to La Union.

According to Police Superintendent Florante Camuyot of the Benguet Police, the men were armed with assault rifles and they were estimated to number up to 50. Because of the incident, classes in elementary and secondary schools in the area were immediately suspended.
Mountain climbers enjoying the view from one of the peaks of Mt. Ulap. Photo by Daniel Feliciano/The Cordilleran Sun

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Museo Kordilyera In Baguio City Is Now Open To The Public

Culture evolves with the passage of time. In the manner of the scientific theory of evolution, we add and subtract to our culture and traditions depending on the prevailing situations of the current age. With that said, the Cordilleran culture of today is vastly different from the prevailing culture 10 years, 50 years, 150 years, or 200 years ago. There are activities that we performed ages ago (i.e. headhunting) that's virtually non-existent today. The pieces of clothing that our ancestors wore on a daily basis are now semi-permanent inhabitants of our "bauls", taken out and worn only during certain occasions.

For someone like me and others who were born in a time wherein the Cordillera people's cultural assimilation with that of outside cultures has long been completed, our best chance in learning about what our culture looked and felt like in another time is through the works of artists, researchers, and academics. These are people who made it their mission to study and record Cordilleran culture and history. This brings us to the recent opening of Museo Kordilyera inside University of the Philippines (Baguio). Categorized as an ethnographic museum, it "conserves, displays, and contextualizes items relevant to the field of ethnography which is the systematic study of people and cultures."

It's apt that the museum's inaugural exhibits feature mostly visual items of Cordilleran culture: tattoos, photographs of various rituals, clothing, trinkets, weapons, and furniture. Even the most avid student of Cordilleran culture will find something new in the beautiful displays. The academics credited with the exhibits are Dr. Analyn Salvador-Amores, Roland Rabang, and Jules de Raedt. These were curated by Professor Emeritus Delfin Tolentino, Jr., Prof. Victoria Diaz, archivist Cristina Villanueva and Dr. Salvador-Amores.

The exhibits are as follows:
1. Batok: Body as an Archive: by Dr. Salvador-Amores
2. Ethnographic Photographs by Roland Rabang
3. The Works of the Late Anthropologist Jules de Raedt

Some of the items on display came from various sources including the BenCab Museum, Saint Louis University Museum, Diocese of Baguio Museum, and the UP Baguio Library and Archives. According to the museum's Facebook page, their mission is to "cultivate an understanding of and respect for the identity and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera and Northern Luzon as an integral part of the evolving Filipino culture."

Museo Kordilyera is open from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. There's an entrance fee of 25 pesos for non-UP students and 50 pesos for non-UP adults. The museum also has a gift shop where you can purchase books, magazines, post cards, t-shirts, and mugs.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Number Of Hikers Going Up Mt. Ulap Will Now Be Regulated And Limited Effective February 4

Due to growing environmental concerns caused by the sudden influx of hikers wanting to climb Mt. Ulap, the officials of barangay Ampucao in Itogon, Benguet came up with a set of rules that will regulate the number of trekkers ascending the popular mountain. In an advisory recently released by the barangay, groups and organizers who are planning to hike the mountain need to limit their numbers to a maximum of twenty (20) individuals. Booking and reservation will also be mandatory.

Groups who want to climb the mountain must inform the barangay several days before their scheduled ascent. As of this writing, booking and reservation are only accepted through the following Facebook accounts: [] and []. These rules and regulations will be effective on February 4, 2017.

The number of people going up the mountain will be limited to 150 individuals on weekdays. This number encompasses both hikers and campers. For weekends and holidays, the limit will be 500 individuals. For more information about these rules and regulations, interested hikers may contact the Office of the Barangay Council in Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet.
The scenic view from along the trail that goes up Mt. Ulap. Photo by Daniel Feliciano / The Cordilleran Sun