La Trinidad’s best kept secret

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Thursday, May 1, 2014


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Have you ever wondered what the rock formations on Tawang are, then you would be thrilled to find out what this mountain top destination is.

A family vision to preserve native culture is seen atop a breathtaking view of the entire Valley eyed to be a hub for heritage called Mt. Kalungong Cultural Village.

Rock formations in the mountain will amaze eager onlookers with its name, Mt. Kalungong (the local term for hat) taken from a set of rocks which look like a hat, which one can see from the Valley looking up the heights of the Tawang area.

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Former Atok councilor Norma Pablo and son, Richard hold on to a family property atop Tawang, wanting to develop and become the next eco-tourism destination within the Valley.

Mount Kalugong is dubbed as the "Shangrila of the Cordilleras" sitting in a 14-hectare property which the Pablo family refuses to sell, despite persistent offers.

“It has been my dream to set up an eco-park since the 1980’s,” Norma said.

Complete with Igorot houses the area has a picnic area under towering pine trees, bonfire and camping grounds, limestone rock formations, indigenous gardens, ideal for bird watching, mystical caves and yes, even ziplines.

Norma said she has been contemplating on the idea to set up an eco- park for a long time, wanting to preserve the way of life in Benguet, but decided to make it into a Cordilleran inspired area with a mix of huts from the provinces.

“In the modern living, we have forgotten the traditional ways of life,” added Norma.

History and folklore

The mountain comes with an interesting story and legend to make your visit more interesting.

Mt. Kalugong was known to be as ‘tayawan’ by the first settlers of Tawang, La Trinidad, a place where they dance ‘tayao’, the cultural dance of the Ibalois. The settlers then claimed they often heard gongs being played at the mountaintop.

Along with the synchronized and captivating melody from the gongs and drums, they would see flames and smokes rising up high and made them wonder who their neighbors were and why they feasted so often.

One day, when they heard the gongs again and saw the thick smoke swirling up high and the tall flames blazing brightly above the mountain, two old men went up to see for themselves. The two old men were surprised to see many enthusiastic men and women tirelessly playing gongs and buoyantly dancing ‘tayao’.

Several jars of rice wine were lined up at one side and some men and women were everywhere giving out ‘tapey’ in bowls made from coconut shells locally known as ‘kawil’. The two old men were instantly thunderstruck. What a splendid feast!

After watching from a distance, the two old men joined the people at the dancing ground. To their astonishment, none of the dancers and the people around took notice of them like they didn’t exist at all!

The old men began to feel scared. They held their breath for they realized the men and the women who were all gathered at ‘tayawan’ were ghosts! Harmless ghosts to their relief!

The beautiful rhythm and the seemingly endless rejoicing had gone before World War II. The people missed the orchestrated music and the majestic feast they used to hear from the top of the mountain. Where have all those mysterious people gone? No one knew the answer.

As years passed by, "tayawan" was forgotten. Perhaps it was because the ghosts had stopped dancing; or perhaps those ghosts had miraculously turned into rocks! Right on the mountains of Mt. Kalugong, aside from the hat-shaped rock, limestone rock formations of varying shaped and sizes appearing lofty and unyielding abound.

Development and improvement

The eco- park reflects the rustic lifestyle of the mountains with huts dubbed as Poor Man’s Cabins ready for occupancy, the park can accommodate 18 persons in the huts scattered in the 4 hectare developed area for lodging flanked by authentic Kabayan and Ifugao huts with galvanized cabins added into the fray.

Limestone rock formations flank the entire property with rocks resembling many Cordilleran scenes and icons if you look close enough.

Trekking the property, guides will take you to the mountain tops, where you can see a 360 degree view of the entire Valley and glimpses of Baguio City on a clear day.

Norma said the family started developing the property seriously in 2010, adding to huts, bathrooms and picnic amenities, with indigenous swings.

Two ziplines were added lately to cater to the younger crowd who thrives on thrills. The short line, which, first timers can try and the one kilometer long line which will literally take you to the next mountain is possibly the longest in the region.

Robert says based on log book registration, there have been over 3000 visitors of the eco-park last year, fast gaining ground and now seen as La Trinidad’s best kept secret.

A coffee shop in the area when fully operational will serve native dishes.
“Wala kaming hamburgers ditto,” Norma said noting if visitors wants modern food, they can go to town and get it anywhere.

Food served will come from the farm they tend in the area as well as poultry to be made into pinikpikan, native pigs can also be butchered with a cultural show if requested, giving a peak at how highlanders celebrate a feast, the area which can accommodate 50 persons for a function.

Norman and Robert will take you around the expanse of the eco –park and give you snippets of the history of the place, enough for you to fall in love with its simplistic charm.

The development of the entire park lies in the hands of the Pablo family which is now reaching out to the local and provincial governments for support.

Slowly, with word of what the cultural village offers, it may become the next biggest attraction in the province.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 02, 2014.

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