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Benguet: The Salad Bowl of the Philippines

Discover the beauty and diversity of Benguet, the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. Learn about its history, culture, and natural attractions.

 |  13 min read

Benguet is known as the "Salad Bowl of the Philippines" due to its large production of upland vegetables. Benguet is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months when the weather is cool and pleasant.

Benguet is known as the "Salad Bowl of the Philippines" due to its large production of upland vegetables. The province is also home to Mount Pulag, the highest mountain on Luzon Island. Benguet is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months when the weather is cool and pleasant.

At a Glance:

Label Value
Area 2,833.0 sq. km.
Capital La Trinidad
Total Population (As of May 2010) 403,494
Household Population (As of Aug 2007) 370,946
Number of Households (As of May 2007) 82,378
Average Household Size (As of May 2007) 4.5
Population Density (As of May 2010) 142.4/sq. km.
Number of Municipalities (As of Sept 2011) 13
Annual Per Capita Food Threshold (In Pesos) (As of 2009) 11,019
Annual Per Capita Poverty Threshold (In Pesos) (As of 2009) 15,820
Growth Rate (1990-2010) 1.45
Number of Barangays (As of Sept 2011) 140

Located at the southern end of the Cordillera Region is the province of Benguet. Bounded on the south by Pangasinan and on the west by La Union and Ilocos Sur, Benguet serves as the gateway to the highland provinces of the Cordillera Region.

At 5,000 feet above sea level, the province lies on top of the Cordillera Mountains. Rugged and sloping terrain and deep valleys characterize the province. Amidst these mountain peaks is a wide plateau wherein the capital town, La Trinidad, is located. A total of 13 municipalities and 140 barangays make up the province.

As of 2010, Benguet has a total land area of 2,833.0 square kilometers with most of it falling within the Cordillera Forest Reserve. Forest land totals 214,523 hectares with forest land comprising 0f 105,626 hectares as of May 2007.

In the sparsely populated Cordillera Region, as of May 2010 Benguet stands out as having the biggest population among the provinces and city with 403,494. However, it is next to Baguio City for its population density of 142.4 persons per square kilometer. Migrants have joined the local tribes such as the Kankana-ey, Ibaloy and Kalanguya to settle in this rich highland province. Although the three tribes speak different dialects, they share similar cultures and have common beliefs and rituals.

The Economy

Nature has endowed Benguet with immense riches. Vast tracts of timberland, mineral deposits and fertile soil abound in Benguet. Its unique sub-tropical climate alone is a distinctive asset. The pineclad mountains and cool weather is a veritable paradise for those weary of the tropical heat.

Agriculture has been the traditional source of employment for most of the people in Benguet. Vegetable farming, cattle raising, poultry and flower-raising, provide employment for the province and its neighboring provinces. Benguet is popularly known as the "Salad Bowl" of the Philippines because virtually every type of vegetable used in salads is produced here. But of late, the title "Strawberry Country" has been added. Various species of luscious strawberries, a rarity in the tropics, are now being raised in Benguet. While the province is a leading producer of Baguio vegetables, it also has potential for growing oranges, pears and other temperate fruits.

Beneath the mountains of Benguet lies treasures of gold, copper, limestone and pyrite. Approximately 6,227,565 metric tons of primary gold ore and 897,551,435 metrioc tons of primary copper are in Benguet. The discovery of gold in the province led to the goldrush in the 1930's and the birth of the mining communities. Today, three large mining companies, Benguet Corporation, Philex Mining and Lepanto Mining Corporation are operating in Benguet. The mining firms contribute to about 98% of the province's export revenue.

Added to the mining and vegetable farming, manufacturing is likewise a major economic activity in the province. Loom weaving which is a traditional art has been transformed into a major industry and ranks as one of the top exports of the province.

Knitting, fruit processing, bamboo craft, metal craft, wood carving, and tigergrass craft are just some of the industries currently found in Benguet. However, based on resources, the province holds great potentials for ore processing, silk fibercraft, rootcraft processing, mushroom processing and strawberry processing.

Like the rest of the Cordillera provinces, Benguet is the major tourist destination in the Philippines. Its picturesque landscape, unique culture, warm people and temperate climate all contribute to it being a favorite among the tourists. As such, tourists-related industries such as handicrafts, restaurants and inns have been very viable enterprises. Among the 26 tourist spots that are must see for the tourists are the Kabayan Mummies; Ambuklao and Binga Dams, the major sources of hydro power in Luzon; La Trinidad Valley; Timbac Caves; and, Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the country. Various hot springs, water falls and caves are just some of the natural wonders that continue to attract visitors to the area.

Benguet is also the site of many events in our country's history. The tunnels at Tadiangan built by the Japanese during World War II, the Kaliwaga Cave in Kapungan used as Burial caves in the 15th century, the guerrilla Saddle at Halsema Road which was the battleground of the famous 66th Infantry Battalion and Guerrillas who fought the Japanese Imperial Army and Camp Utopia where Majors Bado Dangwa and Dennis Molintas led the defense of Igorotlandia, are just some of the historical sites found in Benguet.

With these natural resources and its proximity to Baguio City and the lowland provinces, Benguet has great potentials for economic growth.

Brief History

Early in the 19th century after the Spanish explorer Guillermo Galley's report of his expedition, the Spanish Government organized the mountain region into six (6) commandancias politico-militar namely: Benguet in 1846, Lepanto in 1852, Bonico in 1859, Amburayan in 1889, and Kayapa and Kabugao in 1891. The province of Benguet, as now constituted, have portion of which were parts of the Districts of Lepanto, Bonico and Amburayan.

Early commandancias were divided into rancherias. The commandancia of Benguet was consisted of 41 rancherias with La Trinidad, named after Galley's wife, as capital.

In 1899, the Katipunan came to Benguet and united the Igorots and established Benguet under the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. Ora Juan CariƱo of Tublay was appointed Governor of Benguet and Chairman of the Board. In La Trinidad, Miguel Picarte was appointed as president but their terms were short lived for the American colonizers came in the early 1900's.

Under the American rule, civil government was established under Act No. 48 in the following township of Benguet: Adaoay, Ambuklao, Ampusongan, Atok, Balakbak, Bokod, Buguias, Kabayan, Kibungan, Daclan, Gallano, Itogon, Palina, Sablan and Tublay. The government of each township was vested in the president and a council composed of one representative from each barrio of the township. When Act No. 1876 was passed in August 13. 1908, Benguet province became a sub-province of the Mountain Province. Under this Act, the sub-province embraced by the Mountain Provinces were Amburayan, Apayao, Benguet, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kalinga and Lepanto.

The original 19 township of Benguet as embodied in Act No. 48 dated November 22, 1900 were reduced to 13 municipalities. The township of Baguio became a chartered city on September 1, 1909, creating in its place the township of Tuba. The township of Ambuklao, Adaoay, Balakbak, Galiano, Palina and Loo were abolished under Executive Orders issued by the Governor of the Philippines.

Today, the province of Benguet still holds claim as the "Salad Bowl of the Philippines" because of its considerable production of upland vegetables.

Culture

The culture of Benguet is rich and diverse, reflecting the history and traditions of the three major ethnolinguistic groups in the province: the Kankanaey, Ibaloi, and Kalanguya.

  • Kankanaey: The Kankanaey are one of the three major ethnolinguistic groups in Benguet. They are known for their rice terraces, which are some of the most impressive in the world. The Kankanaey also have a strong tradition of weaving, and their textiles are known for their intricate patterns and bright colors.

  • Ibaloi: The Ibaloi are another major ethnolinguistic group in Benguet. They are known for their gold mining, and their ancestors were some of the earliest miners in the Philippines. They are also known for their weaving and mummification. Ibaloi weaving is known for its intricate patterns and bright colors. The Ibaloi use a variety of natural dyes to create their textiles, including indigo, turmeric, and red and yellow ochre. Ibaloi weaving is often used to create blankets, bags, and other textiles for everyday use. It is also used to create ceremonial textiles, such as the bahag, a traditional Ibaloi skirt.

  • Kalanguya: The Kalanguya are the smallest ethnolinguistic group in Benguet. They are known for their hunting and gathering skills, and they have a strong tradition of oral history. The Kalanguya also have a unique language, which is not related to any other language in the Philippines.

The culture of Benguet is also influenced by the Spanish and American colonial periods. The Spanish introduced Christianity to the province, and their influence can be seen in the province's architecture and festivals. The American colonial period also had a significant impact on Benguet, as it led to the development of the province's infrastructure and economy.

Today, the culture of Benguet is a vibrant and dynamic mix of traditional and modern influences. The province is home to a number of cultural festivals, such as the Panagbenga Festival and the Benguet Flower Festival. These festivals celebrate the province's rich culture and natural beauty.

Benguet is a fascinating place to learn about Philippine culture. The province's unique history and traditions make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Filipino culture.

Points of Interest

HISTORICAL

  • Batarangan Airstrip (Kibungan) - used as landing site by the U.S. Airforce during World War II.

  • Camp Utopia (Kapangan) - this was the camp of the 66th Infantry Battalion during the World War II. It was where the late Majors Bado Dangwa and Dennis Molintas led the defense of the Igorotlandia.

  • Darew Ancient Ruins of Civilization (Kapangan) - the ruins were the earliest known settlements.

  • Kaliwaga Cave (Kapangan)- burial place of the British soldiers of fortune who came to Benguet in the 15th Century.

  • Guerilla Saddle (Km 26 Halsema Highway) - battleground of the famous Infantry Battalion and guerillas who fought the Japanese Imperial Army.

  • Hill WW II (Mankayan) - site where the 66th Infantry Battalion and guerillas fought to make their way to Besang Pass. The capture of Hill WW II opened the right flank guard of the Japanese Imperial Garrison to bombardment and constant attack by Igorot freedom fighters.

  • Lamtang - escape route of then President Sergio Osmena and party who was escorted by a detachment of the 66th Infantry Battalion to camp Valhalla, Kapangan to San Gabriel, La Union during WW II.

NATURAL

  • Mount Kabunian (Bakun) - believed to be the dwelling place of the Gods. This rocky mountain stretches for kilometers displaying its multifaceted profile.

  • Timbac Caves (Bakun) - another mummy abode which can be reached by hiking from a jump-off point along kilometers 52 of the Halsema Highway.

  • Opdas Cave (Kabayan) - located about 300 meters from the municipal building is a spot that cannot be missed. Considered as one of the biggest burial caves in the municipality, it has 200 skulls and bones neatly piled on ledges reminiscent of the catacombs of Rome.

  • Apo Anno Cave (Natubleng Buguias) - the famed 12th century mighty hunter of Benguet orally told and foreetoldmas a demigod in Benguet tales whose remains have been mummified has been peacefully laid to rest in his original burial site.

  • Tinongchol Burial Rock (Kabayan) - this burial rock almost as a big as a regular three storey building, houses centuries old mummies.

  • Mount Pulag (Kabayan) - is the highest mountain peak in Luzon towering at an altitude of 9,640 feet above sea level and considered as the "playground of the Gods" by local folks.

  • Mount Santo Tomas (Tuba) - an 18 kilometer rugged road leads to the peak which offers one view of the most significant sunrises and sunsets, a clear view of the Lingayen Gulf.

  • Colorado Falls (Tuba) - located a short distance off Kennon Road, these falls have been the favorite watering hole of Baguio residents for some time. Three giant falls drop into a natural pool almost 10 feet at its deep.

  • Mountain Lakes (Kabayan) - lakes Incolos, Bulalacao and Letep-ngepos can be found at the base of Mt. Pulag. With their crystal clear water, these can be reached by hiking through scenic oak forest that grew densely around the base of the mountain. Bulalacao Lake has been awarded as a "Three time Consecutive Winner" under the Cleanest Lake for the Cordillera under the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran.

  • Ambongdolan Caves (Tublay) - a cluster caves and cavelets (Bengao-ngao, Ketong, Bongis, and Tey-tey) found in Ambongdolan which is an ideal spot for spelunkers and nature trippers.

  • Badekbek Sulfur Springs (Bokod) - a natural spring with boiling mud pools emiting smoke located in Daclan.

  • Tukang Cave (Tuba) - it is a multi-chambered cave along the Bued River and the historic Kennon Road at Twin Peaks. It is a spelunkers delight.

Other Scenic Sites: Inodey water falls (Mankayan); Towing water falls (Sablan); Bridal Viel falls (Tuba), Dalupirip Hot Spring (Itogon); Cabacab Plateau (Mankayan); Loo Valley (Buguias)

MAN - MADE

  • Marker of the Highest Mountain Highway System - in the country at 7,400 feet above sea level (Atok).

  • Benguet Provincial Capitol (La Trinidad) - a three-storey edifice situated at Capitol Hill, La Trinidad. It encompasses an entire view of La Trinidad Valley. It houses provincial and some national offices and is a symbol of the progressive stance of Benguet province.

  • Benguet State University (La Trinidad) - the alma mater of most of the leaders in the mountain region which occupies a good portion of the La Trinidad Valley.

  • Kennon Road - more popularly known as Zig-zag Road, it is a breathtaking and impressive stretch of cemented and asphalted winding road.

  • Ambuklao and Binga Dams (Bokod and Itogon) - built in the 1950's, these dams are the source of power of major areas in Luzon.

  • Madaymen (Kibungan) - a vegetable growing area which is known as the "Switzerland of Benguet." There is frosting during the cold months and children leave water and sugar out overnight to make icecles.

  • Asin-an Sulphur Springs (Buguias) - beautiful terraced mountainsides planted with cabbage, Baguio beans, carrots, and other vegetables draw praises from motorists passing the Halsema Mountain Highway because of their near rows and upright trellises.

Mining Districts

  • Lepanto Consolidated Philex Mines

    Other Scenic Sites: Halsema Mountain Highway, Naguey Rice Terraces (Atok); Heights place (Atok); Palina Rice Terraces (Kibungan) and Marcos Bust (Tuba)

Special Interest

  • Mount Pulag Climb (Kabayan) - mountain climbing expeditions organized by the Municipality of Kabayan supported by the Province of Benguet and its Provincial Tourism Council are being done during the months of December and April.

  • Strawberry Picking in La Trinidad - an activity which aims to focus on the rich products of Benguet. Strawberry is a friut so much assosiated with Baguio City and Benguet.

  • Balatoc Mines Tour - is the first-ever in the Philippines underground mining tourist attraction primarily to showcase the thrilling and educational world of mining heritage of Itogon, Benguet.

  • Antamok Mines - are a group of abandoned gold mines located in the municipality of Itogon, Benguet Province, Philippines. The mines were first opened in 1903 by the Benguet Corporation, and they operated for over 70 years. During that time, they produced a significant amount of gold, making them one of the most important mining operations in the Philippines.

Sources:

  • Cordillera Almanac Vol. I - Local Government Units 1999 Department of the Interior and Local Government Cordillera Administrative Region
  • 1999 Tourism Situationer Department of Tourism Cordillera Administrative Region

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