Benguet is a province in the Cordillera region of Luzon in the Philippines.
Benguet is home to the Ibaloy, Kankana-ey, and Kalanguya peoples. Benguet became a full province in 1968, being carved out of the larger Mountain Province.
Cities and towns
Benguet is divided into 13 municipalities, mostly rural and sparsely populated, each having a central town. Baguio is the only city, but is politically independent from Benguet, but is still part of Benguet geographically.
- Baguio – Dubbed the "Summer Capital of the Philippines" and "City of Pines" for its cool climate and pine trees, it is the tourist hub and the commercial center or the province.
- La Trinidad – Provincial capitals, with its draws like its strawberry farms and a village with painted houses reminiscent of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro
- Mount Pulag – The second highest mountain in the Philippines, and the highest in Luzon.
Benguet occupies over 2,600 km2 (1,000 sq mi) of land area, mostly mountainous terrain. The capital is La Trinidad.
At 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level, the province lies on top of the Cordillera Mountains containing Mount Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. Amidst these mountain peaks is a wide plateau wherein the capital town, La Trinidad, is located.
The province is 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.
Benguet has a more temperate climate due to its altitude. Daytime highs rarely reach 25 °C (77 °F), but the nighttime lows can reach below 7 °C (45 °F) during the cool season, causing frost that can destroy vegetables.
Many visit the province during the dry season between November and April, where temperatures are at its coolest and rainfall at its lowest. The rainy season is rather the same as with the rest of Luzon, but precipitation is somewhat higher. Heavy rain, especially those brought by typhoons, can cause seasonal road closures due to landslides and rockfalls.
In the sparsely populated Cordillera Region, Benguet stands out as having the highest population among the provinces with over 300 thousand and a population density of over 115 people per square km (300 people per square mile). Migrants have joined the local tribes such as the Kankana-eys, Ibaloys and Kalanguyas to settle in this rich highland province. Although the three tribes speak different languages and dialects, they share similar cultures and have common beliefs and rituals.
During the Spanish colonial era, Benguet was not a remote area for the Spaniards to explore. The vastness and promising economic potential of the place lured the Spaniards to conduct a series of expeditions. Series of attempts to pacify the Igorot have failed, and in 1846, Comandante de Galvey established his Commandancy at La Trinidad, which he named after his wife. The first Captain General of Benguet was Pulito of Kafagway (present-day Baguio), a village of about 20 houses.
The Americans came early in 1900 and established its government with H. Whitmarsh as the appointed governor of Benguet and Baguio City as the capital. This was the first provincial government to be established in the Philippines and this happened a year prior to the inauguration of the civil government of the Philippines. Their best administrators and teachers were fervent boosters and promoters: Worcester, Wright Forbes, Pack Barrows, Eckman and others who together with Filipinos committed to make the place a heaven.
The mines near Baguio were developed and became productive. Business in the city flourished with commercial centers put up. Recreation facilities were installed. The city was growing before the outbreak of the war.
Baguio was bombed December 8, 1941 by the Japanese and they occupied it on December 27 of the same year, However, the war changed course and on September 3, 1945, General Yamashita surrendered to the Americans at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Camp John Hay, after which, Baguio immediately set to the task of rehabilitation.
The major language is Ilocano, brought by lowland migrants who settled in the province, but there are also many indigenous languages, such as Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, and Kalanguya. The people of the province can also converse in English, especially the younger populations. Ilocano or Tagalog is much useful when communicating with locals.
The province of Benguet can be accessed through five national roads; Kennon Rd (Rte 54), Marcos Hwy (Rte 208, also the Aspiras-Palispis Hwy) and Naguilian Rd (Rte 54, also Quirino Hwy) are the main routes coming from Manila, while the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Rd (Rte 110) and Halsema Hwy (Rte 204) offer entry from Nueva Vizcaya and to the rest of the Cordillera region.
Benguet can also be reached by air through the Loakan Airport (BAG IATA) in Baguio, but is limited to general aviation and private aircraft.
One can get around the province by public transportation such as jeepney, bus, and passenger bus. Taxis are limited around Baguio and La Trinidad, and the more ubiquitous tricycle replace them in the towns.
By road, the most important highway is the winding Halsema Highway (Route 204, officially the Baguio-Bontoc Road), which starts at La Trinidad and stretching north through the town of Bontoc in Mountain Province. It is a critical lifeline between the mountain towns and Baguio, and has the highest point in the Philippine highway network, at 2,300 m (7,500 ft) above sea level over the municipality of Atok. Driving there is quite dangerous due to the numerous sharp curves, unguarded cliffs, and landslides during rainy season. Halsema Highway is a toll road, and you must pay ₱20 at the toll barriers at each end of the highway.
If you have your own vehicle but are not familiar with the town you want to visit, people will be willing to help you with the directions.
- Benguet Museum, Capitol, La Trinidad, 2601 Benguet. M-F 9AM-5PM. Provincial museum containing ethnographic materials relating to the indigenous people of Benguet. Free.
- Kabayan Branch Museum, Kabayan. M-Sa 8AM-noon, 1-5PM. Kabayan Museum is established to protect and care the Kabayan Mummy Caves in the province. Mummy Caves are one of the country's national cultural treasures. It is a burial caves that holds mummies sited in Kabayan especially in the Timbac Caves. The building is placed in a lot donated by citizens who value the culture of the Ibaloi and the Kankanaey. It is a one-story building and a basement builds in a 500-m² lot in 1989. Also kept here are ethnographical, ecological and geological collections including artifacts and other relics of the Kabayan Mummies. Free.
Historical sites and land marks
- Camp Utopia (Sagubo, Kapangan): This was the camp of the 66th Infantry Battalion during the Second World War. It was also the site where the late Major Bado Dangwa and Major Dennis Molintas led the defense of the Igorotlandia.
- Kaliwaga Cave (Kaliwaga, Kapangan): The burial place of the British soldiers of fortune who came to Benguet during the 15th century.
- Guerilla Saddle (Km. 26, Atok): Where the fiercest battle between the advancing Japanese Imperial Forces and the United States Armed Forces - 66th Infantry was fought to the advantage of the guerrilla resistance movement. A lot of Japanese soldiers have fallen and perished on this spot. Thus, Atok is known as the Vanguard of Freedom in Benguet.
- Darew Ancient Ruins of Civilization (Kapangan): Located at the top of the mountain west of Kapangan. It commands a vantage view of the coastline to the west and fertile valley to the east. For many years, the people lived in peace and prosperity. From this area, they traded and intermarried, forged alliances and came to recognize as kin those who lived in more populous settlements of Tagudin, Agoo, Tubao, Ambanganan (Pugo), Lingayen, Dagupan, Binalonan, Tayug, Safid (San Manuel), Imogen, Ituy, Tinok and Ahin.
- Hill WW II (Mankayan): Site where the 66th Infantry Battalion and guerrillas 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 (Puguis, La Trinidad): The escape route of then President Sergio Osmena and party who were escorted by a detachment of the 66th Infantry Battalion to Camp Valhalla, Kapangan then to San Gabriel, La Union during the World War II.
- Klondykes Stone Walls (Klondykes, Tuba): Remnant of the first American building used by the American engineers who constructed Kennon Road. It is believed to have been built in 1902 and is still visible today.
- Cariño Cave (Eddet, Kabayan): The hiding place of Governor Ora Cariño and the place where he was captured by the Americans in 1900.
- Manenchen (Manenchen, Kabayan): The site of the massacre of Eddet residents by the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II.
- Kennon Road (Tuba): One of the legacies of the American Administration. It was the first Benguet road to be constructed by the Americans in 1902. The completion of this road opened the entire Benguet Province to vehicular traffic and marked the entry of Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Chinese and lowlanders to the Province of Benguet. It was referred as the Benguet Road until it was renamed Kennon Road by virtue of Executive Order No. 9 in 1922, in honor of Col. Lyman W. Kennon, the American engineer who supervised and finished the construction of the road in 1905.
- Kabayan Pyramid (Poblacion, Kabayan): It is also called the "Kinepol ni Nabaloi." The burial tomb of Henry A. Kamora, the Grand Old Man of Kabayan which is located at the municipal compound.
- Embosi: It is the first known Ibaloi settlement. The place is found at Gusaran, Kabayan.
Other places to visit
- Baguio City
- Philippine Military Academy - the premier military school in the country, the West Point of the Philippines
- Camp John Hay - former American military recreational facility now developed as a world class mountain resort
- Teachers Camp - famous for its facilities for sports training, trainings and live-in conventions
- Easter Weaving Room - first started as a Church School this facility has already transformed as a must-see for weaving aficionados
- Baguio-Mountain Province Museum - built mainly to preserve the cultural heritage of the Cordillera
- Baguio Convention Center - the main convention venue in the city of Baguio
- Ifugao Woodcarvers Village - produces and sells beautiful hand-carved curio items at very low prices
- Asin Hot Spring - water resorts supplied by nature's hot and cold springs
- Mt. Sto. Tomas - for hikers, it is about 7,500 feet high and commands a majestic view of mountains, sea and valley
- Lourdes Grotto - a religious shrine housing the image of our lady of Lourdes, about 252 steps lead to this shrine where pilgrims brave the steep climb to offer sacrifices, devotions
and prayers; one is also blessed with a beautiful panoramic view of the city
- Burnham Park - It is thickly wooded and is a great place to have picnics and concerts. The place is equipped with tennis and basketball courts, a football field, athletic oval and an orchidarium.
- Mines View Park - Appropriately names for its breathtaking view of mountain ranges and Baguio's "mineral bowl where gold,silver and other ores were once quarried.
- Wright Park - It is sometimes mistakenly called "ride park" by some who identify this tree park reserve for its kiddy horse rides. A long stairway leads to the "Pool of the Pines".
Other places of interest
Baguio Country Club; Baguio Cathedral; Bell Church; Session Road/Market; the many educational institutions; SLU Museum; Botanical Garden; Pine Trees of the World Park; churches, seminaries and convents.
- Mountain biking. Coordinate with the Philippine Tourism Office.
- Mountain climbing. Coordinate with the Philippine Tourism office.
- Mt. Pulag hike. Coordinate with the Philippine Tourism Office
- Attend a kanyaw. This is an Igorot practice, Visitors can easily be in one during Benguet Day, or the Adivayan Festival.
Try the Igorot delicacies like the following:
- Pinikpikan, the dish also known as "Killing Me Softly"
- "Etag", salted and preserved meat
- Kiniing, smoked pork jerky
Rice wine (commonly known as Tapey or Tapuy) - this is the native drink of the Igorots.
Strawberry wine - you can find this at the public markets
Watch out for pickpockets. There are a lot, especially in Baguio. You don't have to worry about them in the small towns, but Baguio and La Trinidad are their target.