Benguet, the mother province of Baguio City serves at the gateway to North Luzon. It is landlocked by other provinces surrounding Cordillera mountains. Benguet is bestowed with rich natural resources and a temperate climate.
Benguet is home to three major tribes, the Ibalois, the Kankana-eys and the Kalanguyas. Each tribe speak their own dialect but they share similar customs and traditions as Igorots. Today, a huge percentage of lowlanders also inhabit the province. Ilocano, English and Filipino languages are widely spoken for trade and commerce.
Agriculture, mining and tourism are the major industries in Benguet. The temperate climate is suitable for certain crops, vegetables, and flowers making the province one of the major producers of vegetables, fruits and flowers in Luzon. Major produce include Baguio beans, chayote, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, lettuce, carrots and strawberries. Other major industries include peanut brittle manufacturing, broom making and weaving.
Strawberry Festival is a feast of strawberries held at the capital town La Trinidad every March. The festival features a parade participated by tribes from various provinces in the Cordillera region in their authentic native wear while they play unadulterated native music. The event also includes a trade fair in support of the One Town One Product program by the Department of Trade and Industry. Benguet currently holds the record for the Largest Strawberry Shortcake for the Guiness World Book of Records. The cake weighs 9.6 tons and feeds more or less 50,000 guests and residents.
Adivay Festival is a celebration in June showcasing Benguet’s rich culture and resources. Adivay means “getting together to celebrate” in the local dialect. The event includes a grand parade of the beauty titlists in the province alongside the best products of each town in the province, a trade fair, and a celebration where cañao and native songs and dances are performed.
Cañaois a ritual or offering practiced in Benguet. A cañao may be performed for healing with the use of water and prayers while a grand cañao is performed for entertainment, cultural shows, wedding ceremonies and festivities. For grand canao, pigs and other livestock are used as offerings and lavish food are prepared for guests.
Places to Visit
Bell Church is a Taoist temple run by monks and volunteer workers who adhere to the Tao principles. Located in La Trinidad, it is a great place to those wanting quiet introspection. People also come here to have their future and fortune read.
BenCab Museum is located in Tuba, a 15-minute ride from Baguio City. It was founded by National Artist Ben Cabrera. The museum showcases Cabrera’s artworks and his collections of other artists’ masterpieces. Visitors may discover Cordillera’s past and tradition which were infused in the artworks. However, it’s not only the artworks that impresses but also the architecture of the edifice itself. There is a cafe right at the bottom floor of the museum.
Strawberry Farm, also in La Trinidad is frequented by tourists being only 30 minutes away from Baguio. From November to May or when the fruits are in season, visitors can pick strawberries from the plantation and pay for it in lesser amount compared to its market price.
Another attraction at La Trinidad is the Rose Garden and Cut Flowers where tourists can indulge in the scent and colours of variety of flowers.
Benguet State University is the foremost university in the province. Tourists should not miss the Anthurium Garden, Orchidarium, Demonstration Farms and Food Processing Center where products made by the school staff and students are sold.
Ambuklao Dam is located in Bokod. The water system itself offers a great view to passersby. Some travel tour organizers offer activities such as fishing and kayaking in the river.
Kennon Road or Zigzag Road never fails to amuse tourists going to the highlands. The view of the long and intestine-like road can be enjoyed once in the higher parts of Kennon or Benguet. The Lion’s Head which is a famous landmark synonymous to Baguio City is located along Kennon Road.
Halsema Highway may be considered one of the most dangerous highways in the world but it offers a scenic view of the mountains and vegetable terraces of Benguet when travelling to Bontoc or Sagada. The highest point on the Philippine Highway System is also found along the stretch.
Mt. Pulag (or Mount Pulog) is the second highest mountain in the Philippines and Luzon’s highest peak at 2,922 meters above sea level. The climate at Mt. Pulag is temperate with rains predominating the whole year. Mt. Pulag is a home to various species of plants and a natural habitat to animals making it an ultimate destination not just to mountaineers and hikers but also to biologists.
Other sites to visit:
Benguet Provincial Museum, Opdas Burial Cave, Pedak Burial Cave, Palina and Naguey Rice Terraces, Tuba Hotspring, Tublay Hotspring, Bugias Hotspring,
How to Get There
Getting to Benguet is the same as getting to Baguio as Baguio-bound buses pass by a number of towns in Benguet.
*Shorter version of the article published in the April – May 2012 Issue of Philippine Tourist Destinations