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Benguet Cool, lush & bohemian
Source: Manila Bulletin
Date: 2005-12-12
There must be something about the crisp air in the North that the Ifugaos yield the best produce, where a diverse collection of attractions await the curious and where artists converge for celebrations. This is Benguet. Situated at the gateway to the Cordilleras. Spread across 261,548 hectares of lush land – hills, rivers and valleys. A population of 330,000 people known for their industry and craftskills.

Benguet has both nature and ethnic culture — enough to charm, excite and intrigue… The Majestic Mount Pulag, Asin Hot Springs, tribal artifacts and mummies in the caves of Kabayan. It has also become a furnace for artists, making it their own bohemian paradise.

With 13 municipalities each offering an assortment of tourism and business opportunities, Benguet can be dubbed as "The Jewel of the North."

Its estimated 47,750 hectares of agricultural land available for cultivation produces at least 600,000 metric tons of vegetables yearly from its rich soil. It is the country’s top strawberry growing province and a major source of prized cutflowers. Its rich river system is also ideal for inland fish production.

Three Benguet municipalities have been especially identified for industry promotion under the Integrated Rural Development Project supported by the Southern Cordillera Agricultural Development Program (CASCADE) and funded by the European Union. The three municipalities are Bokod, Itogon, and Kabayan. Other municipalities that similarly offer a variety of opportunities in tourism and investment are: Mankayan; Bakun; Buguias; Kibungan; Atok; Kapangan; Sablan; La Trinidad; Tublay; and Tuba.

Indigenous crafts, design sense, and artistry combined with an abundance of raw materials make Benguet an ideal hub for craftskills. Among these skills are loomweaving, pineweaving and basketry. Materials such as pine cones, needles, and twigs are woven into home décor and souvenirs such as baskets, vases and trays. Furniture making is also a thriving industry. The province is equipped with skilled artisans who make finely crafted furniture from pinewood, bamboo, runo, and other materials.

Kabayan’s fertile land is ideal for vegetable farming. It is one of the major producers of highland vegetables, fruits, coffee and tea, among Benguet’s 13 municipalities.

Kabayan’s age-old tradition of preserving the dead has enriched its cultural heritage. Mummies as well as ancient relics are found in its caves. It also hosts one of Benguet’s most diverse ecological systems. With an elevation of 2,922 meters, Mount Pulag is believed to be the sacred ground of Kabayan’s ancestors and is a favored tourist destination. It is also home to some endemic flora and fauna. Ringed by mountains, Bulalakaw Lake is one of the country’s cleanest inland lakes and is likewise, a tourist must-see.

Bokod’s rich river system lends itself into inland fish production. Tilapia sold in local markets is grown in fish cages, providing a source of added income for the community.

Food processing is considered a value-adding venture for farm produce like mushrooms, guava, strawberry, ube and gipah leaves, among others.

Mining is a traditional industry that traces its roots to pre-historic times. Two of the country’s largest mining firms are in Benguet.

Extracted from the mines of Itogon are copper (as major product) and gold and silver (as by-products). Skilled gold and silversmiths fashion the gold and silver into fine and bridge jewelry, notably in intricate filigree designs.

After the Benguet Gold Operations (BGO) shut down its mining and milling operations in Nov. 1992, BGO came up with an attraction called the Balatoc Mines Tour. The country’s first-ever underground mining tourist attraction gives visitors an opportunity to experience the so-called "thrill of the underground," primarily showcasing the world of mining and the rich cultural heritage of Itogon.

Aside from Balatoc Mines Tour, there’s also the Crosby Park which offers camping and jamboree sites, the Balatoc Lake that offers boating and picnicking and the Villaluna Resort, a perfect setting for conferences or stay-in seminars. The latest attraction in the Villaluna Resort is the swimming pool.

The Balatoc mining tour is turning into a favorite among local tourists. There are also scenic sights in the nearby Dalupirip and Tinongdan areas which could be transformed into tourist spots.

These projects which obtained very strong support from the Department of Tourism (DoT) have so far accomplished their mandates to demonstrate that mining is not destructive but they are sustainable and educational.

[ Mount Pulag Wiki | Asin Hot Spring Wiki ]

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