Skulls and Bones of the Opdas Burial Cave in Kabayan, Benguet

The peaceful town of Kabayan, Benguet is really mystical. We’ve been to the Timbac Burial Caves, the 4 mystical lakes, and Mt. Tabayoc. We were here to see the skulls and bones of the Opdas Burial Cave. This mass burial cave is literally within someone’s backyard. I’m wondering if they ever have felt any supernatural sights and noises.

 

Getting into the Cave

Opdas mass burial cave houses hundreds of skeletal remains dated to be 500 to 1,000 years old. Here we went into the place:


 
going to opdas mass burial cave
 

 

And here’s the spooky welcome marker:

 

opdas burial cave marker

 

Just a few steps away, we were able to get to the cave. It wasn’t as scary at all. I whispered a little prayer before going in.

the gate of opdas burial cave

 

I also noted this info marker.

 

opdas burial cave informational marker

 

And here it reads:

This unearthed remains of the living past was carbon-dated by Tokyo University Japan, and was found out to be from five hundred to one thousand years old. Renovated by the Philippine Tourism Authority in 1991.

 

Skulls and Bones

Strong disclaimer: The photos are for educational purposes only. Photos were taken with verbal permission from the caretaker of the place. In no absolute way these photos were taken to desecrate or disrespect the place.

 

And here are the bones right in front of my eyes:

 

opdas mass burial cave - kabayan, benguet

 

skulls and bones of opdas burial cave - kabayan, benguet

 

It was suggested that they were the casualties of smallpox outbreak brought about the Spanish colonizers. Others say they may be citizens of lower social class hence they were buried in mass burial caves.

 

Big thanks to the good caretaker for her permission. Respect.

Our hike to Mount Tabayoc is the main event of our trip to Kabayan, Benguet. Mt. Tabayoc is 2,842 MASL making it the 2nd highest in Luzon and 5th highest in the Philippines. With this reputation, it feels like a privilege to take on this mountain.

 

mt tabayoc - kabayan, benguet

 

After our quest to explore the 4 mystical lakes of Kabayan, Benguet, we started our hike at wee hours the following day. The trek can take 4-5 hours to the summit and he are hoping to catch the sunrise there.

 

So it begins

the path to mt. tabayoc

The path to Mt. Tabayoc
Image taken upon returning to the camp site

 

Since it was dark when we started, I wasn’t able to take any photos during our ascent. It was also drizzling but we were warned beforehand to expect even moderate to heavy rain. If such happens, we have no choice but to go back.

 

Armed with flashlights and headlamps, we proceeded. We have to go through dense forest and have to use both hands and feet. The moss makes the trail slippery adding challenge to our task. So far, this is the most enjoyable climb I have. I enjoyed every minute of it. The trail is like no other.

 

mossy forest of mt. tabayoc
 
mossy trail of mt. tabayoc
 

Mossy forest
Image taken upon returning to the camp site

 

Speaking of rainforest, it is only here that is foggy and drizzling. The weather on the camp site is fine and warm.

 

At The Summit of Mt. Tabayoc

The sun slowly illuminates the path. Unfortunately, there is no clearing. No blue sky and all foggy view. We got to the view deck at the summit. The rain clouds didn’t dishearten us though from enjoying the joy having reached Mt. Tabayoc summit.

 

view from the summit of mt. tabayoc

 

Here are some pictures from the view at the summit:


 

 

 

After some photo shoots, we descended. We went through the same trail. It was a relief when we reached the base. Indeed, the weather is fine here.

 

mt. tabayoc

 

Here’s our guide holding exposed carrots. These carrots are no longer good for human consumption.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave no trace. Take nothing but pictures.

Did somebody just say mystical lakes? That sounds really good to me. It’s not everyday that I see even one mystical lake. Seeing the four lakes of Kabayan, Benguet is a marvelous treat!

 

 

After our trip to Mt. Timbak and the Timbac Burial Caves, we headed to the camp site for Mt. Tabayoc. The ride was excruciatingly long but the scenic view kept my angst at bay.

 

scenic view of kabayan benguet
 
arrival at barangay ballay, kabayan, benguet
 

 

Finally, we arrived at our destination after three long hours inside the jeep.

 

lake tabeo camp site - kabayan, benguet

 

Arrival at the Camp Site

We arrived at our camp site on Barangay Ballay and got ourselves registered at the Ballay Ranger Station. Moments after, Sir Arlan, Mt. Pulag National Park Forest Ranger, gave us a briefing. He also told us what to expect and yes, never forget safety first and leave no trace.

 

ballay ranger station, kabayan, benguet
 
briefing at the ranger station, ballay, kabayan, benguet
 

 

Lake Tabeo

Afterwards, we all pitched our tents and settled down. It was then we learned that we’re already at the first mystical lake, Lake Tabeo (or sometimes spelled as Tabeyo).

 

lake tabeo camp site

 

According to the locals, the lake never dries even during summer. The farmers sometimes get water from the lake for their crops. Farm animals drink from the lake. It replenishes itself by collecting rainwater. The lake also has fish but I doubt if it’s suitable for human consumption.

 

lake tabeyo - kabayan, benguet
 
lake tabeo - kabayan, benguet
 

 

The entire Lake Tabeo in a frame:

 

lake tabeo/lake tabeyo - kabayan, benguet

 

Now I got more excited to see the other lakes!

 

Junior Pulag

In order to reach the remaining lakes, taking on Junior Pulag is a challenge I have to take. That’s at least what was on my mind. We went through the mossy forest and had our share of skids and bumps. The thought of being tortured turned to bliss when we reached the top.

 


 

 

 

Here’s Charlie of Kings and Queens of Wander. Read about his version here.

 

 

Others say that Junior Pulag got its name because of the obvious changes in temperature and air pressure, which is similar to that of Mt. Pulag. All I had was gasping for air and sweaty shirt.

 

hiking towards junior grassland
 
junior grassland area on junior pulag
 

 

From the Junior Grassland point on Junior Pulag, you can already see the 2nd lake, Lake Incolos. Wait, it doesn’t look like a lake, though.

 

lake incolos seen from junior pulag

 

Lake Incolos

I could say that Lake Incolos (how Ibalois call it) or Incoloh (for Kalanguyas) is fascinating and unique. Dirt, moss, and grass cover the lake water underneath. Step on it and you will slowly sink. You can even see the water seeping in.

 

lake incolos/lake incoloh

 

water underneath lake incolos

 

Taking a photo on the lake is a risky business. The ground can only hold so much weight. But for the sake of a group picture, these guys are will to go all in.

 

 

We went around the lake to go to the next lake, Latep-ngapos.

 

 

Beware of the quicksand!

 

forest quicksand, kabayan, benguet

 

Lake Latep-ngapos

Speaking of mystical lakes, Lake Latep-ngapos (Ibalois) or Latep-ngapoh (Kalanguyas) lived up to its reputation. The fog and drizzles adds an enchanting beauty of the place along with the driftwood and its clear water.

 

lake latep-ngapoh, kabayan, benguet

lake latep-ngapos, kabayan, benguet

The next lake is not so far away. After some picture taking sessions, we left for Lake Ambulalakaw.

 

Lake Ambulalakaw

Lake Ambulalakaw or Ambulalacao (sometimes plainly Bulalacao) is the 4th lake visited thus completing our quest for these mystical lakes. The water is so serene and clear. Unfortunately, the rain clouds seem to be chasing us.

 

lake ambulalakaw/ambulalacao, kabayan, benguet

 

So what made this lake extra special? It is regarded as the cleanest in-land lake. The locals preserve it that swimming or any form of similar activity is prohibited.

 

lake ambulalakaw in kabayan, benguet
 

 

 

We headed back to the road to catch our ride. This wrapped up our trip to these mystical lakes. Back to the camp site we go.

 

Kabayan, Benguet, as welcoming as the town’s name, could have more unexplored places to go to.

 

welcome marker timbac burial sites

 

It took us no longer than 30 minutes from Mt. Timbak to the drop off site of Timbac Burial Caves. We got us a guide to show the way around. Likewise, it is also their function to keep the caves secured and undefiled. There were reported incidents of looting and vandalism and that is why each visitor must be registered.

 

registration for timbac burial caves visitors

 

Going to the Burial Caves

We followed the concrete stairs on our way down. The perimeter is fenced to protect the caves from possible animal attacks as well as to deter intruders. We were reminded to avoid shouting or make loud noises.

 

 

 

We walked for around 15 minutes before reaching the first cave. It was a scenic route and any random shot can capture a nice photo. This is a completely random shot which I though might be useful as a breadcrumb should I get lost.

 

 

Our guide whispered a prayer before unlocking the gates of the cave. She reiterated that taking photos of the mummies are prohibited. I welcomed the idea and only took photos outside the cave, which is somehow allowed.

 

 

 

Viewing the Coffins and the Mummies

We took turns in entering the caves and viewing what’s inside them. I thought that these are indeed gems that must be protected. The locals, Ibalois, have high regards to their elders and one way of showing their respect and love is through performing their traditional burial rites. The main reason why these mummies are called Kabayan Fire Mummies is because the corpse is set over a fire to dry the body. I can say that these mummies were well preserved and had withstood the test of time.

 

 

 

This is a one-of-a-kind experience and definitely worth remembering.

 

On a Side Note

I am not a botanist but does this plant belong to Monophyllaea sp? What’s its name? It is a one-leaf plant that grow beside the trees. Kindly comment or push an email should you want to help me out.

 

one-leaf plant, Monophyllaea sp. (?)

 

Mt. Tabayoc, here we come!


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