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.
Opdas mass burial cave houses hundreds of skeletal remains dated to be 500 to 1,000 years old. Here we went into the place:
And here’s the spooky welcome 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.
I also noted this info 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Finally, we arrived at our destination after three long hours inside the jeep.
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.
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).
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.
The entire Lake Tabeo in a frame:
Now I got more excited to see the other lakes!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The next lake is not so far away. After some picture taking sessions, we left for 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mt. Tabayoc, here we come!
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