An isolated mountain village 85km north of Baguio, KABAYAN in Benguet province makes a thrilling side trip, although because of the rough road you’ll need to spend at least one night in the village. There was no road here until 1960 and no electricity until 1978, and this extended isolation has left the village rural and unspoilt, a good place to involve yourself in the culture of the Ibaloi, who are friendly and helpful if a little prone to shyness in the company of foreigners (and that means anyone from further afield than Baguio). Hikers are also drawn to Kabayan for the chance to climb Mount Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon.

Kabayan came to the attention of the outside world in the early twentieth century when a group of mummies, possibly dating back as far as 2000 BC was discovered in the surrounding caves. When the Americans arrived, mummification was discouraged as unhygienic and the practice is thought to have died out. Controversy still surrounds the Kabayan mummies, some of which have disappeared to overseas collectors, sold for a quick buck by unscrupulous middlemen. One was said to have been stolen by a Christian pastor in 1920 and wound up as a sideshow in a Manila circus. Some mummies remain, however, and some have been recovered. Officials know of dozens of mummies in the area, but will not give their locations for fear of desecration. You can, however, see several of them in designated mountaintop caves.

Kabayan is most easily approached from Baguio, as the road to the north of the village (which joins the Halsema Highway at Abatan town) is very rough and suitable only for 4WD vehicles.

 

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