Be Benguet.

Whenever someone asks me which among the 76 Philippine provinces I have been is my favorite, I without batting an eyelash, would quip — Benguet. Bias as it may sound, but no one gets close to a place you call home.

Benguet is one of the 6 provinces that comprise the Cordillera Region. The province has 13 municipalities and 1 city. I have been to 9 of the 13 towns and it is quite a shame that I still have to set foot on 4 of them.

Anyhow, be amazed with its picturesque landscape, cool climate, and warm, friendly people — Beautiful Benguet. 🥰

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Mount Kalugong (Benguet, PH)

“I like the mountains because they make me feel small,’ Jeff says. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life.” — Mark Obmascik, Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled–and Knuckleheaded–Quest for the Rocky Mountain High

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Having lived in Baguio for over 15 years, I was able to see and experience places near the city not many people knew about. Being a self-confessed mountain-enthusiast, my weekends then were spent either pigging out in various Baguio City restaurant or sauntering my way to several mountains in Benguet. Now, if you are interested in marveling at a 360 degrees vista of the La Trinidad Valley, a chill and quick climb (less than an hour) to Mt. Kalugong Eco-Park is a place you might want to check out. It’s an eco-park, I know, however it is still a mountain top of sorts.

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Going through my write-ups about Benguet (and Cordillera) mountains I have scaled, I am surprised that only now am I making one for Mount Kalugong (considering that this is actually one of the first few mountains I have climbed in the area). Moreover, this mountain that boasts a beautiful rocky promontory in La Trinidad, is one of the well-known peaks in the capital town.

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By the way, the name Kalugong is a local term for “hat” as the rocky peak looks like a hat from afar. The climb actually is pretty easy as the road going to the park itself is established (at least at this point in time, unlike my first trek wayback 2009 when trail was not as good as what is now). The problem one might encounter now is when you start your walk while sun is already up or when it rains in the area (as the pine needles and rocks can be slippery).

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During the heyday, the main points of entry were a road in Barangay Tawang, and or via Sitio Tabangaoen in Barangay Balili (requiring someone to enter the premises of Benguet State University/ BSU). My friends and I would often use the latter as our point of entry and the former as our point of exit. Now a private property, the eco-park has undergone some developments that included a new entrance point which is via Barangay Cruz.

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Today, noticeable improvements were made that include traditional Cordilleran huts/houses, and some picnic tables. The highlight of going to Mount Kalugong is of course, making your way to the peak which is made up of amazing rock formations. Though it can be quite challenging to some (especially to those who have fear of heights), standing atop the sharp, naturally carved rocks is an adventure itself. The view from there is more than picturesque as it gives an outstanding vista of Baguio City and the La Trinidad Valley.

Another must experience is to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake at the Kape-an, the cafe atop this mountain. Besides the great selection of hot and cold drinks, sumptuous cakes – the view of the entire La Trinidad valley is just impossible to ignore.

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How to Get to Mount Kalugong (the easiest way):

From Baguio City, take a jeep going to La Trinidad. Make sure that the jeepney passes by Barangay Upper Cruz and inform the driver that you are getting down at the Baguio Memorial Services in Barangay Cruz (upper). You will see a post that indicating which road leads to Mount Kalugong. Walk your way up through the road until you arrive at a fenced area, proceed inside and continue walking til the end of the road where you can see a welcome sign that indicates you have reached the eco-park.

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Don’t be a watsed soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Stobosa Murals (Benguet, PH)

There are three specific places I would like to see in Brazil one day. One, the gigantic Christ, The Redeemer statue; two, to trek the Amazon, and three, to have a photo shoot at its famed favela — slum in Brazil within the urban areas turned into a giant mural.

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I am a sucker for anything artsy that is why I included the favela. While that dream of going to Brazil seem to be a far-fetch reality as of this moment, I am more than glad to learn that La Trinidad – Benguet’s capital and the closest municipality to Baguio, is slowly turning several communities into one humongous mural.

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Passing by Benguet’s capital would mean enduring the traffic especially along Kilometer 3. I used to grudge about it since you’ll get stuck without any form of entertainment (unless you are preoccupied with your phone). Now, with the multi-hued Stonehill community just above the Balili River turned into a favela-like masterpiece, getting stuck in traffic becomes more pleasing, at least to the eyesight.

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The Stonehill community is comprised of 3 sitios. These are Sitios Stonehill, Botiwtiw and Sadjao (all part of Brgy. Balili). This mural project has been called Stobosa, named after the three sitios. According to an article, I have read, there are about 180 houses in this area. With the supervision of Baguio City’s Tam-awan Art Village artists and the sponsorship from a paint company – the once dull set of houses sitting along the mountains of La Trinidad have become more delightful as they are converted into a humongous painting.
Today, La Trinidad has a new moniker because of this. Besides being known as the vegetable capital and strawberry capital of the Philippines, the town is being promoted as the “Valley of Colors.” It is worthy to mention that the residents of these sitios have actively involved themselves in this project. The project is almost into its completion. Tourists who flock Baguio, have also considered checking out the mountain of houses in various colors.

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I went to see it myself one sunny day. It could be easily spotted when you are on your way to La Trinidad town proper. While I was thrilled to see it, there are also some other things that caught my attention. I like the idea of turning the houses into this big mural – yes I do. What I didn’t like are the many electrical wires hanging. I don’t know if there is a solution to this. More so, I hate that a giant tarpaulin of the paint company that donated the paint used in this project is more distinguishable than the houses themselves. It is such an eyesore! Well, they could promote their product in a way that it wouldn’t take away the beauty of the place. Lastly, I have noticed some garbages along the road fronting Stobosa (actually a turn-off). I hope the locals and tourists alike, would do their fair share of keeping the place clean.

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Nonetheless, the project is a good start and such a good welcome treat when one is making his/her way to the strawberry farm, or would go to Atok and Sagada. Maybe, soon, they would also consider painting the opposite side so that the area will be bursting with so many colors.

Good job to the REV-BLOOM campaign of Department of Tourism (DOT) Cordillera which aims to promote a more sustainable tourism in my beloved CAR!
¬Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”juan”.

Strawberry Farm (La Trinidad, Benguet, PH)

Quick Facts: Strawberry: Fragaria ananassa of the Family Rosaceae. Strawberry is an excellent source of Vitamin C, manganese and essential unsaturated fatty acids.

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Located about three kilometers from Baguio City proper is the La Trinidad Valley – the home of the famous strawberry farms in the Philippines. Hence, the moniker “Strawberry Capital of the Philippines” was given.

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Visitors who flock their way to Baguio City would most of the time have strawberry picking in their list of “must-do”. This distinctive experience is done alongside the Ibaloi farmers of Benguet, and is indeed a fun activity to do and share with loved ones and friends.

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So when you go to La Trinidad (its best to come during the months of December to April), keep the following things in mind. Every visitor must register first in the logbook for tracking purposes. Note that the cost of strawberry picking may be a bit pricier than those that are bought in the market. It is usually twice the cost of just buying from the marketplace. Why? This is a way of compensating for the possible damages that some pickers incur during the act of selecting their strawberries.

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Walking through the strawberry fields and being able to choose the freshest fruits is certainly an experience to be happy about. Moreover, it gives us a viewpoint on how real farming is. Totally different whenever one plays Farmville! Hahaha…

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How to Get to Strawberry Farm:

From Manila, take a bus that is bound for Baguio City. Once in Baguio, you may opt to take a taxi (the easiest way) and just tell the driver to take you to Strawberry Farm. It will cost you around a hundred or more depending on the traffic. If you opt to take the jeepney, make you way to the terminal of jeepneys with a “Buyagan” signage. The terminal is located at the foot of Baguio City. Tell the driver to let you off at the Strawberry Farm (you’ll see a signboard along the road) , cross the road and walk the rest of the way as it’s not that far from the main road.

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The Strawberry Farm of La Trinidad is under the management of Benguet State University.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Mount Jambo (La Trinidad, Benguet, PH)

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

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La Trinidad – the capital town of Benguet province in the Cordillera Administrative Region – is known to be the Salad Bowl of the Philippines because of the abundant supply of vegetables it produces. Being a few kilometres away from Baguio City, this municipality nestled in a valley has become a frequented place to visit from among tourists since it is also the home of the Strawberry Farm. Little would visitors (and even locals) know that there is more to La Trinidad than the strawberries and vegetables it boasts off.

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If trekking and communing with nature is your thing, then a relaxing hike to La Trinidad’s mountains should be something you might want to do the next time you visit this part of the Cordilleras.

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Mount Jambo (also known as Mount Jumbo, Mount Yangbaw, Mount Tawang, Mount Jumbaw) is in fact a series of high-rolling and serrated hills located in Barangay Tawang. It is not a developed area where all you can see are cows grazing on grasses, some unique rock formations and a 360 degrees view of the La Trinidad valley and Baguio City.

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*** Trivia alert: “Jambo”or “Jumbo”used to be a place for scout Scout Jamborees during the time of the Americans in Benguet, hence the name but locals enunciated it as Yangbo/Yangbaw.

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The climb to the top is pretty easy. It is best to start your hike early in the morning, since the sunrise view from atop is inspiring and rewarding. However, if waking up early doesn’t appeal you, then a walk to these hills in the afternoon in time for the sunset is as equally stunning and rewarding as the sunrise view. The drawback though is that the setting sun’s view may be covered by clouds (at times fog) in the afternoon.

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When the sun is out, the place turns into a golden field of grass during the summer or brilliant green during the rainy season. The air in the area is unsullied and the view it offers is just picturesque. You can even bring your bicycle and bike around the area. Or maybe pitch your tent and just laze around – reading your favourite book or even bring something to eat. (Just don’t leave your garbage, okay?)

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I have sauntered my way to this place 5 times already, bringing with me friends who share the same interest as mine. So, if you are looking for a quick, but relaxing getaway during the weekend, make your way to Mount Jumbo and feel nature’s faultless bliss.

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How To Go To Mount Jumbo:

The easiest way is to take a cab and tell the driver to bring you to the turning point of jeepneys at Lower Tomay. If you are going for a public transportation, there’s a jeepney station located near the bridge in Pines Park (Km 4). Tell the driver that you will get off at Sitio Banig in Tawang. Or from Magsaysay in Baguio City, take a Tomay jeepney then tell the driver to drop you off at the junction road leading to Tawang or you can start your trek from the turning point of the jeepneys. To your right side, there are flights of stairs that you will have to take until you reach a semi-cemented road leading to the hills of Jumbo.

Other mountains you might want to visit in La Trinidad that is relatively easy to trek are Mount Kalugong and Cachup Mountain.

Check out the following links:

https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/mount-kalugong/

https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/cachup-mountain/

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…