Text by: Roger U. Sacyaten, Photos by Jennifer F. Pangket
BAGNEN, Bauko – Keep on wondering . . . ! I was told not only once when I asked my co-trekkers how wonderful the tourism sites of lower Bauko are. Indeed, after an exciting trek to the wonders in the “Land of the Golden Seeds” of Paracelis last month, here we are again to be enthralled with the expected magnificent tourist spots of lower Bauko.
The Abatan Grotto was the first destination for us after a courtesy call to Mayor Abraham Akilit at the municipal grounds. The statue is a glimpse of historical and religious history of the municipality. In her desire to manifest her faith, former Congresswoman Josephine DC Dominguez caused the construction of the statue of the Virgin Mary.
Together with the 42 trekkers who braved the chilling climate and the long and winding rough access road, we advanced to oversee Toktok Allan, believed to be the head of the giant person in the olden times in Bauko, loved by the people but later much hated that time for feasting on the people.
Moving forward we descended then ascended the pine forest in 25 minutes from the road to Layaan Cave where we were wowed by the numerous human skulls lining atop a coffin. Legend has it that Opeg, the first known descendant in Bauko who was a warrior and defender of the people, was the first entombed in the cave.
Onwards, we trekked along the Abatan-Bagnen rough road in about 2 hours to be thrilled with the wonderful Pandey Rice Terraces overlooking Bila and Poblacion; Magwed Rice Terraces beckons as we strode near Bagnen.
After taking respite at reaching Bagnen Proper after a grueling but exciting 3 hours hike, we proceeded up the Spanish Trail in 20 minutes from the road to actually view the Cotcot Aso and taste the fabled clear and tasteful mineral water from the surprisingly not overflowing small well.
Yes, no overflow or does the volume of water visibly lessened after each of the group scooped and filled their respective bottles of the liquid. Locals say that the tiny well is always full of water but does not overflow even in days that no one fetches by.
The old man who served as the guide tells that a local hunter in the olden times had craved for water to drink after days of hunting. Not seeing any source, the hunter passed out with his loyal dog at his side.
The ever loyal and devoted dog dug the earth with its claws and water gushed out. The dog later wagged its tail at his master and when the latter sensed that the tail of the dog is wet and dripping with water he followed his pet to where it led him to only to find clear and plentiful water. It quenched his thirst.
Before calling it a night, the group went to see the century old Church building that represented the first structure of the Anglican Missionaries in the area. We also proceeded to view the traditional house that could not be found even elsewhere in the province. It represents a remnant of the past gone by.
While dusk descends to the community, the group swooped down to the Capnay House, the only traditional old house structure representing the once vestige of the cultural past in the village, made of cogon roofing and local materials. It is heartening to note that a last structure is standing probably for some years more as the same cannot be seen in other villages except in nearby Bagnen Proper with only one seen still useful.
In the wee hours of the second day, everyone woke up at the Mapangdol Homestay to
trek to nearby Bagnen Oriente still in the dark and chilly hoping to witness the glorious rise of the sun that could be seen in the highest point of Mount Polis.
We were disappointed as the sunrise we have waited for was no show due to the fog and cloudy morning as if enticing us to be back again in some lucky days, as said an elder who enchanted us with the story of how the place got its name. We have ascended to the summit for about 30 minutes.
After breakfast, we moved forward to the Healing Cave in Balintaugan, a place that derived its name from hosting abundant big boulders.
Along the way, we stopped over at the Kitay Medicinal Spring that offers ready cool liquid that satisfactorily quenches thirst.
As experienced by local villagers, the water possesses curative, cleansing, and energizing benefits; a perfect healthy drink that refreshes passersby.
Prominent tourist spot in this part is the Healing Cave where people attacked by epidemic and with skin diseases such as “bultong” (chicken pox, etc.) were quarantined until they were healed to be able to join and mingle with the community.
Inside the cave are compartments for the wide reception lobby, kitchen, and sleeping quarters. Running water is flowing inside for cooking and drinking, and believed to be with potent characteristics.
As we returned to the Balintaugan Elementary School to take our lunch, we passed by Anam-am Airfield, now a flat pine forest, used to be a drop-off point for the Americans during World War II. The area was accordingly a product of forced labor among local villagers.
Raining as it was, we have to forego other spots in the barangay such as the Balintaugan Crossroad, the Pakad View Point, and the agricultural organic farm that were included in the itinerary.
The trekkers from Sagada continued towards Bugang, Sagada while we took our ride home to Bontoc. The Bauko group went their ways.
Looking back, the trip was worth it even if it was tiring and grueling. The healthful delights provided excitement along the trip that any trek enthusiast should not pass up.