THE SETTING

Bakun is located in the northern part of Benguet together with the other Kankana-ey municipalities. It is bounded on the north and west by the province of Ilocos Sur, on the east by Mankayan and Buguias and on the south by Kibungan. It is around seventy-three kilometers away from Baguio City passing through the Halsema highway where, from Sinispsip, the route goes towards Ampusongan, the first and lone Bakun barrio that could be reached by vehicles. The nature of the Bakun terrain is emphasized in the difficulty of having a connecting road from Ampusongan to Bakun Central and to the rest of the barrios. Even today, only foot trails connect Bakun to the lowlands and to Gayabasan.

Bakun has a land area of approximately 237.37 square kilometers making it the fourth largest among the thirteen towns of Benguet. Around 2,599.5 hectares of this area is used for farming while the rest of the area is used for farming while some 16,000 hectares of the rest of the area is covered with forest growth. There are two land belts, composed of Sinacbat, Liblibo, Bulisay, Tugney, Bagtangan, Palidan and Dada – where because of cool climate, people submit on root crops such as camote and gabi; and the low elevation belt where rice is planted on irrigated fields, comprised of Bakun Central, Dalingaoan, Bagu, Ampusongan and Lamew. Today seven barrios comprise the municipality: Central, Ampusongan, Bagu, Dalipeng, Gambang, Kayapa and Sinacbat.

While there has as yet been no wide-scale commercialization of agricultural production in Bakun the forest growth, on the other hand, is currently being taped. A sawmill set up in Ampusongan has started to attract this interest in logging activities in the area, especially so because of its topography.

Some of the mountain systems which constitute the larger area of the municipality are Mt. Lobo in the east, the highest in Central Bakun and the source of irrigation for about one-half of the barrio ricefields; Mt. Tenglawan in the northwest which is second in height; Mt. Namandilaan on the north, which is very thickly forested; Mt. Tapngo between the Bagu and Bakun rivers, Mt. Kabunian in the west to the southwest, the longest. Mt. Tagpew in the boundary area shared with Kibungan towards the southernmost direction, and Mt. Osdong, shared with Buguias in the southeast. In these mountains one finds not only extensive pine growths but also the beautiful sites of not only extensive pine growths but also Bakun’s waterfalls, rivers, wild fruits and flowers and spots which evoke stories of awe and wonder. On Mt. Kabunian the supposed mark of Doligan left on the surface of a cave is a constant reminder for every passerby to say his prayers and leave a token to the spirits that are said to reside there. The Doligen cave notwithstanding Mt. Kabunian in itself is important to the municipality because it is another source of irrigation for the rice terraces that look like huge stairways along the foot of the mountain. Hence, on the rainy days, the falls on Mt. Kabunian resembling a pregnant woman – is always a welcomed sight. Mt. Tenglawan on the Bagu side of Bakun is about 20 to 25 kilometers away from the valley. It has about twelve waterfalls which vary in sizes and which gather in the valley to form the Bagu River. From Mt. Tenglawan, moreover, one can see the China Sea, even the Tagudin and Tirad Pass. This mountain also has a story about a small brook now called Cot-cot-aso which supposedly was dug up by a dog in search of water source during a period of drought sometime in the past.

On the floor of the mountains, one finds aside from the Bakun and Bagu rivers, the Lekdan River which serves as an outlet to Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. This river is rich in marine life such as eel, lobsters, geyao. odang, tibek and edible river weeds (pako).

On the whole it is easy to understand why, despite limitations in travel to Bakun, the people have remained relatively self-sufficient through time because of the natural materials bounty of her place; and so is it clear why the municipality has kept intact and indigenous practices, enabling the people to feel resistant to forces of change coming from outside.