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.
THE PEOPLE OF BAKUN
Bakun is populated by a people speaking the Kankana-ey dialect. According to the 1975 Census there are approximately 7,942 people distributed in the seven barrios of the municipality. 4,121 of these are males, and 3,821 are females. The biggest concentration of population can be found in Gambang, Dalipay, Ampusongan and Central in succeeding order.
The inhabitants of Bakun belong to the Southern Kankana-ey group (Keesing, 1934) and share a closs affinity with Bontoc, as evidenced in several of their practices, ceremonies, architectural style and linguistic characteristics. The prevalence of these similarities is probably an off-shoot of the migration of people from Namiligan and Banao into Mankayan and Bakun before and up to the first half of the nineteenth century as part of an outward direction for the dispersal of population from the north. By the late eighteenth century these movements became even more pronounced when trade in “abel” blankets and contractual work in the construction of rice terraces became more attractive than the risk these people faced elsewhere on account of the “busol” menace.
Anthropologists usually describe the natives of Bakun as predominantly short, with Mongoloid characteristics and a Caucasoid strain of the Ainu society (Beyer, 1916, 1957; Cole, 1945).
With few exceptions, these Kankana-ey speaking inhabitants of Bakun have brown skin, black hair, and dark eyes. These people vary in stature with the height of 5’ to 5’4” for the men and 4’8” to 5’2” for the female. They are part of the culture group found in Mankayan, Buguias, Kibungan, Kapangan, part of Atok and the Western part of Bontoc.
Rice and camote comprise the staple food in Bakun, with fish and meat occasionally supplementing the diet. Basically self-sufficient in food, kaingin agriculture of camote and gabi are formed almost everywhere. Rice is produced also for domestic consumption now although in the past the Poblacion became known as the rice granary for Mankayan and Banao. Vegetable farming for commercial purpose is done in Gambang.
Fishing is done in nearby streams and rivers which abound in eel and geyao while the big rivers produce lobster, campa and tibek. Hunting of deer and wild pigs is still practiced although there is a scarcity in game. Domestication of pigs, dogs, chicken and carabaos is done in a limited scale mostly for ceremonial purposes.
RECOVERY AND PROGRESS IN THE MODERN PERIOD
The Japanese occupation in Bakun ended as swiftly as the American period and destroying their houses and properties. The native, however, had been accustomed to most of the institutions established prior to the war, such that the process of reconstruction was not hard for the municipality. Right after the war, Inrique Tello continued his work as mayor and the school went back to their daily life.
Change in the Political and Economic Life
Since 1946, the seat of the municipal government has remained in Bakun Central. It was transferred to Ampusongan during the term of incumbent Mayor Bartolome Sacla. The rest of the mayors who served from 1946 up to the present are as follows:
Several changes in Bakun’s political, economic and socio-cultural life have been happening since 1946. In 1955 when Roberto Alangdeo was the mayor, the municipal building was built in Poblacion for the first time. A dispensary was also established. Footbridges were built from the sawmill wires in Sinipsip.
In 1959 when Pudico Balinggan took over the office of mayor, he was able to communicate with the District Highway Engineer, Engineer Quinto by giving him one big (around 40 kilos) seal. So he worked out for the money of the 2 ½ kilometer-road from she saw mill site to Ampusongan. Magsaysay type prefab school buildings were also built in Bagtangan and Ampusongan.
The coming of the Halsema road in the 1960’s together with the operation by the Heald Lumber Company of the saw mill in Sinipsip opened Gambang and Bagtangan to forces of change. Very soon these barrios were opened to the commercial gardening of vegetables such as cabbages, carrots and potatoes which are marketed by truckloads down in Manila.
Right after resumption of operations by the Heald Lumber Company intensified logging activities in Bakun. A road connected the saw mill in Ampusongan to Gold Star and, later, the company shifted operations by buying the rights of Tope Kairuz. (Note: more data on this.)
The coming of the Halsema road in the 1960’s, together with the operation by the Heald Lumber Company of the saw mill in Sinipsip opened Gambang and Bagtangan to forces of change. Very soon these barrios were opened to the commercial gardening of vegetables such as cabbages, carrots and potatoes which are marketed by truckloads down in Manila. (Note: more data on this.)
When Bartolome Sacla took over mayorship in 1967, the income of the municipality was only 16,000.00 Php yearly. The monthly salary of the mayor was 60.00 Php and the per diems of councilors per meeting was 2.00 Php. So what Sacla did was to go personally to the different mining companies and asked for their excise income taxes. Lepanto Mining Corporation gives 20% of 200,000.00 Php; Itogon Suyoc Mining Corporation gives 20% of 30,000.00; Philex Mining Corp. 20% of 300,000.00 Php; Benguet Consolidated Inc. 20% of 1,080.00 Php; and the Heald Lumber Company gives 20% of 20,000.00 Php.
After all the excise income taxes were paid to the Municipality, the income of Bakun went up to 250,000.00 Php, making Bakun a fifth class municipality. The mayor’s salary was increased to 350.00 Php monthly and councilors had per diems of 12.00 Php per meeting while municipal employees received 80.00 Php to 310.00 monthly.
At present, Bakun maintains diplomatic relations with the provincial and national governments. She has already been surveyed by the Cadastral Survey Team. Elementary and high schools were established and the barangay roads of Gambang, Tunguey and Palidan were finished. By 1950 the Bakun School was changed to Bakun Central Elementary School. Several years after, on July 28, 1971, the Bakun Barrio High School was formally opened with 37 students and two female teachers. This is presently supported by the municipal government of Bakun. The first graduates are now finishing their college degree in the different colleges and universities in Baguio City and MSAC. The Barrio High School is now complete up to fourth year. Road was connected to Bakun Central in 1977 although it has not been maintained such that after two months, the entire road was destroyed by typhoons. Among all the past leaders of Bakun, Sacla has held the longest power since the American regime.