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.
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