Mountain peaks are among the few places on Earth that can always inspire and awe human beings. That is why Shweta Ganesh Kumar travelled to the third highest mountain in the Philippines, Mount Pulag
Better known as the 'Playground of the Gods', Mount Pulag is believed to be a place where the Gods of the Ibaloi tribe live. Mount Pulag is located in a sleepy town called Benguet and is almost nine hours away from Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Trekkers to this part of the world are first given a short talk about the legends surrounding the mountain as well as its flora and fauna. Then with backpacks firmly strapped on, the trekkers are asked to trek up from the lush valley to the base camp at the grasslands near the summit. This is where tents are pitched. Travelling with me were many first time trekkers, including a 13-year-old girl, her 11-yearold brother and their parents.
By four in the morning, we were ready with a stout stick and a torch as we got ready to climb up to the peak to see the sunrise. While the final part of the climb was tough, getting onto the freezing peak just as the sun rose over a sea of clouds was completely worth it. This is the kind of sight that overwhelms you and makes you adore Mother Nature all the more.
The highest peak in Luzon, Mt Pulag stands at 2922mts above sea level. It is also home to a well-maintained premier national park, Mount Pulag National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park is home to the nation's rare and endangered species of flora like the dwarf bamboo and fauna like the Cloud Rat, Kock's Pita, serpent eagle, Philippine deer and Philippine pig. It is also home to some of North Luzon’s ethnic tribes. Four of them–Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey and Ibanag–actually reside within the park. Most of these tribes consider Mt Pulag to be a sacred place.
The Ibaloi or Nabaloi is a group of indigenous people collectively known as Igorot. They live in the mountains of the Cordillera Central on the island of Luzon. There are approximately 55,000 Ibaloi. The Ibaloi are mostly agricultural people cultivating rice in terraced fields. Many contemporary Ibaloi have integrated into mainstream Filipino culture and some are employed as miners in the gold and silver mines of Benguet. The Ibaloi traditionally practised mummification - a process where they would smoke a corpse for months to completely dehydrate the dead body. This preserved every part of the body including tattoos and internal organs. The Ibaloi would then encase the preserved body within a hollowed out log and place the mummies in caves that were thought to be spiritual.
Mount Pulag is located in Benguet in the Philippines. It is also a national park.