LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: The people in Kabayan, Benguet led by indigenous leaders and elders are set to perform rituals to appease the spirits at Mount Pulag after a fire destroyed about 5.9 hectares of grasslands there last month.
Clarita Prudencio, Benguet tourism officer, said the revered Mount Pulag is considered the playground of the gods guarded by spirits called “tinmongao.”
It is sacred ground to the indigenous peoples here. The Ibalois of Benguet believe the souls of their departed loved ones go to this sanctuary.
“With the fire, the sacred grounds have been desecrated and the spirits in Mount Pulag have been disturbed,” Prudencio said.
People hold most of the mountains in Benguet sacred because they are burial grounds and heritage sites, she said, adding that these are off limits to drugs and liquor.
Mount Pulag National Park officials held a meeting last week to discuss the cost of damage to the sacred ground and of the spirits there who have been disturbed. Elders in the area asked if they can conduct prayers and rituals within the damaged site, said Park superintendent Teber Dionisio.
Dionisio said the elders also sought permission to butcher pigs using the traditional process called “uwik” using a wooden spear-like tool plunged into the heart of a pig while a “mambunong” or tribal priest acts as medium between the offering and the supernatural.
In 2016, a provincial ordinance was passed identifying, preserving and protecting all heritage sites and structures in the province including Mount Pulag.
Mount Pulag, which is over 2,900 meters above sea level (9,922 feet), is the highest peak in Luzon and the third highest in the country. It is home to many species of highland flora and fauna including the dwarf bamboo which covers its bald peak.
The damaged area was at 1.5 percent of the total 387-hectare grassland.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Cordillera has filed a complaint against seven mountaineers led by Ramon Kristomar Mackay, whose butane-fueled portable stove exploded.
Hikers face charges for violation of provisions of Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System and Presidential Decree 705, known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
For now, hikers are barred from Mount Pulag even as many tourists expressed their intention to experience climbing the site popular among mountaineers.