LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET – Folks of Kabayan, Benguet, led by their indigenous leaders and elders are going to perform indigenous rituals to appease the spirits at Mt. Pulag following the 5.9-hectare blaze of grasslands last month.
Benguet tourism officer Clarita Prudencio said the revered Mount Pulag, considered as the playground of the gods, has been desecrated.
Ibalois of Benguet believe the souls of their dead go to Mt. Pulag.
“A desecration of our cultural beliefs has been made because we consider the mountain sacred and playground of the gods guarded by spirits called ‘tinmongao’,” Prudencio explained.
Most of the mountains in Benguet though are sacred to the people because they are burial grounds and heritage sites, adding these are off limits to drugs and liquor.
A meeting was held by the Mount Pulag National Park this week to discuss the cost of damage in the sacred ground and of the spirits who have been disturbed. Elders in the area have asked if they can conduct prayer and ritual within the damaged site, said Park Superintendent Teber Dionisio.
Dionisio added elders have sought to butcher pigs using the traditional process called “uwik” wherein a wooden spear-like wood is stabbed into the pig’s heart, while a “mambunong” (indigenous priest) acts as the 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 mandating their protection including Mount Pulag.
Mount Pulag at over 2,900 meters above sea level (9,922 feet above sea level) 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 1.5 percent of the total 387 hectares grassland.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera has formally complained against seven mountaineers led by a certain Ramon Kristomar Mackay, whose butane-fueled portable stove exploded and pointed as the main cause of the grass fire.
The hikers face violations of provisions of the Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System and the Presidential Decree 705, known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
At present, hikers are barred to climb Mt. Pulag even as many tourists want to experience climbing the well known mountain in the country. ABN
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