Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kabayan, Benguet: Mt. Pulag's Pine Forest Trail and the Vegetable Terraces of Sitio Babalak

Pine Forest Trail is at the foot of Mount Pulag, lying in-between the Ranger Station of Sitio Babalak and the mountain's Mossy Forest. The trail is mostly narrow and comprised of compact dirt littered with rocks and pine needles. It is flanked by pine trees on one side and a deep ravine on the other. The terrain is fairly easy with no steep uphills and downhills. Aside from the fresh pine scent, it also offers a wonderful view of the majestic Cordillera mountains and the beautiful vegetable terraces.

Vegetable farming, aside from guiding climbers, is the main way of living of the local folks here. But with hardly any flat lands to plant high value crops such as carrots, potatoes and cabbage, farmers resorted to converting forested mountain slopes into terraces. It is very similar to Banaue Rice Terraces, only here, vegetables are grown instead of palay.

The view of these vegetable rice terraces in Sitio Babalak is a beauty to look at. Much like a stairway to the sky backdropped by layers upon layers of Cordillera mountain ranges. 

However I was having a mixed-feeling while staring at this beautiful site. As we all know, converting forest areas into farms is not an environmentally-sound practice. It could do more harm than good in the long term. But since it gave farmers a steady source of income, this practice will continue unless alternative means are provided.

I have read that there is an on-going conservation effort by a private group to preserve the forests within and around Mt. Pulag. Among the income-generating activities they encouraged is for local folks to provide homestays to climbers. It will minimize trail impact and provide the residents additional income without further encroaching the forests with their farms. This is a laudable effort as there is always a need to balance environment preservation and the community's basic needs.

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