Move Over Sagada and Banaue. Here Comes Balbalasang!

As most of us know, Sagada and Banaue/Batad are the Cordillera Region’s top tourist attractions. Well, Baguio is actually the prime destination but it is overrated and it is a messy mess. Tourists going to Baguio would be better off going to Sagada or Banaue or other Cordillera towns such as, say, Balbalasang in Kalinga.

Well, I’ve not been there yet but this article by Art Fuentes from the Haribon website has awakened the travel bug in me. I’m tempted to shove my clothes in my backpack and to head over to Balbalasang. But maybe I’ll wait first for an invitation from our kailians in Balbalasang who would be kind enough to invite me, ha ha. I’m shamelessly fishing for an invitation eh? Well, Art Fuentes says Balbalasang reminded him of the Lord of the Rings and I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan. I’m not sure I can ever go to New Zealand where the movie was shot so I’ll visit any place that looks like it.




Anyway, here’s Art Fuentes’ take on Balbalasang:

Despite the long and difficult drive though, no one was complaining. We had passed through some of the most beautiful mountain roads anywhere in the country. The light rain and the mist shrouding the mountains which occasionally obscured the road, and the fading light all conspired to make driving a bit more difficult, but they also added to the magical quality of the trip.

The rains made the area extra special. Driving from Balbalan to Balbalasang we counted eight waterfalls of varying sizes, some of them seemingly painted by some artist who rendered Rivendell in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. One was especially worth noting—its top was obscured by clouds making it seem as if the cascade was coming from heaven itself.

……

Biodiversity: Mt. Balbalasang-Balbalan is one of the most interesting and important sites for biodiversity conservation. Its hardwood, pine and mossy forests have survived the rash of mining and logging-driven development that has scarred much of the Cordillera.

A survey conducted by the Chicago Field Museum and Haribon in 1999 found that the area to be very rich in biological diversity.

Another survey conducted by Haribon in 2001 found that there are at least 83 species of birds living in Mt. Balbalasang-Balbalan. 34 of these birds are endemic to the Philippines, while 2 of them—the Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae), and the Flame-breasted fruit dove (Ptilinopus marchei) can be found only in Luzon. The forests also support a diverse population of warty pigs, deer, civets, macaques, bats and rodents. Two of these mammal species are listed as endangered, namely the Luzon pygmy fruit bat (Otopteropus cartilagodonus), and the Luzon bushy-tailed cloud rat (Crateromys schadenbergi).

So I won’t be fully accused (okay lang kung partially accused) of stealing Art Fuentes’ article, you should go to the Haribon website to read the whole write-up. If the article intrigued you enough to visit Balbalasang, make sure you don’t destroy the town’s biodiversity when you get there.

Photos courtesy of Art Fuentes and the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.
18 Comments
  1. Hi there! You’re always welcome to visit our place! It’s better to take the Abra-kalinga road. It’s much nearer and cheaper compared via Tabuk. Visit us there during Christmas Vacation until the month of February since the weather during these times is pretty much cool! People there are very hospitable, so there is no problem with accomodation. We also have the PArish Inn there, where you can stay at the cheapest price.. If you’re looking forward to mountaineering, Balbalasang is the best place to visit…

    Judelight Dannang
    edata Services Inc
    RCBC PLAZA, MAKATI

  2. Hello! I’m much delightted to see some pictures of our dearest place!I wish there were stil more so that everyone can see through the beauty of this small community. Anyway, just come visit our very place and see it yourself. You’ll truly enjoy its real pulchritude and serenity as well.
    Watch out for the big event this January. “The Fiesta”. You could visit anytime and everyone is welcome to “Balbalasang”.
    Help us protect the Place!!!

    On Trac Global Services
    Baguio City

  3. Hi Judelight and anonymous,
    Thanks for the tips about the best times to visit Balbalasang and the best way of getting there. I didnt realize that it is better to take the Abra-Kalinga Road. I hope to make it there in the very near future.

  4. hi there,

    To the folks from Balbalasang, could you email me please? marcsman.ph@gmail.com. My friends and I are planning to mountain bike through there, perhaps start at Balabalan all the way to Bangued. Would be great if can connect with anyone who can give more info on the place (distance, road condition, lodging, etc).

    Our target is to do it sometime after the rainy season, maybe late Oct/early Nov (but I hope we can still have some slight drizzle to so we can experience misty mountains!).

    Marco

  5. Hi Marco,
    Hopefully the earlier commenters from Balbalasang will read your post and get in touch with you. Good luck and it looks like you will visit the place way before I do 🙂

  6. Hi Bill,

    Thanks. Yeah hope this plan pushes through. What’s really tough is getting enough vacation time to do this. It’s not really something you want to rush into. Everytime I go up to Sagada for some mt. biking has always been special. Mt Biking through them mountains is really one great way to experience the place. Sometimes I wish I don’t have to go back!

    Anyway, goodluck to you too. Hope you can visit the place sometime also. So much to see in the Philippines and not enough time!!

    Marco
    check us out http://www.pinoymtbiker.proboards7.com

  7. Balbalasang is a nice place, been there a couple of times with fellow members of our org during the late 90s(UP Mountaineers). Although aside from the beautiful place I will never forget the PEOPLE.

    The people there represent the best in the Filipino. We instantly fell in love with the place (kahit na the road from Tabuk to Balbalan was straight out of LOTR hehe)

    I do hope to visit that place again in the future.

    Cheers!

    N91
    http://www.upmountaineers.org.ph

    PS : will never forget our trek from Lobo to Tinglayan. Nice but the trail…well walang trail hehe

  8. Hi upmountaineers,
    Hi, thanks for dropping by. Buti ka pa nakapunta na doon. Hope to make it there someday, I guess you are the third one to refer to the place as very LOTR like 🙂

  9. Sagada and Banaue, actually, are big names that can’t be matched by any other places in the Cordilleras in terms of tourist attractions. What Balbalasang and nearby villages offer are described in the Haribon website.

  10. mangikoyog ka sir BB no apan ka wen?hehe..kakaawis nga apan ya.

    upmountaineers:wala talagang trail sa lobo.kaya di ako pumunta dun natakot ako sa kwento nila;-)

  11. Hi Marcsman.. I hope matuloy na yung mountainbiking nyo sa amin, which is slated on the Holy Week of this year..Good luck guys!

  12. hehe.. uo, marami nga daw magaganda dun, hanggang tabuk lang ako eh. hehe. pero marami silang kwento tungkol sa mga tao dun, not to be rude or something.. kwento lang nila. hehe.

  13. The pristine beauty of the mountain villages along the Abra-Kalinga road will play a magical interlude to your mountain adventure. The winding yet majestic and scenic mountain road, cladded with pines, will prove to be good for mountain bikers (halfway concrete) where they can enjoy the misty feel of the welcoming cool mountain air. The travel time by car (private/public) at maximum 70 km/h from Bangued (Abra) to Balbalasang is between 3-4 hours. Balbalasang is a unique place to visit where you will experience nature at its fullest. Very safe place.The scent of the pine trees will refresh the weary minds and camping sites are also available for people who enjoy the outback kind of life but make sure to bring your own complete camping equipments and other basic needs. A cooking area, a rest room plus a bathroom are all provided in the established village camping ground but don’t expect a deluxe quality (Remember that you’re in the mountain). The amenities provided for visitors are very basic but it brings great comfort. Balbalasang has a guest house with fully furnished kitchenette and minimal overnight charges too but visitors are required to cook their own food as there are no restaurants/cafeterias around. Visitors are also required to respect the environment, which the people of Balbalasang, and the other villages around, fought hard to preserve and maintain. Respect to the culture and tradition of the people is also paramount, just like travelling anywhere else in this part of the world. Cultural immersion with the village people is also a great fun. Trekking is also fun! The village of Balbalasang is highly christianized (with its own elementary school, kindergarten school, high school, church, village dispensary(clinic) and various local stores), though it’s located in the frontier area between the provinces of Abra and Kalinga. English is widely spoken around and Tagalog is less understood by the local. To get around easily, English is the best language to use. Deep mountain adventure can also be arranged with any of the locals who have the experience of bringing people/tourists deep into the jungle as part of their mountain adventure.
    I hope these brief insights will give some form of advance information to future visitors of Balbalasang. To see is to believe. You’re all welcome to visit the magical kingdom of unspoilt natural beauty. I came from the village of Balbalasang but i live in Europe permanently and the things you see around Balbalasang with respect to its natural yet rustic mountain beauty is similar to some of the things we also see in Europe. Come aboard and enrich yourself by visiting the tranquil and relax way of life in the mountain. WELCOME to BALBALASANG…..

  14. Not only BALBALASANG but most provinces from south to north have something to showcase their own unique beauty, whether its waterfalls, rivers, hiking trails, etc….BUT, if this government doesn’t provide real security to all visitors, foreign and domestic, thousands if not millions will never come to appreciate what our country has to offer.

  15. just came from balbalasang last week… it was a great experience ….truly one of kalinga’s hidden treasures… from tabuk to balbalan and balbalasang it was all breath taking scenery .. upto abra-kalinga boundary..

  16. hats off to the people who contributed beauty in the whole community,,,our ancestors are the pride of today’s generation”

  17. You are all welcome to visit our place no race and religious discrimination,,,It’s ma honor to be proud of”

  18. Nice comments here. Balbalasang is without doubt a beauty, behind that it is bound with spirits, plus an interesting history of enlightenment, political power, greediness,treachery and black magic. Beware of “tiwong”. Just follow the folks instruction and you’ll be more safe.

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