Remembering Baban’s Homestay

Mt. Pulag National Park recently announced stricter rules for hikers. Camping sites will be closed on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, while the Akiki trail (the most challenging of the four trails available) is temporarily closed because of a forest fire that damaged the greenery. They are also implementing a more rigid reservation process. The reason? The mountain needs to rest.

I conquered the peak last year. Now Mt. Pulag National Park is encouraging visitors to climb other neighboring mountains such as Mt. Tabeyo instead. Pulag needs to recover from decades of wear and tear. If you insist on visiting Mt. Pulag, please adhere to their stricter rules and mountaineering etiquette.

I remember interviewing Mt. Pulag guide and professional mountaineer Eugene Teraña of Trail Adventours last year. He said that the mountain has undergone so much erosion and pollution through the years, thanks to irresponsible tourists that flock to Mt. Pulag without regard to the rules. Closing the mountain for at least a year is the best way to let it recuperate.

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Toilets and shower area

Toilets and shower area

Because overnight camping on Pulag is now limited, officials are encouraging visitors to sleep over at homestays and opt for the day hike instead. That’s exactly what my group and I did last year. Baban’s Homestay, one of the more popular homestays in Babalak, Benguet, let us lighten our backpacks and sleep for a few hours before our midnight trek up the mountain.

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Baban’s accommodations

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Jeepney rides are the only way to get to Benquet from Baguio

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Benguet sunset overlooking the clouds

A homestay accommodation allows travelers or guests to stay in a local home with its live-in hosts and to immerse deeper into the location’s culture. Nightly rate for Baban’s is ₱250, but it includes only sleeping accommodations. Aside from the sleeping quarters, the place has a surrounding vegetable field and lush scenery overlooking Kabayan, Benguet.

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The vegetable field next to Baban’s

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Children of the locals

I remember a chat I had with a fellow hiker from my group, Marco Lobregat, host of Lifestyle Network’s The Green Mind, and dubbed by Buzzfeed as “The Hottest Mushroom Farmer in the World.” We were watching one of the hosts prepare dinner for her family at Babans’ makeshift firewood stove. Her ingredients came from the different crops planted around their area. En route to Baban’s, we spotted vegetable farmers harvesting lettuce, carrots, and other fresh produce on the terraces.

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Our hosts

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Firewood stove

“Look at what she’s cooking,” Marco said. “It’s different from what we’re eating.” He told me that his idea is for the hosts to increase the nightly rate by including a hearty dinner in the package. It would be a great way to bring awareness to Benguet’s agriculture and share their local recipes with visitors. “Someone could help her prepare food for a bigger group,” he said. He toyed around with the idea of teaching Benguet homestay hosts to cater local cuisines aside from just letting visitors sleep in.

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It’s been a year since my memorable Mt. Pulag climb and that small chat. Marco, if you’re reading this, let me know if there are updates!

As for Baban’s, I’ve been browsing through travel blogs and noticed improvements in the wooden interiors as they continue to host visitors from around the Philippines and the world.

March 15, 2016



One Comment

  1. I should’ve visited last time!

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