Kabayan Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Most recognized for its ancient Ibaloi mummies buried within caves, Kabayan is a small vegetable farming town in the Beguet province of the Philippines, is an interesting and peaceful spot to explore.
Why go to Kabayan
The centuries-old, cave buried mummies are definitely Kabayan’s most fascinating attraction and the intriguing burial caves are currently under consideration as a World Heritage Site. The cadavers have sadly been deteriorating in recent years and this has drawn archaeologists from throughout the world to the small, rural town in the hopes of promoting preservation efforts.
As the majority of travellers, we were drawn to Kabayan by its mummies and we should say that the visit to Kabayan was a real highlight to our trip to the Cordillera Mountains. The feeling which you experience when an old lady who guards the mummies opens the narrow cave and draws the small coffins out inviting you to explore inside by yourself cannot be described. Later, while being treated for a simple but tasty lunch at the old lady’s house, you’ll probably have a strange feeling of unreality.
Aside from these historical and educational reasons to visit, Kabayan also boasts Mount Pulag; the third tallest mountain in the Philippines and fondly dubbed, The playground of the gods. Conquering the summit of Mount Pulag offers mountaineers spectacular views of north Luzon. Ideal for climbers, hikers and even picnickers in search of a pretty spot to rest and eat, this mountain is a wonderful attraction for Kayayan visitors.
When to go to Kabayan
Enjoying year round cool climate, the best time of year to visit Kabayan is during the winter months of October to January as rainfall is quite low during this season and temperatures are a moderate 24 degree Celsius. July and August are the wettest months and not exactly ideal holiday weather.
Where to stay in Kabayn
Accommodation options are somewhat slim pickings in Kabayan due to its tiny size and no real tourism traffic. However, affordable lodges, inns and homestays can be found and enjoyed. Pinecone Lodge and Restaurant, Ester Akiki Mount Pulag Inn and the beautifully cosy, Baban Homestay near Mount Pulog, can all be booked online for travellers desiring peace of mind and convenience upon arriving. Among the options mentioned above only Pinecone Lodge is located in Kabayan proper and it offers nothing more than bunks in a dorm, but it is kept flawlessly clean and the owners are truly welcoming.
Alternatively, visitors can ask around or explore the town once turning up and weigh up their modest options at this stage. For the outdoorsy folk, one can also opt to camp on the Ambangeg Trail during the exhaustingly worthwhile summit to Mount Pulog. Word of warning – pack light and pack warm!
Where to eat in Kabayan
The cool, mountain air of Kabayan makes one long for steaming bowls of comfort food and bottomless cups of strong coffee. Fortunately, visitors of Kabayan can indulge in just such delights. The accommodations do serve up tasty meals using local recipes and native ingredients.
Adobo, a traditional Filipino dish of chicken or pork stewed in vinegar and herbs and spices, is served in eateries throughout Kabayan and enjoyed by locals and visitors equally. There are also plenty of carinderias in Kabayan - perfect for travellers on a budget or those looking for a bit of local flair and authenticity. A carinderia is a small eatery that serves a varied selection of local meals each day in different cauldrons, and customers quite literally point to the dish that they’d like to eat. Served hot, served immediately and served cheaply; these are win-wins all round.
How to get around Kabayan
Getting around within Kabayan is done in the usual Filipino fashion, on foot or by jeepney. Renting a car in nearby Baguio is also an option and one can either opt for self-drive or for a private driver before heading towards Kabayan.
How to get to and from Kabayan
The main starting point to all journeys to Kabayan is Baguio. Though the distance between the two is 82 km, the local bus take 6 (six!) hours to get to the mountains. The road is astonishingly beautiful and similarly dangerous. Buses do plunge down from it from time to time – go at your own risk! So heft yourself and your rucksack into a public bus and pray!
To get to Baguio from Manila, head to Cubao Quezon City bus stationor Pasay. There are numerous bus companies that ply this route at various times and picking a time that works best with your travel schedule should be fairly easy.
If travelling from Sagada, you’ll need to get to Baguio first – take a 7am 6-hour ride on Lizard Trans Bus for around PHP250.
Is Kabayan a safe place to visit?
Largely quiet and unaffected by tourists, other than those coming to summit Mount Pulag, the small town of Kabayan is safe for travellers to explore and navigate without fear of scams or getting ripped off. Something worth noting: in order to be courteous to local tradition and to remain cultural sensitive, it is considered respectful to hire a guide when exploring the revered burial caves.