Stone Kingdom: Baguio City’s newest attraction

BAGUIO CITY – This city has a novel and interesting attraction for visitors – STONE KINGDOM, a new park  that showcases Igorot culture, practices and traditions, the  expert rock-laying skills of its natives, as well as the life of the inhabitants of the Cordillera region.

Stone Kingdom is expected to open middle of this year in the country’s Summer Capital as it struggles to revive its tourism industry that has been devastated by the still raging Covid-19 pandemic.

IGOROT STONE KINGDOM. A new park that showcases Igorot culture, practices and traditions as well as the life of the inhabitants of the Cordillera region, is expected to open middle of this year in Baguio City. The locality, known as the “summer capital” of the Philippines, struggles to revive its tourism industry after reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

Located along Long-long Road, Pinsao Proper village here, the mountain park is currently getting its final touches. Its owner, Pio Velasco said “the whole concept is an Igorot child’s fantasy of castles, his childhood in Mountain Province, the stories about the first Igorot people, man’s belief that there is a caring God and culture of family brought out by the Igorot’s skillful hands of stone laying.”

The park covering a 6,000-square meter area features the Igorot ingenuity in creating stone walls similar to the rice terraces in Battad, Banaue. “We did the traditional ‘riprap’ that did not use cement inside but for purposes of reinforcement had to top it with cement,” Velasco said.

On the right side of the mountain facing the stone wall are modern-day castles made of cement and hollow blocks which Velasco describes as “not just a stone wall built on the side of a mountain, as it reflects the history of the different provinces of Cordillera.”

Among the Stone Kingdom’s main attractions are the  tower that depicts the fantasy story of Gatan and Bangan, an Igorot man and woman who survived the great holocaust, a fertility stone tower, and a Kabunyan (Igorot God) tower.

Velasco said the park is a representation of both the new and old Igorot culture and values system of the Cordillera people.

“One area of the modern side of the park is dedicated to my sister who was killed in an accident in another country while the huge living rock at the entrance of the ancient side is dedicated to my mother who raised us in wonder, doing her best to give us good future amid the difficulties she was in then,” he said.

Velasco noted that the whole concept of the park was borne when the community quarantine was declared last year (Marcg 2020). He said the project idea popped up when he visited the property which had been in his possession bur which he ignored for over 20 years.

Sitting on a corner, he viewed the property which had been unstable and continuously degraded for years. He then realized that the place has its architectural beauty which can hold his idea of a beautiful blend of old culture and the modern Igorot.

“Because I had a vision in my mind, the figure slowly emerged, showing my dream fantasy kingdom,” Velasco said, adding the park will also house life-sized statues of prominent Igorots who have made names and were proud of their ancestry.

“I’m thinking of having Roxanne Baeyens who is the first Igorot beauty queen, among the many names who will be honored here,” said Velasco who hopes to complete the park in two months’ time and open it to the public by June.