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Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province: A Road Less Traveled (Day 1)

Maligcong is an indigenous community in Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines and is currently isolated from the radar of most local travelers. Finding a jewel in Bontoc must have been a quite a boredom for "hardcore" travelers as Bontoc have had been treated just like a bridge in reaching other popular destinations like Sagada.

Bontoc surprised me to find a hidden paradise that crossed our path using my spontaneous zero-itinerary trip to Northern Luzon. This crazy adventure resulted into the discovery of new wonders worth sharing to fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

L-R: Lovemindanao, Celine, Olivier and Kurt
Photo: Credit : Olivier &Celine
Together with a fellow traveler, Kurt of Wind Trekker, we hopped into a bus in Sampalok, Manila bound for Banaue, Ifugao. Our mission was simple: to be away from the biz and buzz of the city, to relax and to breathe some fresh air.

We left at 10 pm from Ohayami Bus Terminal that took us an almost 10-hour bus ride before we reached Banaue. We had a little breakfast at the most popular tourist “tambayan” in Banaue, the People’s Lodge.

With no specific place to visit, we opted to take the jeepney on standby bound for Bontoc, where we met the French couple Oliver and Celine. Hearing stories from these adventurous French travelers was just astonishing, echoing their long plan to visit the Philippines and discover the different wonders this nation holds. According to them they have small patches of forest or Nature Parks in France but not as big and as unique as in the Philippines.

Bontoc, Mountain Province
Reaching Bontoc gave me already a sense of familiarization as the town is so small that you could memorize the 'ins' and 'outs' in a minute. We were so lucky that I bumped with a recommended tourist guide that was mentioned in a website of Mountain Province, Mang Agustin Carlos, who turned out to be a Christian Pastor and a barangay official in Maligcong. 

Over a cup of local aromatic coffee, he suggested to visit his hometown in Maligcong, Sitio Favarey where according to him it shall astonish us with the grand view of rice terraces that is non the same like in Banaue. And so we did take the offer and in less than a minute we were on our way to the jeepney terminal.

A Series of Fortunate and Unfortunate Events

Kurt got stung n not once but thrice.
We rode at the top of a jumbo jeepney that took us to Maligcong.  As our elevation soared up, the panoramic view of whole Bontoc got better and better . 

We took the opportunity of being on the top of our ride to capture the enchanting view. Our condition being on the topload gave us a little challenge as we have to dodge low lying electrical wires clinging along the road. Our situation at the top of the jeepney gave us a little misadventure as we hit a beehive clinging on a tree and stung my buddy Kurt not only once but  three times. 

Everybody panicked and ran down from the top of the jeepney except me, as I moved in slow motion until I was able to alight from the top. Some passengers were stung also but it was Kurt who got the severe one.  That was just unfortunate for my buddy! Good to know that we were  near to our pit stop where remedy was immediately applied (vinegar) on the infected area and the swelling ran out after an hour.

Mang Agustin suggested for us to stay at the only Home Stay found in Maligcong , operated by a local , the Chees Family. We were welcomed by Ate Suzette and her family in their humble home. They have at least 3 rooms that suit 2 occupants each (Php 300 per head/night). The place was cozy and it has a veranda that is overlooking the rice paddies and terraces across Favuyan up to Fang-arao.

Basketball at the peak of the rice terraces of Fang-arao, Maligcong, Bontoc, Mt. Province
Together with Mang Agustin,we crossed the rice terraces starting from Sitio Favuyan up to the peak of Fang-arao. It was my first time to walk on the man-made paddies crafted out from the side of the mountains, showing only the ingenuity of the Filipinos in terms of engineering and architecture. It was an hour long walk traversing the golden rice fields of Fuvun, Lay-yug , Arang and Magutok. During that time, it was already the harvest season in  Maligcong except in Favarey.

There is Grand in the World of Grains My Dear!

At the end of our first trek, we were surprised that we ended up at the school situated at the TOP of the terraces. Believe it or not, they have a basketball court at the TOP OF THE RICE TERRACES with Igorot students playing hoops. Damn they were really good!  Filipinos are really hooked with this sport as there is no place in this country you won’t find a basketball court! Well if you can’t beat them just join them as the saying goes. There you go and.......Shoot!

Favarey Rice Terraces, Maligcong, Bontoc, Mt. Province (View from Ang Tong Faw)
After a sip of cold water and few minutes of rest, we strolled down and had our first glance of the supposedly “famous” Favarey Rice Terraces. The emerald like field was isolated from other communities and it was surrounded by pale mountains. 

Rice field of Maligcong
According to our guide, Favarey was the first community in the area where authentic cultures and traditions of Maligcong originally rooted. But some members moved to other places after they were either evicted from the community or simply tied the knot up with other tribes, creating more sitios in Maligcong. 

Our visit in Maligcong was timely to witness the mixture of green and gold grains, bending in unison through the soft touch of the mountain breeze. It was like seeing another untainted Batad Rice Terraces, only Favarey is not as famous as Batad. Well it’s time for Favarey to be introduced to the rest of the traveling community. So say hello to Favarey.

Tracing our trail back, we were mesmerized with the transformation of the whole terraces into golden lush  field after the setting sun showered its yellow rays on the  ripening grains of Maligcong. It was just magic for me! 

Tufu of Maligcong, indigenous food 
I could only breathe the afternoon breeze soothing my lungs and releasing all the tensions that have built up in my heart. With no one else around, that afternoon was my refuge of peace.

Taking a stop over at Mang Agustin's humble abode, we were given a treat of traditional rice cake mixed with peanut called 'tufu'. It was an authentic Bontoc food as I have never tasted anything like it. It was very heavy and a single 'tufu' would suffice all the energy you needed for the whole day.

Our first day ended and so tired that my feet were swelling. We headed back to our accommodation where we were greeted by Ate Suzette with a special dinner served ready on the table. We were surprised that they prepared the locals’ special “pinikpikan”(chicken)  mixed with “etag”( traditional preserved pork).

Pinikpikan with etag
The sumptuous dinner was not complete without a bottle of traditional rice wine “tapey” or “tapuy”. It was my first time to taste the tapuy and a single sip wasn’t enough for me but Kurt drunk it all when I turned my head away for a little wash up. G-R-R-R. It was drained to the last drop! I guess a bottle of 'tapey' was one way to abate the really cold climate in Maligcong.

After getting tipsy, we comfortably hit the sack early. There is no need for air conditioner as the temperature in Maligcong was freezing at night. I fell asleep in fetal position under all the blankets and bed cover I could find. We rested so deep as we need all the strength we can get for our next trip to the peak of Mt. Kofafey in Ang Tong Faw and that's next!

How to get to Maligcong,Bontoc?

Top load in a jeepney, cheap means of transportation
Coming from Manila take a bus bound for Banaue. In our case we took the night trip with the schedule of 10pm from Ohayami Bus Terminal in Lacson/Fajardo St. in Sampaloc, Manila with the fare of Php 450.00 each.

From Banaue, we suggest for you to take the jeepney bound for Bontoc. It is just patiently waiting across the tourism office near the People's Lodge, fare was Php 150.00 each. You may also take the van bound for Sagada, just inform the driver to drop you in Bontoc near the Municipal Hall.

Beside the Municipal Hall of Bontoc, there is a jumbo jeepney on queue bound for Maligcong. It has a specific schedule of departure until 4pm only, see below. Fare was Php 25.00 each. Just never mind the chicken and other  agricultural stuff you will be sitting beside or simply take the top load for fresher air and grand view. Just be cautioned with the low lying electrical wires if you don't want to get strangled, hanged or electrocuted.

Jeepney Schedule:

Bontoc to Maligcong

Monday -Sunday 
Morning :
8:00am/ 12:00nn/ 

2:30pm/4:30pm/ 5:30pm

Maligcong to Bontoc

6:30am/ 8:00am/ 9:00am

2:00pm/ 4:00pm 

Accommodation in Maligcong?

If you are worry where to stay comfortably in Maligcong, the Home Stay and Coffee Shop of the Chess Family will comfort your chilly night. It is just along the road of the turning site of Sitio Favuyan. The place is quite popular as it is the only commercialized Home Stay in Maligcong. 

Just inform the driver to drop you at the Home Stay. You will be welcomed by they hospitable host Ate Suzette and her loving cute cuddly children Zhen, Roshin, Rinzai and Jounin. 

The stay will cost you Php 300.00 per head/ night. They can also serve food of your choice as long the ingredients are available. Just request your preferred meal ahead of time and they will do the leg work to cook it for you.Their authentic Pinikpikan and Etag is a must try

Maligcong Home Stay
Suzzette Chess
CP nos.(+63) 915.546.3557

Best Buy:

Tapuy and Basi are the local wines in Bontoc. But we suggest that you buy it from the Home Stay as they prepare the authentic wine made by the Igorot husband of Ate Suzzette. 

Oat Bar baked at Home Stay  is a must try and a good pocket food as you trek the terraces going to Favarey. It is sold for Php 20.00 each. I bought a box of it as pasalubong (gifts) for my friends and they loved it.

The mountain coffee of Maligcong is something you shouldn't missed as well . It is best suited with a oatbars especially in the morning while watching the thick clouds unfold the terraces of Maligcong.

Additional Tip:

Rice planting in Maligcong is done only once  a year as the community still performs the traditional rice planting and that is sowing the seeds by hand. We recommend that you visit this place on the months of January to early August. But as of now, rice planting is no longer done simultaneously due to decline in numbers of farmers.

Also, bring extra jacket as the temperature in Maligcong at night is as cold as in Sagada. Prepare yourself for by not taking a bath if you can't take the freezing water in the morning.

Cellphone signal for Smart Communications is very weak or almost none in Maligcong so better bring your Globe sim if you wish to have a connection to the outside world.

Recommended Tour Guide:

Agustin Carlos : (+63) 905.716.4698
Ezra Carlos : (+63) 907.314.2912

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