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The Rise of Maligcong Rice Terraces

It’s been more than three years since I had my first glance of Maligcong, dwelling silently within the mountainous walls of Bontoc.

To be honest, it was an accidental find back then that my friend Kurt and I brushed to the never-heard place in Mountain Province. Bontoc for most of us, is just a transient town going to Sagada, unknowingly that there are  better destinations worth seeing in this silent municipality compared to the commercialized tourist spots.

It was in Bontoc where I met Pastor Agustin Carlos who invited us to visit Maligcong after a small chat in one of the small time coffee shop in the town proper. Then, I met Suzette Chees and her family who offered their humble Homestay for us to rest. Then the rest was history.

After that adventure and an article was published, slowly MaligcongRice Terraces have became known to many local travelers who are hungry to see a new destination to enjoy.

Ezra Carlos, a local Igorot guide in Maligcong, Bontoc

Three years ago, I made a promise to return to enjoy once more the beauty and serenity I have found in this not so well commercialized place. I was happy by the insistent of my friend Malou for me to take them to Maligcong and share to them the beauty I have witnessed in the underrated tourist destination. If not  for her strong persuasive approach, it might have taken longer to return to this beautiful sanctuary.

I wanted to surprise Ate Suzette but it ended up the other way around, getting astonished to discover that there have been more than a dozen of guests that day, which never happened three years back.

I was wearing my sunglasses when Ate Suzette greeted her guests until she noticed a familiar face fronting her. There, she wasn’t able to hold back her tears, so surprised after a long time since we have last seen each other.

I don’t want to be emotional and told  her that I was very happy to see everyone, the kids, the dogs, Mang Agustin and Ezra. I felt I was embraced with much love seeing the people whom I felt I have a very strong attachment in Maligcong.

Newly wed Malou and Geh enjoyed the short rice field tour in Maligcong going to Favarey

I don’t want to gain much attention from the guests whom were wondering why such gestures were being thrown to a guest like me until Ate Suzette revealed to others that I was the first travel blogger who have visited their place and introduced Maligcong to the traveling community. I was humbled and don’t want to dwell with such praise and wish to act normally like any other guests.

I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm to share with the other new found friends about what I have learned about Maligcong when I first stepped in and re-discover the pristine environment. We chatted and convinced them to have a tour in the fields of Favarey despite the sleepless 11-hour bus ride from Manila to Bontoc.

Surprisingly, more and more visitors are coming to Maligcong.

Excited much to revisit Favarey, I asked Ate Suzette to arrange a quick tour to which she assigned the young Gideon to be our local guide. Hoping to avoid the afternoon rain, we immediately roamed the great rice terraces at 2:00pm.

Everything feels new the way I have laid my eyes on the gold and green fields back in August of 2013. I was not bothered by the tag-of-war between the scorching heat of the sun and the heavy clouds above our heads. For me, I was ready for anything and everything would be a blessing for another experience in the place I coined as The Rice Fields of Gods.

Witnessing once again the green fields of Favarey, I felt I was hearing some indigenous chants through the swaying rice stalks in unison. I couldn't help myself but to express myself, humming to the tune of Natalie Cole's Starting Over Again

If you are lucky enough, you will encounter old yet strong tattooed women in Maligcong.

My excitement grew upon seeing a familiar community, Favarey. But this time, I was greeted by the deafening silence of the cradle community in Maligcong.  Everyone was out , tending their rice fields and taking advantage of the gift of rain for this part of the year. The community feels like a ghost town until we were greeted by the children, who met us excitedly with cheerful hi’s and genuine smiles.

Children of Favarey community
The peak of the hill in Favarey  was my favorite spot where the two old pine trees overlook the whole community. There, we witnessed some Igorots still tending their rice fields, planting the seedlings in the watered fields despite the torrential rain, flooding each level of the terraces.

I considered the afternoon rain as blessing for the farmers as it would sustain the water requirement of their crops.

A normal afternoon in Favarey

Contented with what we have observed, we traced back our way to Suzette’s place, but the gods of Maligcong seemed pleased by our visit giving us a thick fog that made our trek more fascinating, changing the texture of the whole environment to a majestic soft golden yellow rice fields, transforming the entire place into a paradise in heaven, a view that was very pleasant to the eyes.

Overlooking rice fields being tendered by Igorots viewed  from the peak of the hill of Favarey

For me, to stand in one of the oldest communities in Bontoc was incomparable to the places I have visited in the Philippines.

Meeting the locals, hearing their stories and witnessing their culture were beyond happiness. I could only wish to stay longer and sit at the edge of one of the paddies and sing my heart out to express my appreciation on how God gave us such wonderful gifts.

I will cut short my story here but will soon share to you my exhilarating experience at the peak of  Mt. Kupapey. That would be next. (click here for the continuation)

Here is the preview of the majestic view at Mt. Kupapey:

How to reach Maligcong?

Coming from Manila, you can take the Coda Lines Bus bound for Sagada at Monte Piedad St. in Cubao. The bus leaves at 9:00pm and reaches Bontoc by 8-9am the next day. Fare is P685.00.

Shoefie goal while on top of the jeepney bound for Maligcong. Overlooking is the town of Bontoc

Just below Bontoc Museum, take the jeepney bound for Maligcong. Expect that you will take the top load as not everyone can get a comfortable seat inside the jeepney. Click here for the schedule.

Where to Stay in Maligcong?

There are already some homestays in the area (at least 3). We stayed at Suzette’s Homestay. Her place is simple but strategic but can only accommodate at most 20 visitors at a time. 

You don’t have to worry about the food as Ate Suzette cooks simple local foods for you to enjoy (usually vegetables but you can request for the famous Pinikpikan). Her cookies and oatmeal bars are famous in the area and best paired with coffee.

Coffee, mountain tea and other beverages are also served in Suzette’s place. If you are lucky enough, she can even serve the local wine called Tapey (Igorot's rice wine) and Basi.

A heater is provided in case taking a bath in a very cold environment is problem for you. You will also encounter her pets  (dogs) especially Kunig and Maku, who are very welcoming to their guest.  

Ate Suzette will also arrange a tour guide for you which will cost you P500/4 guests. That amount is negligible compared to the experience you will have in this off-beaten path. I suggest for you to request for Ezra, Gideon or Tatay Marcelino.

For reservation and more information, you can contact her at this number: (+63) 915.546.3557

Maligcong Rice Terraces captured through a drone courtesy of  Daniel Sayon.

Here are the links to my previous posts about my trip to Maligcong (more elaborate):

Maligcong Bontoc | A Road-Less Traveled Destination
Climbing Mt. Kofafey| Maligcong, Bontoc
The Road to Favarey

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