Looking out of the veranda from Suzzette’s Homestay in Maligcong, I have long wondered how the view is like from the mountains seen on the horizon. The peaks of Mt Matuon and its trails tease, along with otherworldly tales that its forest entraps people with its enchantment unexpectedly. As interesting as the local superstition seems, outsiders like me sees it as a place of conquest. Another trail to explore. I do respect local customs though so I waited for the chance. I was glad when Suzzette said we could explore the mountains with a local guide from Favarey on our recent trip to Maligcong. So in good company with Suzzette, Lagalog and three dogs (Kunig, Misty and Tiny) we ventured one morning to explore Mt Matuon.
Maligcong has become one of my favorite destinations in the Mountain Province in the recent years. I’ve cited five reasons on a previous post why one should go to Maligcong. Lately, I did notice that there’s already an influx of tourist discovering its quiet charm and natural wonder. Most of them were doing the short climb at Mt Kupapey to see the breathtaking landscape and the rice terraces at the slope of the mountains from the summit. Mt Kupapey is just one of the interesting places in Maligcong. My recent visits there were to do some exploration treks and hike, particularly the far flung village of Favarey and its surrounding area. This village amidst the vast field of rice terraces is called the “Old Town” by the locals as this is the original settlement of Maligcong.
Bontoc is such an underrated destination in the Mountain Province region. I must admit that I was guilty of dismissing Bontoc as simply a gateway to other destinations like Sagada, Banaue or Kalinga. Discovering the beauty of Maligcong three years ago changed my notion of Bontoc. I realized, the town is just the tip of the iceberg. My recent visit found me in Talubin, the neighboring village 6km from Bontoc Town proper, known as the Land of Clear Waters in the province. One look into the village, it’s easy to see the abundance of water flowing through the village. Talubin village is settled comfortably at the slopes of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges where streams from the mossy forest continuously flow and a clean river runs through. We were also there to visit one of the main source of water in Bontoc, the Humuyyo Falls, located 3,700 feet above sea level.
A mountain is never the same. The looming form may remain but the trails, the ecosystem and the peak weather changes constantly. Call it moody but the micro-climate dictates whether the view from the top is cloudy or not. Such is the case when we climbed Mt Fato in Maligcong for the second time. The neighboring Mt Kupapey (Mt Kofafey) with its outstanding view of Maligcong Rice Terraces and nature trail may have grown popular to the visitors of the region but Mt Fato offers a different side of the terraces as well as the mountain peaks of Kalinga and Sagada. My first visit with Backpack Photography gave us a clear view, my return howevers was welcomed with a cold embrace from the clouds.
Death and dying is an inevitable subject in conversations when All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day approaches. Like an evening conversation over a warm fire one cold and rainy night in Maligcong, from the talks of somewhat paranormal encounters in the rice fields we ended up talking about Igorot culture and the commonality of their beliefs within tribes in Cordilleras. It was interesting to talk to a native i-Maligcong and hear from them their traditions in wakes and still observed but slightly modified in the modern times for practicality. My thoughts immediately shifted to their neighboring town of Sagada only an hour away. The town has seen tremendous visits year long for its unique burial tradition of Hanging Coffins. Much so during All Saints day for its fiery spectacle during the Festival of Lights. But these popular display is just a small part of their traditions.
“Where are you girls going?” we asked curiously as three girls young girls, ages ranging from 10–12 were going down a trail almost unnoticeable from the dense vegetation just below the famed. “Down to check on our goats by the cave?” one said. A cave? I thought for a moment and probably she was referring to the Sagada Underground River Cave found deep into the valley. “Let’s follow them!” My newfound towering Russian companion excitedly suggested our group. In the many times I have visited Sagada, I don’t remember having visited the cave before so we just followed the young girl’s footsteps.
The Cordilleras have many charming towns and villages nestled along hilly slopes high up the mountains amidst verdant forests. I simply enjoy just riding a public bus in the north, the ordinary non-airconditioned ones as the air passing through the window is fresh and cool enough for comfort. Often than not, country music blares through the speakers. As some Dolly Parton or Garth Brooks belt out some narrative tunes, I marvel at the passing scenery on the winding mountain road. Houses by the ridges, rice terraces, mountain gradients, and the thin mist or passing clouds lingering until they dissipate early in the morning. I am heading back to Maligcong, a village in Bontoc that’s slowly getting some curious look from Sagada and Banaue-bound travellers. Aside from being a side-trip, they are beginning to be a destination of their own. Here’s a few good reason why you should visit Maligcong now.