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.
Climb to the Rocky Peak
“Let’s take a short cut”, says Tina, our reliable guide. Don’t be fooled by her small stature. Tina knows these woods like the back of her hand. Our climb was steady in the cold 4am morning. We could see the faint flickering lights of Bontoc town below. The darkness hiding the cliff drop only a few steps on our side. We stopped to take our breaths and wait for the rest of our companions. I look up to the sky and saw the stars peeking through the trees.
Mt Fato has a different trail from Mt Kupapey. With our Backpack Photography participants, we went back on the road leading to Bontoc and then took the road on the right when it forked. It was wide enough for vehicles but it wasn’t paved and our vehicle could only take us 1/4 of the way. The hike here was a lot easier than Mt Kupapey as major part of the trail is from the road. I also noticed there were trail markers on what seemed to be from a run event. Tina said trail running events are usually held here, organized by trail runners from Bontoc and Baguio.
Mt Fato Summit
Much like Mt Kupapey, Mt Fato has trail winding through a pine forest. Bordered by nearby Guina-ang, part of the mountain is being disputed by the latter and Maligcong. As we got closer to the peak, was saw large limestone rocks jutting out towards the sky. We went through a narrow passage to the back and we’re finally at the summit.
It was a field of ferns surrounding the rocky outcrops. A picturesque tree stood watching on the side overlooking the rice terraces of Maligcong. From here we could see the summit of Mt Kupapey. Looking at another direction, the Sleeping Beauty of Kalinga can be sighted as well as portions of Sagada. There was no sea of clouds at that time but the purple sunrise was present and the cold. Our guides Tina and Terrance were passing hot cups of coffee to us and a cupcake. A warmth we certainly relished amidst the cold breeze at the summit. I hear a rustle of leaves above us. It was the kids, the porter guides we hired, playing up the trees. So carefree and effortless in their climb. They are at their element on these mountains.
On our way down, the boundless energies of these kids seem limitless. They were racing down the trail, now fully lit by the morning sun. For them this was a game. When we managed to catch-up with them on the trail, they were playing some native music, improvised, using gin bottles they found by the roadside. It was impromptu, unrehearsed and raw yet it sounded wonderful.
More of my return to Mt Fato and the trail on the next page…
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.