This is where I bid goodbye to my friends Erick and Rocel. Coming from Kalinga. We headed back to Bontoc since the couple would be travelling back to Manila via Baguio. I, on the other hand would be staying in Bontoc to do further exploration. I got used to Bontoc mostly as a transit point to either Sagada, Kalinga or Banaue, but there’s this little upland town called Maligcong that’s only 30 minutes away from Bontoc that captured my curiosity. I heard of equally impressive rice terraces, scenic mountain hikes and cool clime.
Maligcong Homestay and Coffeeshop
I missed the noon jeep going to Maligcong so I spent time at the cozy Goldfish Cafe and chatted with the owner Gemma. She had large photo prints of Maligcong Rice Terraces hanging up the walls. Her stories about the place certainly stirred my interest more that I didn’t notice the time was already 2:30pm, the next jeep was about to leave.
I ran just in time to catch the jeep to Maligcong. Like any other provincial jeeps it was big and heavy with a mix of cargo and passengers. I was still able to get a seat since it didn’t leave immediately as I thought. When the jeep rolled, I asked some of the passengers where Maligcong Homestay was who was owned by Suzette. They were nice enough to tell me when to alight.
Suzette and her youngest child greeted me by their red gate. Maligcong Homestay and Coffee Shop has a large area with a spacious lawn. They have their main residential home and the two rooms are separate from the house under a veranda. The rooms are large, each has two queen-sized beds and the walls were constructed with sturdy wood. There’s a shared bathroom outside which they have been kept clean during my stay. There’s also a water heater since it can get really cold here. My favorite spot is the veranda overlooking the rice terraces. There are a few tables and chairs which serves as the dining area. Suzette and her family made me feel at home there being the only guest. They make very good coffee and Suzette cooks up really tasty dishes. Her Oat Bars a really good and really filling, perfect as trail snacks.
The Maligcong Rice Terraces
I decided to explore that afternoon when I came. Suzette suggested I try to visit her 5-year old’s son school and pointed at a green roof on a hill across the rice terraces. They call the place Fang-arao, where the Maligcong Elementary School is located. If her son just walks everyday there with their dog back and forth I thought it would be quite easy to reach before the sundown.
Fang-arao is only one of the six sitios the others are Mayayat the area by the road to from Bontoc Proper, Makunig, where the viewdeck and the homestay is located, Favuyan, the turning point and where the road ends, jump-off to the terraces, Ada-an, the area north of Favuyan at the slopes of the mountain, and Favarey, the further area where the Barangay Clinic and Barangay Hall are located.
My trek was a short one from Favuyan to Fang-arao, first it was a descending stairs from the turning point to the terraces. It was near the turn of the year and the farmers are preparing the rice fields for planting. The rice paddies were all water but it was an interesting pattern of glassy layers reflecting the sky. Most of the walls were made of piled stones and mud. The trek wasn’t really that hard until the ascending stairs to Fang-arao. I reached the school and there is a basketball court high up that hill.
I retraced my steps back by 5pm and there were a group of locals heading opposite my direction, probably going to Favarey. The last jeep from Bontoc may have arrived with these passengers. I chatted some of them and most of them were relatives and loved ones coming home for the holidays. No wonder the huge boxes, luggages and bags. There was even one guy carrying a refrigerator on his back. As I near Favuyan, I caught the tail-end of the afternoon light reflecting on the rice paddies and a thin veil of clouds covering the summit of the norther peaks of Maligcong. It was a beautiful sight to end the day.
There are regular jeep transfers between Maligcong and Bontoc Town Proper. The Jeep terminal is along the Capitol Road just behind the market. It’s easy to find and most people know if you ask. Jeep fare is Php 25 and travel time is 30 minutes.
|Bontoc to Maligcong||Maligcong to Bontoc|
|2:30 pm||9:00 am|
|4:30 pm||2:00 pm|
|5:30 pm||4:00 pm|
Suzzette’s Maligcong Homestay and Coffee Shop has 2 rooms than can accommodate up to 4 pax each. Rate per night is Php 300 per pax. Meals are also served but dependent on the ingredients available. She can also arrange tour guides for hikes around the villages. You may contact Suzette Chees at +639155463557.
Things to consider: Maligcong can be very cold from December to February. It’s best to bring jacket and warm clothes at this time. Globe and Smart cellphone signals can be erratic.
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.