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.
Under the Tourist Radar
Sagada, Banaue and recently, Kalinga (for Apo Fang-od) are popular destinations in Cordilleras that tends to be really crowded especially during peak seasons. For those looking for a peaceful respite from the hordes of tourist, Maligcong is still unbridled by massive tourism and development. This small town, about half an hour from Bontoc town proper, is nestled high up the mountains.
Equally Beautiful Rice Terraces
Each rice terraces in the Ifugao and the Mountain Province, have their own character. Maligcong Rice Terraces isn’t far behind in scenic quality. The stone-wall terraces spread far and wide the side of the mountains extending up to three villages hence where it got its name “surrounded by rice fields”. On top of Mt Kofafey (Kupapey) the rice terraces spread out like a spiderweb with the village of Fang-Orao on top.
Walk through pine tree trails and enjoy summit views atop Mt Kupapey and Mt Fato. Imagine a star-studded sky during an early morning climb. One of the places to witness a sea of clouds sans the crowd (or sceaming #hugot crowds). Enjoy the serenity and what nature has to offer in all its pure glory.
Friendly Folks (and dogs)
The people of Maligcong don’t often see a lot of tourist. The Bontoc tribe dominates the land, and even until a few years back, there were still some elders living a life where they still wore traditional garbs. The people here are also known as fierce warriors. If you’re lucky, you might still see some elders with traditional tattoos. They also have a tapping tattoo tradition here like in Kalinga but uses a needle instead. The tattoo art has died though as no one is doing it art already. There’s a number of transplants from low-land regions too but already considered this place as home. There are no kids here (yet) blatantly asking for money or candy – they are simply playful to new visitors. Dogs are mostly treated as part of the family like Kunig, the homestay resident dog who also joins the guest at times to hike up the mountains.
With an elevation of at least 4000feet above sea level, Maligcong also enjoys cool climes. I remember staying there in the new year long weekend and even if all my room windows were closed, I could feel the cold wind seeping in early in the morning. It a place to spend some precious idle time just soaking in the scenery. Suzzette’s homestay also serves locally brewed coffee and she makes a real tasty oat bar to go along with it. A great accompaniment while reading a good book.
If these have convinced you to visit Maligcong in Bontoc, do join us in our Photo Tour Maligcong this coming October 9–11, 2015. Let us guide you through this charming town in Bontoc to take home memorable and captivating images. For details, visit Backpack Photography for more details.
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.