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.
Mt Matuon from Favarey
Mt Matuon is the mountain directly opposite Makonig village, where the homestay is located. So we had to do a little hike past Fangarao to Favarey where we’ll meet with our guide Mang Ruben. In the months where typhoons occasionally visit the country, morning was the ideal time to explore when the chances good weather is high, especially in the boondocks. The hike was pleasant, cool air with the comfortable warmth of the morning sun. we were handful with two extra dogs coming with us aside from Kunig: the highly spirited white female dog, Misty and the young and limber Tiny (who isn’t by any means tiny for his young age). Because of Kunig, other dogs seem to follow his lead of joining hikes with visitors.
We reached Favarey and met up with Mang Ruben who is familiar with the mountains near their village. Our starting point was the trail to the rice terraces behind the Favarey church. It’s amazing to see how verdant this side of Maligcong Terraces are. Maligcong have a wide and overlapping season for planting and harvesting. Mang Ruben, who’s widely knowledgable in the fields pointed the different kind of rice in the area like the hairy Isokan from Alab, the red rice Chomanling, the white rice Famsan and the heirloom rice Korsimay.
Crossing the bridge over the stream, we climbed the cemented stairs and trails (thanks to the registration fees) to the spot they call fib-iling. From here I stayed for a while taking my time to marvel at the wonderful panorama of Favarey village amidst the terraces. We continued our walk and stopped for a bit as Mang Ruben pointed at the mountain peak we were aiming for. How long will it take to get there? We’ll have to find out ourselves. Soon, the cemented part of the trail ended and the dirt trail begins.
Thriving Forest Trail
The trail begins to ascend as we reach the area they call Foraki. Here we enter the pine forest and along the trail were plenty of pitcher plants among shrubs and ferns. We got some time to catch our breath after that challenging ascent at Uong, a portion of the trail that’s relatively flat before doing another ascent. From here, we have a closer view of Katabu, a picturesque grassland reachable by a couple more hours hike. It would an interesting trek but our aim was for the summit of Mt Matuon.
We pushed further up to the pine forest until we reached the summit. By 9:30am, about three hours after leaving the homestay, we were already at 1,505 masl. There wasn’t any good clearing like Mt Kupapey. The grounds were also covered heavily in ferns. But still, we found a good spot in between the trees to get a good view of Maligcong rice terraces and Favarey village below. Mt Matuon got its name from the word “tuon” which means to look or focus. And from the summit, we are literally looking at the view below. Maligcong Rice Terraces takes in another character from this angle. From the spreading spider-web like look from Mt Kupapey, the terraces looked like curtain of terraces with the village nestled in the middle. We decided to have our late breakfast here with white rice, canned pork and also a pack of spicy bitukang manok crackers before continuing on.
Siblo Mossy Forest
We were deciding if we would do the traverse to Mt Kupapey or head down back to the village. Since Suzzette was expecting guests and the clouds were warning of afternoon rains, we decided to head back to Favarey village. We entered a dense mossy forest they called Siblo. It is here where story of people get lost and are taken by the unseen entities. Though we had to hack our way often on the trail, we never encountered anything unusual aside from the cold draft of air.
While our companion dogs were busy playing roughly along the trail, we reveled on the many edible berries and interesting vegetation inside this rich forest. From the wild strawberries they call pinit and the smaller sour berries that can be used for sinigang, the parangfang. Our guide Mang Ruben was also busy picking out itsa leaves which were used for local tea. Occasionally Suzzette, with her sharp eyes would find edible mushrooms as well.
Once we caught sight of Favarey village and the rice terraces, a heavy downpour caught us on the trail. We stayed under the covers of our umbrellas and trees for a while to let it subside before we continue. We descended to a spot the locals call Chagachag, which for me was one of the most picturesque viewpoint of Maligcong. I could imagine how it looks early morning with the mist rolling rice terraces that seems to converge towards the village. Here we are, despite the drizzle, still in awe of this landscape hidden behind the hills of Fang-arao. A view most likely seen only by the locals who passed by this route to tend to the fields or their cattle.
For climbs to Mt Matuon or visits to the village of Favarey, coordinate through Suzzette at Suzzette’s Maligcong Homestay. Contact 0915 546 3557 or through FB at /MaligcongHomestay. We recommend to allot a whole day for the climb to Mt Matuon with an average of 5-6 hours up the summit and back with a stop at the village. A traverse to Mt Kupapey would take longer.
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.