I remember spending my first sunrise of the year 2014 on top of Mt Kofafey. Basking in the view of a sea of clouds unraveling before my eyes to reveal the Maligcong Rice Terraces below was just a magical moment that opened up the year. I knew someday I promise to be back. A few months later I kept my promise. This time I brought along my friends with me see this destination in Cordilleras I have been raving about. And also to see the Maligcong Rice Terraces in its evergreen state.
It was the turn of the year and I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to be in a place where people don’t know me. I wanted to greet the first sunrise of the year in a new landscape. The past year was filled with mixed emotions, I was hoping that being away would bring things in a positive light and hopefully bring me back to the right direction. The first morning of 2014, I found myself already climbing the mountain slopes of Maligcong for Mt Kofafey under a starry night with my two companions who used to be just strangers a few days ago and now I’m entrusting my life to them.
It was the day before the turn of the year and I found myself climbing up mountains to reach the nearby villages of Maligcong. I left Maligcong Homestay mid-morning to meet up with my guide Ezra at their family store near the turning point. He closed the store and got ready for our hike. We were going trek to Mainit to check out the hot springs and pass by the village of Guina-ang. I gave Ezra his share of oat bar from Suzette and we were on our way.
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.
It was the holiday season long-break and a couple of my friends (RoadworthyMan and Hapipaks) wanted to visit Fang-Od, the famed mambabatok in Buscalan Kalinga and have themselves inked. It was kind of unexpected that transportation options quickly ran out even a few days ahead before the trip. I guess gone are the days where I can easily go to Baguio, Banaue or Sagada on a whim during this season as this time, people should book way ahead. I volunteered to help and give them another option to Buscalan, not only to accompany them but partly to join them as well as I wanted to revisit Kalinga again for the holidays. What ensued was a trip of misadventures on our way to Riverside Inn, Luplupa, Kalinga.
It was one of those spontaneous trips I wasn’t sure it would push through. The Philippine habagat (southwest wind) has been whipping up mean rains in the metro it takes some effort to bypass the floods and the traffic. But I had my eyes set on Kalinga province for sometime, particularly to see their supposedly dying Batok (tattoo) art. So when the rains abated, we got a signal from our guide in Tinglayan of good weather there. I quickly packed my bags and prepared for the long road to Tinglayan, the jump-off for exploration on the province of Kalinga.
The small town of Bontoc, Mountain Province
I’ve finanlly got a chance to drop by and explore this little town called Bontoc. Most of the time, it’s just one of those areas you only pass by either going to Sagada or Banaue. But it would seem that Bontoc is also an ideal point to jump off any trip going to the different parts of Mountain Province. If you are coming from Manila, you can ride on the new Cable Bus located in Trinity College and they head straight to Bontoc. From there,many jeeps plying to different directions like Banaue, Sagada and Besao can be found. Since Bontoc is in the middle, travel time is reduced.
Tatooed Women. A dying art form
Aside from the connection with different areas, it’s interesting to see our tribes people walking down these streets. Elders, still wearing traditional garbs and women with full body tatoos. Those tatoos are said to be a dying art form since modern women doesn’t like to put them anymore due to the painful process. These Tatoos for women are considered decorations, like jewels, for men however, tatoos are a badge of honor, it means they have slayed or killed an enemy during a war.