Bontoc, Mountain Province: Maligcong Rice Terraces and Mount Kupapey
Bontoc has seen decades of development in order to catch up with the changing times. Given its status as an economic and trade center in the heart of the Cordillera Region, to succumb to modernization is a just necessity. While Bontoc bustles day in day out, some of its villages sit quiet on the outskirts. Maligcong, for example, doesn’t have much in terms of business establishments, however, this lack of modern-day luxuries sustained its charm, the lush environment, culture, and heritage over the years, maybe centuries.
This isn’t my first time in Maligcong but to me, its true nature still remained obscure. This second time is an opportunity to explore the lush mountains, its well-preserved heritage, and a chance to delve deep into the daily life in this part of Bontoc.
A parched tree jutting out from the verdant pine forest marks the summit of Mount Kupapey and getting there is as easy as spotting it. If not for the pitch dark morning, hikers can prance their way to the summit with enough time to brew native coffee even before the very first streaks of light looms from Cordillera’s craggy horizon. This easy 1-2 hour trek leaves you no excuse not to hike and witness the breath-taking sunrise and the phenomenal sea of clouds (or fog) from the 1,539-meter-high summit of Kupapey.
But perhaps the most striking feature Kupapey’s summit reveals is the staggering size and astounding beauty of Maligcong rice cluster – a sense of immensity none could truly get a grasp on without climbing Kupapey. From above, it was certainly an eye candy. Every rise and run in this stone-walled rice terraces form bizarre patterns, shapes, and lines like a masterfully-crafted painting – a masterpiece – fascinating, stunning, charming from one corner of the canvass to the other. I stood awed as its dramatic majesty just burst upon me.
Exploring The Rice Terraces
Trekking the Maligcong cluster gives an up close look into the modest lives and livelihood of its people. A solid concrete footpath, more or less two feet wide, links the main road to hamlets and villages nestled on the corners of the Maligcong Rice Terraces. One of the villages is Favarey. It sits on a hill dominated by three colossal pine trees revered by the locals as sacred. On its slopes lies a labyrinth of houses made from pinewood planks and thin sheets of aluminum. Getting lost inside Favarey is easy but the friendly rice farming community would be glad to show the way back.
Re-visiting Maligcong Rice Terraces
Except for the withering foliage brought upon by summer’s scorch, not much has changed in Maligcong. Here, time crawls. And as it seems, the quaint village in the uplands of Bontoc still remains reticent to modern-day developments. Yet its people and their simple way of life, true to old traditions, continue to thrive – a simple way of life that keeps the quintessential balance between man, culture, and nature in a perfect harmony. With each facet in this equilibrium in place, Maligcong Rice Terraces, a priceless heritage, remains changeless – spectacular as it was yesterday, spectacular as it will be tomorrow.
1.Directions to Maligcong: First, there are two ways to reach Bontoc. You could either go to Baguio, then take a bus to Bontoc or take a bus to Banaue then take a van or jeep to Bontoc. Both takes around 12 hours. From Bontoc, ride a jeepney to Maligcong. It costs P25.00 only. This jeepney follows a schedule. It leaves Bontoc 0800, 1200, 1430, 1630 and 1730. Travel time is 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Where to stay: We stayed at Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay & Coffee Shop for P300/person. Food can be or should be arranged prior to your stay since there are no other places to eat in Maligcong. You could also cook your own food at the homestay. Better yet, you could discuss your plans with Ma’am Suzette. She is very accommodating and hospitable, and definitely. 0915-546-3557
3. Guide to Kupapey: A guide is required for climbing Mount Kupapey. It costs P500.00/guide for 4 persons.
4. Climbing Kupapey: It rises a gradual 200+ MASL without any technical segments. To catch the sunrise, we left around 0400 and was at the summit around 0500-0530. It has a traverse that leads to the village.
5. Bring a headlamp, trailfood, and water.
6. Be mindful of your trash.
7. You could or could not get a guide to explore the terraces and villages. If you’re not getting a guide, you could just follow the cemented footpath that leads to Favarey. Getting a guide, on the contrary, gives you a more in-depth insights about the history of Maligcong.
8. More about Mountain Province
9. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook..
10. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
11. Follow @biyaherongbarat on Instagram.
12. Enjoy your trip and be safe