It was a sunny day in June with a sudden gush of rain which started at four in the afternoon that had us almost missing our bus trip to Maligcong. Call it luck or perhaps mankind’s natural inclination to kindness that made our imperfect trip perfect.
Due to the traffic caused by the sudden rain, a 30-minute drive in EDSA painfully turned into three hours as the roads were flooded and commuters were stranded. Our bus would be leaving at 8pm but the driver and conductor of CODA Lines were sympathetic to our plight as they agreed to wait for the last member of our group as she made it 15 minutes after the schedule. With growling stomachs and grateful hearts, our journey began.
The drive to Bontoc was 11 hours provided with two stop-overs rewarded with a brief view of the Banaue Rice Terraces. We missed our stop at Bontoc which we fortunately realized quickly (strike one!) as we alighted the bus and have a kind-hearted local assist us in getting a tricycle to the terminal where the only 8am jeepney to Maligcong would leave. It was 7:15 in the morning.The jeepney was fully loaded and even have passengers boarding at the top as we travel to Maligcong with the locals and some fellow travelers. With our minds cloudy and eyes dreamy, we almost missed Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay (strike two!). Thankfully, our fellow travelers pointed it out to us as it was their stop too.
Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay
As we entered the place, we were greeted by the majestic view of the Maligcong Rice Terraces and Suzette’s warm presence. We were then lead into our room with three beds and with its own bathroom which we can’t believe that we are paying for only Php 400 each! Spic and span was the phrase that came to my mind when we entered the room. After we unloaded our bags, we were served our breakfasts which, in my opinion, are too much even for our empty growling stomachs. The feeling was truly heavenly as we eat our breakfast, sip Arabica coffee (which is unlimited!) and feast our eyes on the splendidness of the Maligcong Rice Terraces.
Our hike to Mt. Fato began at half past 10 in the morning with one of the resident dogs, Maku, excitedly leading the way. We had one local friendly kiddo sent us off and then proceeded to our hike with Noel, our tour guide. We reached the summit before noon and spent almost an hour taking pictures and admiring the view. The trek back lasted for less than an hour giving us a lot of time to chill and prepare for our hike the next day.
The resident dogs, Kunig, Maku and Tiny, are in full force and were round and about at 3:30 in the morning the next day as they excitedly lead our hike towards Mt. Kupapey. The soil was still soft and muddy because of the prior day’s afternoon rain. We were already at the summit by almost 5:30 and was tongue-tied as we greet the sunrise and the sea of clouds. The Maligcong Rice Terraces is mesmerizing at this vantage point and we had fun taking pictures and playing with the pack. On our way down, we took a detour and tread the rice paddies – breathing in the fresh air and marveling at the view, still not yet believing that we are seeing in person the terraces which we only saw through pictures in our Sibika and Kultura classes. By quarter past 7, we were done and were already packing our bags to catch the 8 am jeep back to Bontoc.
As usual, due to our constant daydreaming, we missed our stop at Bontoc (strike three!) until one of the locals pointed it out to us. Thank goodness for the kindhearted locals! CODA Lines informed us the previous day that our trip back home would be rescheduled from 11 am to 3:30 pm so we decided to explore Bontoc instead to utilize our free time. We planned to visit the Bontoc Museum but unfortunately, it is closed on Sundays. We searched the net and learned of the Alab Village nearby where we could see ancient coffins and petroglyphs. Little did we know that it involves hours of trekking, which our tricycle driver told us, as he feared we won’t be able to board our bus in time. We decided to pass our time instead at a pizza restaurant named Caja where we were warmly greeted by the owner and once again treated with unlimited, fresh and free coffee. We tried their pizza, pasta and cupcakes – all tasty and affordable, as we admire the photographs of the people of Bontoc displayed in the restaurant and its interiors. We were also treated with stories about trail runs organized recently at Bontoc wherein locals bested seasoned runners.
The trip was relaxing, refreshing and invigorating as we marvel at the treasures of nature and the kindheartedness of the locals. We planned to go back there or anywhere in the Mt. Province in the near future or, even to stay for two weeks to hike and explore the province. We will definitely be going back to this paradise which they say was found, forgotten and then reborn.
(Our itinerary, budget and contact persons would be posted soon.)