Travel

From Rain to Sun (and Everything in Between): Our Trip to Mt. Fato, Mt. Kofafey and Maligcong Rice Terraces

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.

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A glimpse of the Banaue Rice Terraces from the view deck.

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 the came to my mind when we entered the room. After we unloaded our bags, we were served our breakfast which, in my opinion, is too much even for my empty stomach. 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.

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The Maligcong Rice Terraces as can be admired from Suzette’s balcony.

Mt. Fato

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.

Mt. Kupapey

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.

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Sea of clouds embracing the rice terraces – at the summit of Mt. Kupapey.

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Treading along the rice paddies – a childhood dream come true.

Caja

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 run organized recently at Bontoc wherein locals bested seasoned runners.

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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 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 saw was found, forgotten and then reborn.

(Our itinerary, budget and contact persons would be posted soon.)

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Travel

Trekking Back in Time at Masungi Georeserve

Finally, after almost a year of planning, our trek to explore Masungi Georeserve has materialized. It was honestly difficult to get a weekend schedule and to organize a group of at least seven people but I can say that the months of waiting is all worth it. 🙂
Taking us back 66 million years ago are the majestic rocks and limestones of Masungi Georeserve which, up to now, are leaving us awed on how nature works and evolves. It is still hard to believe that the place was underwater millions of years ago but the limestone karsts similar to those in Palawan prove it. The name Masungi came from the word masungki which describes the jagged and rocky scenery which would sometimes remind you of the mountains in the movie “Avatar.”
Our group of 12 started the trek at 12 noon, of which the weather thankfully at that time, is neither hot nor too cloudy. The offered attraction of Masungi is termed as Discovery Trail which is an informative tour discussing the history, ecological relevance and, flora and fauna of the reserve. It includes also the highlights of the place with the rope courses all of which are:
Lambat, Sapot, Ditse, Patak, Duyan, Yungib ni Ruben, Tatay, Nanay, Liwasan and their new additions: Sawa, Brangay Dahon and Bayawak.
First of the rope courses is the Lambat which serves as the “gate” to the reservation followed by the famous “Sapot ni Ric.
According to Kuya Romeo, our tour guide, Ric is one of the park rangers and was the one who made the rope courses – the reason the Sapot was named after him. Kuya Romeo is a native Dumagat and prior to becoming a park ranger, he once was involved in illegal log and coal mining. But now, he is very much proud to be taking care of nature instead.
Surrounded by lush montane rainforests, we crossed bridges and entered caves while quietly admiring what nature has to offer. We were informed that the reserve is also a home to various animals and some are even endemic to the Philippines! Unfortunately (or fortunately) we weren’t able to spot those on our trail (especially the snakes!)
This spot at the reserve is called Tagpuan where there are cage swings perfect for chilling. Notice that there is a grill at the middle and a kettle hanging above it. We were told that the reserve will soon open a schedule for night trail visits and this spot would be where the guests would have a mini feast! Also, the night trail would be perfect for stargazing especially at the Sapot. This soon-to-be attraction of theirs had us so excited we are already looking forward to our next visit! 😀
IMG_7736-01While waiting for our turn to Patak and Duyan, we rested for a bit at Ditse.
Shaped like a raindrop is the Patak, an “air house” between Ditse and Duyan. Mostly composed of bamboos, Patak is suspended high above the rainforests. The four-hour trek isn’t that tiresome because of these attractions which also serves as our rest-stops.
To continue our way to Duyan,  we have to stop at this cliff which offers a 360 view of the reserve…
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Me, filled with envy at seeing Kuya Romeo sitting at this very spot, felt the need to have my picture taken…where else? Yeah, here! 😀

The climb down to Duyan is very steep but there is no need to worry as the rope courses are very safe. They even added wires to enclose the rope course on the way down to alleviate some of the guests’ fears.
Duyan is one of the most photographed spots at the reserve together with the Sapot. It is basically a giant hammock which can fit even up to 50 people. Now, we are really excited for that night trail to be able to watch the nights skies here. 🙂
Before our way to the peaks, we stopped at Yungib ni Ruben to view up close the stalactites and stalagmites. They had the place lit by scented candles making our walk a bit heady and at the same time eerie. There are also bats and swiftlets staying at the cave though none was there at that time. The yungib was named after Ruben as he is the one taking care of it.
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Posing at the fountain at Yungib ni Ruben

The highest peak of the reserve is Tatay and the second one is Nanay. We also noted that our stop before Patak is called Ditse. According to them, the reserve was chosen to be in Tagalog to honor our country and named after family members as the reserve is considered as one giant family. Their soon-to-be attractions will all be named the same way.
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Chi at Tatay – the highest peak at Masungi

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After the two peaks, we climbed our way down Bayawak, which is a rope course in the shape of a giant local monitor lizard.
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Making our way down Bayawak

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Ready for our snacks!

We failed to take a picture of the Sawa and Barangay Dahon as we were really excited with the thought of food. Shame on us! Anyway, we are all ONE for MASUNGI in this pic as we vowed to come back and explore the trail once more. 😀
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One for Masungi! With Kuya Romeo.

Tips for those who wanted to visit Masungi:
  • Book ahead of your trip at their site. Visits are preferably on weekdays as weekend bookings are almost always full. You might wait several months for weekend visits if you are not in a hurry.
  • The booking should be composed of at least seven persons to make a reservation.
  • Better if you would rent a van or a jeep to get to the reserve as public transports are rare.
  • Make sure to eat a proper meal before the trek. Only trail food are allowed inside.
  • Bring water tumblers as water bottles are not permitted. Water refills are provided before and after the hike
  • Ponchos are provided just in case it rains.
  • Refrain to bring unnecessary items in the hike to make the trek easier. String bags may be provided and there are lockers to store your things before the hike.
  • Only closed rubber shoes are allowed.
  • There is a strict No Smoking and No Littering policy in the reserve. Penalty is Php 3,000 if violated.
And again, leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and kill nothing but time.
See you all at the night trail!!!
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Maligcong Budget and Itinerary

If you’re seeking for a quiet, serene and not so overcrowded place up in Mt. Province, then Maligcong is definitely the place where you should go. A perfect balance for an adventure-seeking soul who loves to have time to contemplate and admire the beauty of nature.

Our trip was made on the last week of June – just in the middle of the planting and harvesting season. We were told that it is best to visit during the planting season (April to May) and harvest (August) but still, the view is not less than astounding.

Below is a sample of our budget and itinerary.

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Going to and from Bontoc

We took a bus to Sagada from Quezon City at the HM Transport Terminal. The bus is from Coda Lines Corporation and its daily trips to Sagada are at 9PM. In our case, we were lucky to be informed that they will have a bus that would leave an hour earlier.

You can book a ticket at the HM Transport Terminal located at  Monte de Piedad corner Maryland Street, Cubao, QC or alternatively, you can book online at the PHBus travel site for an additional fee of around Php 112.

When going back to Manila, you can buy tickets for Coda Bus located at Cable Café at Bontoc or wait for the bus there if you were able to book your ticket online.

Where to stay

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We stayed at Suzette’s which has a veranda offering a breathtaking view of the rice terraces. Also, the unlimited brewed coffee is heaven you can order your meals in advance. The bathrooms also have hot and cold showers!

Suzette’s Contact Number is 09155463557 or you can learn more of it from their facebook page.

Travel tips

  • Bring a raincoat/poncho just in case in rains during the hike. A jacket too, as temperatures tend to drop at night.

  • Bring a headlamp and perhaps, extra batteries, as the hike to Mt. Kupapey would start in the wee hours of the morning.

  • Coordinate with Suzette if you want to cook your meals at the homestay or you can order those in advance.

  • Signal for Globe is pretty strong at the homestay, rice paddies and even at the summits of Mt. Fato and Mt. Kupapey. Smart and SunCellular’s aren’t.

  • Overnight camping is not allowed.

  • Be friendly with the resident dogs but don’t be too friendly by always giving them food to avoid them asking you for more.

  • Hire guides to the mountains and be friendly with the locals!

  • Always take note of the jeep schedules to and from Maligcong as they are following a strict schedule.

  • And lastly, leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and, kill nothing but time.

Special thanks to Suzette for her warm accommodation and for volunteering to send our friend’s hiking pants to Manila, which she missed packing, as we were in a hurry to catch the jeep back to Bontoc and also to Noel, our guide, who took most of our pictures and those of the rice terraces including the cover photo I used in my previous post.

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Ciao!

I haven’t been into writing for quite a long, long time now and ever since I graduated from college, most of my writing skills are limited to either editing my friends’ write ups or composing business-related emails. Short stories and poems that I usually make in the past now seems to be from an era long-forgotten. Why am I now writing a blog? Well, I figured that I need to reconnect with myself more and I know that writing my thoughts would really, really help me in the long run even if I am the only one who get to read this. Plus, the internet is one of the storages that I know could preserve my write ups as I don’t have to worry that I might have thrown my journals away or lost my phone without back up AND, I could search for my articles instantly.

This blog is a personal one and my posts would be purely random as I might narrate one of my travels or experiences, promote my friends’ businesses, write a review for a movie, book or restaurant or, I would just simply babble my thoughts away. Anything goes. If you happen to come across my page, feel free to suggest and comment – I welcome new ideas.

I think that would sum up my introduction. Oh, why is it entitled Ciao? Well, because I love almost everything Italian and I plan to be fluent on the language someday (Duolingo says I am only 14% fluent! That’s a long, long way to go). So, everyone, ciao for now! =)

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