I know the title seems a little opposite to start with, but let me affirm to you that our accidental journey to Maligcong is simply the best decision we have made from our randomness when in comes to back-packing adventure. My great friend Anne (@traveladik) spear-headed our adventure to Ifugao where we are stamped to visit the villages of Batad and Cambulo.
Here comes Day 2, our group of 10 were already quite tired and instead of visiting Cambulo Village for another challenging hike, we all agreed to detour and visit Maligcong in Bontoc, Mt. Province. Upon reaching Banaue, Anne quickly contacted Ms. Suzette for our accommodation and lady luck was ours since there is a spacious room that can accommodate us all!
The Journey to Bontoc
The road from Banaue to Bontoc is quite similar to that of Aspiras–Palispis Highway (formerly known as Marcos Highway and also known as the Agoo–Baguio Road) but a little more inviting because it has its own character and panoramic landscape. Yes, your eyes will be glued on appreciating green mountains covered with lush pine trees and sometimes, hint of clouds blanketing them. It was already past 6PM when we reached Bontoc town, the capital of Mountain Province and at twilight, we reached Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay located in Favuyan. Of course, we were greeted by no less than Ate Suzette, our amiable host.
After a few minutes of revitalizing ourselves due to the long travel from Banaue, she served dinner. Guess what it is? She prepared Pinikpikan and added Etag to the brew as extender. For some who doesn’t know, Etag or Itag is a salted meat, cured and aged underground in an earthen jar. As you may think, it has an acquired taste which is not likeable for my palate. But guys, Etag is not as notorious as the Icelandic foods like Hangikjöt or Svið. We requested her brewed Arabica coffee afterwards. It’s a perfect neutralizer to the unusual taste of the food we devoured.
The Hike to Mt. Kupapey
I initially woke-up at 3AM to hunt the Milky Way but I thought it may be unsuccessful because 46% of the moon’s image is visible in the night sky. So I slept again and woke-up at 4:30AM to prepare for our early hike to Mt Kupapey in Ang Tong Faw. While waiting for my travel-mates, I assembled the tripod of Anne and snap some photos of the Milky Way. Yeah, I was successful though it’s barely visible to the naked eye that moment because the moon is shining brightly just beside it.
Now everyone is prepped to start the hike. We are like marching on the empty street in Favuyan with our headlamps, flashlights and mobile phones. It’s a moment of merry-making and chit-chatting when only insects are probably awake. It’s not extremely cold and the trail is pretty easy (at least for me who have hiked Mt. Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin.)
In the middle of the hike, the eastern horizon started to change colors from pitch black to pinkish ambient light signaling the rising sun. It’s like the woods is cheering us to move faster to encounter the majestic sunrise in Maligcong. Few minutes later and we already reached the spot where the vantage point of Maligcong Rice Terraces welcomed us. My jaw dropped literally that I felt like I was on my thrown and own the land that my eyes could see, including those hiding from beneath the clouds. We had our moments of photo-ops, random conversations and nature appreciation for almost an hour until we decided to descend and visit Maligcong Rice Terraces.
Off we go and I will surely miss the view from Mt. Kofafey. Fast-forward 30 minutes later and we had a first view of the rice paddies with freshly-planted palay as the he sun could still reflect its beautiful form perfectly. We are like models doing catwalks in an unconventional setting as we are all aligned along the pilapil. We met locals along our way back to the homestay for our breakfast and greeted them with “Hi!” and “Hello!” They are genuine yet not aloof with tourists. They don’t live a fancy lifestyle yet they looked cheerful and very satisfied. After reaching the village in Favuyan, everyone is quite tired so we ransacked a store nearby and bought some refreshments.
The people and the majestic landscape are things you will miss once you set-foot in Maligcong. You will surely forget the 12-hour land travel from Manila. In fact, I wish I could come back during the harvesting season in July.