It was inevitable. We had to do something while in Maligcong. We were on our third day of doing nothing and the pressure was building. Guests at the homestay were coming and going, and us, we’re still sitting our asses off, alternating between cold beer and hot mountain coffee in between meals at the veranda. Our host was already harried, wanting to guide us herself to the peaks of Mount Kupapey for the sunrise and Mount Fato for the sunset. We were unfazed. But yes, we have to at least do something while in Maligcong.
|MORNING DEW ALONG THE RICE PADDIES|
|IT’S STILL CLOUDY, BUT WE’RE SET ON MOVING|
And so it was that one morning, as the rain finally abated to a very light drizzle, we donned our cameras, put on our hiking shoes and headed to the rice terraces of Maligcong. The jump-off from Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay was a mere five minutes away and we were there in no time, going down a narrow concrete stairways for the locals and into the stairway of the gods.
|THE MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES|
I’ve seen my share of these rice paddies in Ifugao; from the famed Banaue Rice Terraces to the amphitheater of Batad, from Kiangan’s Nagacadan Rice Terraces to Hungduan’s Hapao Rice Terraces, but it was my first time to see Bontoc’s version of these world wonders.
|PLANTING SEASON HAS BARELY STARTED|
|MOST OF THE RICE PADDIES ARE STILL JUST POOLS OF MUD|
From the get-go, I can see that Bontoc’s rice terraces are far more untouched by civilization than its Ifugao counterparts. There are hardly any built structures around it, albeit the terraces is on a lesser scale, from my point of view then, at least.
|COOL DAY FOR A HIKE ALONG THE TERRACES|
Planting season has barely begun. The paddies are filled with gray, lifeless water, in total contrast to when these mountain fields would be filled with verdant rice saplings as they start to grow, or even golden fields when it’s almost harvest time.
|THE TERRACES AND THE LONE MALIGCONG ROAD BEYOND|
I was told that Maligcong Rice Terraces has only one season for harvesting. Planting starts in March, with the seeds growing into a lush field by April to May. By August, everything turns golden as the rice becomes ready for harvesting. Unfortunately, we visited during its barest. That’s not to say though that it isn’t a beauty to behold.
|THERE ARE HARDLY ANY HOUSES ALONG THE TERRACES|
Rounding a bend and passing the view we’ve been seeing all day from our homestay, the stepped terraces opened up on an amphitheater of ginormous proportions. Whole mountains carved into gradients, five to ten feet high, made from stones and mud.
|MOST HIKERS ARE GUIDED BY DOGS FROM THE HOMESTAY|
The trek is easy enough and, as of the moment, doesn’t require a guide. A dog might accompany you through the hike, unfortunate, Misty, our favorite canine companion from the homestay was guiding some other guests up Mount Kupapey at the time.
|JUST FOLLOW THE CONCRETE TRAIL|
It’s hard to get lost in Maligcong’s winding trail since most parts are made of concrete. Just follow the concrete dikes and you’ll reach its end without any hassle. Everything was wet when we went, and there are slippery parts and places where the dike has eroded. But all in all, everything was easy-peasy even for a non-hiker like me.
|TWO WOMEN FARMERS RESTING|
|READY FOR PLANTING|
We passed through unending paddies, saying good mornings to farmers tending the fields, readying for the planting season, pausing every now and then to enjoy the magnificent vistas of slopes upon slopes of rice paddies, their dammed surfaces sprouting mini-waterfalls, mirroring the gray skies above. It was interesting to note that all the farmers we passed by were women.
|MINI-WATERFALLS CASCADE ALONG THE TERRACE WALLS|
|RICE GRANARIES AT THE TOP OF THE MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES|
It took us about an hour to reach sitio Fang-arao where the Maligcong Elementary School sits along with numerous pitched-roofed rice granaries made from patched corrugated metal sheets, usually used for roofing. From there, we could see another set of rice terraces at the other side of the fog-capped mountain, with a cluster of village on its summit. It is still part of the Maligcong Rice Terraces, but we have no idea how to traverse it.
|THE OTHER SIDE OF MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES|
|A DESERTED BASKETBALL COURT AT THE MALIGCONG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
So with no other option, into the school we went, passing vacant classrooms, walls hanging with potted cactus and succulents, and a basketball court in the clouds. Eventually, we dove into a sparsely populated village, still following the foot-wide concrete trail, got stalled by a sleeping dog who wouldn’t move from the path and growled menacingly at us when we poked him gently with a tripod. And finally, into the road again.
|END OF THE ROAD|
A jeepney was waiting as we got out of the trail path. It would eventually ride back to where we started our hike, before going back to town. But hungry as we were, we wanted to walk all the way back to sitio Favuyan where our homestay was located.
And so we walked. Now, nobody can say we just slacked off the whole time we were in Maligcong. Lol.
Maligcong Rice Terraces
Address: Favuyan-Fang Uraw Trail, Brgy. Maligcong,
Bontoc, Mountain Province
Tour Guide Fee: None
Entrance Fee: None
GPS Coordinates Map: 17.124438, 120.974824