TRAVEL: Maligcong Rice Terraces + Mt. Kufafey + Mt. Fato + Bontoc

P_20160612_121234.jpgTravel Date: 10-13 June 2016

Bontoc is like the Cubao of Cordillera. It is the entry point to famous Norte destinations such as Banaue, Sagada and Buscalan. Bontoc was just a stopover, a waiting-area for a greater adventure – at least for me. That was until Mt. Kufafey.

Having experienced the overcrowding from Mt. Kiltepan and Mt. Pulag, I was hoping to find a less-touristy climb for my next Norte adventure. I came across Mt. Kufafey from a blog that listed alternative sea-of-clouds mountains. I tried to read up more about the mountain, but there were only a few blogs posted about it late last year. If you have been reading my previous blogs, you’ll know that that is practically a go signal for me.

Armed with prayers and what little information I gathered about the place, my friend and I left Manila on a Friday night, around 9pm.

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Favorite mode of transportation. Bus ride 1 to Baguio.
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Bus ride 2 to Bontoc

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Bus > Airplanes

Two bus rides and 13 hours later, we finally reached Bontoc.

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Across the Municipal Tourism Center is a cafe that serves the best cakes!
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I always stop by this cafe every time I’m in Bontoc Town Proper…
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For a serving or two of this yummy cake + Kalinga Coffee

After a quick lunch at a nearby carenderia (eatery) and the best dessert, we walked around to look for the jeepney that will take us to Maligcong, but not after goofing off with some of the locals. P1080309.JPGP1080310.JPG

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Jeepney ride from Bontoc Town Proper to Maligcong takes about 30 minutes.

VILMA’S HOMESTAY

There are two home stays in Maligcong: Suzette’s and Vilma’s. I initially contacted Suzette’s but they were fully booked during that weekend. But like most locals I know from the North who all have a strong sense of community, she eagerly referred me to the newly opened Vilma’s Homestay.

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Ate Vilma’s Homestay started operation just January this year. This quaint two-storey house is conveniently located right before the Favuyan turning point in Maligcong, a few steps away from the jump off point going to the rice terraces and Mt. Kufafey.

MT. FATO

P1080337.JPGWe were supposed to do a straight twin hike the next day, but because we were on a 4-day getaway, we decided to take things one at a time. After a few hours of rest, Ate Vilma called in Kuya Henry to accompany us to our first Maligcong mountain: Fato.

Fato is the lesser known mountain in Maligcong.”Fato” in the local dialect means “Bato” or rock, and was named because of the huge boulders at the summit. The view might not be as impressive as most Cordillera mountains, but the trail is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The trail is wide, and mostly covered by pine trees, pretty much how I imagined forests in fairytales are supposed to look like.

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One of the best things in Mt. Fato: the wild mushrooms! The mountain has an abundance of it, and we were free to take as much as we can. Our harvest ended up as our dinner (along with other viands that Ate V  prepared. WE LOVE YOU, ATE V!!!)

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MT. KUFAFEY

We woke up early the next day, around 3am. I was so excited for this climb because the few photos of it I saw from the internet looked really awesome! But as always, photos never really give justice to the actual thing.

I took so many photos and videos, already imagining how I would edit it and all. But as luck would have it, my SD card failed me. Meh. Means, I have to go back. 🙂

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THE PEOPLE (AND DOGS)

What really got me about Kufafey are the guide dogs, the most famous of which is Kunig. On the day of our hike, Ate Tina, Kunig’s owner was booked. I thought we won’t be able to see the famous dog. But when we reached the summit, there were three guide dogs in total: Kunig, Wednesday and this girl:

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Me: Ate Tina, ano pangalan nito? (What is this dog’s name?)  Ate Tina: Sumama lang ‘yan!   (He just joined us)    Me: Hello, Sumamalangyan!
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Wednesday, Ate Tina, Kunig and Sumamalangyan
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Kunig!

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Our sweet host, Ate V!

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MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES

Aside from hiking Mts. Fato and Kufafey, travelers can also opt to walk through the Maligcong Rice Terraces. We weren’t able to do so during our visit because there was a local holiday called “Te-er” that restricts entering the terraces.

So to pass time, we decided to go around town and talk to the locals.P1080560.JPGP1080564.JPG

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Lula Elena and Lula Magdalena. Despite the language barrier, we spent a good hour and half just laughing and getting to know more about their culture.

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Look who I bumped into: Sumamalangyan! I love the white spot on her right eye.
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Sumama din siya sa amin. 

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Ate V and Sumamalangyan

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BONTOC

We left Maligcong that same afternoon, to spend the night in Bontoc. Rode topload and got rained on, as always.

After checking in a random hostel, we crossed the street to my favorite bar of all time: Cable Cafe. P_20160612_204924_NT.jpg

We had a couple of bottles to give us the confidence to jam with the singer on stage.

Lashing #pub #karaoke

A video posted by Angela Kuizon Go (@ladysuader) on Jun 12, 2016 at 10:34pm PDT

Met more locals the next day, while waiting for the Baguio-bound bus to leave.P_20160613_061554.jpgP_20160613_062239.jpg

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Etag: cured meat in salt

P_20160613_060934.jpgHaynako, Norte. Mahal talaga kita. 

Ingat and see you on the road!

How to get there:

From Baguio, head to the slaughter house to catch the D’ Rising Sun first trip to Bontoc at 5am.  Php 212

From Bontoc Town Proper, get off near the market and ask around for the jeepney heading to Maligcong. Ride top load for the best experience. Php 20

Where to stay:

Vilma’s Homestay can accommodate solo traveler and groups. She cooks the most delicious meals and provides unlimited Kalinga coffee and mountain tea. Rate: 300 php / Breakfast: 50php, Meal: 90php per. Like her FB Fanpage.

Tips:

There are no ATMs (as usual), so bring enough cash.

Watch out for wild mushrooms, which you can ask Ate V to cook for you. Just make sure it’s not poisonous!

Tour guide rates (1-4 pax)

Mt. Fato: 300php  / Mt. Kufafey: 500php

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com

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