Mountain Province: What’s In Bontoc?
With my utmost intentions fulfilled in this offbeat journey high above the mountains of Kalinga, the time to go home has finally arrived. One last bus ride from Mountain Province‘s provincial capital, Bontoc, would take me back to the concrete jungle we call home. Though tired and exhausted from three days of traveling by bus, by jeep, and by foot, I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet. For me, Bontoc is another town clouded in mystery yet to be uncovered.
A rainy afternoon in Bontoc. View from Churya-a Hotel’s balcony.
I stood behind the wet gutters while I watched the Manila-bound bus traverse Bontoc Poblacion’s main road on its way out of town that rainy afternoon. Clueless on where to go next, I sprinted from block to block, dodging those “thorn”-like raindrops, looking for an internet cafe to get fast intel on where to stay. One would find almost any necessities just along the town proper’s main road including grocery stores, a wet market, transportation terminals, restaurants, inns and lodgings – everything.
Churya-a’s room for P250.00 per person.
Not far from the Cable Tours Bus Ticketing Office located along the main road is Churya-a Hotel & Restaurant. Churya-a’s budget room equipped with two single beds, a desk, a cabinet, an electric fan, was adequate to rest my exhausted body and leave the exploring for the next day. For a 250-Peso bedroom, this four-walled enclave was a bang for a buck, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Foggy morning in Bontoc.
Fog enveloped the landlocked town of Bontoc when I woke up that early misty morning. I strolled down the empty streets of Poblacion’s main road and side streets enjoying the provincial capital’s serenity while the hustle and bustle still slept soundly. The morning was cold, it was damp, and it was drizzling but nothing was going to stop me from exploring the secrets of Bontoc.
First trip to Maligcong Rice Terraces at 8:00 AM
During my quick research, I stumbled upon the highland village of Maligcong known for its massive rice terraces cluster in Bontoc. Getting there required steep ascend from Baranggay Caluttit through winding roads with heart-stopping hairpin turns and narrow curves – good thing a skilled driver maneuvering the monstrous jeepney does the climbing for you. And don’t worry, for a breath-taking panorama await on the end of the 40-minute bumpy journey.
This zigzag road was the easy part.
No vast plains perfect for planting crops can be found in this mountainous terrain, therefore, the highlanders have to level the land to give way for rice planting, and that’s how Maligcong got it’s name. The word, Maligcong, came from, “ligcong“, the act of building layers of rice fields on their mountains, and Maligcong which means a village surrounded by rice fields. Trekking the Maligcong Rice Terraces would have gotten me deeper into its true beauty, unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side. Instead I hiked my way back to Bontoc.The road for vehicles ends here.
Panorama of Maligcong Rice Terraces (click for larger image)
The less strenuous descend gave more time to appreciate the peacefulness of the forest and the mountains. An abundance of luscious greens soothed my eyes, the pine forest scent in the air which delights every breath you take, the fresh and cool mountain air the caresses your skin. Every turn on the way down revealed wondrous scenery of Bontoc walled by massive mountain ranges on all sides. This was one of the best solitary hikes my entire life.
Green, green, green, so fresh, so clean.
Trail is wide enough for a hiker, but narrow for big vehicles.
Anyone know the name of this rice terraces cluster in Bontoc?
And this, my friends, is the beautiful town of Bontoc.
Catch a glimpse of the rich culture, and colorful history of the peoples in the Cordilleras through Bontoc Museum. The vast collection inside the indoor museum ranges from tools used from day to day to tools of headhunting, from regular clothing to traditional costume used for special celebrations, from spectacular photographs to miniature models of traditional houses. The outdoor museum, on the other hand, replicates life-size houses explaining its functions and importance to its people. In a nutshell, Bontoc Museum showcases what life was and what life is in the mystic mountains of the Cordillera.
Bontoc Museum’s architecture inspired by traditional Ifugao houses.
Life-size traditional houses in Bontoc Museum outdoor gallery.
A Bul ‘ul sat in front of the ‘Ulog’, a sleeping place for young ladies.
‘Ato’ is used as venue for elder council meetings. Young boys sleep here and receive education.
Right across Churya-a Hotel & Restaurant was a bizarre-looking coffee shop called Goldfish Cafe. No one would miss the establishment’s eye catching bright orange facade on a corner lot along the main road. Warm tones welcome the visitors inside the cafe’s dining area design with a modern touch. Interesting photographs of the Mountain Province ornamented its walls which gives the native vibe. The food, however, I wasn’t able to taste but they serve good drinks. Nevertheless, Goldfish Cafe is a good place to hangout while in Bontoc, or in my case, wait for the bus bound for my next Cordillera destination.
I was supposed to order coffee but for some reason I ordered chocolate instead, I don’t know why.
Inside Goldfish Cafe
Facade of St. Rita Cathedral.
Sagada’s tourist influx rose above the rest in the Mountain Province’s list of places to visit, leaving Bontoc merely a jump off point to the popular destination. In fact, I knew nothing about Bontoc, Mountain Province, but Sagada (which I haven’t even been to) before this impulsive journey began. That rainy afternoon in Poblacion, I was barely a mindless stranger lost in the mountains with a camera on one hand, a heavy pack on my back, and an exhausted body on the brink of shutting down.
I regard myself as a highly instinctive person who relies on facts and wise guesses to make quick decisions when I found myself in the middle of a crossroad. But in many cases like these, disregarding what I thought I should do and following what my heart told me to do so were, ironically, the best decisions I made in my life. If I stepped into that bus bound for Manila with a promise of comfort at the end of the journey, right now, I’d still be wondering, “What’s In Bontoc?”
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:
1. One day isn’t enough for a maximum Bontoc experience. On my next visit, I’ll make sure two full days, and promise you better photos.
2. On this trip, we took a mini-bus coming from Tabuk City, Kalinga. But if you’re coming from Manila, Cable Tours have direct trips from their terminal in Quezon City to Bontoc. Bus leaves around 8:30 PM, arrives in Bontoc after 12 hours. You could reach them through their website, or through this number I found on the internet.
3. Cable Tours bus leave Bontoc at 3PM.
4. Churya-a Hotel is located along the main road Poblacion Bontoc, it’s easy to find. Room with common bathroom cost P250 per person only. They also have a restaurant. For more information about their hotel, check out their website.
5. Jeep terminal bound for Maligcong is located behind the market, near Pines Kitchenette. If you’re having a hard time, don’t hesitate to ask around. Fare is around P20.00. First trip to Maligcong from Poblacion is 8:00 PM
6. I wasn’t able to trek the terraces, but if you have extra time, go for it. You’ll get a better vantage point of the terraces unlike the photos in this post.
7. Visit Bontoc Museum. It is highly maintained, and very informative. Entrance fee is P60.00 per person.
8. No photography allowed inside Bontoc Museum.
9. Read more about this 7-day Backpacking Trip in Cordillera
10. More about Mountain Province.
11. Please LIKE Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.
12. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter.
13. Follow your heart, be safe, and cheers to more travels. =)
Local kids of Maligcong sporting their colorful wigs.