Bontoc and the Maligcong Rice Terraces

Bontoc Travel Blog

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I caught a morning jeepney to Bontoc and enjoyed another very scenic journey, but the road, I would say is about 30% complete, and that makes the trip quite slow and painful in parts (in truth I really appreciated all that, it gave it an explorative feel for me).  I doubt the road will be finished, despite the huge efforts, for a good few years yet. 


I arrived around 12pm, got checked in, and went for a quick walk around the town.  I remember thinking, why do people spend so much time hanging around Manila doing nothing (I’d met a few travellers doing just that), when you can do nothing here in the beautiful Cordillera region where it’s a fraction of the price to live.  It makes little sense to me, especially as you only get a maximum of 21 days on the free visa. 


I’ll write a little description of the place: Beautiful forests sliced by fast flowing rivers and streams and the incredible rice terraces hewn out of the steep mountains by the Ifugao people between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago.  I just love it here. 


I really wanted to see the Maligcong rice terraces, and there was a jeepney waiting at the top of the road, so I climbed in.  Two women were already in there waiting for the jeepney to depart, but after over an hour, they got out.  I could only guess, given the laid back lifestyle, the jeepneys only leave when full.  I got off as well, but always kept the jeepney within eyeshot.  I was tempted to go to the Bontoc Museum as the reviews were great and I was interested in seeing the exhibits of the regions main tribes, though I didn’t through fear of the jeepney going without me. 


Overtime people started to get on the jeepney again, so I staked a claim for a seat and waited for it to fill.  It wasn’t much longer before we set off up the winding, steep road to the Maligcong.  I was pleased to have a seat as the jeepney was so full with people, rice bags, plants, and other bits and bobs, that people actually sat on the roof! 


Once I'd arrived, I saw two people sat down, evidently waiting for the jeepney back.  Jen and Josh (two Americans from California) advised me the jeepney I had just arrived in was the last one back for the day and it departs at 4pm.  That didn’t give me much time to see the terraces, but I paced on in fast and was immediately impressed with what I saw.

  I found these fields even more spectacular than those in Sagada.  They were a very lush green colour, unlike the multicoloured ones in Sagada, due to it not quite being harvesting season in the Maligcong.  The stone walled terraces have got to be one of the few places on Earth where man has combined with nature to make something even more beautiful.  I got some memorable photos from this place, and was very pleased I’d made it.


I was debating whether to spend more time here and trek back to Bontoc even if it gets dark, but then a clasp of thunder aided the decision-making process and I hurried back to the jeepney.  Josh and Jen were still there and we got talking.  Another man was getting on board, strange-looking in his costume, but the driver turned to tell us this is the traditional man.  He was a tribal man, dressed accordingly to the tribe’s customs.  It’s not a rare sight to see a tribal person in Bontoc, especially come market day when they come to town to sell and buy things, but this was brilliant for us to see.  I didn’t take photos out of respect, but I doubt he would have had any issues.  He seemed quite a jovial and popular man.  I was say opposite to him, and given the bumpy nature of the road and his attire, I almost got to see more of him than I ever would have wished!


Back in Bontoc, I wished Jen and Josh well.  They were actually on the same route as me, so we said we’d probably see each other the next day either on the bus or in Banaue, and that was cool.  They were good company and it was nice to be amongst travellers again.  I set off for my hotel, but passed a tied up live pig in the middle of the street.  Poor bugger, he must have known what was coming.  I actually past him again a few hours later spit roasting outside the restaurant. 


Bontoc did seem to have some nightlife, with the bars open until 12am and music coming out of them, but for me a shower and bed was all I can cope with.  I still fancied seeing the museum the next day and the head-hunter’s booty, but the bus to Banaue was at 8:30am, so there was little chance of that happening.  Maybe one day I’ll come back. 

lauro says:
pity you werent in bontoc museum!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ITS A MUST!
Posted on: Nov 02, 2009
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photo by: lauro