MT. KUPAPEY and MT. FATO: travel guide

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MALIGCONG – It is quite an off-the-radar destination from a travelers’ list because of its distance to the urban areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces/cities. With its sister-destination, Mt. Fato, a traveler and trekker should cross out from their list Mt. Kupapey. It is now gaining more tourists, thanks to social media.

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Trails to Mt. Fato, Mt. Kupapey and Sitio Favarey. Note: Approximation only

It is highly recommended to start your trek in  Mt. Kupapey before dawn to catch the sunrise once in the summit. Lucky you are should the sea of clouds happen.

The alarm went off at 03:30 AM and off from bed we go. We prepared and did wash ourselves with arctic waters from the faucet. A few minutes passed 04:00 AM, we found ourselves walking in the pitch dark of the night approaching the jump off point.

Braving the cold night as we trod the uphill path to the summit, we are being surrounded with the ever naughty and playful dogs, led by Kunig, Maku, Tiny, Misty, joined by Friday, the owner is our guide, Ma’am Tina.

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Credit: Michael James Ronquillo  Follow him on IG: @mjronquillophotobo

Off from the main road, we found ourselves balancing on the dikes of the first few rice paddies, with just flashlights illuminating our immediate surroundings. Few moments, then, a cemented crude stairway unveiled to us from the towering grass. With our sleepy heads, we plodded those seemingly unending stairs until we reach the first levelled area.

Surrounded by the pitch dark of the night, I gazed briefly over the cloudless Cordilleran evening sky, and there they are, the innumerable stars clearly glaring over us. Despite the impenetrable darkness that cloaked my contiguous space, that sight of the sky defied the growing jitters inside me. It would be almost impossible to see the version of this sky in light-polluted urban areas. This is why I love going to far-flung places to enjoy this view.

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My first photograph at the summit

Forward we go through the darkness and continued the uphill trek. Ma’am always gave us warning on each curve and turns from the trail. “Be careful! That’s a deep ravine on your left.”, she warned, but all we can see is complete and utter darkness. We just continued our uphill walk with our breaths getting heavier and deeper.

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Summit of Mt. Kupapey. Photo by Lajon Tanganco

Being my first time to trek in the wee hours of the night and hearing randomly odd rustling amidst the surrounding tall grass area, a bit of fear started to grow inside me. With only us amongst the pine forest, my creative and highly imaginative starts to play. But thanks to 5 squad dogs who playfully, noisily and cheerfully trekked with us. It is just them who purposely jump off the trail and feed their curiosity. As Kunig traversed this trail countless times, it is Maku’s first time to join.

_DSC5758.jpgThe utter black sky gently turned to blue. Unexpectedly, the eastern stretch of the sky glowed into fiery deep red, and Ma’am Tina signalled us that it is about sunrise. We strode uphill, past the first and second clearing and there we are at the summit.Still cloaked with utter darkness, we briefly rested and gasped some thin air while the terraces are still covered in darkness.

As the rays of the sunrise started piercing through the utter darkness of the night, the captivating and impressive rice paddies came into view, showcasing its undulating and unique structure. It was an awesome and exceptional experience to be there.

According to our guide, Ma’am Tina, the correct spelling is Kupapey, and not Kofafei, as seen in other blogs. She had mentioned a blog that used the spelling Kofafei, but hardly remembered the exact blog. I strongly remember how she shared her stories and experiences of other climbers while in the summit, cloaked with very thin mist and cool mountain air, the smell of pine trees, intermittent barks of our 5 squad dog guides and view of the fiery sunrise of the eastern sky.  We were all sitting and trying to find own vantage points while waiting for the sun to burst on the horizon. It was dark that we hardly see the Maligcong Rice Terraces and by any chance, no formation of sea of clouds. This is our moment in the summit.

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My moment at the summit 😀

We started our descent at 06:30 AM from the summit and started plodding against the gravity. Seeing the trail we traversed earlier is stunning, the steep ravine right just right beside the footpath and the enchanting pine forest.

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We hiked a bit faster and left Ma’am Tina and one of our team member trailing behind us, she just reminded us the follow the path. As we ventured deeper into the pine forest, we found ourselves in a crossroad path, deciding which path we had taken earlier, we chose to trail leading to left, following our gut feel. The patterns of the trail seemed to liken on the path we have taken earlier. As we headed to the descending pathway, we discovered that we have taken a different path. At the end of the mountain trail, we found ourselves over the Maligcong Rice Terraces, an up-close view.

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See the Four Furry Trail Guides?

We continued to other trail leading to a small part of the village and leading back to the steep stairs we ascended earlier and back to the homestay. With both feet drenched in mud and stains, our hike is successful. We hurriedly prepped ourselves, ate the yummy breakfast Ma’am Suzette has prepared and gobbled up the rich Maligcong coffee.

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The exact spot where we chose the wrong trail
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Trail leading to the village

As the 9AM jeep arrived, we bade our goodbyes to our host and loaded our tired but excited bodies to the vehicle – our long commute back home is about to start.

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view of the rice terrace in Mt. Fato trail

SUMMITING MT. FATO

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Rainy summit in Mt. Fato (Photo by Mel Pastor of Chubby Byahera)

Mt. Fato is another destination in Maligcong. Its trail is arguably more challenging than Mt. Kupapey since of its more ascending trails. However, equally has stunning views of the Maligcong Rice Terraces.

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Meet our guide dog, Maku.
Click MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES

SIDE TRIP TO FAVAREY

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Sitio Favarey by Bobby Fabayos of Travel Tayo PH

Favarey is one of the earliest sitio in Maligcong tucked between the undulating terraces. With no direct road network, one must really hike here through the Favuyan-Favarey or Favuyan-Guinaan trail. For an average of about 30mins to an hour traversing the breathtaking rice terraces, you will reach its entry point. Seemingly like a hermit kingdom where private dwellings are perched on a hill, arriving at its gates is the reward from a quite lengthy hike from Mt. Kupapey. Surprisingly, there are a handful of stores here and few locals will greet you along the way.  At the heart of the sitio, you will see typical Cordilleran conventional houses.

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An Elder with Batok, she was a hunter during her youth

There are, I think, two houses of the traditional version. We are lucky that we are able to see one of the Elder Women who has tattoos. With the help of our guide, Mam Karen, we sought permission to have a  picture with her.  In return, the group shared their biscuits and trail food. Unfortunately, I only brought my hydration bag and a few candies. We headed to the highest portion of the town, which has iconic pine trees standing tall seemingly like a guard on perpetual patrol, called as the Papattay trees.

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Alleys in Favarey by Bobby Fabayos of Travel Tayo PH

The population of Favarey is starting to dwindle as the younger generations tend to migrate in other urban areas for employment. It seems to be a half-ghost town as some houses are locked and there are lesser locals trodding the streets.

It is my second visit to the sitio and looking forward to revisiting here again. Apart from trodding the sitio, we saw a rice stockroom and helped the elderly in transferring these wet rice for drying – they are really heavy!

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Stock room for freshly harvested rice
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Wet rice for drying

MEET OUR GUIDE (2016)

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Ma’am Tina

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MEET THE TEAM

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HOW TO GO TO MALIGCONG (COMMUTE GUIDE)

From Manila, take a bus ride to Bontoc town. Upon arrival, walk to the jeepney terminal to Maligcong which is near the commercial center, the front of Pines Kitchenette. During Sundays, the terminal is temporarily transferred near Bontoc Museum because of the bazaar that would occupy the terminal space. No need to ride a tricycle to locate the terminal, ask any locals you have met along the way and they might direct you, anyways, you would notice that almost everyone is treading the streets.

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Jeep to Maligcong in front of the post office and beside the Bontoc museum

Fare is Php20.00 and travel time is approximately 20-30 minutes. It is advisable to topload should it be your first time to visit Maligcong. The uphill road brings you to scenic viewpoints of Bontoc town, plus cool mountain breeze would cloak you.

Bontoc-Maligcong Jeep Schedule 2016 (Php 20.00 Fare both route)
Bontoc to Maligcong Maligcong to Bontoc
First Trip 8:00 AM 6:30 AM
12:00 PM 8:00 AM
 Route we took during our trip 2:30 PM 9:00 AM
4:30 PM 2:00 PM
Last Trip 5:30 PM 4:00 PM

Bontoc can also be reached either through Baguio or Banaue route. GL Trans Bus Lines ply the Halsema Highway to Bontoc from Baguio, the first trip is 7:00AM and estimated arrival in Bontoc is around noontime.

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There are jeepneys and vans in Banaue going to Bontoc. In our actual itinerary, we took a van from Manila to Solano and alighted to Bagabag Junction, we took a bus going to Banaue which took another roughly two hours travel.

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Stunning view of Bontoc in Maligcong Road. Photo by Lajon Tanganco

Sample Routes:

Manila-Banaue-Bontoc-Maligcong Route

  1. Take the Ohayami Night Bus or Florida GV Night Bus en route Banaue (9-10 hours) and alight near the Banaue Tourism Office. (ETA Banaue  6AM 7AM)
  2. Walk to the Jeepney or Van going to Bontoc  (ETD 10:00AM, 1.5-2 hrs, topload if you must) and take the morning trip (ETA Bontoc Noontime)
  3. Upon arrival in Bontoc, have a lunch and discover Bontoc on foot and take the 2:30 PM Trip (30 minutes, topload is a must) to Maligcong (ETA Maligcong 3:00 PM)

Manila-Baguio-Bontoc-Maligcong Route

  1. Take any Baguio bus (Victory Liner, Genesis Bus)  Night trip and target to arrive before 6AM in Baguio City. Take a cab to Dangwa Bus Station in Baguio City
  2. Reserve your bus seats with the first trip 7:00 AM bound to Bontoc. (5-6 hours)
  3. Arrive in Bontoc around noontime, have lunch and walking tour for 2 hours
  4. Take the 02:30 PM jeep bound to Maligcong (3o minutes), arrive in Maligcong around 3:00 PM

Click MALIGCONG RICE TERRACES 

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST? (BUDGET)

Sample solo traveller from Pasay City via Baguio-Bontoc route:

Pasay to Baguio (Victory Liner) ₱445.00
Baguio to Bontoc (GL Trans) ₱212.00
Bontoc to Maligcong (Public Jeepney) ₱20.00
Accommodation with Suzette’s ₱350.00
Lunch and Dinner ₱240.00
Guide Fee (max of 5 pax) (+ P100/ extra pax) ₱500.00
Maligcong to Bontoc (Public Jeepney) ₱20.00
Bontoc to Baguio (GL Trans) ₱212.00
Baguio to Pasay (Victory Liner) ₱445.00
TOTAL ₱2,444.00

Comparing the cost to a group of seven from Pampanga via Dau-Baguio-Bontoc route:

Dau, Pampanga to Baguio (Victory Liner) ₱306.00
Baguio to Bontoc (GL Trans) ₱212.00
Bontoc to Maligcong (Public Jeepney) ₱20.00
Accommodation with Suzette’s ₱350.00
Lunch and Dinner (prearranged) ₱240.00
Charge for 7 pax (P800.00) ₱114.29
Maligcong to Bontoc (Public Jeepney) ₱20.00
Bontoc to Baguio City (GL Trans) ₱212.00
Baguio City to Dau, Pampanga (Victory Liner) ₱306.00
TOTAL ₱1,780.29

DRIVING ROUTES TO BONTOC FROM PAMPANGA

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WHERE WE SLEPT

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Receiving area of the homestay with the dogs.

Suzette’s Homestay is notable for its strategic and panoramic view of the rice terraces and its proximity to the jump-off point to Mt. Kupapey or Mt. Fato.

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The panoramic view of the rice terraces from the homestay’s balcony

You would be welcomed with a warm soothing Maligcong Coffee and Freshly baked Banana Bread, in our case,  as you arrive on homestay after the 20-30 minute uphill travel from Bontoc. Along with these yummy treats are the 4 canine-squad that would warmly welcome you as the initially grace the homestay, happily tail wagging. Don’t misinterpret their barks as a warning, but a signal of excitement. They are so friendly and that well-known dog, Kunig! Really, so friendly and gentle. As soon as Kunig really felt at ease, he would dive his head between your legs signaling that he wants more petting.

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View of the terraces from the homestay’s balcony

Earlier published blogs would feature Kunig as the owner’s lovable and ultra-friendly pet. It is by surprise that they already now own, 4 playful pets – added in the squad are Maku, Tiny and Misty. All of these three new pets are ultra playful and friendly.

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The ultra friendly Kunig

I would rate Ma’am Suzette’s service as 10 out of 10. She answers most of our queries the best she can and really made our stay comfortable. I would want to credit her integrity as we hurriedly boarded to jeepney back to Maligcong and had not noticed that forgot my camera, few minutes, she phoned me about it.

You can call Ma’am Suzette at +63 915 546 3557

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS

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Store houses in Favarey. Photo by Danielle Guiwan-Tangangco

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The Three MICHAELs
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@doj.gamble
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@mjronquillophotohobo

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The iconic Kunig of Maligcong

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Read about Maligcong Rice Terraces 

14 thoughts on “MT. KUPAPEY and MT. FATO: travel guide

    1. Yes, I saw on your blog. Lucky we are for the clearing except for the sea of clouds which I really want to experience. Worth it ang trek dun, as I rarely climb mountains. 😀 Cheers! (Btw, your blog was one of my guides in going to Maligcong)

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      1. Oh glad to be of help. We *might* come back to Maligcong depende sa weather and availability but we’re already planning on it. Sana that time meron ng clearing. Ours then was more of sea of fog. Hahaha.

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      1. True Sir. I am glad I visited the place before everyone else got there. I noticed a lot of climb organizers rushing to Maligicong recently. I’ll visit Bontoc and Maligcong again, when I have extra leave credits. This time via Banaue. Then head to Sagada, there’s another place there that is still not yet swarmed by tourists.hehhehe

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