Destination Antique: The Hidden Rice Terraces of San Remigio

Antique Rice Terraces Foot Trail
Tracing the path

The Philippine Archipelago never stops in surprising us, as more new destinations are revealed by trailblazers and explorers; thanks also to digital technology that brings the evidence in real-time. Take this, for example, a promising destination is just made known through a web-based free global map that features satellite images by a Visayan local. This led him and a local magazine show to explore and feature it. That episode gave me a desire to see the place myself. Hence, after months of planning, I finally found myself on the jump-off point leading to this vast hidden spectacle of the province of Antique – the Rice Terraces of San Remigio.

 

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The overcast sky and crawling fog over the valley as viewed from higher parts of the trail

The Trip

We set foot first in the other two provinces of the Panay Island, Capiz, and Aklan, prior to visiting Antique. I traveled that time with my friend and colleague, Catherine. We reached Valderrama’s junction via Bugasong already quite late at night – the transit from Caticlan via a public bus reached more than five punishing hours. We left the Caticlan bus terminal past 3:00 PM. We are already in contact with the Barangay Captain of General Fullon, Noli Maguad, and we are lucky, he recommended us a homestay in the town. Barangay General Fullon is the lone community that exists along the hidden rice terraces, reaching there requires a long trek traversing five mountains.

long bridge in valderrama town kapampangan traveller
The long scenic bridge in Valderrama

At the Bugasong junction point (or “crossing” as locals call it), while waiting for further instructions from Captain Noli, a woman dressed in her office attire noticed us and did a bit of questioning why we are here. We responded politely – not knowing that she is a Municipal Hall Staff and personally knew Captain Noli. She got excited about our intention to see and explore the rice terraces and she advised us to do some registrations prior to our actual trekking. She even offered us a ride to our homestay which she herself coordinated with Captain Noli. It is important for travelers to register at a tourism office for monitoring and proper briefing.

with Barangay Captain Noli Maguad of General Fullon
Photo with Capt. Noli Maguad before we start our trek

Upon arrival at the homestay, we are welcomed warmly and treated as if we are extended family. We exchanged stories for a bit, and shortly called it for the night, since we have to recuperate from the two-day journey we had, and organize ourselves for the expected long trek tomorrow.

The Long Trek

Alarm broke, peeled our eyes, and heaved our aching bodies. After donning our trek ready outfits, we are welcomed with a nice hot cup of coffee and light breakfast. We chartered a tricycle ride and darted to the registration area. Excited filled my body as we sped off through the cold early morning air of Valderrama town.

Fortunately, Captain Noli was able to add another trekker – Mike Jose, an accountant, and an Antique local who is now Manila-based. He is an avid mountaineer and summited the treacherous Mt. Igcuron the day before. He joined us as we registered along with our assigned trail guide.

After the short briefing, we left the jump-off point a few moments after twilight. The jagged mountain horizon was apparent in the dark blue sky until the first rays of the sunlight started to inch its way on the valley.

From relatively flat rice fields dotted by occasional coconut trees and other fruit-bearing ones, the tight footpath starts to gradually increase its incline after less than an hour, signifying our approach to the foothills of the mountain range. We traversed many streams and brooks, including a small dam structure used to irrigate the fields below.

the small dam area in general fullon
Part of the Small Dam Structure along the trail

After entering beyond the woodland edge, we are now surrounded with thicker foliage and the plains start to disappear from view as we headed deeper and higher along the trodden footpath.

We started to breathe harder as the trail proves its increasing difficulty. The sky turned overcast and the colder wind blew through our faces. There are more steep inclines as we approach the shoulder of the first mountain. It is said that we have to cross five mountains to reach the barangay.

The rain fell and we donned our raincoats. The trail is muddy but surprisingly not that slippery. The sound of the rain within the forest is calming yet eerie. The usual distant coos we here are dampened. Our path now becomes a mini river. I had a frightening thought that time, “What if there would be landslide along the way?”. Observing the surroundings, there is nothing but trees and trees and trees and more huge trees – their roots could have clamped tightly the soil on to the bedrock below.

Antique Rice Terraces Valderrama General Fullon Travel Guide (7)
The highest part of the Trail

Nearing the shoulder of the first summit, we have to conquer first the steepest part of the trail. I am not sure but it seems to be more than 60 degrees. I struggled much on this but kept on trudging. After a quick rest, we gathered our strength and made it. The spot has a crude wooden bench under a tree canopy where locals would rest and catch breath. Resting there is already a marvel. The view on the eastern directions offers the other side of the mountain ranges of Antique and, while the western side offers a panoramic view of the vast Sulu Sea. The view is mystical and enchanting. The rain had stopped. The landscape is greener. The crisscrossing mists and clouds dance their way through the many jagged peaks from afar. The cool blow of the wind was like a therapeutic massage, draining our exhaustion. From there, you can see parts of the trail; however, we could not see yet our destination. It was, I calculated, at least two mountains more from the horizon.

The Surprise

The trail is now scenic as we head to an open grassy area with a roller coaster-like trail at the side of the next mountains. We trekked for more hours, and the sun has not shown itself yet. More dense forest and thick canopy continue to shroud us against the open sky.

Antique Rice Terraces Valderrama General Fullon Travel Guide (9)
This amazing view while you rest!

The inner climate at the mountains of Valderrama proves to be beneficial for the growth of a rare Rafflesia – dubbed as the world’s largest bloom. Fortunately, our guide is knowledgeable about the whereabouts of these rare sightings. He knows where to spot one in this endless sea of leaves, trunks, roots, and vines. I notice he kept on peering sideways, as if on a hunting mode. Suddenly, he leaped sideways and made a short clearing, I think he found one. It was a stroke of luck – he found a double bloom!

 

rafflesia in general fullon
A rafflesia double bloom,  a rare sight along the trail

The trail seesawed as we advanced more river crossings and more thick forests trail ahead of us. It is hard to imagine that locals would have to suffer this long arduous trek just to get essentials from the nearest town. We met locals along the way, women carrying days-worth of food stock men bearing heavy stuff on the shoulders, – from a television set to huge logs, to thick cable wires, construction materials, and petrol in huge gallon bottles, daily essential needs, and many more. Truly, I admired their physical endurance and skill in balancing their way to and from General Fullon on a long taxing trail.

man heaving logs along the trail to antique rice terraces
Imagine bearing these logs for hours on your shoulders

The Hidden Poblacion

Unexpectedly, I saw a GI sheet gleaming through the sea of green, which is undeniably a roof of a modern house. I shouted, “We made it.” Promptly, our guide told us we are just past halfway. As we continued our slog, we heard distant barks of a dog. I did not initially think the fear of an imminent attack of any living creature but felt a sigh of relief knowing that there is a community or civilization nearby or simply put, there could be human beings near us.

 

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This view indicates that a community is nearby

After making a few more turns on the undulating trail and increasingly rests, more and more roofs appeared on view. At last, this is it, the gates to the community! We quickly continued through the path as we get excited, and with the final turn, we saw the group of houses huddled together unraveled. We can hear conversations, we can hear more pet dogs barking, and obviously, we are really tired. But the agony does not end there. Our destination is still an hour away. We have to cross another hill to reach the house of Captain Noli, at the Poblacion of the barangay.

general fullon antique rice terraces kapampangan traveller
Best feeling, arriving at the borders of General Fullon community

Upon arriving at the fronting community, we are welcomed with stares and smiles – children staring at us since of our different getup and smiles from the adults signifying their welcome.  Some offered water, while some offered a place to seat and rest, as the Poblacion has a considerable distance.

Going to our destination, we met students going home from their classes (Yes, they have an elementary school deep within the mountain ranges). Unexpectedly, their reception is positive. They immediately wave their hands on us and uttered their welcome messages. That is a surprise, although, they certainly would see and interact with visitors rarely.

One last flight of stairs, we landed on a full-sized basketball court, and right beside it is the home of the Captain Noli. We are welcomed by his loving wife, Mam Jossa. She immediately offered cold drinking water and seats to rest. They run a sari-sari store there, and we requested if we can have instant noodles for snacks. That snack was the most inviting and therapeutic I had that moment. We gathered at their modest kitchen with the view of the basketball court.

pancit canton snack
Instant Pancit Canton is glorious after a tiring trek

Since the windows are open, we occasionally received inquisitive looks from the children, some of them calling our attention. I wanted to play with them but my tired body disagrees. Mam Jossa required as too rest and nap as we need to do a bit more of trekking to get to the view deck. She offered their wooden bed, and instantly, I dozed off to dreamland. Their house is among the few who were able to have concrete walls. Imagine the logistical requirement to move the construction materials from the nearest town. Workers passing and balancing along that exhausting trail while bearing on their shoulders or backs the heavy materials for many hours.

  

The View Deck

It was past 1:00 PM when we woke up from our power nap. We stretched and prepared for the final stretch of this leg. The trek to the view deck from the poblacion is relatively shorter. When we hopped out from the door, more children greeted us with their inquisitive stares and smiles.  Continuing our walk until we reached the last house, the rice terraces, in full green state, welcomed us.

foot trail leading to view deck in general fullon antique rice terraces
More of the rice paddies we passed by

We passed through the carved rice paddies and until we reached an ascending grassy trail. From there, the view gets better. Finally, we reached the view deck, we shouted for victory when we stepped to the endpoint of our destination!

rice terraces of general fullon antique kapampangant raveller
That amazing reward after hours of gruelling hike

It was the best view I had in my entire traveling history – A river meandering below the foot of towering mountain ranges, the clustered houses along with the vast, expansive and green rice terraces with water buffalos grazing, lone huts among the slopes, adding up the coconut trees seemingly like adornments, the distant waterfalls we notice with gleaning white cascades, the wispy clouds above us and fresh cooler air flowing our very spot. It was hard to suppress my childlike delight to run around the view with arms widespread as if catching or receiving the invisible endowments of Mother Nature.

another angle of the antique rice terrces in san remigio
Can you see footpath?

This view deck is a campsite too. If not for a tight itinerary, we could have extended our stay here. We took photographs for evidence and enjoyed the view. I tried to absorb the scenery as I can. I was overwhelmed by this rare beauty, an intact rice terraces in full green, but with a thriving community. Our guide said that soil in General Fullon is healthy that it can support three harvests per year – this I have to check.

Antique Rice Terraces Valderrama General Fullon Travel Guide (22)
Mike enjoying the view of the river

General Fullon is not yet developed for casual tourists. There is no developed road that could even support two-wheeled vehicles like motorcycles or bicycles, the only way to go there is to endure the many hours taxing hike. Mam Jossa has mentioned to us the government is already constructing a road originating from Valderrama. I hope that the project will finish as planned, not just for tourism purposes, but for the locals to appreciate other essential services they need.

Antique Rice Terraces Valderrama General Fullon Travel Guide (15)
Waterfalls on the other side
Antique Rice Terraces Valderrama General Fullon Travel Guide (14)
This relaxing view along the trail to the view deck

The Return Hike

We are not able to see the Kawa Waterfalls which is about another half an hour trek more. Our tired feet and legs decided that we need to rest and recover for the return hike. Mam Jossa was kind enough to let us refill our hydration packs and gifted us a bunch of bananas. It was a rare variety and they call it “milagrosa” – if my memory is correct. To describe, the general appearance looks like a saba, when you peel it, the flesh looks like lacatan, but when you tasted it, it resembles latundan. They also believed that this variety has many medicinal properties. I was happy to have a bunch of it my backpack. We bade goodbye to Mam Jossa, our temporary mother in General Fullon – the sad part. She treated us as if we were her children.

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Ascending trail back to Barangay Iglinab

 

We also bade goodbye to the locals we met along the way. The sun is already up and our damp bags need a little drying. We have already the idea of the trail and this time, the bananas are helpful. I consume one every hour and did not have any cramps at all.

footrail you can see to General Fullon
View of the foot path from afar leading another ascending trail
one of the rice terraces you can see from afar
Rice Terraces from the other side of the mountain range

We rested on our favorite spot where we witness the sun almost at the horizon of Sulu Sea. Surely, we will meet the dark of the night along the trail. The slippery descending trail was our challenge as the sky continues to dim. I forgot to bring a flashlight and my source of illumination is from my craggy old iphone4, wishing the battery will survive out until we reach Barangay Iglinab, the jump-off point.  After many hours of trekking downwards through the night, lights did twinkle through the darkness – surely, we can now see the jump-off point. Following the lone foot trail, I hurried attentively on each step until I reached the flatlands! I sighed a deep breath and waited for my other teammates from there. It was almost 11:00 PM when we reached the registration area and met another barangay captain. We made it back safely.

Travel guide to the Rice Terraces of Barangay General Fullon.

  • Nearest Airport is via San Vicente in Antique from Clark with Philippine Airlines.
  • Alternative flying via Iloilo or Caticlan . See photo below.flights to panay island copy
  • Once you reach these airports, you can hop on transit to bring you to van terminals that can transport you to Bugasong Junction.
  • From Bugasong Junction, charter a tricycle to Valderrama town.
  • It is required to register at their Local Police Office.
  • Go to Barangay Iglinab and look for the registration area.
  • Comment below if you wish to have the contact number of Kap. Noli Maguad.
  • For cost details, check Chubby Byahera’s post here

I am thankful to Catherine and Mike who joined me in this arduous yet memorable journey in the province of Antique. Surely, I will be back to San Remigio, for the third time.

amazing view in the trail to general fullon rice terraces kapampangan traveller
The sweeping view of the hills on the highest part of the trail

 

24 thoughts on “Destination Antique: The Hidden Rice Terraces of San Remigio

  1. Hi Jan! Thanks for this blogpost. I was reminded of our loooong, tiring but very fulfilling trek. I’ve read every bits and pieces, and I was delighted.

    You’ve captured those exact moments, breathtaking views and the warmth of the people we met with your words in this work. Thank you.

    Love your work! Until our next trek.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing view and adventure! I can’t wait to go back to Philippines and visit this place. Is the trail open for visitors? is it safe to go there hiking? are they’re properly labelled and with signs to the destination? how many hours hike would it take??? I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, thanks for bringing is along the journey! You’ve encountered so many interesting things before you guys even arrived at the destination. I’m kinda curious now if I would survived a hike like that? Probably not. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness, this trip ain’t ordinary, to get in this place was not easy as I have read. Glad you have had a safe one. I never thought that rafflesia double bloom can be found in the Philippines, I saw it on other countries also in Pokemon.

    It really amazed me on how beautiful our nature formed like this. We were blessed with an abundance of photo worthy sceneries. To your next adventureees Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your blog is too detailed that I wanna run and fly to Antique. Hehe. I never been to this place before. I will definitely consider going to hidden gems like this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love how you wrote your experience here, I miss this type of writing. Yung the more I read, nabui-build up lalo yung excitement. Have you ever thought of writing a book?

    Have not heard of Antique Rice Terraces, buti you blogged about it. The place is soo beautiful, I want to go there and see the place myself. Goosebumps all over. Thank youuu!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Dati I really wanted to go trekking but it seemed hanggang sa pangarap na lang muna since I have other things to do first. For the meantime, reading adventurous experiences such as yours will suffice.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I never knew there were other beautiful rice terraces in our country. Its a super long trek ano?as in ganun kalayo? But im sure its super worth the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Who would have thought there are rice terraces here! I’ve always wanted to see rice terraces up close! Pero looks like a long hike! Kudos to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m from Iloilo and Antique is part of Panay Island. But I haven’t been to this place yet. This place was featured in a national tv show before yata. I’m curious with what you do. You cover places that are not usually touristy but really good ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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