Have you always wanted to experience the unique culture of Bontoc but tend to miss out local occasions such as Am-among Festival and Lang-ay Festival? Don’t fret. Any time of the year, you can have a personal encounter of such. Simply visit the Bontoc Museum, within the town proper.
On a personal note, the Bontoc Museum is one of my favorite spots in Bontoc. If my memory serves me right, I visited the place at least three times. And I learned so much about the wonderful culture not just of Bontoc but also of other municipalities and provinces.
By the way, Bontoc is the capital town of Mountain Province. It is less popular compared to Sagada. But a lot of tourists don’t know that it also houses fascinating tourism spots. The Bontoc Museum is one of these.
How to Get to the Bontoc Museum?
The Bontoc Museum is very much accessible. It is near the provincial capitol and Bontoc plaza. It is within the compound of Saint Vincent’s Elementary School, a Catholic property founded by Belgian missionaries during the American period.
Anywhere from Bontoc proper, you can simply take a walk for some minutes. Or ride a tricycle for 10 pesos only. A registration fee of 65 pesos is being collected per person.
What to See in Bontoc Museum?
The design of the Bontoc Museum is an attraction itself. It is constructed with a cultural touch, showcasing the unique architectural skills of the I-Bontoc.
While inside, you can glimpse on an extensive collection of artifacts, indigenous implements and tools, colorful weavings, rattan and bamboo products, and numerous other materials. These showcase the local industries and skills not just of the Bontoc folks but also the communities of Ifugao, Kalinga, Abra, and Benguet. That means the Bontoc Museum is giving you a picture of the diverse yet interwoven Cordilleran culture.
There is also a wide array of centuries-old Chinese material collection. Among these are heirloom porcelain, exquisite jars, plates, bowls, and stoneware. According to the curator, these date back to the Ming, Sung, and Ching dynasties. This is no wonder for me since I remember my grandmother narrating to me that their ancestors traded with the Chinese.
You can also see antique pictures, showing the missionary attempts of both Americans and Belgians. Yes, they have pics depicting some practices in the past such as headhunting. Sounds disturbing? Don’t worry. These practices are long gone.
In a nutshell, visiting Bontoc Museum leads you not only into a cultural understanding but a visit to the rich history of the different Cordilleran tribal groups especially the I-Bontoc.
Oh, I was not able to take photos because it is prohibited to do so while inside the museum.
Wait, there’s more
After our inside tour, we proceeded to apparently, an outdoor museum. This shows the typical setup of a Bontoc village in the past. There are well-furnished huts made of wood and bundled grasses. One of these is called ato where men and elders used to gather to talk about the political and social affairs of the community.
There is also a big cherry tree at the center. You are lucky if this is in fruiting season. There are also rows of herbs, vegetables, and other fruit trees.
The Bontoc Museum also has an adjacent shop, selling souvenir items such as native necklaces, personalized shirts, bracelets, books, etc. When you buy from this, you are helping realize the vision of the school and the church mission.
Some Important Reminders
1. Don’t take pictures inside the Bontoc museum. The management prohibits.
2. Avoid touching items inside the museum. These are for your eyes only.
3. During Monday to Saturday, the Bontoc Museum is open from 8:00 am-5:00 pm. On Sunday, it is opened from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm.
4. Listen intently to the museum’s curator. Ask questions if you may.
Kadchog Rice Terraces
This is visible along the Halsema highway. It can be reached via a 20-minutes’ walk or five-minute tricycle ride from the town proper. The Bontoc ancestors used stone walls to build the rice terraces. An abundant water supply coming from the forested mountains irrigates these terraces all year round. During the rainy season, the terraces project a rare view of stunning terraced waterfalls. The mighty Chico River passing along the foot of the terraces provide them with a more scenic view.
Santa Rita Cathedral
This is one of the historic and oldest buildings in Bontoc. It’s pinkish and Gothic architectural design makes it a distinguishable landmark. It also has a cultural touch, reflecting tolerance to the good culture of the Bontoc people. Though the majority of the I-Bontoks and even the whole of Mountain Province are Catholic Christians, many still abide by their old customary beliefs and practices. There are masses here not only during Sundays but also weekdays (every 5:00 am). After the morning masses, churchgoers usually proceed for a coffee break at the public market.
Exploring the Hidden Gem of Bontoc: The Blue Lagoon
I used to think that Bontoc would not appeal much to tourism in Mountain Province. Hello? Who would even visit a crowded and urbanized center when everybody nowadays is looking for a rustic experience? But Blue Lagoon belies this.
As I go on exploring Bontoc, my initial assumptions were completely shattered. Yes, it now comes straight from me that Bontoc is worthy of further exploration and admiration. Far from what many of us think, Bontoc is home to hidden gems that are promising to boost the municipality’s ecotourism drive.
Now, one of these gems is the so-called Blue Lagoon. Surprised? For all you know, Bontoc is merely a commercial and an educational hub. To add to your surprise, this gem is just a few minutes’ drives away from the town center.
By the way, I am not certain why the place is called the Blue Lagoon or who even named it that way in the first place. If I know it right, local visitors, mostly students, gave the name. After all, it’s not yet a well-recognized destination on existing tourism brochures and other promotional materials. I’ve only learned about it through the social media posts of some students of a local college.
On the Trail to the Blue Lagoon
To get to the Blue Lagoon, you can simply walk for an hour or two, following the national highway. Or do take a tricycle ride from for just about 10 minutes. From the jump-off point, the trail leads down to a river, after passing along rice paddies.
The said river emanates from the famed Mt. Kalawitan, one of the highest peaks in the Philippines. It has cold and crystal-clear waters, making it a favorite swimming destination among the locals during summer.
After crossing the river, one then follows the brook leading to the blue lagoon. Now, this is the challenging part of the trek, especially for starters. One needs to wade across the brook several times and jump across slippery boulders. However, there is no need for panic since the waters are shallow. Just take a bit of caution and you’ll make it fine and perhaps, thrilled.
On some parts of the trail, one needs to cling onto rocks and vines to avoid slipping. Definitely exciting right?
Finally, after some 10 to 15 minutes of arduous trekking, one can now catch a glimpse of the first waterfall.
The Blue Lagoon is a series of beautiful waterfalls. Yes, it is not a giant basin of water or a sea-looking body of water.
As per observation, the naturally-built pools of these waterfalls are bluish, even though some are just shallow. Perhaps, that is why they are aptly named as the Blue Lagoon.
Going back to the first waterfall, it measures around 18 feet high. It cascades on a rock face, stained with sulfur as evidenced by its orange color. It has a shallow pool where one could indulge for a first soothing bath. An irrigation canal is made atop the falls, leading to a set of rice terraces which are visible along the national highway.
Just a few steps from the head of the first fall is a series of smaller rapids with deeper and circular swimming pools. The fun part is you get to experience these rapids by climbing them. To climb them, definitely, you need to cling on to rocks while the rapid’s current awash you. I tell you, these are thrilling yet gloriously satisfying moments. In addition, you can slide your way along these rapids down to the deepest pool. Oh, what a way to rejuvenate the muscles!
There are higher waterfalls upstream but there are no established trekking paths to get there. Literally, the few brave ones who glimpse of such had to hang unto vines, rock crevices, and plant roots to get their way across.
Definitely, memories and experiences of spine-chilling yet fulfilling adventures await you when you trail to the falls of the Blue Lagoon.
By the way, the best time to visit is during the sunny months such as March, April, and some occasional days from June to November. During these times, the falls’ pools are at their full blue appearance. Yes, these falls are so blue at some days that you may think you are gazing on the ocean.
Things to Keep in Mind:
1. If you’re not familiar with the place, always have a guide. You may consult or inquire from the Municipal Tourism Office or the Provincial Tourism Office.
2. Please don’t ever litter of leaving your garbage at the site or along the trails. Kindly take back what you bring.
3. Be extra careful when chasing the falls of the Blue Lagoon as a simple mistake of slipping may lead to a serious injury.
4. Wear proper attire. Going and exploring the falls of the Blue Lagoon is like spelunking on a cave. Thus, use similar attires used in spelunking.
5. Be one with the falls you are exploring and immerse yourself with the wonders of the surrounding forests. That is how you get to deeply connect with nature and have a lasting trek of a lifetime.
Bontoc View Deck
From here, one could see the panoramic view of Bontoc town and its surrounding mountains. To get here, one needs to ride a tricycle for 300 pesos (back and forth). If you want to stretch some muscles or lose fat, you may jog your way for more or less an hour.
Teng-Ab Pastoral Complex
This is a Catholic property located high on a mountain slope. It overlooks the town of Bontoc including the surrounding mountain ranges and the Chico River. It contains several, big buildings with beautiful architectural designs. These are commonly used for retreat, seminars, and various trainings. The landscape is also another sight to see.
Located in front of the Provincial Capitol, this public plaza is a favorite hangout station among the locals. During festivals such as Lang-ay, this serves as a venue for trade fairs. In addition, the Bontoc Commerical Center, Provincial Library, Provincial Justice Hall, and the Children’s Playground surround the said park. There is also a basketball and a long tennis lawn.
Maligcong Rice Terraces
It was around 3:00 am and the atmosphere was chilly yet invigorating. With our sleeves rolled up, I and my brother slowly jogged to the mountains on paved road. As we went higher and higher, we could see the flickering lights of Bontoc town. Despite our hearts beating fast and our breath trying to catch up, we plodded on. After all, the fresh and pine-scented breeze and the recuperating songs of the wild constantly relieved us all along. In sheer eagerness and excitement, we were bound to catch a glimpse of the famed Maligcong Rice Terraces.
Yes, we made it! Coincidentally, the sun began to emerge and unfold the scenery of this peaceful village called Maligcong. At that very moment, the enveloping mists began to dissipate and unravel a surreal scene. Lo and behold, Maligcong Rice Terraces is right before our eyes!
How to get to Maligcong, Bontoc?
Bontoc, capital town of Mountain Province, is the jump-off point to Maligcong.
Manila to Bontoc. Take Coda Lines bus from H.M. Bus Station, Cubao, Manila. Schedule of trips are 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm, and 10:30 pm. It takes 10 to 11 hours to reach Bontoc. If you are not familiar, tell the driver to drop you at Bontoc town since the buses are bound to Sagada. The fare is 725 pesos for semi-deluxe and 935 pesos for deluxe.
Baguio to Bontoc. There are two bus companies operating from Baguio to Bontoc. First is GL Trans. This is stationed at Dangwa Terminal at the back of Center Mall. Regular trips are 7:30 am, 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 2:30 pm. On the other hand, the Rising Sun buses are stationed at Slaughter Compound, Magsaysay. Departure starts at 4:00 am to 4:00 pm. All in all, the trip takes 5 to 6 hours along the Halsema Highway. Regular fares for both buses are 212 pesos. For senior citizens, students, and PWDs, the fare is 176 pesos.
Bontoc to Maligcong. The jeepney station is located at the back of the Public Market. Regular time departures are 8:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm, and 5:30 pm. The fare is 20 pesos. On the other hand, trips from Maligcong back to Bontoc town are 6:30 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm.
Behold Maligcong Rice Terraces
Maligcong is known for its majestic rice terraces. To get a better view of these, one needs to hike to Mt. Kopapey. Some trekkers prefer to climb the mountain during early morning to glimpse the sea of clouds which frequently appear. It takes 30 minutes of a hike from the village to reach the mountain’s summit.
Atop Mt. Kopapey, the view of Maligcong Rice Terraces looks like gently-flowing cascades at the backdrop of the villages. One could just imagine how the locals’ ancestors were able to build such earthen structures without metals or heavy equipment. Simply put, the rice terraces showcase the people’s unity, hard work, and industry. For hundreds of years, these terraces yielded heirloom rice, the staple crop of the i-Maligcong.
Mt. Kopapey feeds creeks and springs which supply water to Maligcong Rice Terraces all year round. These creeks also form into a brook leading to the newly-discovered and three-tier Lipnok Falls. It cascades like heavenly drizzles in a sideward manner. To get here, one needs to hike for an hour from the community proper.
Fees to Pay
1. Environmental fee per person is 50 pesos.
2. Morning Trek to Mt. Kopapey – 500 pesos for 5 pax. 100 pesos is collected from each additional person. On the other hand, morning trek to Mt. Kopapey and to the rice terraces is 600 pesos for 5 pax. 100 pesos is also collected for every additional person.
3. Trekking to Mt. Parutan – 300 pesos for 5 pax. 75 pesos is collected per additional person.
4. Day tour from sitioFavuyan to rice terraces to SitioFangorao – 300 pesos for a group of 5 persons. 100 pesos is collected from each additional person.
5. Trek to barangay Mainit from Maligcong (One-way). The fee is 800 pesos for a group of five persons. On the other hand, a two-way trek to Mainit from Maligcong is 1,200 pesos for 5 pax.
Where to Stay in Maligcong, Bontoc?
Tourists and visitors may stay at the following:
1. Chen’s Sacya-an Home (09207939550; 09562805628)
2. Suzette Homestay (09155463557)
3. Terrace View Homestay (09151881732)
4. Vilma Homestay (09057011448)
5. Other recommendations from local officials
Some Important Reminders:
1. Don’t ever litter. As much as possible, take back what you bring. Don’t let the community bear the burden of managing your wastes.
2. The community prohibits collection of any flora and fauna.
3. Do not enter the village during Te-er (rest day).
4. Camping is not allowed in the mountains. Follow only designated trails to avoid getting lost or meeting untoward incidents.
5. The community prohibits the selling of prohibited substances or using fake money.
6. Every tourist or visitor must avail the services of a local guide.
7. Lights off at 9:00 pm in all accommodation houses.
8. Respect the culture of the people. Refrain from utterances or acts which are offensive to the community. Among these include wearing mini-shorts and public display of affection (PDA).
Behold Humuyyo Falls of Talubin
Talubin is one of the least known barangays of Bontoc. Though it lies on a crossroad leading to Banaue, Ifugao and the eastern municipalities of Mountain Province, it doesn’t ring much tourism fuss compared to Sagada. But what most people don’t know, Talubin hides natural spectacles worth exploring. Among these is the majestic Humuyyo Falls.
My visit to Talubin was accidental. I was supposed to head to Barlig for a local occasion. However, there was no ride available so I had to spend the night at Talubin. Fortunately, a family warmly accommodated me. Of course, what else to do to make the most of my stay in Talubin than to explore. Fortunately, a boy from the family agreed to tour me to Humuyyo Falls. Well, that was their suggestion, being the nearest attraction of the community.
The following morning, we proceeded to the house of the barangay captain to inform him about our plan to see Humuyyo falls. He willingly agreed so long as we take extra-caution. He also shared to me many of the unexplored spots of Talubin which can be promoted for ecotourism.
Trailing to Humuyyo Falls
From the community proper, I and my guide followed an irrigation canal. Then, we passed along rice terraces towards a brook. Yes, we had to cross this brook and as soon as my feet landed, I felt its icy-cold waters piercing. It was early morning, after all.
From the brook, we climbed a grassy slope and on its peak, we could see a panoramic view of the peaceful village of Talubin. We rested there for a while to catch our momentum
Later on, we followed another irrigation canal. We had to be more careful this time since any reckless move, can send you slipping down the precipice. For the second time, we then had to cross another portion of the brook. From here, we followed a trail for some 15 minutes until we finally caught a glimpse of Humuyyo Falls. Along with this trail, I noticed that there were smaller rapids.
All in all, our trek took us more than 20 minutes. Honestly, our pacing was quite fast. I was obviously excited and eager to glimpse of the falls. For an average pace, however, the hike would take 30 minutes to an hour.
Behold the Beauty of Humuyyo Falls
At first sight of Humuyyo falls, I was definitely blown away in sheer amazement. It was a total relief from the rather exhausting and quite grueling trek to get here. The water volume of the falls was strong at that time. And so, it exuded invigorating mists, caressing us.
Like a huge bridal veil, Humuyyo falls cascade in two layers. Collectively, it measures more than 40 meters high, making it the highest falls in Bontoc or maybe, just one among them. I’ve heard that there is a multi-layered fall in barangay Mainit which may be higher.
Humuyyo waterfall has a small and shallow catch basin. But it is still viable for bathing purposes. But mind you, the waters are icy-cold. That is why it is a perfect spot to alleviate the summer heat.
Locals say that the waters of the falls come from mossy forests high in the mountains. No wonder it is crystal-clear. My young guide also mentioned that there are smaller waterfalls upstream. However, they have deeper and wider pools for swimming. He added that to get there, one needs to climb the adjacent mountain. That would take more or less two hours. In a nutshell, I would recommend Humuyyo falls. The trail to reach it may be quite daunting and challenging. But I assure you, the sight of it is truly rewarding. More than the beauty of the falls itself, there is this sense of fulfillment one feels upon completing the journey.
How to get to Talubin, Bontoc?
Bontoc center, the capital town of Mountain Province, is the jump-off point to Talubin. Regular trips to Talubin start at 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. There is no fixed interval since this depends on the availability of passengers. The jeepney station is located in front of Sonnorah’s Inn.
From Bontoc, the ride takes 30 minutes. The fare is 20 pesos each.
Upon arriving at Talubin, you need to register at the barangay hall and secure a guide. If you want to visit destinations in Talubin aside from Humuyyo Falls, you may inquire from the local officials.
By Daniel Matias