Rambling in Mayoyao, Ifugao

Need to see the details of this trip right away? Head to the bottom part and see the fast facts about Mayoyao, Ifugao.

The initial plan was to go Sagada since I was told by a former colleague that it is just about six hours from Santiago, Isabela. I was assigned there during that time and was looking for some place to explore. Luckily, I had two consecutive days off so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t bother to google it or whatsoever. I just asked my housemate where the bus terminal is. He even told me there are 24-hour buses going there.

So after a few moments of packing and preparing, by 12 midnight, I was ready. I couldn’t wait for the next day. I had to go after duty. The roads were dark and it started to drizzle which eventually led to a downpour. Stray dogs in the streets welcomed me with growls but I didn’t mind. I hailed a tricycle going to Four Lanes bus terminal. Even the drivers didn’t have any idea of a bus going to Sagada (because there is none!). I hopped off the tricycle after paying. There was a feeling of anxiety upon reaching the terminal – no signs of anyone about to take a bus, no signs of even a single bus ready to leave, not even a sign of a 24-hour bus terminal! I asked a woman tending to her merchandise in the corner. She said there is no bus going straight to Sagada. However, there is a bus going to Bontoc which will leave as early as 6 am and it would take six hours to get there. From there, I have to take a jeepney and travel for another two hours or so but we have to wait until the jeepney is full.

Probably, it was an honest mistake. Sigh.

What happened next was I stayed at the terminal from 1 am until the break of dawn, making myself comfortable lying on iron chairs with legs fixed on the floor. Remember when you queued in government agencies? You were asked to sit on one of those chairs while waiting for your turn.

At 6 am, there were already buses about to leave but the Bontoc bus seemed to be delayed. I noticed this bus with engines on and a few guys preparing to leave. I approached it and looked at the signboard which says “Mayoyao”. I headed back to my seat, asked again the woman, now sipping coffee and chatting with an elderly guy selling cigars, about Mayoyao. She said she had been there once and it is beautiful. Her story lacked in details but I had no other choice. If going to Sagada would take eight hours, my two days off would only go to travel time. No, no. I wanted to do a thorough research about the place but upon checking my phone, my battery told me otherwise. I needed to make a decision; otherwise, I would be stuck in my room for two days without internet.

I hurried to the bus, asked a guy if there are hotels and restaurants in the area. He said there are two restaurants and some hotels. That’s enough for me. I hopped onto the bus and waited for several minutes and then we left.

There were only four people in the bus – two elderly women, a middle-aged guy and me (excluding the driver and two assistants). All of them chitchatting to one another in their native tongue while chewing on “moma” or “nganga” – (betel nut, betel leaf, lime and tobacco). I really felt out of place.

There were several stops. And by stops, I meant the driver and the other two guys took a shower, ate, sat down, chitchat and rested for a bit. Wow! It must be like that every time. Other stopovers took a good 15-30 minutes or so for lunch break, toilet breaks, vehicle washing and fetching water. Sometimes, I had no idea why we’re stopping for that long.

The middle-aged guy asked me the specifics of my trip. You know, like a local to a foreigner – Where are you going? Where did you come from? Why are you traveling alone? Any relatives there? Travel for pleasure? And so on. He told where to go and even asked a young lady to accompany me in the restaurants and hotels so I could choose. He was such a nice guy.

After several stops, a number of mountains and six hours of smooth and partly bumpy ride, finally we reached Mayoyao, Ifugao. The vast rice terraces were spectacular. It’s visible along the road and you could view it in different angles while riding a vehicle. I have never been to any rice terraces before so no wonder I was so amazed by it.

Upon checking in, I rushed to a “restaurant” to eat then headed to the tourism office to check out the places to go to and if there are tour guides available. Unfortunately, it rained that afternoon, so we decided to reschedule the trip the next day.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I was so excited to go out. I met my tour guide and she showed me the Mayoyao rice terraces. No. We did not just go to a viewing deck. I asked her if we could go down and take a walk along the terraces to see it up close. She agreed.

Mayoyao Rice Terraces

The walls of the “stairs” are made of big chunks of rocks. Harvest season was close and the rice terraces boasted its gold and green colors which seemed to glow in the sunlight. There are pavements for drying crops and traditional houses beside it. From above, you could see a number of houses scattered within the vast rice terraces. Most of them have kept the traditional look plus the galvanized iron sheets for roofing. Overcast made it hard to take good pictures but despite of that, the view was still a sight to behold. While savoring the view, Ate Erlinda, my tour guide told me a lot of things about their culture and the place – schools, language, how they do weddings, funerals, burials, food they eat, traditional way of cooking, preserving food and so on.

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Ap’faw Mahencha Waterfalls

After roaming around the rice terraces, I had a quick lunch and hired a tricycle going to the waterfalls. It was an uphill climb but the road is smooth. Obviously, the local government has put in efforts to improve tourism in the area. First, we stopped at a viewing deck where you could see the entire rice terraces. It’s really beautiful. Down we went to a 608 steps cemented staircase to reach the waterfalls. It is a series of small waterfalls with three catch basins. The lowest one was the final and the biggest where people could swim. The water was ice cold. It was hard for me to just dip my feet in it. The surrounding, however, was obviously not maintained. Garbage and vandalism is everywhere. There is a shower area but not operational. If I had a hard time going down due to the pull of gravity, it’s way harder climbing up. I remember stopping several times to catch my breath. I thought I’d pass out.

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I think I paid around 300 for the tricycle. There are other spots to see but I opted not to go there anymore. Tourist spots are not close to each other making haggling with tricycle drivers difficult.

The chat didn’t stop even when we’re already finished with the tour. We continued talking about their culture. It was fascinating that I didn’t stop asking questions until there was nothing left to ask.

Fast facts:

  1. There is no direct bus from Manila going to Mayoyao. I came from Santiago, Isabela. I am not sure where you can take a bus or jeepney going here. It would be better if you have your own vehicle.
  2. For Isabela residents, first trip is as early as 6 am and last trip is at 3 pm.
  3. Going up takes six hours but only three to three and a half going down.
  4. You’ll pass by Magat Dam, Ramon, Isabela on your way. (if you’re coming from Santiago)
  5. By hotel, I meant lodge. As far as I know there are two in central town and one far away, probably around 2-3 kilometers from the plaza. It is easy to spot since it’s a big, old white house standing in an elevated area. There are no houses nearby. It is actually one of the spots you could go to because there’s a landmark beside it. The prices are very affordable though. The one I stayed at is like Airbnb. I have a non-air room, without a fan (you won’t need it anyway), with common toilet, living room and kitchen.
  6. By restaurants, I meant carinderia and there are only two. They serve meat and vegetables and is a little expensive than the usual. They serve meat preserved traditionally. You will figure it out once you’ve tried. They don’t stop selling viands until it’s sold out or spoiled. They might last for two days. The one you had during breakfast might still be available for dinner the next day. Again, don’t be surprised.
  7. Buses are non-air-conditioned and are so cheap. I paid around 145 or so. They tend to overcrowd it with people and stuff – sacks of clothes, wood, plants, crops, animals, etc. Don’t be surprised. Everyone there chews “moma”. Again, don’t be surprised.
  8. There’s no other means of transportation around town but tricycle. Prices are steep so try to haggle.
  9. There is another waterfall you could visit but I opted to skip it. Actually, there are other spots to check out.
  10. Visit their tourism office first for them to provide you a tour guide. You may DIY if you have a private car, provided you google the place thoroughly.
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