Cordillera Fever: 7 Things You Shouldn't Miss in Bontoc & Sadanga
September 4, 2018
by Ardys Gladden Soriano
A friend once told me that when you visit the Cordillera Region in the Philippines, you’d surely get the disease called Cordillera Fever – a condition that makes people stay longer and when they leave, it makes people come back again and again. More than the humor though, this fever is true! There is so much beauty on this side of the country.
Bontoc and Sadanga are both municipalities in the Mountain Province, Philippines. While there are a lot of untold beauties yet to be discovered, here are 7 things you shouldn’t miss when you visit these places.
Cliff Roads – The Most Dangerous
There is no other way – so, you don’t have a choice but to pass through the most dangerous cliff roads in the Philippines. The highway also has countless blind turns due to the zig-zag roads. However, there’s breathtaking view you’d see along the way. The hills and mountains are dramatically overlapping each other with a sneak peek of mini rice terraces down below.
Pinikpikan – The Main Delicacy
The Bontoc tribe has a tradition of torturing their native chickens before cooking it. The process of beating the chicken to death is called “pikpik” hence, the name “pinikpikan”.
They believe that it adds flavor to the meat when the chicken is lightly beaten with a stick. Pinikpikan is also mixed with etag, where native pork is cured by salting and storing it in jars for several weeks giving a foul-smelling result and rotting with maggots. While these food delicacies don’t sound glamorous when prepared and cooked, the taste captures the tourists’ taste buds every time. Your visit won’t be complete without this local meat favorite served on the table.
Dananao Lake – The Hidden Beauty
Sitting on top of the mountain, unblemished and undiscovered – that’s Dananao Lake located in Sadanga. You would need to survive the approximately 4 miles of nonstop upward trekking just to get there. Make sure to condition your core and cardio before doing the trek as the journey going to the lake requires a warrior to survive. Dananao Lake has never been visited yet by any tourist due to the challenging trek going there that even a few locals-only would go up to take a dip.
Rice Terraces – Their Glorious Identity
The Mountain Province is known for its glorious beauty of well-arranged rice paddies in between the mountains. It’s time for rice terraces hopping!
Maligcong Rice Terraces
There are 2 Turning Points (as what the locals call it) to get to Maligcong Rice Terraces: the Mayayat Turning Point and Fang-oraw Turning Point, where the latter is more recommended by the locals as it’s overlooking the rice terraces. From Fang-oraw viewpoint, you can see the spectacular panoramic view of the rice terraces from the west to the east.
Just a mile or two of trekking from Fang-oraw exists a village community where houses are showing up like mushrooms. Going in and out of the village requires you to pass through the single person lane on the ridges of the rice terraces. When you cross another person along the way, one of you would have to give way and step down a bit before you two can continue walking in a separate direction.
Focong Rice Terraces
Focong rice terraces are located in Sacasacan, one of the barangays in Sadanga, which takes more than 3 miles of upward trekking from Poblacion Sadanga. While the road going up is already concrete, the uphill climb remains a challenge for first-time goers or tourists as it seems like a never-ending trek going up. However, the locals are already used to long distance walks as transportation in the area is only limited to jeepneys which only travel by schedule and private vehicles which only a few have. From Poblacion Sadanga, we asked our local guide if Sacasacan is just near. He said, “No, it’s just walking distance.” Yet, he pointed at the next mountain.
Tappo Rice Terraces
One thing that Tappo Rice Terraces stand out from any other rice terraces in the province is the magnificent tiles of yellow and green shades perfectly arrayed in glory from one ridge to another. The colors appear to be part of the dramatic scenery but these shades are naturally coming from the grains being sowed. The green ones are newly sowed and still young, while the yellow ones are full-grown and are ready to be harvested in two weeks.
Fowa-as Falls – The Go-to Spot in Sadanga
Every traveler who visits Sadanga can never miss the most sought tourist spot in the area. It’s located in the village of Belwang, which takes over 4 miles of a trek from Poblacion Sadanga. From the village, you need to trek for another 45 minutes to get to the falls. With the enchanting music of the waterfalls and the greenish water where you can swim – it will definitely be all worth the long-distance walk.
Tip: Visit Fowa-as Falls only during the dry season as the locals don’t allow anyone to go to the falls during the rainy season, especially when there’s typhoon. This is because the trek is not safe when it rains due to possible landslides.
Mountain Tea – The Fresh and Original
If you want literally fresh and not preserved tea in your afternoon delight, try their mountain tea leaves that you can boil for 30 minutes and put honey or sugar to achieve a sweet taste.
Pancake at the market – The Newly Discovered
For only less than a dollar, you can have your pancakes with butter and bar nuts served. It looks like a regular pancake but the bar nuts and some chocolate chips add character to the flavor. It’s available in their market – not bad when you want to have a quick break before heading to your next itinerary in the area.
There is still a lot more to find in Bontoc and Sadanga. You may not be able to experience them all on your first visit but then, you can always come back. That’s what you expect when you’re infected with Cordillera Fever – there is no cure. You will always have a reason to come back.