The mountains and guide dogs of Maligcong, Bontoc


Story and photo by: Lovel Aniag

Bontoc is like the Cubao of Cordillera. It is the entry point to famous Norte destinations such as Banaue, Sagada and Buscalan. Bontoc was just a stopover, a waiting-area for a greater adventure – at least for me. That was until Mt. Kufafey.

Having experienced the overcrowding from Mt. Kiltepan and Mt. Pulag, I was hoping to find a less-touristy climb for my next Norte adventure. I came across Mt. Kufafey from a blog that listed alternative sea-of-clouds mountains. I tried to read up more about the mountain, but there were only a few blogs posted about it late last year. If you have been reading my previous blogs, you’ll know that that is practically a go signal for me.

Armed with prayers and what little information I gathered about the place, my friend and I left Manila on a Friday night, around 9pm.

Two bus rides and 13 hours later, we finally reached Bontoc.

After a quick lunch at a nearby carenderia (eatery), we walked around to look for the jeepney that will take us to Maligcong.

There are two home stays in Maligcong: Suzette’s and Vilma’s. I initially contacted Suzette’s but they were fully booked during that weekend. But like most locals I know from the North who all have a strong sense of community, she eagerly referred me to the newly opened Vilma’s Homestay.

Ate Vilma’s Homestay started operation just January this year. This quaint two-storey house is conveniently located right before the Favuyan turning point in Maligcong, a few steps away from the jump off point going to the rice terraces and Mt. Kufafey.

Fato is the lesser known mountain in Maligcong.”Fato” in the local dialect means “Bato” or rock, and was named because of the huge boulders at the summit. The view might not be as impressive as most Cordillera mountains, but the trail is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The trail is wide, and mostly covered by pine trees, pretty much how I imagined forests in fairytales are supposed to look like.

Aside from hiking Mts. Fato and Kufafey, travelers can also opt to walk through the Maligcong Rice Terraces. We weren’t able to do so during our visit because there was a local holiday that restricts entering the terraces.

So to pass out time, we decided to go around town and talk to the locals.

What really got me about Kufafey are the guide dogs, the most famous of which is Kunig. On the day of our hike, Ate Tina, Kunig’s owner was booked. I thought we won’t be able to see the famous dog guide. But when we reached the summit, there were three guide dogs in total.

We woke up early the next day, around 3am. I was so excited for this climb because the few photos of it I saw from the internet looked really awesome! But as always, photos never really give justice to the actual thing.

We left Maligcong that same afternoon, and headed back for a night in Bontoc Town Proper before heading home via a 13-hour bus ride.

Norte, you are always worth the long-ass travel time.

How to get there: From Baguio, head to the slaughter house to catch the D’ Rising Sun first trip to Bontoc at 5am. Php 212

From Bontoc Town Proper, get off near the market and ask around for the jeepney heading to Maligcong. Ride top load for the best experience. Php 20

Where to stay: Vilma’s Homestay can accommodate solo traveler and groups. She cooks the most delicious meals and provides unlimited Kalinga coffee and mountain tea. Rate: 300 php / Breakfast: 50php, Meal: 90php per. Like her FB Fanpage.

Tips: There are no ATMs (as usual), so bring enough cash

Watch out for wild mushrooms, which you can ask Ate V to cook for you. Just make sure it’s not poisonous!

Tour guide rates (1-4 pax)

Mt. Fato: 300php / Mt. Kufafey: 300php

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at