Words and photos by Elmer Cabotage
In 1995, five rice terrace clusters in four municipalities of the province of Ifugao were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Dubbed as a "Living Cultural Heritage Site," these rice terraces express and conserve the harmony between the environment and its indigenous people.
The Ifugao rice terraces include the terrace clusters of Batad and Bangaan in Banaue, Nagacadan in Kiangan, the terrace cluster in the municipality of Hungduan, and the Mayoyao central cluster. Of the five, Mayoyao is the least accessible from Banaue, making it all the more appealing for backpackers and adventurers to visit the place.
A lot of patience
"Grueling" best describes our 17-hour bus ride to Mayoyao, which is best accessed through Santiago City, Isabela. No wonder we were advised to bring a book, a pillow, and a lot of patience! After traveling practically the whole day, we checked in at the Mayoyao Hostel to rest our sore bodies and prepare for the next day's adventure.
After a hearty breakfast, we met with the local tourism officer, Robert Pinalgan, one of the few Department of Tourism-accredited guides in the municipality. Our first activity was a short trek to the historical marker on Mt. Nagchajan, site of the battle between the retreating Japanese and the combined Filipino and American soldiers during World War II. Locals who have explored the mountain peak reported seeing several stone-walled trenches and foxholes, rusty shells, and machine guns.