A Picture Perfect Window. The Place for You To Stay in Maligcong.
Joel T. Fagsao
It started as a coffee shop until husband and wife Jerome and Suzette Chees decided to setup a homestay amidst the famed Maligcong Rice Terraces. Suzette loves to bake and visitors to the rice terraces would drop by her house for coffee and treats. Often, the conversation would end up with the visitor saying “how I wish to stay longer, if only I can sleep in your house.” Suzette would then refer visitors to the inn nearby, operated by the Paducar family. The couple would hear the same suggestions from tourists all the time and so they decided to give it a try. Last Saturday, I got my photographer friend, Henry Fesway to take a look at the Chee’s homestay. We arrived at twelve noon and were met by Suzette and two lady guides from Maligcong. The sign at the gate leading to a wide parking space said it all “Welcome Maligcong Homestay.” Detached from the family home is a two bedroom quaint one story pine wood clad house. The house, half of its walls painted in blue connects to a tiled veranda opening up to a great view of the rice terraces. We took a quick look around, the smell of freshly baked squash muffins permeated the air as I feigned “I’m not hungry yet..” (typical of a shy Filipino), despite our hosts insistence that we have lunch first. The cool mountain clime and the green all around
you made you hungrier. We sat down to a hearty lunch of grilled chicken, golden squash and taro (gabi), rice wine, finished it off with coffee, squash and carrot muffins and mini cakes. While Henry took photos, we mapped out plans for the operation of the homestay-to me, it is an inn. We noted that visitors can take the Maligcong public transport –twelve noon or choose other schedules from two thirty, then four thirty or five thirty afternoon ride. The ride to Maligcong is in itself an adventure; it’s like taking a ride up to the Peak in HK but with a more scenic view and never mind the rough road. The visitor drops off at the Maligcong Homestay and takes a brief rest, but a long nap would be best. At seven A.M. either of the lady tour guides, Susan Kediam or Agustina Sokoken takes the visitor to the rice terraces. The Maligcong Rice Terraces is still one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The lush green of the terraced rice fields is a welcome respite from the drudgeries and rat race lifestyles in the urban jungles of the world. The advantage of an overnight stay lets you take in the early morning view-ideal time for photography-you can show off in your Facebook page. Your day starts with breakfast arranged with Suzette, the evening before, add in the coffee or mountain tea thank you. The two bedrooms at the Maligcong Homestay are tastefully designed. Pine wood floors provide the warmth, double beds lets you doze off in dreamland. Why is my story title “picture perfect window?” Well, the windows of the rooms perfectly frame the terraces view. At first, you might think it is a painting on a wall, but look again and it’s the room’s window looking out to the terraces.
This is a far different experience from those who chose to stay in Bontoc town and take the eight o’clock morning ride to Maligcong. There is no hurry if you spend the night in Maligcong giving you more time to explore the terraces and get the best views. Meanwhile, we worked on the activities that the guides can do for the visitor. A village experience would let the visitor try out the tasks of pounding rice, plant or join the rice harvest, this after taking a walk up a higher point to let one have various angle views of the terraces.
Visitors to Maligcong can make reservations at the Maligcong Homestay by contacting +639155463557. Secure parking is available. The homestay also has a souvenir shop or chose to stay over for a cup of coffee and muffins if one is in a hurry. Suzette credits the full support of her husband for the venture, after spending time selling at the town market had this to say: “we didn’t notice it, we did not realize that opportunities can be had right in our front yard.”
The Chees couples initiative will hopefully encourage others to invest in tourism support infrastructures and provide for local employment. Lately, visitors suggested to the owners to change the name to Suzette’s Maligcong Homestay.