Sadanga Chronicles

A man from the Municipality of Sadanga wearing an "okrong" or "sokrong" (wicker headgear) with his pipe stuck on it.

A man from the Municipality of Sadanga wearing an “okrong” or “sokrong” (wicker headgear) with his pipe stuck on it.

By: Glo R. Abaeo

I was standing above a ridge one time, my feet were grounded but I feel the skies. It was like freedom in an unexplainable way. Complete abandon of self that makes me want to dive from where I was to embrace the expanse of reddish land below. The valley and villages in miniature cupped in the enclave of my palms, and if only I could pluck them to keep, press them like flowers between book pages and preserve them like they are now to look at in the future, then I would. So I watch the valley and the villages instead, allowing the view to sink in and root itself in my thoughts. It may not be the same the next time around, yet I wish it will stay this way. With the trees hugging the rocks and the mountain facades, sweeping down to a village with terraced farms, a few dirty kitchen smokes evident from the distance reminding me of warm dinner with the village folks.

The wind running through my hair reminded me of another thing though. That encapsulating freedom I got from communing with the lowly beaten earth and the great powers of the illuminating sunset skies, that spells pride for me. Pride in the most unconventional way, uncommon with city folks like me. Pride to come back to a land that was once my Daddy’s play grounds. Pride to set foot and embrace a culture that stood the changes, pride to be part of a tribe that ate out of the sodden earth that they have fought for in history to protect. Here I was, in a land that I trace my roots from.
Sadanga is a place not so often visited. It sits on high ground above the mountains surrounded by other municipalities. The path to take was once a dirt road, the fine, dry dust following your trails when you go driving or walking by. Up, up you go to that lonely path and suddenly stop midway to a diversion road. One goes up to Sacasacan and the other downhill to Poblacion. Before choosing your way is an interesting spot right there, this place called Opucan, where a lone memorial stands. This is where Mother Basil Gekiere lies, the Belgian ICM sister who came and chose to stay and helped educate Sadanga with other CICM missionaries such as the great Fr. Leon Quintelier. The people laid her to rest here, on a knoll to overlook the people she came to love. So like a checkpoint this place stands to watch everybody who happens to come by. Another few minutes going downhill will get people to Sadanga Poblacion, the Municipal Hall sitting smack in the middle where it is most accessible to everybody. Right below on another adjacent village fronting the Municipal Hall is Barangay Demang. Accentuated by a river below the rice paddies, you could view the provencal scene in its simplest and most natural essence. The Catholic Church sits a few paces away from the Municipal Hall and the Police Station, and it is a busy place. The church is one place where they gather and commune and gladly some of the most important events and gatherings in Sadanga are church based. Proof that Mother Basil and all the other people who started Christianity here are successful, and the present parish priests of the Vicariate are doing well continuing it. This has helped dispel the conflicts that used to mar the rivaling tribes. Most people has opted for peace these days so Sadanga is a very much quiet and safe place to travel to.

Opting to take the diversion road uphill on the other hand would take you to my Dad’s hometown, a place called Sacasacan. This barangay overlooks most of Sadanga in its entirety, with Bekigan and Belwang to the extreme left, Poblacion and Demang below. Sacasacan is the oldest seat of government in this municipality. This place is so strategic that the American once built a garrison here and a watch house. Over across a ledge is a magnificent view of the rice terraces. The “ators” still exist, preserved the way they were, of kugon roofs and stone walling. Life here is still so rural that one can enjoy it to the simplest. You work and play and you survive.

Lads from Betwagan, Sadanga pose with old wooden shields and spears after reenacting the old traditions.

Lads from Betwagan, Sadanga pose with old wooden shields and spears after reenacting the old traditions.

What is pretty striking here, is the fact that most old men and women still don the traditional “wanes” (g-string or loincloth) and “tapis” (wrap-around woven skirt) as an everyday clothing, not only as a garb during occasions. In the early mornings you can chance upon them sunning themselves out on their yards or gathering with others and smoking their pipes, something they stick on their “okrong” (headgear made of wicker) when not in use. They would be squatting there speaking of old times or their crops and anything under the sun. Then each would go his own way, and as old as they are most would still consider doing chores of pounding rice, or making “fvayash” (rum from sugarcane) when in season, or weaving baskets or feeding the livestocks. Age is nothing to make them want to idle their time, perhaps the very reason that their body age are much younger than their actual age.

Who would have thought that these old, wrinkled men were once gallant warriors? In the days of old when their optimum security depends on themselves, the menfolk are united to stand against the odds of war. There are still some relics to relive those days, “kalasag(s)” or wooden shields that were actually used as well as the “tubay(s)” (spears) that are now being passed on to descendants as heirlooms. The coming of the 70’s and 80’s saw most of the fierce fighting of the Municipality of Sadanga with other clans within itself and some as far as other Provinces. And along with the trophies of “sangi(s)” (jawbones) and or upper part of the skulls taken from the Japanese war time, the more recent ones were added. These were usually used as handles for the musical instruments called “gangsa” or gongs. These olden tradition has long been abandoned and the people are now bound by peace and the longing for it to be maintained forever. The younger generations, to count myself in, have been doing our shares of making this possible, often acting as peacekeepers.

3 sets of old jawbones (sangi) were threaded and used as handles for this gong, a symbol of triumph and glory durin

3 sets of old jawbones (sangi) were threaded and used as handles for this gong, a symbol of triumph and glory during times of war.

So many traditions here that are so ancient it does not stop to fascinate me. Every little thing screams of life, as in for every man a scar has a story to tell.


All photos By: Glo R. Abaeo

A Healing Bonding Place: Mainit Hot Springs

Mineral Hot Springs of Mainit in Bontoc provide a healing place for the tired soul.

Eleanor Salingbay Geston has found a niche in the province’s budding wellness industry. A retired elementary school teacher, Eleanor invested in a mineral spring fed pools- taking advantage of her barrio’s natural hot springs resource. The resort is located in barrio Mainit, a 1 hour drive of 7 kilometers of winding roads up a mountain from Bontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province. Mainit is known for its mineral springs (sulphur) that provide invigorating baths after a hard day’s work in one’s farm. People of the place are skin disease free. The resort, aptly named Geston Swimming Pool is still a must place to visit after spending a day there with my family. The resort has 4 pools fed by the hot springs piped in from source. There’s a children’s pool with slide, a sit in pool ideal for the elderly or those who just want to soak up, and two pools for those who want to really swim. The resort has integrated the culture of Mainit that includes guests sleeping quarters named “Avuan” (the traditional sleeping quarters for boys) and the “Pangis” (the traditional sleeping quarters for girls).
The sleeping quarters can at most accommodate 18 people. A toilet, bedding of “rono” or sticks lined up together completes a therapeutic sleeping place. You can however request for mattresses and beddings. Sleeping without the mattresses is a good try for those who suffer back pain. Picnic groves and a space for tents are also provided. The resort has a mini conference room and kitchen amenities for those who want to barbecue or cook meals. The water could be murky but that is a good sign as various minerals with healing properties are in abundance. The place is cold, perfect for that warm soak. Try soaking up at night; you will only have the stars and fireflies for company.
Best of all, it is the relaxing warm swim or soak that makes it worthy for even just an overnight stay. If you are in Sagada, you can ask about your guide if you can opt to hike from Sagada to Mainit – that takes only about 2 hours. If you are in Bontoc, take the Mainit jeepney ride parked beside the Shell Gas station. The jeepney leaves usually at 2:30 PM and the next at 4:00 P.M. You have to be there early as the jitney can leave earlier once it is full. You can also go straight up if you have a vehicle. The road is narrow and the drive up is also an adventure.
The place is also ideal for family and office worker’s retreat. It takes an enterprising spirit for Ms. Geston to go on improving the place. Entrance fee is fifty pesos for adults and P35.00 for children. Group rates can be had starting at one thousand eight hundred pesos and up for an overnight stay inclusive of use of kitchen, utensils and the cottage. Reservations have to be made in advance so the pools can be prepared as they are regularly maintained to ensure sanitation.. You can make a reservation through Ms. Geston’s daughter, Eunice Geston-Andaya at 09204540963.

Alab, A Barrio With an “Ancient” Past

1000 Steps; Ganga Cave, The Petroglyphs
The barrio of Alab features the 1000 steps, the ancient burial site, Ganga Cave, the Petroglyps, Mateyak Falls and a great view at the mountain top.
Alab is located along the Halsema Highway. If you are going to Baguio, the boundary is located at the Amlosong Jumbo bridge before Dantay and if you are going to Bontoc from Baguio, the Boundary is located after Malitep in Balili. Alab Oriente has a population of 358 and Alab Proper has population of 576.
How to Go to Alab
If you want to go to Alab, the jeep station is in front of the Aglipay General Merchandise or near the XiJEN Business Center. The ride to Alab is from 7:30am until 5:00pm. You can also ride on a bus to Baguio and stop at Alab. There are two bus companies that pass through Alab.  These are the GL Trans which parks at the Circle, near Land Bank-Bontoc Branch or the Rising Sun Trans which parks near the Bontoc Town Hall.  The buses leave for Baguio starting at 6:00 A.M. (Rising Sun) and every one an a half hour afterwards.  The last trip to Baguio City is 3:00 P.M. by the Rising Sun Trans.  You can also hire a tricycle (sets you back by one hundred twenty pesos).
In Alab, there is no hotel or restaurant. It is up to the barangay officials to accommodate you, they give you food and if you want an overnight stay they will provide a room for you to sleep. It is not a problem to them because the people there still practice hospitality. They will respect you because you are a visitor of the barangay.
What to See:
1000 Steps
The 1000 steps to the Ganga Caves of Alab is a cardio treat.  It tests your stamina but the hike is worth it.  A commemorative t shirt- “I Survived 1000 steps” can be had at the Barangay Hall of Alab.
The Petroglyphs
Ganga Cave of Alab.  Final resting place of the people of Alab in ancient times.

Ganga Cave of Alab. Final resting place of the people of Alab in ancient times.

A petroglyph is a carving on a rock. The Alab Petroglyphs is located across the Chico River, a short distance upstream from Bontoc. It was declared a national cultural treasure in 1975. Still undecipherable, it is a huge rock with bow and arrows and human figures etched on the surface of the mountain where the rock stands. Brgy. Alab is located 9 kms. south of Bontoc on the Halsema Highway. The petroglyphs are a three-hr. climb above the village and past burial caves. It is believed that the inscriptions portray fertility rites.  This is the reason why I say my barrio home has an ancient past.  If only further studies are to be made-as the inscriptions on the cave, tend to portray, a civilization ahead of their time.

The Ganga Cave

Ganga is a cave located above the rice fields of Alab Oriente Bontoc. It is a burials cave which they believe the people who are buried their teenagers who went to the mountains to get some firewood.

IMG_2826Long time ago,  the e-alab teenagers (babalos and babalasang) of Alab (Proper and Oriente) went to   mountain of Dongyowan to get some firewood. They rested on a big rock in Binut-buto looking down a rice field (Kebasan). As they are resting, one of them challenged the other to throw a pointed stick down to the rice field and who will throw the farthest is the winner. They did not know that a pregnant woman is planting rice and they did not intend to hit her. They still continue throwing pointed stick and all of a sudden  all of them feel sleepy, they went asleep and after hours later as they woke up, they saw a sticky rice (diket) in a basket and a bundle of tobacco that was offered to them. They did not notice who brought them that food for them but because they are all hungry, they  ate  the food that was brought to them. They also did not continue to get firewood because it is already dark. As they went home they all went to the ato (dap-ay) to give the bundle of tobacco to those older people who are taking in tobacco. That night, the people of the village heard that the teenagers suddenly became weak and some of them are dying.

The old people who took in the tobacco went dizzy. According to some of the old people, the cause of their death is the food that they ate  because it is the pregnant woman who brought them the food for them. In the morning, all of the teenagers who when to get firewood were all dead. The people of the village planned to make ah coffin for all the dead. The old people of the village planned to bury them in a cave above the rice fields and the name of the cave is GANGA.

Now a days some people say they are hearing some sound like playing a gong, or cutting firewood, and even some are crying. They are not already putting the dead on that cave because some say they are not comfortable.

Written by:

Christine Mocyat
Computer Secretarial
Xijen College of Mountain Province


Off the Beaten Track: Aguid, Sagada

Bumayeng Falls, Aguid, Sagada.

Bumayeng Falls, Aguid, Sagada.

Aguid, Sagada, Mountain Province can be reached from Sagada, Poblacion, approximately seven (7) kilometres.  As you walk through the village’s narrow paths, on foot trails along rice paddies, the visitor is greeted with varying landscapes.  Time didn’t seem to exist.


“A brief history of Aguid”
(Story told by lakay Domin-eng)
After the place of Pide, in the northern part of Sagada, was populated, an old woman went to the mountain located at the upper right side of Pide to work in her “uma” (field). When she felt tired of weeding she decided to take a rest at the mouth of the cave she sighted during her walk. While resting she saw a bundle of sharpened spears at the side. She concluded those were left by the hunters during their hunting, so she went home leaving it there. At supper, while eating with her family she remembered her rest at the cave near their field, so she told them about it. “Ya wacha yah inilak ay naa-aguidan ay kaiw issan liyang ay inmey ku nin suwengan, ay wa’ay ubpay umey men an anup sidi….” (“When I went for a rest at the cave near our field I sighted a bundle of sharpened spears, maybe hunters go there for a hunt…”)

Her story about what she saw in the cave spread, so then they had decided to call the place where the old woman’s family field is located “naa-aguidan.” Later it was shortened to “Aguid”.
Later on, the place that was once like a forsaken place was inhabited by the people from Pide and Fidelisan, Sagada who wanted to be separated from paganism.
How To Get There
Going to Aguid takes 30 minutes by jitney, as for nature lovers who want to have a walk, it will take an hour. The jitney going to Aguid is located at the heart of the town just few meters up at the Sagada Municipal Hall. The trip to Aguid begins at 7:00 until 9:00 in the morning and at 3:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, going back trip to town is scheduled every 6:30 am, 7:00 am and 1:00 pm. If you can not catch the scheduled trips you take the Bangaan bound jitney and walk 30 minutes to Aguid following the road or take a short cut using the road going to Pide. This route takes you to a breathtaking view of the rice terraces.

For first time visitors, do not hesitate to ask the friendly people of the place for directions, note also that the folks here more understand the English language instead of Filipino, especially the old folks.

There are no hotels of inns in the place, so for visitors who would like to spend the night here, building a tent is the only way.

Written by:

Imee Badongen

Xijen College of Mountain Province


Majestic Maligcong Rice Terraces



Malgicong Rice terraces cradles the village of Maligcong.  Photo:  Joel Fagsao

Malgicong Rice terraces cradles the village of Maligcong. Photo: Joel Fagsao


The Maligcong Rice Terraces is one place you must see when you are in the town of Bontoc, Mountain Province.  Carved from the mountains several hundred years ago, the rice terraces of Maligcong are supported by a rip rap of stones taken from the mountains.  Using the downward  water flows, crude wooden tools and ingenius engineering, the people of Maligcong were able to have a source of their staple food, rice.  Today, the rice terraces continue to be maintained in the traditional way, preserving a structure that will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Upon reaching the turning point of Maligcong, one can already see the Maligcong Rice Terraces. There is no entrance fee for visiting the Maligcong Rice Terraces. You walk by this attraction while going to the barangay proper. The rice terraces here are more awesome as the main village is right at the center of the sprawling fields.

The best time to visit Maligcong Rice Terraces is during the month of April and May when the fields are green as palay planted in March have started to grow. Harvest time is August.

Photo:  Joel T. Fagsao

Photo: Joel T. Fagsao

This “Stairways to the Sky” is definitely a site to visit.

It is advisable for visitors to wear rubber shoes, wear hat and bring food when visiting Maligcong because of the long walk beside the rice paddies from the turning point to the barangay proper.

Visit Itinerary

From Bontoc, take the first trip jeepney (8 AM) going to Maligcong. The Maligcong public utility terminal is found in front of the Pines Kitchenette and Inn, near the Provincial Plaza.  It is best to take the first trip so you can come down at about 2:00 P.M. if you want to ride down or the 4:00 P.M. jeep ride coming down.  You can also choose to stay overnight, the Maligcong Homestay provides decent accommodation.  

Upon reaching fabuyan, one can already see the Maligcong rice terraces. If you go at the very top area of sitio fabuyan, you will be able to see Guina-ang and Mainit. You walk through the pathway while enjoying the view of the rice terraces until you reach fang-orao. You can visit Maligcong Elementary School and some rice granary in this sitio. The walk through the rice paddies takes 30 minutes-40 minutes walk or longer if you take your time enjoying the scenery going to Favarey. Favarey is surrounded with rice terraces and if you go at the very top of this sitio, you will see the top of the mountains of Tocucan and also the top of Mt. Polis.  You may go around looking for a nice spot to take pictures. It may take you 2 hours -3 hours to go around the village taking pictures. After visiting the rice terraces, you can hike going back to Bontoc which may take 1hour- 1 and a half hour. While hiking back to Bontoc, you may pass by the orange plantations. When you reach the boundary between Maligcong and Bontoc, you will see the beautiful scenery of Bontoc and the Chico River which is surrounded by mountains.

What to Wear

This “Stairways to the Sky” is definitely a site to visit.

It is advisable for visitors to wear rubber shoes, wear hat and bring food when visiting Maligcong because of the long walk beside the rice paddies from the turning point to the barangay proper.

Where to Ask Information

While in Bontoc, visit the tourist information centre at the Bontoc Municipal Town Hall.

Local Guides

There are local guides in Maligcong.  Drop by Maligcong Homestay, ask your Maligcong Jitney Driver;  to arrange for a local tour guide or arrange for lunch and snacks.  You can also choose to stay overnight at Maligcong Homestay.

Schedule of jeepney going to Maligcong from Bontoc.


8:00 am

12:00 noon

2:30 pm

4:30 pm

5:30 pm

Schedule of jeepney from Maligcong going to Bontoc

6:30 am

8:00 am

9:00 am

2:00 pm

4:00 pm

Fare to Maligcong is twenty pesos P20.00.


The climate in the barangay is classified as type I with two pronounced seasons, the wet season which is from June to January and the dry season from February to May.
The latest rainfall recorded by the PAGASA reveal an annual average of 1,962.1 milliliter.
The temperature in the locality ranges from 14 to 32 degree Celsius. Extreme cold is felt during the later part of November to December. The hottest months are from April to May.



Maligcong is a barangay of the municipality of Bontoc, Mountain Province. It is located at the upland zone of Bontoc municipality. It is bounded on the north by barangay Mainit, on the south by barangay Caluttit, on the east by barangay Tocucan, on the west by barangay Guina-ang, and on the northeast by the municipality of Sadanga.

Maligcong has six scattered sitios namely : Favarey, Fang-orao, Adaan, Makunig and Mayayat.  Area (ha): 1,500

Brief history of Maligcong

Early Settlers

The people of Maligcong originated from Kadangran. (A place between the present Maligcong and Bontoc).

One day, a pregnant sow wandered away and found itself beside a “Kangkonger” (big stone), where it gave birth. The owners of the pig followed and tried to force it to return but in vain,the pig don’t want to leave the place which is located at the ricefields called maligcong by the villagers. Instead, the couple and family went to establish their home near the “Kangkonger”. Since then, people from the original village joined them in what is now the village of Maligcong.

How Maligcong got its name

Maligcong is rooted in the word “ligcong” which means to level land for a rice field. After years of labor, the people had to carve the mountains and steeps surrounding the area into terraces for their fields and other crops.When the time came that the whole village was surrounded by rice fields, the people then named the village Maligcong, meaning surrounded by rice fields.



According to the latest survey which was done this year (2010), the total population of barangay Maligcong is 761. The population increased since year 2007 where the surveyed population was 481.

Researched by Janice Capiyao

Natonin Re-Discovered



Road improvements have made a significant contribution to Natonin. The green municipality is now greatly accessible.

After fifteen long years, I was back in Natonin.  The last time I visited the place, I was in my prime and enjoyed the day long walk to Poblacion after an overnight stay in Kadaclan, Barlig.  There was already a road at that time but you would need a front drive vehicle with winch to get you through.  If you talk with the locals, they would tell of the hardships when roads were not yet in place and you had to literally walk in the forest and hopefully avoid the leeches.


Things have changed.  You can now hop on a mini bus or a charged up Ford Fiera for a five hour ride (64 kilometers) from Bontoc to Poblacion, Natonin.  The ride is an adventure in itself.  The view is just awesome.  Everything is green!


I was in Natonin as part of my commitment to share what I had learned on entrepreneurial development in India.  In Poblacion, Natonin, the few establishments that we have seen before have increased and the town center now has its own public market.  Funny, I recall during our trek, a bottle of soda (never mind the price) was a godsend and seemingly our only connection to the outside world.  Now, the products of the world have come to the town.  Mobile phones and accessories courtesy of our Muslim brother merchants, DVD you have it!  Visit a general store and a sign is posted- longaniza, hotdog and bangus (milk fish)-part of a changing diet for the locals.  The presence of tricycles also has contributed to a changing landscape. A bakery, several karaoke cum general store joints are there, mobile phone load anyone?


We stopped by the market to look for local products; alas this is an area that needs improvement.  I asked the local vendor where vegetables come from and she said “Bontoc, Isabela.”  The only local produce we could find is the large variety cucumbers and some squash.


Our final destination was Saliok, the barrio nearest to Paracelis so we have to stay for the night in Poblacion.  You can have a comfortable stay at a quaint lodging house managed by the local Arang Cooperative and I liked it that Bertha was there to take care of the cooking.


The next day, we took a Mitsubishi (front drive) van that covers the Natonin to Paracelis route.  A mere twelve kilometers from Poblacion to Saliok sets you off by seventy pesos. The 45 minutes trip to Saliok provides a showcase of what cemented roads could do to community development.  There still are some road-portions that make your heart skip faster but generally, the rest of the road portions are A-Ok.  We reached Saliok, a hilly barrio with large swathes of flat land.  Things have changed too in this place.  A “jumbo” bridge has replaced the rickety wooden bridge of old.  The muddy road was no more and the atmosphere and look of barrio Saliok has similarities of a community in the Ilocos region.

Saliok is warm and humid but the water and forest resources provide an abundance of natural food at its best.  The ‘paco’ (fern) salad served us is just perfect.  This is a big change from the usual over-processed food fare that we have in the growing urban areas that we come from.


The three day stay in Saliok made me realize the impact of development in a community.  But there is more than meets the eye.  Yes we want development in our communities but there could also be a price to pay.  Influences from a foreign culture could have an impact on the values of the locals.  A karaoke joint in a barrio may be a good place for a visitor to relax but who gets to stay in this places when the visitor leaves?  Roads could also make it easier now to transport illegally cut Nara and other forest products.  This is quite a challenge to the DENR and the community leaders who are tasked to protect the forests.  Natonin will need a master plan on sustainable development.  By sustainable development, it will need to work on economic programs that will meet the needs of its residents today and also be able to provide for the succeeding generations.


The rich natural forest resources that the municipality has are its crown jewel.  The municipality needs to work on a conservation program on its resources.  Natonin and Barlig are the only remaining truly ‘green’ municipalities of the province of Mountain Province.

by Joel T. Fagsao