Mt. Kupapey, since last year, has been making a buzz over the various mountaineering communities and over social media. Located in my hometown, Bontoc, Mountain Province, it is a great beginner’s climb due to its relatively easy and short trail. Aside from the easy trek, Mt. Kupapey is also a great vantage point for viewing the Maligcong Rice Terraces.

When I began making climbing as my hobby, Mt. Kupapey was automatically included in my list of mountains to climb. There’s a downside though, I rarely ever go home. But that changed when I got invited to my friend’s wedding and her daughter’s christening. I was designated as one of the godfathers. Finally I got the chance that I was waiting for!

A bend in the road, going to Barangay Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province.

How to Get There

For those who want to do a do-it-yourself trek, here’s how to reach my hometown of Bontoc:

  • Ride a Coda Lines bus. Their terminal is located at the HM Transport terminal in Cubao. Coda Lines Bus is the only bus line directly plying the Sagada route via Banaue, Ifugao. Have the driver drop you off at Bontoc town center. Buses leave at 9 PM and the travel takes around 10 to 11 hours. Bus fare is PHP 720.00.
  • From Bontoc town center, ride a jeep going up to Maligcong. Travel times are 8 AM, 12 noon, 2:30 PM, 4:30 PM and 5:30 PM. Jeepney fare is PHP 25.00. Alternatively, you can walk from Bontoc town center to Maligcong. It takes about two hours to walk all the way to Maligcong.

Mt. Kupapey Details

Elevation: 1,647 MASL (est.)
Difficulty: 3/9
Trail Class: 1-2
Days Required: 1 day
Hours to Summit: 1 hour

While mountain climbing keeps us in touch with nature, it also offers a great avenue in sharpening our photography skills.

Another Early Climb

My friend and I originally planned to begin our climb at around 3 AM the day following our friend’s wedding. We will begin our trek at Bontoc town center. We later surmised that at 3 AM it is still too dark so we decided to begin our trek at 5 AM when there is already light.

My friend I first met at a famed local landmark. We then rode a tricycle going to sitio Sac-angan where we’ll begin our climb. We walked all the way up to Maligcong, occasionally stopping to take a picture of Bontoc town center as it can be viewed from the road. Although we were walking upwards, I rarely had to catch my breath. I found it rather easy compared to when I was walking this road when I was younger. I guess my renewed vigor to climb this year helped improve my stamina.

The most difficult part of going up was when we passed by a property which had dogs. The dogs were barking at us incessantly while we were passing through. Thankfully, they’re not as rabid as I thought they were as they, like soldiers guarding their territory, returned to their base once we safely crossed their place.

Hometown blues. A great view of Bontoc Valley from the Bontoc-Maligcong Road.

Overall, our early walk to Maligcong was pleasant, it was neither too hot nor too cold. Moreover, the sun has already risen, ensuring that our late escapade would fail us from seeing the sea of clouds or the sunrise at Mt. Kupapey’s summit. It was around 7AM, about an hour and a half since we began from Bontoc town center, when we finally reached Maligcong.

As we barely had any idea where Mt. Kupapey is nor where its trail begins, we asked the locals. Being iFontok ourselves, it was quite easy asking for directions. You get that small town feeling one gets when one is in the midst of fellow locals, that “they talk our language, they’re one of us” feeling. They were all warm, accommodating and helpful. Don’t get me wrong though, the residents’ warmth also extends to non-locals.

When we now had an idea on where the trail begins, we proceeded with our climb at around 7:30 AM. Important note: register first at the registration center and hire a local tour guide before climbing up. Unfortunately we weren’t able to register or even hire a guide. I mean, the locals get to enjoy some privileges right? But I wanted to register but the registration booth wasn’t open.

Take out all the negative vibes and drink in all the positive energies surrounding you.
The thrill of the adventurer. You never know what you’ll encounter along the way. Indeed it is not about the destination, it is all about the journey.

Unassisted, my friend and I proceeded with our climb. As we had no idea what trail to follow, we had to ask the local tour guides who were returning from an early trek. Thankfully, we met two groups of early hikers on our way up. The trail is quite is easy to follow. Plus, it does help to have a great sense of direction.

The trek was relatively easy to trek, though there was a couple of steep climbs along the way. The trail is covered by a thick pine foliage which provides a great coverage from the sun. We had to rely on our sense of direction though because there were a lot of trails used by the locals. However, the main trail is easy enough to follow.

After about 45 minutes of trek, we reached a wide clearing. Apparently this is the last stretch before reaching the summit. The clearing is so wide one can do some cartwheels and just relax, surrounded by pine trees. When we were rested, we proceeded with the final assault towards the peak.

The pine fields. The thick pine coverage veils the forest, keeping with it all its secrets – one can barely imagine.
Oh yeah, it’s a double thumbs up for this stupendous view!

It was already about 8:30 AM when we reached the summit, and immediately we were struck by how beautiful the view is! I have but one word: STUPENDOUS! The summit offers a great view of the Maligcong Rice Terraces and the surrounding mountains. Thankfully, the early light gave a magnificent glow to the rice terraces though the rice plants aren’t in full bloom. It is early planting season so the rice are not fully grown yet. The rice terraces are not as green as I wanted them to be. Nonetheless, the view was still breathtaking after that nearly three-hours worth of walk and trek.

We took the moment to drink in our surroundings and snap picture after picture of this wonderful view. True enough, Maligcong Rice Terraces won’t match Banaue Rice Terraces in vastness but it is as equally beautiful, sans the crowd. These kinds of views are very rare. So I am breathing it all in before I go back to my corporate reality.

When we’ve had our fill, we marched back to the base where we hitched hike going back to the town proper. Too sad my short vacation had to end, again, shortly.

Mt. Fato as seen from the summit of Mt. Kupapey. I guess that will be my target the next time I am home.

My Thoughts

Mt. Kupapey is a climb for beginners. The trail is beginner friendly but it can get rough during rainy seasons. Its distance from Manila ensures that Mt. Kupapey is less crowded than the mountains near the Big City. The thick pine foliage ensures enough protection against the sun’s offensive rays and the cold breeze is soothing, too.

For budding photographers, it offers a picturesque view of the Maligcong Rice Terraces. If you’re lucky enough, and early enough, you can catch a dramatic view of a sea of clouds and of the sunrise.

Side Notes: If you have the time, trek also Mt. Kupapey’s neighboring mountain, Mt. Fato. Moreover, if you want to stay overnight, there are homestays now at Maligcong. Just walk around and ask the locals. During the rainy seasons, it is very cold there so take a sip of coffee and enjoy.

Nearly stepped on this guy going home! Fortunately my reflexes didn’t fail me. But wow, nature is indeed amazing!


This itinerary is suitable for a Bontoc local like yours truly.

0500H Meet up at Bontoc town circle
0530H ETD for Maligcong
0700H Arrival at Maligcong
0730H Start trek
0830H Arrival at summit. Take pictures
0930H Start descent
1015H ETA Maligcong
1100H Bontoc town proper

No jump shots this time. Will have to settle being the boss of this view. I will just drink it all in. So where to next?