Hungduan, Blessed by Nature
The Cordilleras, my home region, has, for years, been an enigma to the outside traveler. In its towering peaks resonate voices that one can barely hear through the conundrum. But like a lengthy book, it took a long time to truly unravel its true beauty. The mystical Cordilleras began taking shape as soon as the fogs that shrouded it has started to settle, revealing an ethereal world that is a source of awe to anyone who visits it.
As I ruminate on the first point I have made, I am reminded how, once upon a time, everyone once that the Cordilleras is limited to Baguio and Sagada. But times changed, and with development, the rough roads were paved, opening the Cordilleras into the world as logistics has become easier. Through several curious travelers, many of Cordilleras’ finest gems that have been incognito for years, have now reached the consciousness of many. One fine example is Hungduan, one of eleven municipalities comprising the province of Ifugao.
The first time I heard of Hungduan was through a documentary I watched when I was still young. The documentary was about the Banaue Rice Terraces and how the clusters of Hungduan are among its finest and most prominent features. Being from the highlands, I barely took notice of it. But once the inner wanderer in me has been awoken, I have no way but give in to its whims, including going back to the place where my heart was once nestled in.
Hungduan is truly a gem, bestowed with numerous hidden treasures. From the towering Mt. Napulauan to hidden waterfalls to the UNESCO Heritage Site-certified rice terraces, this quaint municipality has a lot in store, especially for those who are seeking tranquility, a break from the tumult of urban living. Take a change of sight and plunge into the unexpected in Hungduan.
How to Get to Hungduan
Because of its location in the interiors of the Cordilleras, there are no direct buses traveling Manila-Hungduan route (as of date). To get to Hungduan from Manila, one must alight at the neighboring town of Banaue. If one is originating from Manila, there are currently two options to go there:
- Through Ohayami Trans. The only direct bus going to Banaue is Ohayami Trans. The Manila bus terminal is located in corner J. Fajardo, A.H. Lacson, Sampaloc Manila. Only night trips are available and regular trips depart from Manila at 10 PM. If there is an influx of travelers, the company allots extra buses which departs at 9:00, 9:30 and 10:15 PM. Travel time is approximately nine (9) hours. One-way ticket fare costs PHP 540.00. You can reserve your seats online through their website, ohayamitrans.com.
- If all Banaue direct buses are full, one can opt to ride the Ohayami Trans bus bound for Lagawe. Departure time is around 9:30 PM and costs PHP 500.00 for one-way fare. From Lagawe, ride jeepneys bound for Banaue.
- Through Coda Lines. If the first option is not available, one can opt for Coda Lines which services the Manila-Sagada route. It passes through Banaue, hence, it is an alternative mode of conveyance. Coda Lines terminal is located at the HM Transport terminal in Cubao, Quezon City. Regular trips depart for Sagada from 8 to 10 PM on an hourly interval. One-way ticket fare costs PHP 555.00. Seat reservations can be made through the company website, codalinesph.com.
From Banaue, ride jeepneys going to Hungduan. The earliest departure time is 12 noon and the last trips runs at 5 PM. If you are in a rush, you can ask your local contact to arrange for a pickup which can be either through a privately hired tricycle or jeepney. One-way hiring fee for tricycle is PHP 500.00 while for jeepneys, it is around PHP 2,000.00.
To go back to Banaue, ride a jeepney. However, trips are only in the morning, running from 5 AM to 11 AM. If you didn’t make it to the morning trip, you can either hire a tricycle or ride the vans going to Baguio originating from Hungduan.
Things To Do
As I have mentioned, there are plenty of things to do in Hungduan. Albeit less popular than Sagada, Hungduan is a mecca for all kinds of travelers. Its laidback atmosphere is great for those who are searching for inner peace. However, Hungduan is also known as a playground for the adventurous of heart because of its waterfalls, mountains and cold waters. Here are some of the things one can do in Hungduan (the things we did):
1. Catch the Sunrise at Mt. Napulauan
This is the reason why I found myself in Hungduan. At 2,642 MASL, Mt. Napulauan is the 16th highest mountain in the country and is prominent for its lush vegetation and mossy forest. Beyond the ethereal beauty of the mossy forest, one of the top things to do in Mt. Napulauan is catching the sunrise and, if the weather permits (and if Kabunian heeds your call, a majestic sea of clouds).
However, this is not for the faint of heart. A technical climb, it is considered a major hike and has a difficulty rating of 7/9. With its steep assaults, it is technically challenging climb, even for the seasoned climbers.
Read more about our Mt. Napulauan hike here.
2. Bask in the Beauty of Nature
Being in the heart of the Cordilleras is certainly a strategic spot. To be honest, anywhere in the Cordilleras is a great place to bask in the beauty of nature. But each place has its charm, including Hungduan, which makes the travel worthwhile. Moreover, there is a different kind of tranquility that can be experienced here. It is a great place for those who are doing some soul-searching or are recovering from the pains of a broken heart. (So where do broken hearts go?)
3. Be in Awe of the Waterfalls
Balentimol Falls is the most famous of Hungduan’s waterfalls and is a famous local haunt. During special occasions, locals head to the waterfalls to chill and relax. It is not surprising because of the relaxing atmosphere in the midst of the forest. Moreover, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes trek to reach the waterfalls.
Along the trail of Mt. Napulauan, we encountered another waterfall high up in the mountain. It is equally majestic as Balentimol Falls. However, it takes about 2 hours of treacherous and technical climbing to reach this beautiful body of water. I forgot its name, unfortunately.
4. Cross-out a UNESCO Heritage Site
Unbeknownst to most (including yours truly), the UNESCO Heritage Site in Ifugao wasn’t conferred only to the famed Banaue Rice Terraces as it came to be known. It actually covers five clusters, including the Hungduan rice terrace cluster. The Hungduan cluster is equally breathtaking as its other counterparts (including the most famous one in Batad). Thankfully, we got to bask in their beauty while they were still green.
Read more about my appreciation post here.
5. Dip in the Cold Springs
Being surrounded by lush forests, it is no surprise that there is an excessive supply of water. Aside from the waterfalls, one can dip one’s exhausted body in the different swimming spots in the town. One can be found a couple of minutes away from Poblacion. The swimming hole’s cold and clear waters are very inviting, even to the non-swimmers. It is where we relaxed our exasperated bodies after our taxing Mt. Napulauan climb.
Here are other things to do while in Hungduan (the things we weren’t able to do):
- Relax your weary soul at the Bogyah Hot Springs
- Dive into the cold Hapao River
- Experience Ifugao culture at the Heritage Village
Oh yeah, tales of Yamashita’s fabled gold and treasure persist until today. It is even more prevalent in the area because General Tomoyuki Yamashita retreated on the slopes Mt. Napulauan. It is there that he made his final stand.
Practical Matters and Other Information
- Before entering Hungduan, visitors are required to register at the information office located in Barangay Bokiawan, near the boundary of Banaue and Hungduan. Moreover, a tourism fee PHP 100.00 per person is required to be paid. For any inquiries and local arrangements, you may contact the tourism office through Hungduan LGU’s email account: email@example.com.
- The best months to visit Hungduan is during the dry season, December to June.
- Internet signal is intermittent, especially for Globe Telecom users.
- There is currently no ATM machine in Hungduan.
- There are sari-sari stores in the place so no worries.
- It could get really cold during the rainy season. Always bring a jacket or any warmers to keep yourself warm.
- Minimize noise, especially when climbing mountains. To the locals, they are sacred.
- Respect the locals and the place; leave no trace behind.
- You may contact our local contact in Hungduan, Manang Nalyn through her FB Page, Hungduan.Travel.