The mere mention of Banaue immediately brings to mind the world-famous rice terraces, a 20,000-hectare engineering marvel built more than 2,000 years ago by Ifugao tribes people, using only their bare hands and crude implements.
The terraces, which have drawn awe-struck tourists from all over the globe, have merited a place in the World Heritage List and are touted, with good reason, as the Eight Wonder of the World. A long hard trek through the "Stairway to the Sky" is best rewarded by a refreshing dip in the spring-fed stream of Guihob or the magnificent Tappiya Waterfalls, which has an enormous basin for swimming.
Bontoc, not to be outdone features such picturesque attractions as Tucucan, with its hanging bridges of vines and logs, Mainit Hot Springs, and its medicinal sulphuric waters, and the petroglyphs of Alab, which have been declared as a national cultural treasure.
Sagada is the country's answer to Shangri-la. The long, arduous journey on the Halsema Highway, is well worth what awaits: sylvan landscapes, natural marvels, and some of the most friendly people this side of the archipelago.
It's no surprise that many visitors have decided to forego the wearying return trip and make this quiet mountain town their new home. the morbidly attractive "hanging coffins," the astonishing limestone formations of Sumaguing Cave, and the invigorating waters of Bokong Falls are just a handful of reasons to explore this areas but the chilly mountain weather, irresistible mountain brew, and pleasant company of the laid-back townsfolk and travelers are equally good reasons to stay in town and watch the day lazily crawl by.
Mountain Province became a special province of the Philippines in 1907. It was made up of the sub-provinces of Bontoc-Lepanto, Amburayan, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao and Kalinga. The Provincial Supervisor, Samuel Kane, was appointed Governor of the province and Bontoc was then the capital town.
In February 1942, the dreaded Japanese Army arrived in Bontoc via the Nueva Viscaya and Kalinga route. A garrison was established in the town. The Anglican Mission dormitories were served as quarters for the officers. Dr. Hillary Clapp was made governor of Mountain Province and during his term, the people were spared from so much suffering from the Japanese colonizers.
On January 9, 1945, the American Forces landed in Lingayen and the Japanese forces retreated northwards. In February of the same year, American planes dropped incendiary bombs in Bontoc and bombed again the place the following month. It razed the town so the people fled to the mountains for cover while the Japanese troops arrived daily fleeing towards Aparri and Kiangan to join the troops of General Yamashita.
In August 1945, USAFE troops arrived and the people came out from their hiding. Peace came earlier in Bontoc than the rest of the country.
On July 4, 1945, the Philippine Republic was born. Bontoc slowly rose from the ruins of the war and the following years marked the changes and developments. Being the provincial capital, people flocked to Bontoc and business flourished. Hotels, lodging houses, restaurants, stores and houses sprouted.
The Baguio-Bontoc road was rehabilitated with the assistance of Lepanto Mining Corporation and the Dangwa Development Corporation. Mountain Province became an independent province on March 25, 1967 when President Ferdinand E. Marcos officially appointed and inducted into office the first set of provincial officials: Alfredo Lamen as Governor; Victor Dominguez as Vice-Governor; and Pablo Felva and Alejo Manao as Board Members. On April 7, 1967, the new Mountain Province came into operation.
This date was unanimously adopted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on their regular meeting held on June 10, 1980 as the Mountain Province Day.
To date, Mt. Province is growing in popularity as a "Spelunkers Delight and Weavers Paradise". It is becoming a favorite destination of both local and foreign visitors.
The inhabitants are generally speaking Kankanaey with Bontoc as their major dialect. Others speak Gaddang and Kalinga. English and Ilocano are widely spoken and understood.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Manila, the quickest way to Banaue is by bus 9 hours. From Banaue to Sagada take a jeepney to Bontoc (2.5 hrs) and connect with another jeepney to Sagada (40 minutes).