#060: Mayoyao Rice & StoneTak's dispatch released on 10 February 2016

Mayoyao Rice Terraces

The road continues downhill and sweeps around in a curve bringing you past some small convenience stores and people doing errands. At one point you note a local fixing a tire. Back home, fixing a tire at home typically involves a small patch kit with glue. You are transfixed by the method here. He has a clamp set over the hole and uses fire for the repair. You stand and watch for a bit and then carry on.

“Are you heading to the stone?” one local asks, referencing the locally famous Lumogig Stone.

“No, what is that?” you respond.

“It is a stone of good luck that is propped up in the air by three small stones.”

Balangbang Fixing Tire Philippines

You ask for the rough directions and carry forward. Having walked quite a ways, and reaching a large expanse blackened from the fires of clear cutting, you turn back around. It seems you are heading away from Mayoyao. The further you go, the more it becomes obvious there is no circular route that will bring you back.

As you get back into Balangbang, the small village outside of the main center of Mayoyao, the same local who had given you directions asks if you found it. “No,” you reply. He doubles down with directions and notes you really must see the stone.

You thank him for his time and head back around, this time finding the unmarked turn. You pass through some properties, with dogs, chickens and children watching the stranger. You enter some shrubs and continue along a footpath. This reaches a house.

“The stone?” you ask the bewildered man on whose property you stand, probably also looking bewildered.

He drops his axe and waves you along, past some overgrown brush and descending in elevation. He points the direction and you thank him for his assistance. A couple minutes later, you arrive at the Lumogig Stone. Without any stories of mythical magic, you only see a pile of stones which got caught up in a precarious way in the middle of a small river. At some point, the smaller stones will give way and the larger stone will topple. Apparently, this could bring bad luck to the village but outside of the myths, it will be a worthless event.

You pass through the cold waters—probably, due to it being downstream of Mayoyao, laden with fertilizer, animal runoff and household waste—and get to the other side. This is where you become quite happy that you went looking for the stone because the other side is a giant green, lush maze perfect for exploration. This would be the Mayoyao Rice Terraces, the whole reason you came to Mayoyao.

Path through Mayoyao Terraces

As you climb some stairs made from stone, three children run past you ready to go swimming. It would be a great place to grow up. It looks like it comes out of a Lord of the Rings chapter.

You walk along stone walkways with bubbling water spitting past, up the stone stairways, around the unique triangle–shaped buildings, out of reach of angry dogs, within reach of lazy dogs and down half–broken bridges that were battered by a previous cyclone.

Having had your fill, you decide to head back to Mayoyao but don’t want to go back through Balangbang. You figure that the Mayoyao Rice Terraces must have some connection to Mayoyao proper. However, because you are downstream and at a lower elevation, you surmise you must climb upwards at some point. And because you had spied a road that approaches Mayoyao when you had gotten to that burned out area previously, you decide to follow some stairs that run up through the wooded hillside. Surely, the stairs must lead to the road.

TripHash-[0483-5807]-Mayoyao-Hillside-Philippines

You climb the stairs leaving the greenery behind you, or at least trading one form of greenery, the rice, for another, the unkempt vegetation of the forest. At times the stairs fork and you make a decision based on how well worn they are, or how steep they are or a host of other things.

Two school girls end up behind you and you let them pass. They become, for all intents, your guides even though they are probably going somewhere completely different. When they trail off giggling into some house, you continue onwards until you find yourself at a dead-end—a house.

You awkwardly shuffle around the property trying to remain unnoticed but realizing there is little change of such. You scan around looking for more stairs but there are none to be found. A man comes out of the nearby house and points to the corner, wherein there are more stairs heading upwards yet well concealed to the untrained eye. You wave to him.

The brush is now quite unruly and adding interesting and fun elements such as thorn bushes. And, to make things more exciting, black clouds are rolling in. If yesterday is any warning, the rain will not help at all in keeping you dry for more than a second. Yet, you are now steadfast in your plan to find this road and get back to town.

To turn around now would seem to be a rather ridiculous notion. You’d have to wander down all the stairs, through the maze of the Mayayao rice terraces, past the silly stone, through Balangbang and up the road to Mayoyao. So, you forage on.

Not surprisingly, the stone steps cease, and this time, they really do cease. The footpaths are also pretty much non-existent. Quite likely, there are pathways from the rice village to the road but that is not where you stand. You bushwhack forward, hoping for the sound of cars, hoping against the sound of thunder.

Eventually you reach a well-defined path where you can take a left (which you believe would send you in the direction of Mayoyao, as the crow flies) or right. You head left, but it quickly starts heading downhill. There is no way this leads to the road or to Mayoyao if it heads downwards, so you turn around and head the other direction.

Eventually you find a dirt road. You pass a lookout point with a sign, you pass an abandoned cable car line and, the best sighting yet, is the two motorbikes parked in the bushes. Motorbikes and roads are typically reasonably good friends in these parts so you hope the road is near.

You are almost back into town, when you decide to stop in a roadside stand. Since the morning you have eaten and drank nothing and it is now late afternoon. You ask for a cold Coca-Cola. The condensation glistens off the small glass bottle. You walk over to some wooden crates and make a seat while watching the Sunday crowd come and go.

“You shouldn’t drink that,” a customer who has just walked in notes. “Sugar isn’t good for you.” She smiles and suggests drinking water.

You nod at her and smile back. It is very infrequent that you drink soda and now it is a treat. It is also a great feeling having thirst and hunger quenched simultaneously after a long hike. You let her leave the store and return the bottle to the shopkeeper. “I’ll have a Sprite,” you ask. The shopkeeper finds it amusing.

TripHash-[0495-5821]-Pig-Mayoyao-Philippines

You walk past the typical weekend town activity, a man walking a pig, children playing in a large waterfall (this one probably being the upstream source of where the “Stone” is) and late church services letting out.

You grasp the door handle, rotate it 90 degrees, walk a couple paces and flop onto the bed. Circuitous journeys are often fun, especially when they involve the diversity of scenes you just witnessed. From Mayoyao to Balangbang and back to Mayoyao without retracing steps; dry, alive, somewhat nourished and in good health. This is travel.

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Tak

New York, NY
Internationally-published photographer with a passion for creative food, fine products, unique cultures and underground music. Twitter / Instagram / Email

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