#058: The Road to Mayayao (Philippines)Tak's dispatch released on 26 January 2016

Breakfast Overlooking Batad Rice Terraces

A fluffy, egg served over a bed of white rice. If this were New York, Paris or Tokyo, they could’ve noted— next to some obscene number—“cage-free organic humanely-raised chicken eggs over locally hand-picked rice from down there” with an area pointing down the building-pocked hillside. But here, it’s just breakfast.

The day before you had spoken to one of the handful of villagers who invariably ask about your plans, hoping to score a gig as a tour guide. “I’m planning on going to Mayayao,” you responded, when the constant question arose which probed tomorrow’s plan. “How do you suggest I reach Mayoyao? A dirt bike? A bus?”…but before that, you ask “How is Mayayao, is it worth visiting?”

You have learned quite quickly that—forget New York, Paris and Tokyo—most locals have not even seen towns down the road. For Batad, almost everyone had been to Bananue, the main “city” to the village, but ask about anything else, including the capital of their own country, and you get either blank stares or, more frequently, a several lines about what they heard it was like. This is precisely the feedback received when querying concerning Mayayao.

The breakfast is put to good use as you climb back out of the village. The climb out is mostly uphill, back through the trees and bushes and long grasses, over the rocks and past the several wooden shelters. You are blocked momentarily by a giant bull feeding on the overgrown grass, his handler out of sight just around the bend.

You get to the pre-arranged meeting point for the dirt bike, adjacent to a temporary house standing at the road construction’s edge. You surmise it to be an abode for road workers. Peering inside the open doorway you see a mother and her young child. The child is swatting at something in her hair. The mother picks out a giant roach, shows it to her and smiles. She takes her daughters hand and has her pet the roach while she holds it near, as if a family pet. She then places it on her daughter’s arm to crawl; her daughter watching intently and starting to smile. By the end of the sequence, the child has broken into laughter as her mother places it back into her hair.

You think about the wisdom of this. If you are going to grow up in a place, it is best to adjust to the surroundings rather than expend so much energy creating a war against it. The child, as an adult, will retain composure when spotting the insects, maintaining a level head and making proper decisions. To the average Western parent, the exchange with the roach would be looked at in horror, but it seems so prudent as you stand there in the elevating temperatures waiting for your connection.


The road starts out dusty and hard as you get up to the saddle and then down to the junction. Pavement is a luxury which comes and goes, but before long, the roads are all dirt—if you are lucky. The rains the previous nights have created deep mud in the low spots and as the dirt bike hums along, you are able to dodge the worst of the mess. Dirt bikes seem so well suited in this terrain, able to nimbly create paths through most any circumstance.

Bangaan Rice Terraces, Philippines

You pass the Bangaan Rice Terraces and village, stopping for a quick view. The road passes through a couple different villages, drawing smiles, waves and confused looks simultaneous to their noticing the unaccustomed out-of-towner breezing by.

The scenery is quite impressive, with giant green mountains, various rice terraces and villages intermixing. At times, the sheer drop-off to the base of whatever mountain you are rounding is an arms-length away, no guardrails to prevent the experience.

More concerning would be the amount of mudslides you are passing. Giant chunks of land that have decided to come a few levels down and block the road. You realize the road you are on is also a giant chunk of land, and when you put two and two together, you find another problem. Many of the areas next to the road have been stripped of vegetation. Thus you find you could have two problems. The first is if the hillside above you sloshes down at the inopportune time. The second is if the hillside you are currently on sloshes down that sheer drop-off. The motorbike hums along.


You pass the occasional bus, or vehicle, jammed with passengers. You aren’t sure if being on the inside or outside is the better place. Inside you might get a seat. Outside you get fresh air. If the road were to dissolve…you try not to think too much about that. Fortunately, it isn’t raining at the moment and the sun is drying out the hillsides.

After several hours, you pull into Mayoyao. There is a distinct square in the town center lined by various shops and markets. You ask around for a place to stay and are told there are three options. The first seems run-down but right near the center. The second looks absolutely perfect with an outdoor balcony and a breeze running up the hillside but no one is home. Further efforts find that it is under renovation for the time being. The third is set down a hill, closer to the rice terraces in fact, and run by a sharp woman.

You’ve arrived in Mayayao.

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

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