Mayoyao Rice Terraces

With its scenic long and winding roads, the Cordilleras has arguably the highest and most challenging highways to drive around. The experience is double the fun and when you travel on two wheels around the mountain region’s roads less traveled whose mesmerizing sceneries and high altitude will literally take your breath away.

Motorcycling has literally taken greater heights with the recently concluded Moto Caravan and Heritage Discovery which rode through an epic 224-km rocky mountain ride which cut across eight pit stops, six towns and three provinces.

A partnership of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the event had eight pit stops along scenic spots where riders admired the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and interacted with the locals.

DOT regional director Jovita Ganongan (center) and organizers at the Moto Caravan starting point at Banaue Hotel.

Pit Stop 1: Banaue. The exciting ride commenced at the Banaue Hotel which is tucked within the iconic Rice Terraces in this tourist town in Ifugao province. Coming from all over Luzon, some 100 riders were treated the night before with the traditional dinner show which showcases the age-old indigenous culture through song and dance.

After the ceremonial banging of the gong by DOT regional director Jovita Ganongan, the riders rolled off and pulled over at Bangaan and Ducligan villages which had equally impressive rice terraces away from the usual viewpoints. The road warriors were clustered into several groups and escorted with police and rescue vehicles to ensure a safe journey even as they pursued their daily dose of adrenaline.

Birdwatching Site in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao overlooking Magat and Maris Dams.

Pit Stop 2: Mayoyao. After about an about hour of twists and turns, the riders got a snack break at the Mt. Nagchajan Viewpoint, a municipal park which has a commanding vista of the town’s own unique terraces formation. The mountain-top view deck also has a monument which marks the victory of Filipino freedom fighters against Japan which helped end World War II in the country in 1945.

Pit Stop 3: Aguinaldo. Some 25 kms of travel brought the group to this quiet interior town and were warmly welcomed for a coffee break and an obligatory photo at the municipal landmark along the highway. The town was named after Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who is said to have passed by the place in 1900 as he and his presidential entourage evaded the pursuing American troops.

Riders at a scenic curve in Paracelis, Mountain Province.

Pit Stop 4: Alfonso Lista. This lowland town in Ifugao is one of the Cordillera’s best-kept secrets, but is a promising haven for outdoor lovers. Tucked in the inland barangay of Sto. Domingo is the Birdwatching Site which is overlooking the Magat and Maris Dams in neighboring Isabela province. The wetland ecosystem takes pride with its 24 species of endemic birds whose routine flights are daily spectacles at sunrise and sundown.

The town is also home to the 1,000 Steps Eco Park which offers a commanding view of a good portion of the Cagayan Valley and the foothills of the Cordillera ranges.

Kept full by two previous native snacks, the riders were hosted to a hearty lunch by the municipal and barangay local governments for more energy along the sojourn.

Pit Stop 5: Paracelis. The boundary to Mountain Province from the lowlands, this town is the gateway to adventure in the highland region. The under-the-radar place has challenging curves where riders displayed their banking skills. The group paused for yet another merienda beside the perfectly contoured hill at a bend in Brgy. Baccarri.

Enduro trail at TRAAK in Tabuk City.

Pit Stop 6: Tabuk. This capital city of Kalinga province was the fitting endpoint to the monumental day-long ride. The second city in the Cordillera, this is an emerging urban, commercial and tourism hub in the highlands since attaining cityhood in 2007.

Known for the Chico River whitewater kayaking since the 1990s, Tabuk is a haven for lovers of culture, nature and adventure with its diverse attractions. The city is also seeing the emergence of farm tourism sites, mostly upland coffee plantations which riders will definitely catch the fancy of riders who look for their daily dose of caffeine.

A new must-see is The Ranch ATV Adventures Kalinga (TRAAK) located in the city’s hilly outskirts. A sprawling cattle farm with an undulating contour, the place is a must-go for a thrilling and scenic all-terrain vehicle ride, and outdoor activities such as camping, kayaking at the lake, and enduro trail riding.

The ranch is also being groomed as the site for culinary tours of heirloom dishes which the DOT is also pushing with its Mountain Cookout series across the Cordilleras.

With food, farm and fun with friends, a rocky mountain ride has indeed been brought to new heights.