Where can we find the longest rice terraces in the Philippines? You might eventually say, “It’s in Banaue, Ifugao!” Nope. It is actually found in a remote municipality called Natonin.
Natonin is located in eastern Mountain Province. It is one of the hardest to reach due to rugged road conditions and mountainous terrains. It is only then that road improvement is almost in full swing.
From a bird’s eye view, Natonin looks like a bowl of rice terraces, surrounded with towering peaks. These peaks feed numerous brooks and streams leading to the Siffu River. The abundance of water and fertile soil makes Natonin a hub for heirloom rice production.
Unknown to many due to its remoteness, Natonin offers an array of ecotourism attractions. Many of these are yet to be established as such. If you are planning to explore Natonin, you will definitely be a pioneer.
How to Get to Natonin
Manila to Bontoc. If you are coming from Manila, ride a Coda Lines bus. This is the only bus heading straight to Bontoc, the primary jump-off point to Natonin. Time of departures are 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm. Reminder, they do online booking. If you don’t want to miss out seats, book in advance. Or go to the station as early as 5:00 pm to grab a ticket for reservation. For more information, click on their website here. From Manila to Bontoc, the trip takes 10- 11 hours.
Baguio to Bontoc. If you are coming from Baguio, there are two options. First, you can ride GL buses. These park at Dangwa Terminal (back of Center Mall). Times of departures are 7:30 am, 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:30 pm, and 2:30 pm. Second, you can ride Rising Sun buses (stationed at Slaughter Compound, Magsaysay). They have bus schedules from 4 am to 4 pm.
Bontoc to Natonin. There is only one scheduled trip bound to Natonin regularly. The mode of transport could either be a jeep or a mini-bus. These station alongside All Saints Cathedral. Time of departure is 10:00 am. It is advisable, however, to be at the station at least an hour before the departure for reservation purposes. From Bontoc, it takes 6 hours to reach Poblacion, Natonin. Poblacion is the town center.
Behold Natonin’s Grand Terraces
Rice terraces are the foremost attraction found in Natonin. Among these are Apatan rice terraces, Lamayen Rice Terraces, and Tonglayan Rice Terraces. As I’ve hinted earlier, these collectively form the most extensive rice terraces in the country. But such spectacular feature is relatively unknown in the mainstream tourism.
If you are traversing the Bontoc-Barlig-Natonin-Paracelis road, you will be passing by these terraces from the first barangay of Natonin all the way to Poblacion. High-rise mountains give an imposing backdrop to these terraces. Unlike those found in Banaue and Maligcong, Bontoc, the rice terraces of Natonin are built on rolling and gentle slopes.
Mount To-or provides one of the best views of these terraces from east to west. This is actually a small and forested hill in the middle of rice terraces. Before, Mt. To-or is owned by a clan for generations. However, it has become a communal spot. Resembling the shape of a turtle, Mt. To-or also offers a vantage view of the lower barangays of Natonin. There is a shade constructed atop it. From the road, it takes around 20-30 minutes of hike to reach Mt. To-or’s zenith.
A Promising Hiking Destination
Majestic mountains surround Natonin. These are potential for mountaineering activities.
Mt. Binaratan is the most locally-popular mountain in Natonin. Dubbed as the, “Silent Mountain,” this towering peak is part of the ancestral domains of barangay Maducayan. From the said barangay, one needs to hike for five to six hours to reach its summit. The trail is rustic and ecologically diverse. You will be passing across dipterocarp forests. Giant trees can be found on the lower slopes. As you go higher, mossy forests will greet you with invigorating breeze.
While at the peak and during good weather conditions, you can see a panoramic view of the forest-covered mountains of Barlig and Kalinga province. The famed “Sleeping Beauty” Tinglayan can also be seen at the top. Read more about Mt Binaratan here and find out why it is dubbed as the “Silent Mountain.”
Mt. Patiking is also a popular destination among the locals. Atop this mountain is a big boulder. It resembles the head of an elephant, and thus, the zenith of Patiking is called the, “Elephant Head.” Standing on this boulder, one can also see the extensive rice terraces and different barangays of Natonin. This also offers a stunning view of the Siffu River as it snakes its way among the mountains. It is best to come here early morning to catch a glimpse of the spectacular sunrise. From the national road at sitio Purag of barangay Banao, it takes 45 minutes of hike to get here.
Chasing waterfalls in Natonin
The surrounding mountains of Natonin naturally-created many waterfalls. Many of these are yet to be named or explored. Many of the most beautiful ones can be found on far-flung locations, some of which would take a day or more of hike. Only a few hunters are able to glimpse of such hidden wonders. However, just along the national highway, several cascades and rapids can be found.
One of these is Naropaan falls, located in barangay Sta. Isabel. It can be reached via a 5-minutes’ walk down from the road. It measures 45 feet high and has a little pool at the base. Like heavenly drizzles, the cascading waters provide a natural massage and invigorating relief to the body.
Letalet waterfall, on the other hand, is in barangay Banawel. From the road, it takes just a few minutes of hike to reach it. Letalet falls measures around 30 feet high. It has a naturally-built pool with icy-cold and crystal-clear waters. Beautiful and pristine forests surround the Letalet falls. Orchids, vines, and different bird species abound in the area, making it a perfect place for those seeking solitude and meditation.
Extra-Sights to See in Natonin
Living Stone (Laken). A mystic stone located along the Siffu River at sitio Balanga. According to the locals, the stone was originally small (lagan) and slowly, it grew, making them wonder.
Vuyon Salt Spring. Located along the Maducayan River, this spring emerges from a rock opening and has a salty taste. Oftentimes, crabs gather on the spring for unknown reasons. There is an interesting story about this, however, I would not like to spoil your excitement. I’ll leave it to the locals to share it to you. To get here, one needs to hike for about an hour from barangay Saliok.
Where to Stay in Natonin?
There are only two operating lodging houses in Natonin. These are found at Poblacion.
Cola Lodging > 200/night/person; has four rooms
- Contact person is Mr. Colalading (09989866891)
Ayungo’s Residence > 100/night/room; 150/night/room if kitchen will be used
- There are 3 rooms (each good for two pax)
If these lodging houses are filled to capacity, coordinate with the local tourism for them to recommend accommodation.
Some Important Reminders
- Tourism is not yet fully-established in Natonin. There are no organized tour groups and packages. That is why, proceed immediately or coordinate with the Tourism Office of Natonin. It will be up to them to recommend local guides.
- In some barangays, the coverage of Smart and Globe is either weak or absent. It is only in Poblacion, Natonin where there is a strong network connection.
- Respect local culture. Refrain from utterances and acts which are offensive to the community. Among these include wearing of mini-shorts and public display of affection (PDA).
For your Information:
If you need further information that may help in setting up your itinerary, simply ask them on the comment section below. You can also message us on our facebook page namely, Daniel’s Eco-Travels. I will be more than glad and willing to answer them whenever I can:)
NOTE: This is a work in progress. I will be posting additional information and pictures when I come back to Natonin. If you are from Natonin, you can contribute relevant details and photos by posting them on the comment section below.