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The completion of a new road network has just opened up of the town of Hungduan and other nearby municipalities in western Ifugao province, enhancing their tourism potential.

For the uninformed, Hungduan is the location of one of five clusters of the celebrated Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, which have been declared UNESCO Heritage sites.

For decades under the shadow of the more publicized Banaue Rice Terraces, those of Hungduan are no less breathtaking, their contours said to resemble a spider web. And with the help of the Department of Tourism- Cordillera Administrative Region (DOT-CAR), the attraction is poised to have its profile raised through a recently launched series of tour packages.

Derived from the word, hungdu, meaning to proceed or pass through, Hungduan was always the main route of travelers on their way to Benguet or its capital Baguio City. The most scenic of the rice terraces are found in Hapao, Bacung and Bakkitan. Other photo-rich spots include:

• Mount Napulawan, which towers 2,642 meters above sea level, is the highest point in the area. It was also Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s last stand at the end of World War II.
• Balentimol Falls whose clear and sparkling waters flow from Mount Napulawan.

• Bogyah Hot Spring, a 40-minute hike from the National Road, can be found at the upper part of Hapao River. It offers medicinal, sulfur baths and huge boulders to sunbathe on.

• Eco Village, located at the Hungduan Town Hall, features native houses (bale), each unique and representing a different barangay in the area.

The Hungduan people have their own customs and traditions, folkways and taboos, which are the basis of all laws. They claim that the origin of their behavior and mental patterns follow the “ways of the gods”, which their ancestors taught and handed down from generation to generation. As such, almost all of their daily activities are intertwined with rites and rituals in reverence to the gods and ancestors.

To provide visitors an authentic experience of the destination, the DoT and Hungduan residents teamed up to offer a set of trekking packages of three- and two-night activities with departures from either Manila or Baguio City. Helping facilitate the tours is Esgala Travel & Tours (refer to Directory on page 54). Inclusions consist of accommodation, three meals, one bottle of mineral water per day, cultural performance, guide fee, environmental fee and snacks.

Preparation for these tourism products took over a year and much interaction between DOT executives and local stakeholders, who attended workshops in tourism awareness, tour packaging, eco-guiding and participated in dry runs as well.