Mayoyao: Beyond the Breathtaking Landscapes

March 03, 2024

During our recent four-day exploration of Mayoyao, we went beyond the typical tourist experience, embarking on an immersive journey that delved into the heart of the community. 


Facilitated by the Tourism Promotions Board and Mayoyao Tourism as part of their Community-Based Tourism (CBT) program, our tour surpassed the mere showcasing of awe-inspiring attractions; it immersed us in captivating stories encompassing legends, history, and other narratives that reflected the town's rich cultural heritage and historical significance.


Mayoyao is located north of Banaue in Ifugao, approximately 381 kilometers north of Manila. Accessible through either Banaue or Alfonso Lista, both routes offer scenic views.


Renowned for its rice terraces, Mayoyao is part of the five clusters constituting the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other four clusters include the Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces in Banaue, the Hungduan Rice Terraces in Hungduan, and the Nagacadan Rice Terraces in Kiangan.


Mayoyao's Waterfall Wonders: Tenogtog and A'Pfaw Mahencha


We explored two enchanting waterfalls in Mayoyao - Tenogtog and A'Pfaw Mahencha. Both cascading wonders captivate the eyes and weave tales of cultural significance.


Tenogtog Falls, nestled in the barangay of Mapawoy, is a picturesque three-tiered cascade with crystal-clear pools surrounded by lush greenery. Our guide, Leandro, shared the legend of Tenogtog, which means "tinadtad" or chopped. This area served as a hunting ground where hunters gathered to chop and share their bounty.


Another captivating waterfall, A’Pfaw Mahencha Falls, reveals a tale of romance and mystery. The ethereal cascade recounts the story of Mahencha, a woman who courageously leaped into the water to retrieve her lost amber necklace while bathing. 


A’pfaw Mahencha Falls is located in Barangay Chumang. It takes 536 steps down a steep yet scenic mountain trail to reach this falls. Like Tenogtog, it has well-maintained facilities, making the outing more convenient for tourists.


Stories from Mayoyao’s Viewdecks: Khohang and Nagchajan


On our visit to Mayoyao's viewdecks – Khohang and Nagchajan, town historian Robert Bongayan regaled us with incredible stories. 


At Khohang Viewdeck, we listened to the Legend of Akhinnaja. Seated on a swing overlooking the vast mountains, Robert shared this captivating tale. The swing, akin to the one crafted by a fairy rat named Pfu’pfu’-at for Akhinnaja, added a touch of enchantment to the storytelling experience.


Akhinnaja, a beautiful girl, captured the attention of the fairy rat named Pfu’pfu’-at, who was enchanted by her beauty. Persistent in his invitations, he urged her to ride on his back and explore, a proposition she initially hesitated to accept due to the rat's furry back. Akhinnaja eventually agrees. 


Eager to please Akhinnaja, Pfu’pfu’-at provided her with everything she desired. Sensing her loneliness, he constructed a swing for her entertainment. As she swung, she caught glimpses of her parents working in the rice fields from a distance. Thus began the tale of Akhinnaja.


At Nagchajan Viewdeck, which provides a mesmerizing panorama of the Mayoyao Rice Terraces, our visit was a blend of history and culture. 


In the core of the Nagchajan Viewdeck stands a memorial to Mayoyao's significant chapter in World War II. Robert narrated this to us: the Battle of Mayoyao Ridge, fought between Japanese Imperial forces and Filipino-American soldiers, was a crucial moment leading to General Yamashita's surrender at Kiangan, Ifugao.


After recounting Mayoyao’s history, community members treated us to vibrant and captivating dances, providing a glimpse into the lives of the Ifugaos as ceremonious people who fill the year with celebrations according to the agricultural calendar.


Stories Carved in Stone: Mayoyao Rice Terraces and Apfo’or Burial Tomb


The people of Mayoyao have remarkable skill in stonecraft. As we explored Banhal and Mayoyao Central Rice Terraces, essential components of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mayoyao cluster, we uncovered tales that influenced this marvel. 

Banhal Rice Terraces


Mayoyao Central Rice Terraces

Mayoyao has the Cordillera's most expansive stonewalled rice terraces, meticulously constructed by its ancestors using essential tools for survival and emphasizing sustenance over subjugation. 


As per Robert, the practicality of rice fields transcends aesthetics. Their ancestors, foreseeing the challenges of chasing deer and wild pigs in old age, believed that cultivating more rice fields ensured a reliable and abundant food source. Thus, beyond its beauty, these terraces are legacy for Mayoyao natives—passed down from their forefathers, who sculpted the mountains to establish a sustainable food source for future generations.


True enough, these terraces are still in use today, and during our visit, we saw men preparing their fields for the upcoming planting season. 


Our journey across villages also introduced us to traditional houses and granaries perched atop the ancient stone walls. Traditional Mayoyao houses follow a three-level design: socializing on the ground level, sleeping on the second, and storage on the upper level. The posts are made from the sturdiest Philippine hardwood called Molave.


The use of these woods, which are not native to Mayoyao, goes beyond construction; it symbolizes status. These materials, along with their carefully paved stone yards, serve not just for looks but also as a necessity. Without a narra house and a well-paved yard, one's voice might be unheard during gatherings, as Mayoyao locals attribute significance to these features.


Another distinctive feature of the Mayoyao terraces is the dispersed arrangement of houses, unlike the clustered structures seen in other terraces. Robert explained that this intentional spacing serves as a defense strategy. While neighboring terraces grouped houses for defense, Mayoyao strategically places them farther apart to minimize damages in case of attacks.


The stonewall method employed in crafting the Ifugao rice terraces was also utilized in constructing the Apfo’or Burial Tomb. This unique death practice is specific to Mayoyao, and one can be found on top of Ottong Hill, near Mayoyao Hotel, where some of the CBT participants were billeted.


Visit now!


Mayoyao has yet to reveal more stories. It's not just a place to visit; it's a living tale awaiting exploration. Plan your journey today and uncover the hidden gems that make Mayoyao an exceptional destination in the Cordillera.

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