Up North: Maharlika & Halsema: Kalinga-Ifugao-Mt.Province-Benguet. 1141 km. Solo Ride

What better road to break in your new bike, than the one up in the mountains so I decided to tour the Cordilleras, and traverse the very beautiful Maharlika and the scenic Halsema highway. When I did my Solo North Loop last year, it was a different experience altogether, so this time, to make it different, I wanted to visit the beautiful provinces, at the middle of the map, Kalinga Province in particular.

I didn’t know what to expect, which made it even more interesting for me.

Some pictures.

From Manila up to San Jose, Nueva Ecija, it was quite a boring 3 hour ride. Had my breakfast in Cabanatuan then proceeded straight to San Jose. After San Jose, that’s when the experience starts. Beautiful mountains both on your sides.

Just outside San Jose.

Region 2 tower in Nueva Vizcaya. Monument to give tribute to our Chinese comrades in WWII

Had my first gas stop in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya (after 304 kms).

A sample of one of the road accidents I encountered… this one’s just after Solano.


Reached Santiago, Isabela at about 4 PM so that gives me 2 hours before sundown. I wanted to reach Tabuk, Kalinga with the sun still up because I actually do not know how is it travelling there at night, with all the stories that we hear in the news about that province. Was on full throttle for almost two hours when I reached the town of Quezon in Isabela, a couple of kilometers before the left turn going up to Tabuk.

There were alternating police and military checkpoints every 5 kilometers going to Tabuk. I’m not surprised why.

While I was travelling in pitch black (headlights on of course, I know) there were a lot of animals on the road. It was hard to drive like this, add the fact that you are going up in zigzags. This was probably the only city I’ve been to which had a lot free roaming animals on the main highway – cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, cows, goats, etc. Dmax gave me the warning not to hit any animals on the road, or else…

Upon arrival, one would see a big white Carabao in the middle of the road, signalling your arrival in Tabuk, Kalinga.

Immediately asked for directions from a tricycle driver on how to get to Davidson Hotel. I did not make any reservations, so thank God there were vacancies. 1100 Php per night.

Took a bath then proceeded to their Coffee Shop/Restaurant to chill out and rest.

They are selling Musang Coffee in this place.

This is what I had for my late dinner. Ilocanong Pinakbet with rice. The hotel staff were kind enough to give me a complimentary extra rice, on the house. They said the viand was good for 4, and true enough, I was not able to finish it all, inspite of my hunger for the past 6 hours.

Being almost the only vehicle on the road for the past hour, a lot of fireflies have died by attacking my helmet.


Is this part of the Chico River? I’m not sure.

Huge Christmas tree at the middle of the road welcoming you to Kalinga. Kalabaw taking shade under the tree.

St. William’s Cathedral in Tabuk, Kalinga. Very nice place.

Selling live chickens at the side of the road, a common sight.

The Hotel where I stayed. Great service, and very clean. Would recommend this to fellow travelers.

Piglet and Chickens sharing a meal. Very sweet.

Truly a scenic ride. It’s hard to imagine first timers not appreciating the views here. This picture does not do the sight here any justice. You have to see it for yourself and appreciate beauty.

Had my pic taken the next day since I arrived at night. Thank you Kalinga, I’ll definitely comeback, maybe for the Whitewater rafting in Chico River next time.

Left Kalinga around 10 am since I knew this was going to be a relatively easier ride. Yesterday’s ride was 480 kms. Today will be “only” 250 kms. Arrived at Cordon, Isabela for a late lunch. Then off to Bagabag. I thought the time allowance was still good since Banawe and Bontoc isn’t that far away. I forgot to calculate that my max speed would be only around 30-40 kph since the mountain curves would be dangerous.

My “high-tech” GPS holder. It’s called masking tape. It says only 119 kms left until Bontoc. Didn’t know it would take longer than expected.

Nice view in Lagawe, Ifugao.

Smiling locals with the Banawe Rice Terraces on the background.

The so-called 8th Wonder of the World

It’s already 5 pm and I’m still in Banawe. One resident there advised that I should rest for the night. Since Bontoc was only about 30+ kms, I still proceeded and went on towards Bontoc. I should have heeded the local’s advise. I never expected that for the next 30 kms, most of the roads would be like this, alone, at night.

Yes, this is the highway.


At 5:30 pm, was going slow on a turn however I did not notice a big patch of mud in the middle of the road, I slid onto the other side. My first crash on this bike, but thank God there were no other vehicles on the road. The spill caused me an additional 30 minutes to get my bearings together. If you could just imagine how dirty I was when I boarded my bike again. Good thing my bike still started or else I would not know what to do.

Here’s a picture of the bike while I was composing myself. The skid marks were made by yours truly.

For the next 20+ kms, the road would be like this, with sporadic appearances of concrete roads, but most of the time, it’s muddy or rough. Was very scared that time due to the fact that there were no other vehicles on the road, your mind would actually try to play tricks on you…what if some guy with a gun suddenly pops out of nowhere? Thank God I’m safe and arrived in Bontoc at way past 7 pm.

Overlooking the town of Bontoc, Mountain Province.

The Bontoc Museum.

Probably dead carabaos…

Chicken staring at the Bontoc Town Hall


a lot more traveling. that’s okay, I’ll just enjoy the great scenery.

I like the background here. Stopped for several minutes to rest a bit and for photo ops. Not one vehicle passed.

little kids going up to Mt. Data Hotel

A very tiring trip, I guess it’s okay to indulge. This is my breakfast on my 3rd day of riding. This was in Mt. Data Hotel

The hotel looks very old. They have a picture of a young Gloria Macapagal in 1962 inside.

My first time in Mt. Data Hotel


Pictures of Mt. Province treasures in Mt. Data Hotel

Mountain Province – Benguet boundary

Refreshing sight, I don’t wanna go back to Manila.

My favorite spot in the North, been here several times. This place still never ceases to amaze me. Will come back again for that cup of coffee.

Live Free…

– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of https://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.

Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider

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