CAR – Cordillera Autonomous Region

From the Central Cordillera Mountain Range, the largest in the Philippines, six provinces and one chartered city make up the Cordillera Administrative Region—Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Baguio City.

Here, a whole other culture, or shall we say a set of cultures, awaits. From Benguet’s Kankanaey to the Ifugao and Kalinga to the Isneg in Apayao, the ethnic groups here are distinct. Each town has its own language or dialect.

Baguio is the main entry point to the region, and was made famous by the American colonizers who built this city in the early 1900’s, in the Ibaloi settlement of Kafagway.  Today, the city is on everyone’s summer itinerary, making it the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”

Interested in unconventional cultural artifacts? Check out Banaue and Kiangan to view the payo or rice terraces. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the five clusters of sculpted rice fields are just a few of the types of terraces you can explore in the Cordillera region.

Nearby is Sagada in Mountain Province. Famous for its hanging coffins and limestone caves, this town is a must destination for backpackers.  Photographer Masferre’s Sagada may be a thing of the past, and gone are the days of wearing the falaka (bachelor’s basket hat) and akosan (shell belt bag), but the town retains a highland culture with a dash of worldly charm.

If you’re looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush, why not white water raft?

The Chico River is 174 kilometers long, spans several provinces and offers crazy dips and turns through gorges and canyons. If you want to try and ride it, your jump-off point will be Kalinga.

The Apayao River is another destination and caters to those looking for a new rafting hotspot. While Abra, with its Libtec Underground River, is just waiting to be explored.

The highlands of the Philippines have much more to offer than just cool weather and some pine trees. Whether its nature, culture, or just the thrill of finding something new, it’s definitely worth exploring, one province at a time.