I never have, in all of my years living in Cebu, never imagined that verdant and striking rice terraces exist in my own backyard. We all know that the whole province is a wonderful and diverse mishmash of wonders, but Cebu having its own version of Banaue’s iconic and dramatic paddies really never crossed my mind.
That’s why I was a little shocked when the tourism officer in Argao told us that there are rice terraces in Barangay Butong, Argao. There are even pictures of these paddies in some areas of the municipality, proving that it does exist.
And I just can’t get it out off my mind, ever since I got glimpses of its beauty. From Instagram to travel blogs, I’ve scoured almost the entire World Wide Web, to know more about it. But sadly, I didn’t get a ton of data and pictures of these rice terraces. As of this writing, the only relevant images and info available online are the ones featured on Sunstar News.
But like any curious traveler, I didn’t let the shortage of info stop me from visiting this site. I reached out to Elias – our official habal-habal driver during our spelunking adventure in “Balay sa Agta” – and asked him to guide me to the place. He, of course, agreed to take me to there, so I can finally lay my eyes on this hidden treasure.
Exploring the Rice Terraces in Barangay Butong, Argao
My solo adventure in Argao started like most leisure trips to Cebu’s southern side – a bus ride from Cebu City South Bus Terminal. I took the bus headed to Oslob, and was dropped at Argao’s bus stop. From there, I hopped on a tricycle to our meeting point, the public market.
Elias wasn’t around at that time, so I took a bathroom break and munched a biscuit. And when he came, we wasted no time, and went for a long, bumpy yet scenic ride to Barangay Butong.
I must warn you, though, the road to these rice paddies in Argao can be pretty challenging even for the passenger. The road is steep, and has plenty of twists and rough patches. I had no trouble in this route since I have, to a certain extent, mastered the art of riding a habal-habal.
There were heaps of stunning sights along the way, including tiny rice terraces, lush landscapes, eye-catching rock formations, green vegetables. The mountain breeze was very soothing too, reminding me of my past escapades in Dalaguete. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side, and I didn’t get the chance to immortalize those sights through my lens. Maybe, next time, hopefully.
After an hour of twisting, turning and balancing, we finally arrived at the site. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed when I first saw these rice terraces in Argao. But when I roamed around and viewed it from different angles, I realized it wasn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, it’s rather beautiful, big (almost as big as a football field) and has an irresistible laid-back aura.
Elias treated me to quick tour around the area, and explained a bunch of things about the rice terraces, including the natural spring (near the 100-year old balete trees) that supplies water to the paddies. I was pretty amazed by the spring since it has not dried up, despite experiencing a few El Niño episodes and droughts.
To make things even better, I got an insight of the place’s culture by having a quick chat with some of the locals in the area.
Elias also explained to me that the rice terraces would have looked a lot better and more stunning if the owners did some weeding. I can’t, however, blame the owners for not weeding and cleaning out the area. After all, these rice terraces were designed for sustainable agricultural purposes, and not for tourism. Nonetheless, it is quite a sight to behold, and an essential part of Argao’s history.
I spent a few minutes soaking up the air, and enjoying the gorgeous scenery of the place. It was truly relaxing, and a great short escape away from reality and the buzzing city life.
Afterwards, I went back to the parking area, and asked Elias to drive me to my next stop – the Coal Mountain Resort. I’d love to talk about the resort, but I guess I have to write a separate post for it. In the meantime, you can take a look at some of the images that I personally took on the resort.
Things to remember before visiting these rice paddies
- Fare to the rice terraces and Coal Mountain Resort is 100 PHP per way for every passenger, meaning you need to prepare 200 PHP for this trip. Also, take note that some habal-habal drivers won’t take you there, if you are traveling solo. You have to negotiate with the driver for the fare, if you intend to go there alone.
- I strongly suggest that you get Elias as your driver and guide to the rice terraces. Not only is he extremely friendly, knowledgeable and honest, but he is also accredited by the Argao Tourism Office. You can contact him at 0908 778 8701. Just be sure to contact him at least a couple of days prior to your preferred travel date.
- Entrance to Coal Mountain Resort is 20 PHP (swimming is not included).
- Travel time is 1 hour or more (distance from the town proper is more than 20 kilometers).
- Bring food and water, as there are no canteens and eateries near the rice terraces. The Coal Mountain Resort, however, offers drinks, snacks and full meals.
- Don’t forget to swing by Casa Real, and take pictures of its elaborate historic buildings.
- To get to Argao, just check out my Balay Sa Agta and Bugasok Falls guide.
My overall thoughts on Argao’s Rice Terraces
Is the place worth a visit? The place isn’t as spectacular and wondrous as Ifugao’s world-famous rice terraces. And frankly, I’ve seen a plethora of places that are far more beautiful than these terraced landscapes.
But as far as I’m concerned, it’s still a scenic spot with great views, and a refreshing mountain breeze. Plus, it’s secluded and free from the hordes of selfie-snappping tourists. And there’s Coal Mountain Resort as well, to make your visit even more worthwhile.
And by the way, did I mention that admission to the site is free?