Banue is one of the 10 municipalities of Ifugao, and it is an access point to see the many other rice terraces popular to local and international tourists. Above sea level, it sits more than 1000 meters. I found myself amazed in the grandeur of its beautiful terraces, having seen some of it at summertime this year.
Ifugao is bordered by Benguet Province in the West, the Mountain Province in the North, Isabela in the West and Nueva Viscaya in the South. It is a mountainous region most popular for how the early Filipinos known as Igorots developed agricultural lands on the slopes of the region’s mountains.
The people of Ifugao are soft spoken, amiable and hospitable. They do speak English very well. Their livelihood is definitely farming, others are into wood carving and weaving, and some others into mining. Most of the people I’ve met and seen are a little shorter than me, and I got to feel more comfortable with my brown skin, as most of them have it. Most men, both old and young are munching momma, which leaves the red stain in their teeth and lips.
I was hoping to see the natives in thier traditional clothes. The luck I got was only with those women who sit at viewpoint for some money they could get for those who would take pictures with them. I was informed by a chiftain in Batad that they only clod those clothes on special community or village events.
The staple food there is rice which goes with meat (pork or chicken) and vegetables. Fresh water fish may be available but rare, cathces from the sea come from other provinces. Most hotels and restaurants serve continental meals. What surprised me in my visit there was the rice mixes served in Batad. The meal mixes fried rice with the viand and served in a platter.
Going to Banaue brings pride to a Filipino as it also refreshes one from the stress and burn out of work and life in the city. The terraces are an amazing beauty to see, which makes one wonder how they were built to last to thousands of years. The climate is cold and the air is fresh, which rejuvinates the soul. Layback, the place is a sanctuary to let the spirit wander freely.
Up Close with a World Heritage
The trip is indeed long and winding, zigzagging at the most. But, a trip to Banue is worhtwhile experience that you will always remember. To see the grandeur of the terraces built for hundreds of years which lasted until now makes me proud of my Filipino heritage.
No wonder, that several of the terraces in Ifugao have been recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage Foundation. The terraces should be considered as one of the Ancient Wonders of the World, for agricultural advancement. For one, Batad terraces need rehabilation as it has been devastated by typhoons that erroded most of its areas. This is used to be the grand stairway that reaches to the sky when viewed from the bottom. From here, Tapia falls is a 30-45 minute trek down.
One native from Bontoc told me how our ancestors built those terraces made of stones and mud. It was a product of community collaboration – the bayanihan of the earlier Filipinos, and not through slavery, where the monarchs of ancient civilizations coerced people to have their architectural oeuvre materialize.
Accordingly, the men of Ifugao would set fire on the stony mountains in the region, and sit there through the night until the stones break in pieces. They would carry the stones and put them as ridges protecting the soil. This process went on and on until they have carved the mountain sides to be ready for planting rice. The terraces would reach up to the peak of a mountain as they believe that the rice is gift from the heaven, and every planting and harvest is also offered to the heavens.
Even the geometric patterns of the terraces follow the mountain terrains. There is also diversity in the design. In some areas the terraces are wide and high, in some others they are narrow and low. In my trip to Banaue, I came up close to seeing the terraces of Batad, Hapao, Hingyon and that of Banue.
Aside from the terraces, there are other things to see in Ifugao, the villages, the rivers and the waterfalls. Tapia falls is in Batad, but we missed to see, because we lacked time and we did not have the strength to continue the trail. Trekking to Batad from the viewpoint took us more than two hours, which for the locals take 30 minutes.
One can also try the local luge, in Banue. That is a bicyle made of wood in every part of it. But the ride can only be taken downhill. You will have to push the bike up to make it running again, as it moves only by the pull of gravity.
Going to Banuae
Banaue is more developed than the other places in Ifugao. The roads going to Banue are accessible and paved, and the government monitors the roads for any blockage or landslides regularly. It accessible from its borders by road:
- From the south, visitors from Manila can take the buses like Florida and Autobus, but only Ohayami has official franchise from LTO to ply Manila-Banaue Route. Autobus passes Banaue to get to Bontoc. The trip from Manila to Banue, more or less takes nine hours, and they are mostly night trips.
- From Mountain Province, Banue is accessible via Bontoc. Those coming from Benguet via Baguio City, takes the Halsema highway via Bontoc as well. This trip takes 6-7 hours (5 hours from Baguio to Bontoc and 2 hours from Bontoc).
- From the West, commuting from Baguio to Banue is longer if travelling lowland, because this will have to pass through La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Viscaya. Upland, passing the Ambuclao dam from Baguio, taking the Benguet-Nueva Viscaya road is shorter and stops at Aritao or Solano which can take you up to Banue. Several transfers are necessary lest you have private transport.
- From the East, buses from Santiago and Quirino can take you to Bagabag or Solano which provide access roads going up to Banaue. From here, the commute takes more or less two hours.