Places

The View Up North: Ifugao

Ifugao boasts what is dubbed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Banaue Rice Terraces. The terraced farmlands beginning at the base of the mountain range and extending several thousand feet upwards never fail to amuse the visitors who are almost always unbelieving of the surreal beauty right infront of them. The magnificent creation is a source of Filipino pride and a proof of the creativity and resourcefulness of the ancient Igorots.

Two of the terrace clusters in Banaue, the Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Centuries ago, the Igorots have to till the land in the mountains so they can plant rice and vegetables in them. Using primitive tools and early methods, they built stone walls to separate and prevent the land from eroding. The farms were irrigated by means of mountain streams and springs that have been channeled into canals that run downhill through the rice terraces. The stone-walled rice terraces manifest the engineering skill and ingenuity of the Ifugaos.

The Banaue Rice Terraces was acknowledged as a green globe destination in the Philippines by the World Travel and Tour Council. It also received an “International Historic Engineering Landmark Award” from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

[Few years back, the Banaue Rice Terraces showed signs of deterioration caused by natural phenomena such as El Nino and earthquake. Furthermore, some Ifugao families have abandoned their land in the rice terraces because the rice variety most suited to the cool climate is not a high-yielding crop. However, the Philippine government is extending efforts to restore the beauty of the centuries-old creation.]

 

How to Get There

From Manila, Banaue is 8-9 hours ride via bus. Dangwa Bus and Autobus has daily trips to Banaue. When visiting on holidays or long weekends, make sure to reserve your ticket before the trip.

From Baguio, there are mini buses near the Rizal Park that have trips to Banaue. The trip takes up to 9 hours.

You may also opt to take connecting trips, Baguio to Sagada or Baguio to Bontoc both takes 6 hours. If you opt to take a Sagada trip, most probably you’ll have to get around the place first as Sagada is also a popular spot among tourists and backpackers. From Sagada, you can ride a jeepney going to Bontoc. It takes 30-40 minutes of literally breathtaking (if you’re on topload) ride and from Bontoc, you can take a jeepney or a bus going to Banaue which is 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours away.

 

When in the highlands, you can do activities such as mountain biking, mountain climbing and hiking. Don’t forget to try native delicacies such as Pinikpikan (chicken) and Etag (processed meat) while sipping Tapey (rice wine). 

*Published in the April – May 2012 Issue of Philippine Tourist Destinations

Places

Spotted in Sagada

Finally, we made it to Sagada. The same group that was stranded in Baguio last year due to a typhoon, has decided to conquer the mountain paradise once again, only this time there were additions to the gang. Fortunately, the Gods were with them this time, blessing them with a fair weather, enough for a whole weekend of muscle-stretching and gastronomic-satisfying activities.

Our group left for Sagada Friday night via Cable Tours bus. Initially, the plan was to get a trip to Bontoc and then get a ride from there to Sagada but the bus offered a deal to take its passengers directly to Sagada with an additional payment of course. The fare was P750, to Sagada via Ifugao. We left Quezon City at around 10pm for a 12-hour ride (supposedly 8pm but the bus waited for something).

Day 1

It was my first time to go to Sagada via this route and I was more than excited to see the Garden/Rice Terraces of Ifugao. I know the good ones were located in the inner parts of the province, but still, I hoped for a good view as I’ve never been to Ifugao before.

We arrived at Bontoc at around 10am and we had to transfer to another bus that will take us to Sagada. I tried to take a nap but the ride was too bumpy. Once in Sagada, we immediately looked for a place to stay. I wanted to take them to Olahbinan where Karen and I stayed last time but their P250/peson rooms were all full and we find the other rooms expensive so we opted for the homestay-type of inn. And I’m so glad we did because there are more perks of staying at Chad’s Cabin for P250 per person per night. We didn’t reserve in advance because I was so confident we’d have a place to stay no matter what. It was my first time to encounter that many tourists in Sagada. The streets and restaurants were all crowded.

Once settled, we went to get lunch at Salt & Pepper Diner. There are lots of new restaurants in town to accommodate the growing number of tourists that are coming in. I was just here a couple of years back and there are many new stuff in town.

After lunch, we couldn’t start with any activity yet because some of us had to take a rest, but the others (including me) chose to roam around Poblacion. A little later, some kids approached us and asked if we want to go to Echo Valley for P50 each, that is P50 for each of them kids and there’s three of them. My companions find it cheap so we went for it. It’s not child labor! Haha! The kids were persistent! :p

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the reasons why I go to Sagada is the food tripping that comes with the travelling. Why, it’s so good to eat in the highlands. Fresh air and good food. And streetfood ang isa sa mga paborito kong kainin pag nasa Sagada, malinis ang hangin so malayong mas malinis kesa sa streetfood sa Manila, hehe. At dito lang ulit ako nakakain ng binatog, one of my favorite foods. Nung una kami lang ni Karen ang kumakain pero nainggit din ang mga kasama namin at eventually nagsibilihan.

After the street snack, we went to Ganduyan Museum, just across the Municipal Hall. I’ve been to Sagada several times but I’ve never been to this place. The museum is maintained by Ms. Christina Aben who owns a vast collection of Cordillera artifacts that are displayed. We went around while she explained about the things in the museum. Fascinating indeed. Lalo lang akong bumilib sa kultura ng Cordillera. Too bad taking photos isn’t allowed. There’s no entrance fee to the museum but they accept donations from visitors for the maintenance of the collections.

Dinner at Yogurt House. We had to wait for at least 30 minutes for a vacant table for all 10 of us. Yogurt House never gets old. Lots of people outside, waiting for their turn to grab a spoonful of the restaurant’s specialty. Personally, it’s one of my favorite places to dine in, too. Since I began living a pseudo-healthy life, all I wanted for a snack is yogurt or fruits, and Sagada is the only place where I get to eat real yogurt.

We didn’t have any more activities that night as the Korean tourists staying at Chad’s Cabin are having a party outside and we just slept off our envy, hehe. Gladly we did because we needed energy for the next day’s activities.