You know we love a good road trip – and that’s hard to do in a country of 7,000+ islands! Yet we managed to squeeze one in with the inas (moms) and our friend Martha – to Banaue, home of the Rice Terraces. Banaue is up in central Luzon in the mountains and being there allowed me to see a side of the Philippines that I hadn’t seen before. It was completely amazing.
We took a van and dubbed it the “snow mobile” since it was white and behemoth. Mark and I definitely thought that was funnier and more ironic than anyone else though – haha!
On the road, we saw all sorts of amazing things – scarecrows, local water buffalo, and beautiful vistas as we wound our way through the mountains towards our destination.
The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are actually a UNESCO heritage site and you can read about them here. They were created ages ago (~2,000years?!) by the native people of the region, called the Ifugao people, so that they could plant and grow rice in the mountainous regions. The knowledge about how to farm and maintain them has been passed down through the generations and the people of the area still farm them using the same methods today.
One quote that particularly resonated with me from the UNESCO write up is, “The Ifugao Rice Terraces epitomize the absolute blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment. Indeed, it is a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.” Being there, breathing the cool, unpolluted air and feeling the mist on my face, made me feel, just for a moment, like a part of this beautiful blend of nature and work and culture. It’s far to easy to romanticize what is a very difficult lifestyle with limited access opportunity and minimal financial returns, but the synergy of natural beauty and ancient human structures and ways of life, blended together in this place was enough to make anyone at least a little reflective, I think.
The weather was a little rainy and quite misty/foggy while we were there which added to the mystical quality of the whole experience. And it kind of ruined a lot of my pictures – hehe – but we still got a few good ones!
Our hotel – the Banaue Homestay – was amazing with overlooks of the terraces and the most hospitable, homey hosts we’ve met in the Philippines. Here’s a shot of us on the balcony just after we arrived!
While we were up in the mountains, we also made a trip up to Sagada… but more on that in the next post!