The Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines is one big majestic spectacle. Paddies carved on steep mountains 1,500m above sea level. It is said that it is so huge, that when each paddy is connected from end to end – can circumnavigate the Earth halfway!
The Ifugao people live here – the highlanders of Luzon Island. This is the land of their ancestors and this rice terraces is the center of their lives and society for thousands of years. More than 2,000 years ago, Banaue was carved into the mountains using bare hands and a few tools! *If you don’t call that ingenuity, you are either a dog or a big fat lizard.*
Rice terraces are quite common in Asia. Other famous ones are the Tigalalang in Indonesia, Chiangmai in Thailand and Sapa in Vietnam. Even the Yamagata in Japan or Longsheng in China…but they are not as grand and as ancient as the Banaue.
The Banaue Terraces is actually a part of the much larger group Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Other parts of this collective group were carved 6,000 years ago! *When Nafertiti has just invented the eye shadow*
I’ve seen this place once back in 2000 and I promptly finished 3 film cartridges the instant I saw it! Banaue is not easy to reach and you have to find the best spot to get better view. Philippine tourism is not so organized – it’s the group of little private tour operators that would take you there.
That was when I was 21 doing my grand ASEAN sweeping tour for the first time. I had to dismiss my tour guide because he is f*cking up the trip. He is obviously unskilled and disorganized. I asked him to find me a nice local family to lodge me for the night and he can go home and leave me alone -- he did. And the rest is an adventure of a lifetime.
Dangdang ay, sidang ilay
Dang dang ay, siding ilay
I can go on and on and on singing this song those nice Igorot families taught me. It’s a song about, what else? – rice harvesting. I ended up staying with them for 3 weeks in the mountains of Cordillera. No hotel, no fancy service, no toilet! I learned their custom, their folklores, their songs and dance! *panting* OH! OH! If I can show you how to dance their dance in loin cloth – you all gonna love me! It's a dance imitating a flying eagle on a hunt.
The Philippines is one of the few countries close to my heart. I am eager, I am so interested to learn their culture – that in a span of 2 years --I lived in their magacities, I lived among the Tausugs, the Samals and the Badjaos in the south, the Ifugaos and the Igorots in the north – an adventure not all Filipinos would have the chance to do in their lifetime.