Banaue Rice Terraces, Sagada, and Bontoc - Philippines
Last year I was so happy that I was able to check off one of the items on my bucket list. When I was eight years old my mother had taken me back to the Philippines for a visit and I had seen a picture of the most amazing rice terraces. Growing up in a city, I’d never seen anything like it, and ever since that time I had dreamed about going there.
The Banaue Rice Terraces are deep in the Cordillera Mountains of North Central Luzon, and were made by the indigenous people (Ifugao) 2000 years ago. Now, getting there is still not easy, though it has been made easier in the last few years with the introduction of (some) paved roads. My husband and I had private tour guides pick us up from our hotel in Manila in an old SUV at midnight. Nine hours later we arrived in Banaue.
The fun and most harrowing part was the four-hour drive through treacherous (un-railed, of course) curvy, extremely bumpy mountainside from Banaue to Sagada the next day. To quote my husband, “My bony English arse can’t take this ride.” (Not to mention he was just recovering from a week-long bout of amoebic colitis he had caught in Shanghai, but that’s another story.)
The Cordillera are where, incidentally, the most expensive coffee in the world, civet coffee (Coffee Alamid or Kopi Luwak), is harvested. The Ifugao area is also the site of General Yamashita’s last stand, thus you will find lots of Japanese weapons and skulls. Also, to our great surprise (since we weren’t really given too many specifics on what to expect during our tour), we went on a two-hour cave trek in the Sumaging Cave. All I remember is it was really, really far down and there were no railings of course. Parts of it were really slippery so you had to trek through most of it barefoot, and the cave was full of bat sh**. The experience was fun as hell!
I’m making light of our journey now, but at the time it was quite scary. I had actually never before feared for my life than when we drove back through the mountainside to Banaue in the night and the fog had resulted in close to zero percent visibility. We literally had our lives in our drivers’ hands.
It was all worth it in the end. I saw the most amazing landscape that most people never get to set their eyes on.