By Ruth Santos

The famed Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras and Banaue Rice Terraces are one of the main tourist attractions in the Philippines, but few know as to which province it belongs.  The province of Ifugao is usually lumped together with other provinces of Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), thus denying the province recognition of its own.  While the unanimity is commendable, it is also worthwhile to give acknowledgement to the province where nature’s grandeur is located.

Ifugao province is among the six provinces of CAR, namely: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. Its name was derived from the term i-pugo, which when translated means “people of the hill”. Because of its strategic location, Ifugao boasts of various attractions, both natural and man-made.

5 Places to Visit in IFUGAO

1. Traditional houses

As simple as it looks from the outside, Ifugao house building, which is also called as the ‘traditional house’ is one of the most commended architectural structures, with its eccentric designs and complex indigenous system of construction. The Ifugao architecture reflects the culture and traditions of the Ifugao people. Rich with its cultural heritage, the traditional houses allow the people in the present time to profoundly understand and appreciate the way they perform their socio-cultural beliefs, customs and practices, and how essential it is to their way of living.

2. Banaue Rice Terraces

Also known as “Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe”, Banaue Rice Terraces is an awe-inspiring, multiple-layered rice fields carved into the mountains.  It is believed by the Filipinos to be the 8th wonder of the world.  The 2,000-year-old terraces are like a giant stairway, seemingly endless, and is said to “reach half way around the earth if the rice paddies are joined from end to end”.  Filipino ancestors built it with minimal equipment and by hand, and in 2009, it was declared free from any genetically modified organisms. Its farming system is much the same way as it was hundreds of years ago.  The terraces are irrigated from the rainforests above through an ancient irrigation system.  The Banaue Rice Terraces illustrates a tapestry of harmony between human and nature.

The best time to visit the Banaue Rice terraces are either during June and July which is harvest time and the fields are golden and brown, or April which is when the landscape is in its greenest.

3. Battad Rice Terraces

Said to be the most impressive among the rice terraces, Battad Rice Terraces is among the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village of Battad is accessible only by foot, the climb is steep, sometimes narrow and slippery.  But no journey is too arduous when the prize is so rewarding.  Shaped like an amphitheater, the majestic terraces are best viewed during April-May or October-November to see them in stunning emerald-green. If you’d prefer to see the terraces in nice golden color, visit in June or December during harvest time.

4. Tappiya Falls

The trail to Tappiya Falls is steep and treacherous, with the threat of falling rocks from the cliff.  But those that traverse the danger and face the energy zapping, muscle cramping trek is rewarded with the magnificent view of the 50-meter plummeting waterfall.  Its booming roar and domineering force fills the air as the mist rise from the cascading waters. Surrounded by lush vegetation, the waterfall is a spectacular sight to witness, an eye-opener to the beauty of God’s creations.  Swimming in the pristine, fresh water is invigorating and helps replenish your energy for the hike back.

5. Banaue Museum and Cordillera Sculpture Museum

Take a peek at the colorful historic past of Ifugao and its people. These two museums are within the immediate vicinity of Banaue town proper.  Banaue Museum showcases priceless artifacts such as jewelry, weaponry, traditional dress and headgear, as well as rare photographs depicting the early years of Banaue, while the Cordillera Sculpture Museum houses a huge collection of wood-carved masterpieces and fascinating books about the cultures of the Cordillera Region.

Things to remember when visiting Ifugao:

Be ready physically

Visiting the rice terraces is physically demanding. The long land travel alone is stressful; add to that, the strenuous trek which is challenging especially if you are a first time trekkers/hikers.  It is advisable to be well-rested and to be physically and mentally ready.

Wear appropriate clothes

Bring a jacket or a sweater since the air-conditioning on the bus is chilly.  However, during the trek, you will need protection from the sun.  Wearing a hat and putting on sunscreen lotions are sensible.

Get a good guide

Navigating the Rice Terraces is like plotting a maze. Having a guide saves you time looking for the right path, prevents you from trampling the terraces, and avert you from mudslides and avalanches.  You will also be contributing to the local livelihood, as well as get the chance to know priceless local knowledge such as planting rice, harvesting rice, and general life in the village.

Bring cash

Automatic Teller Machine and credit card use in this corner of the world is not popular.  All transactions are done by cash so be sure to bring enough to finance your trip.

Don’t expect 5-star accommodations

Life in Ifugao is simple. The accommodations are down-to-earth. Cellular signals are low and no wifi. Rooms don’t have electric fans or air-condition.  If you opt to stay in a native Ifugao huts, it has no electricity and windows so better to bring a flashlight.

How to get there:

By public bus

Ohayami Aircon buses have three daily direct trips going to and from Banaue, Ifugao.  The bus leaves the Sampaloc Manila terminal at 9pm, 9:45pm and 10pm, and arrives in Banaue around 6am or 7am. The travel time is about 9-10 hours.

You can also take the indirect bus routes, Manila – Baguio – Banaue, or Manila – Baguio – Bontoc – Banaue.  Take buses heading to Tuguegarao such as  Baliwag transit, Victory, etc., alight in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.  In Solano, hail the jeepneys that ply the Solano-Banaue route or the Solano-Lagawe, Ifugao route.

By private transport

Bringing your own vehicle add more convenience to your travel and could give more opportunities for photographs stopovers.  The roads are well-paved which guarantees less stress on your travel. The travel time is about 9-10 hours.

How to get around

Jeepneys and tricycles are available around Banaue. Vans with driver/guide are also for hire.

Where to stay:

  • Ramon’s Native Homestay – Battad
  • Simon’s Viewpoint Inn – Battad
  • Rita’s Mount View Inn – Battad
  • Hillside Inn – Battad
  • Batad Pension & Restaurant – Battad
  • People’s Lodge and Restaurant – Banaue
  • Banaue View Inn – Banaue
  • Hiwang Native House Inn – Banaue
  • Sanafe Lodge and Restaurant – Banaue
  • Native Village Inn – Banaue
  • Banaue Hotel & Youth Hostel – Banaue
  • Spring Village Inn – Banaue
  • Uyami’s Green View Lodge and Restaurant – Banaue

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