Thursday, July 28, 2011

up close and personal

Even though our objective was really Sagada, I have to say that I like Banaue. Rather, I like the people of Banaue. They're such characters.

Here's Kuya Jun, who was our constant companion for three days. He took care of us, and by that I mean that he made sure we were comfortable and happy the whole time we were with him.

Jun Pitpitunge and his chariot. A proud Ifugao man surveys his kingdom.

I was most impressed by the way he gently, but insistently, educated us lowlanders about the ways of the Ifugao. We learned so much from him, and I am eternally grateful that he invited us into his world. He took us to the Aguian Viewdeck to see how mountain rice is grown.

So narrow. Imagine people having to walk and work on this.

A ledge that jutted out from the mountainside. If you fall, you literally fall off a freaking mountain.

The view, the view! It just takes your breath away.

He showed us a traditional rice granary. Very gnarly.

A fireproof, pest-free rice granary. Centuries-old design. Still works.

Animal bones from rituals. The size of the animal to be sacrificed corresponds to a family's social standing.

The women plant and harvest the rice, while the men do the hauling and repair the rice terraces. It's all back-breaking work, and requires an incredible devotion to this way of life, immense physical strength, terrific patience and tenacity, and a sense of humor.

What do you do when you're too old to work on the terraces? Hang out at the tourist spots.

Super intricate tribal clothing. Every color, every pattern has a meaning.

The lovely smiling lady showed us the components of nganga that she keeps in her pouch.

The obligatory touristy shot at the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces.

Nganga, for those who don't know, is a magical substance produced in the mouth by chewing together a bunch of things, like a leaf, a nut and some ground up seashells-- you heard me, SEAshells. It stains everything a vile and violent orangey-red color, and it makes the chewer oh-so-high.

As we drove out of the municipality of Banaue in the province of Ifugao, we saw some kids on the roadside, practicing for the annual race. This type of vehicle (Bicycle? What IS it?) is being used everyday to transport people and cargo. It's made of wood and it's dangerous as hell, and they have an annual race for the kiddies.   

Hey you, you wanna race me? I race you!

You're on! Don't forget to check your brakes-- oh wait, you don't have brakes.

Planning a trip to Banaue, Bontoc or Sagada? Contact Jun Pitpitunge. Tour organizer and guide, and he has a van. Email him at Or phone him at +63.910.8571952. You will NOT regret it.


  1. Your one and only reader has been impressed with recent additions, all information has been digested and will inevitably form the catalyst for my future trips!

  2. I never thought that I would fall in love with the Cordillera mountains, being a beach-y person myself, but the place is really crazy beautiful. I'm not done blogging about it. Stay tuned.

  3. It's pretty psychotic how I've only seen all your posts on our trip just now.. haha! We miss you!