The 8th Wonder of the World
Banaue Travel Blog› entry 11 of 15 › view all entries
I am not making it up. Thatâ€™s how it is advertised. The 8th wonder of the world, the Ifugao rice terraces. I am off on a short holiday to see if this claim can be justified!
On arrival at Banaue, the portal to the mountainprovince Ifugao and its terraces, I feared for my trip, for the weather was cold and rainy and clouds covered the mountains. I couldnâ€™t see any rice fields! But later that day the sun broke through and an evening glow descended on the valley of Banaue. It was beautiful.
The Ifugao-terraces cover whole mountains, as if a giant passed through and made wedding cakes out of them.
These mountain provinces are an autonomous region. Not far from here, genuine headhunters are still alive. In isolated places, people still walk in traditional red g-strings alongside tattooed women with snakebones in their hair. (And Iâ€™ve been told they smoke their cigars the other way around. My supervisor once made the mistake of offering a light to an old woman, and she removed her cigar and a smoke curtain enveloped her head.) Inside those isolated lands, the rice terraces continue no less spectacular, and there is a mountain resembling a sleeping woman, but it is near impossible to get there. Philippine law is far away and sometimes there is tribal violence.
Banaue offers five spectacular viewpoints to look at the terraces in all their glory.
The next day I booked a trip to Batad, a place where the rice terraces are perhaps even more striking. I had to hire a guide for a day to get there and to prevent me losing my way in the terraces. In Batad the terrace walls are made of stone, as opposed to mud, which makes them very suitable to walk on.
My guide, Charlie, gave me a broad grin at our meeting and I noticed how his teeth and lips were bloody red. The Ifugao people seem hopelessly addicted to chewing betel nuts. They say it is part of their culture and it keeps their teeth clean (I wonder). Now and then he spat red pools, which explained all the red spots on the road.
Only during our trip to Batad I began to realize the extent of these Ifugao ricefields. The scale is immense. Valley after valley they continue, creeping up hidden corners. Sometimes they are degraded and overgrown, like plates of jungle stacked up. It is a surrealistic landscape.
And then there is Batad.
The Ifugao houses are something special too. They are tiny houses on four poles, with a heavy pyramid straw roof, blackened by smoke and hung with pig skulls for good fortune. The rice is stacked in the topmost part. Nowadays many Ifugao switch the straw roof for a metal one, so they donâ€™t have to make a new roof every four years, but it gets incredibly hot in summer.
Thank goodness nobody wanted to hunt for my head. The Ifugao were very friendly people, smiling their big bloody betel grin. Charlie called them FBI: Full-Blooded Ifugao.
Banaue and Batad were just two of a number of impressive terrace sites.