The Road to El Hemp-O: The Manila to Banaue Leg

After enslaving myself for three days, I decided to reward myself. My thanks to Ron for suggesting Sagada as my destination. The fact that Ron had just started with his new company forced me to leave without him. The morning I got back from the office, I packed my bags and kissed my miserable room goodbye.

My first stop… Banaue! I seriously didn’t know what to do when I got there. But luckily, tour guides were waiting at the drop off point in front of Banaue Hotel. Anyways, I found myself a guide named Darwin who charged me Php600 for 3 destinations, hopped on his motorcycle and started exploring this sweet part of mountain province…

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We headed out to Poitan Village which is one of the remaining traditional settlements in the area. It was a 15-20 minute hike from the road walking along the rice terraces into the heart of the little community. The villagers there are into farming, carving and weaving.

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The traditional Ifugao house does not use nails. People employ the help of fairies and unicorns… or they build it within the principle of fit-and-lock, pretty much how lego blocks are stacked together. Houses are decorated with skulls of pigs and cows symbolizing the wealth of the family who owns it. The god of harvest Ba-al is carefully guarded by the family and is not shown to visitors. They only bring it out during the harvest season, bathing the statue with blood for a bountiful return.

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The next several stops were view points of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. The tradition of creating these staircases goes way back more than two thousand years ago, primarily because of the lack of leveled land to farm on. The form also greatly helps irrigation. Unfortunately, it was rainy that day and I wasn’t able to capture its full glory.

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Tips: Florida Bus Line along España in front of University of Santo Tomas has two scheduled trips to Banaue, 8:00pm and 9:00pm. Fare is at Php480. Travel time is six hours. Drop off point is in front of Banaue Hotel where tourist guides have an office. Terms vary depending on the spot you want to visit. They also offer guided tours for trekking and hiking.

Culture Bits: It is customary for people to chew betel nut and spit every so often. Chewing these munchies actually help locals regulate body heat in their perennially cold season.

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