Small villages, wonderful scenery and magnificent rice terraces in the northern Philippines, the hilly part of Luzon.
This article is part of a diary based travelogue from a six month journey in 1985 to several countries in East and South East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Tuesday 7.5.1985, Bontoc – Banaue
Banaue was supposed to be a good place to stay for some days: Unique rice terraces and a small place. That proved correct, but there was no lack of travellers or tourists.
The bus trip Bontoc-Banaue was fine – great scenery. The two hours cost me 50 pesos (2.7 USD) with the bus company Immanuel. Apparently Dangwa is cheaper. There were lots of pensions and we found:
- HALFWAY LODGE, down the road to the left of the market. New, clean, nice, quiet, good service. We even got breakfast in the room when we asked for it. 25 pesos (1.4 USD) per person for a double, same for single. A view over the rice terrace valley we also had. Good food in the restaurant downstairs.
We walked around a bit in Banaue and the neighbourhood. The nightlife is non-existant, evening life is meager – but then this is part of the charm of this place.
Wednesday 8.5.1985, Banaue, Lagawe
I found that my cash chest was almost empty and even worse there were no places in Banaue where I could get cash on my cheques. Fortunately I heard that the town of Lagawe had a bank. I went there, cashed money at a reasonably good rate and returned immediately. Jeepneys take an hour for 7.5 pesos.
I sat on the roof on the way back as it was too crowded inside, and the rooftop is airy and does offer a good view.
Earlier in the day we had walked 4 km to a natural swimming pool below a waterfall, with lovely cold water. The place was a bit too popular. A Philippino family came on picnic with a living duck they were going to eat.
Thursday 9.5.1985, Banaue, Batad
While we were eating our breakfast wondering what excursion we would take, a British guy came over and asked us if we wanted to join him to a place called Batad. One had to hire a jeepney to get there and the group was now getting so big that the price had become reasonable. (250P (14 USD) for the jeepney, we were 11 persons.)
We responded positively to the offer and left. 12 km on a bumpy road, one hour up a narrow valley and forty-five minutes town on the other side. And there we were with a lovely view. The rice terraces lay like an amphitheatre on the hillside, and at the bottom was the village as it had been for hundreds of years, it seemed. It was the same type of wooden houses on stilts as in the museum in Bontoc!
The mountain people here in the area are quite special. The men, especially the elderly, wear loincloths, carry spears and large packs on their heads. The women walk in a very upright position, without spears. It doesn’t take imagination to think of these guys swinging the machete in their belt at the neck of one from the enemy tribe.
We went back the same way. A great excursion.
Friday 10.5.1985, Banaue, Lagawe
A quiet day. I found out that it was necessary with another trip to Lagawe.
Saturday 11.5.1985, Banaue
Market day in Banaue. People came from afar to sell their produce. Interesting.
That evening we planned on visiting the local luxury hotel to watch a traditional Ifugao tribe dance. However we overslept both this and the dinner. Annoying.
Sunday 12.5.1985, Banaue, Matanglang
The tourist information has a map and information pamphlet of things to see in Banaue and the surrounding region. On of the places is a little village – sitio – on a hill over some rice terraces. The place is called Matanglang and we went there. It was a very fine trip and we also got to see these stilt houses on a close range.
We took a bath in a waterfall on the way back.
Monday 13.5.1985, Banaue – Baguio
We took an early morning bus to Baguio via Carmen (8.5h, 75 pesos (4.2 USD) with a 10 % student discount). The trip went from the mountains down to the lowlands and up into the mountains again.
We went to Carrie’s place saving me the cost of a hotel room, and making it more practical. I had previously been unsure of how long I would be staying here in Baguio. The purpose of returning was mainly to follow Carrie back home. I now felt it was best I left as early as possible, that is tomorrow morning.
It was not easy to leave and both Carrie and her friends asked me when I would return. I responded as I always did that I did not know when. But I felt to myself that the odds were against ever returning here, at least for many, many years.
Tuesday 14.5.1985, Baguio – Manila
The bus back to Manila was a long, boring event, although it took no more than around five hours (and costing about 65 pesos (3.6 USD) at Phil Rabbit). I checked in at the
- MALATE PENSIONNE as usual. It is a very good place and a regular amongst many travellers.
As I had not more to do here in Manila or the Philippines I went to the Philippine Airline office and received a reservation for tomorrow. I had bought the ticket from Manila to Singapore in Hong Kong.
The introduction to this journey to East and South East Asia.
Next chapter: Singapore: The rapidly modernising city-state