It was a downer that Saturday was such a cloudy and rainy day in Banaue. The view of the mountains and the payaos (rice terraces) wasn’t in their full majesty.
After resting a bit at our rooms at the lodge, we all boarded jeepneys to go to the Banaue Hotel a few minutes away from the lodge. We didn’t exactly go to Banaue Hotel. We went to an Ifugao village a few hundred steps down a slope from the hotel.
The problem when tourists come and visit a people’s village to witness their “way of life” is that it actually disrupts these people’s normal way of life. So one shouldn’t really expect to witness their genuine present lifestyle. The people in the village probably adjust their lifestyles to suit the way tourist brochures and mainstream TV programs mystify, homogenize or ethnicize them too much. Which makes people fail to see the realities behind the tourist front (poverty, dislocation, destruction of their native culture, etc.).
Anyway, there came a point when one of the villagers opened up and showed to tourists the skeletal remains of one of their ancestors for a fee. Talk about respect for the dead! This tourist industry is making these people disrespect their ancestors by commercializing their remains. How sad. I felt sort of disgusted, I left the tourist group and walked around the village myself and tried to strike a few conversations with some of the people going about their “daily lives” carving souvenir handicrafts and stuff.
The family I took a picture of asked me to send them a copy of the picture I took of them. Which felt nice, because while everyone was oggling at the skeletal remains, they invited me inside their house and asked me questions about us visitors. Then the girl gave me a piece of paper with their postal address. I thought I left socio-political conversations back in Manila but one of the woodcarvers just had to ask what I thought about the issue. We are not so detached after all, which can be perceived as a good thing.