The weather in Mt. Province was good that noon. The sky looked great. After two hours on the road from Banaue, Ifugao, we reached Bontoc, the capital of Mt. Province, also known as “Little Baguio” to some.
The weather was too good to miss so I asked our jeepney driver to stop so I could climb on top of the jeepney again. My other companions followed suit. We stayed there on top for an hour or so all the way till we reached Sagada. God, the view of Cordillera’s tall mountains amidst such a beautiful sky was really majestic. It was such an awesome sight. And the air was so crisp and cool too.
We reached the town of Sagada in Mt. Province after an hour more on the road. The town looked really pretty, like a quaint little town nestled on the mountains. We had lunch for an hour before hitting the road again to go to the caves of Sagada.
Damn. If your tour guides tell you to prepare to get wet and bring clothes to change on, DO SO. Never go caving in Sagada in a pair of white leather Hush Puppies and a collared shirt!
Wow. The caving experience was… surreal. We probably went a kilometer down to the depths of the cave and then climbed up the same height on our way out. It was a terrifying experience to a claustrophobic. But really… an experience, passing through steep and sharp rock formations and whatnot. Our only light sources inside the cave were those gas lamps our cave tour guides were carrying. We were holding onto rough ropes tied on rocks for our lives, well that is if the passage had ropes. The air inside the cave was so crisp and cold, our entire bodies were smoking in our own body vapor! The water inside the cave was ice cold but really refreshing. There were countless cave pools and small fountains we got wet in. Ahh, it’s really difficult to describe in words.
We got out from the cave after more than an hour, almost all of us had a scar or two. We were all soaking wet. It was really stupid of me to be the only one who went to Sagada in a pair of white leather shoes. I didn’t even bring extra clothes to change myself with. My clothes were really wet and dirty so I had to remove them. I had to borrow a companion’s malong to cover my naked body. (well, almost naked, ‘coz I was still wearing my underwear). That was the only thing I was wearing all the way back to Banaue.
It started raining on our way back to Ifugao.
We were supposed to wake up at five in the morning but we woke up an hour late. We rushed packing our bags, as we were supposed to check out from the lodge before proceeding to Sagada. After having breakfast, we left our bags in one of the lodge’s rooms and then we boarded jeepneys to go to Sagada, Mt. Province.
The weather was better that Sunday. There were less clouds covering the mountains and the payaos (rice terraces). We stopped by one of the many viewpoints along the highway and took pictures of the Banaue rice terraces.
After having enough tourist dose of the payaos, some of us in the jeep decided to ride on the rooftop of our jeepneys on the way to Sagada. It was really cool! A bit scary, with all the zigzags and cliffs but ultimately really cool. By the time we were so high up in the mountains, we were one with the clouds and it was drizzling. But we stayed on and immersed ourselves in the experience. Haha.
After less than an hour, the jeepney in front of us broke down. We had to assist them since we were all part of one group, being UP students on tour. After realizing that their jeepney would take hours to repair, the group from the broken jeepney hitched on ours. I decided I had enough of being on top of the jeepney so I went back to my front row passenger seat. There, it was a really long three hour drive on 90% rough road and zigzags. I was able to sleep for a few minutes though.
Everyone in our room was able to nap for an hour or so after we arrived at the lodge, except for Mico. He woke us up around past 6 in the evening for dinner. Our dinner was fried chicken, soup and some vegetables. Some of us were itching to get hold of the karaoke mic, so after dinner, it was videoke till curfew.
Unfortunately, the curfew was at 10. We went back to our rooms and then tried to go to sleep. It was a struggle to get myself to the bathroom to take a shower before sleeping. The night was cold and unsurprisingly, the water was icy cold too. But I enjoyed it anyway.
Anyway, after shower, I still talked with Patti, Shean, Clauds and Chesca. I forget what we were talking about. The topic eventually shifted to school politics, me running for film representetative under STAND-UP and all that. Eventually, the topic moved to President Gloria Arroyo. Clauds and Chesca have gone to sleep, then Mico came in and started asserting that PP 1017 was justified and all that. We ended up having this small debate until midnight about what to do with Gloria, me being in the position that she has to be ousted by the people, him being in the position of maintaining the status quo. Everyone else in the room was apparently asleep by the time we called it quits.
A few minutes from the Banaue Ethnic Village was a cluster of shops selling souvenirs and other sorts of native handicrafts. There was also a viewpoint nearby but since Saturday was such a cloudy day, all we could see was white.
After that short trip to the stores, we went back to the lodge and rested for a few hours.
After the trip to the Ifugao village near the Banaue Hotel, we proceeded to another “ethnic” village, the Banaue Ethnic Village, which is actually a fantasy theme park complete with Ifugao houses and native workers in ethnic costumes going about their ‘daily work’, rather than a genuine Ifugao village.
We had lunch at the park. Clauds, Chesca, Mico, Patti, Shean and I had lunch at one of the huts. The food was good. Steaming hot nilagang baka and brown rice. After lunch, we were treated to a cultural show. Men and women in native costumes danced to us the dances of the people of the Cordillera. The show required some audience participation in the end. I wanted to give it a try but then again, I’m always too shy.
We were toured around the park after the show. A guy explained to us the evolution of Ifugao homes. He also explained to us what the people in the ‘ethnic village’ were doing. There was a woman weaving, a man carving something, and another man pounding on some piece of metal. After his talking, he let us explore the park ourselves.
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.
I went with Patti and her Art Studies 1 class to their Banaue & Sagada field trip last weekend. My Art Studies 2 class went to the same place a month ago but I wasn’t able to join them. I really wanted to get to visit Banaue and Sagada so when Patti said her class was going too, I grabbed the opportunity and enlisted myself with the tour.
It also served as sort of a welcome retreat from election season in UP and all the socio-political turmoil back in Manila. It’s nice to feel detached for a while. Although a roommate and I had a friendly but heated debate about the issues Saturday night, but that’s going ahead of the story.
We left UP on a bus past 11 PM of Friday, March 3. We arrived in Banaue at past 8 in the morning the next day. We actually encountered an accident an hour before we reached Banaue. It was at a town before Banaue in Ifugao, we crashed into a tricycle at a curve on the road. There were three women on the tricycle. The last I heard two days ago, two of the women were okay but the other one was still unconscious. The tour operator settled the problem. I don’t know the details, the trip went on as planned anyway although a little delayed.
We checked in at Halfway Lodge within Banaue’s downtown district. I roomed with Patti and four of her Art Studies 1 classmates, Shean, an Engineering sophomore and Chesca, Clauds and Mico, Psych freshies. We eventually became a breakfast-lunch-dinner group through the duration of the trip.
After settling down in our rooms, we had breakfast. After which, we went back to our rooms and rested for around an hour before we all went off to start our tour with a visit to an Ifugao village near the Banaue Hotel. That’s for the next entry.
March 6, 2006. Just got back from a weekend trip to Banaue and Sagada. Will write an entry and post photos soon.