Walking in the Footsteps of Ancients: Banaue Rice Terraces and Sagada

As a kid growing up in the Philippines, I had it on good authority that the Banaue Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras found in Ifugao, Mountain Province, was unquestionably the eighth wonder of the world.

rainy view from banaue hotel

Well, the people responsible for promoting the notion of the Banaue Rice Terraces being the eighth wonder of the world are exactly the same people responsible for my lifelong yearning to check the dang thing out for myself, which I never got around to doing until last month  during the Holy Week.

Took us close to twelve hours to drive ways up to Banaue Hotel from our home in Southern Manila, although you’d have to take into account the fact that we have young kids in tow who habitually say they need to go to the toilet 5 minutes AFTER you’ve left the only clean public use bathroom within a radius of  ten kilometers.  So, road trips involving my little family require a host of pit stops, without which you’d be there within 8 hours from Manila.

posing on the terraces near banaue hotel

Think of Baguio City (“Summer Capital” of the Philippines), which is located likewise up the Northern part of Luzon and you could wax poetic and call this the “road less traveled” (incidentally, I googled this and found that Robert Frost’s 1920 poem was titled “The Road Less Taken” 😉 ) because of the virtual absence of traffic (yay!).  On a long holiday.

I mean, c’mon…They’ve been around for the last 2,000 years.  Two thousand!  Practically the time of freakin’ dinosaurs (kidding).

How on earth did these ancients get to possess such sophisticated knowledge of hydrologic engineering?  How did this little corner in this tiny country preserve its authenticity as a cultural heritage free from colonial influence that dominates most of  Philippine culture?

What were the secret rituals, and fervent prayers passed on through generations of the Ifugao people who have traversed this same Stairway to Heaven?

I grew up with the Spanish (hence my love for centuries-old churches, religious artifacts and cobblestoned roads) and American (old Hollywood vintage glamour) sense of aesthetic in what may be the quintessential mold of a Manila-based family, so I guess most of us back then couldn’t dig the whole native tribal fashion thing.  But now I understand how and why the gift of  artistry (residing in the minds and hands of great photographers, painters and designers) naturally filters all the blur coming from social conditioning and sharply delivers the true beauty of something so unaffectedly real.

isn’t this couple truly beautiful?

fake ifugao children in a real ifugao house
just hiking a little up sagada…

We rented a jeepney for the two and a half hour drive up to Sagada from Banaue Hotel.  We’d heard of the Batad amphitheater (and what a sight it must be in person!) the caves, spelunking, nature hikes and the famous *gasp” hanging coffins (talk about freaky!), and yes, they’re all kind of too much physical exertion for our brood (we did, though, take a peek (from afar) of those stuff and actually walked (not all the way, of course) down one cave, and if you’re spry and little-kid free you might want to take those on.

As for us, we partook of one of the creamiest frozen yogurts I’d ever tasted:

And my eldest, as a matter of course, took an incredible 2 minute’s voyage down a zipline (with me taking his video and literally holding my breath).  God, give me cojones like his and  I’d be your greatest servant……

there’s a dainty little restaurant around here that serves exclusively organic food!

How about you?  Aren’t you curious about the 7 wonders of the world and how they ended up as such, amidst all the other secret, magical, breathless, godlike human triumphs that you have THIS lifetime to see?

Thanks for dropping by! 😉

See you again,


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