Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Banaue - Stairways to Haven

"Good morning", an Ifugao elder said to me while I was taking pictures around the village. She was carrying a baby, lulling her to sleep. I could see that the woman's teeth was already reddened from years of chewing betel leaves, a favorite pastime in these areas. I wasn't able to greet back. I was waiting for something that comes after the "good morning". Maybe she'd sell some merchanise, or offer tourist services. But no. It was a genuine, cordial, neighborly greeting - so rare these days that I was taken aback. I felt so ashamed of myself.
Look at what the world has done to me: I have become suspicious of friendly greetings.
Finally, I managed to smile and belatedly respond: "Good morning din po".

I got up just before sunrise in the quaint little inn at Batad village, situated among the rice terraces themselves. My legs were still sore from yesterday's hike to Tappiya Falls, which took about three hours to get to and get back from. I usually don't mind long walks but the thing is, we had to walk on the narrow and sometimes slippery edges of the terraces, which are about 6 to 12 feet high. Not quite deadly, but high enough to trigger my acrophobia. I also get to see the majestic yet terrifying view of the steep slopes of the mountain when looking down on where I'm stepping. Our local guide, Ate Harriet, had to hold my hands almost all throughout the trek because my knees were shaking badly. The new friends that I made from the tour group meanwhile were throwing words of encouragement and friendly jeers at me to keep me going. It was terrifying, but I relish the experience. We had to make occasional stops because of the rain, and during those times, we get to really enjoy the scenery. The view was truly a sight to behold - the mountains, the mist, and the glorious sky. I can see why the Ifugao tribes have a fascination for winged creatures, with feathers on their dresses and their dances mimicking the movement of the eagle's wings.

We went back at the inn before sunset and spent the rest of the day enjoying our time being away from the city. There was no wi-fi and network signals, nobody was looking at their phone. Before bedtime, I get to know the people I'm traveling with more. We looked back at the day and exchanged stories of adventure over a cup of freshly brewed mountain coffee.

I woke up shivering in the cold. However I tried to I couldn't get back to sleep. I had enough of it anyway and it was a very restful sleep, so I just decided to go out with my camera and walk around the village. And so there I was, exchanging good mornings with villagers. Later I would find a little hut whereby I would just sit and look at the mountains, feeling the cool, December breeze of the highlands, and watching the sunlight slowly revealing the ancient artwork that is the Banaue Rice Terraces.

It did feel like a very good morning.

With our guide, Harriet.

Tappiya Falls

Traversing the terraces.


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