Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Banaue's Magnificent Stairways to Heaven

The mountainous side of the Cordillera region is covered by thick clouds of mists while the sky is starting to color gray - a sign that a rain will follow while taking long road trip from Bontoc. In some turns on the road, I was delighted by gorgeous views of rice terraces and in some turns I was stunned by beautiful mountain sceneries without worry of danger that we are driving on the edge of cliffside road. Some roads were bumpy because of a rocky surface while some were smooth and pave that gives a steady drive. It was a long trip on the road again as our journey in search of Banaue’s magnificent stairways to heaven had just started.

As the van drives through the mountainous border between Bontoc and Ifugao, fog is starting to be thick until it seems impossible to see the surrounding mountain sceneries. I did not feel unsafe as we run through the road even when we went to a risky landslide prone mountainside road.  Maybe because this road trip is the most scenic I had which had made me bear the pain of long drive. And I have been positive all the time.  But nevertheless, the journey continues. The excitement of arriving in Ifugao is just building up while enjoying the sceneries on the road trip.

Banaue's magnificent stairways to heaven.
Fog all over the mountains when we arrived at Mount Polis.
After 40 minute drive, we arrived at Mount Polis viewpoint. We’re officially in Bananue, Ifugao but this is just the border of the province to Mountain Province. This viewpoint is a stopover between Bontoc and Banaue that’s why I saw a lot of public buses making stopover in the area like what we did. It was drizzling and cold when we arrived. The place was made colder by the blow of mountain breeze. Yet the cold temperature did not stop me from going down from the shuttle to stretch my muscles after tiring and butt-pain long drive. Mount Polis is a landmark itself.  You can hike the peak the peak to get a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Around the area is a vast field of mountain sceneries from cliff view decks that is occasionally passed by thick clouds of fog. Mount Polis is also a marketplace. There were a lot vegetable vendors lining up in the area as well as small convenient stores suitable for passengers and visitors who are making a stopover from long trips. After few minutes, we continue our drive towards the town proper of Banaue.

Vegetarian treat at Mount Polis stopover.
Mount Polis marker, a sigh that we are now in Ifugao province.
My 6th travel of the year - Banaue, Ifugao!
In fifteen minutes, we arrived in Banaue proper and exactly to our main destination – the Banaue Rice Terraces viewpoint. I almost jump out of my seat once the shuttle stop at the viewpoint’s parking lot. I’m really excited to see the world-famed rice terraces of Banaue! I almost run to the viewpoint as if I don’t care that I have travel companions on the trip just to see the view. And when I arrived at the view deck, it was an “awe moment” for me. Never in my dreams, that one day I will see the magnificent rice terraces of Banaue that I only admire seeing in elementary text books, post cards, travel blogs and old 1000 peso bill to the current 20 peso bill. Banaue Rice Terraces is a sight to behold. It was stunning, splendid and magnificent.

Banaue Rice Terraces in panorama - It was stunning, splendid and magnificent!
The view deck gives an unobstructed and gorgeous panoramic view of the Banaue’s rice terraces.  It was carefully carved and engineered on the mountains sides and slopes to withstand for a long period of time.  The ancient Ifugaos are intelligent engineers since the terraces have been there since the early civilization in the Cordillera region. The saying was true that Banaue’s rice terraces are truly stairways to heaven. The topmost part of the terraces almost reaches the sky and at times touches the passing low clouds. And if you put all the rice terraces on top of each other, it will truly reach the sky. The verdant color of the rice terraces stole my eyesight as well. The greenery field of the terraces adds charm and splendor to it. I am truly marveled!

The feeling when I saw the rice terraces of Banaue was not happiness but a feeling of marvel to its wondrous beauty. I admire its beauty. And the Ifugao people who made these terraces that until now it still a world renown and dubbing it as the “8th wonder of the world”. Of course, I did not let the opportunity pass not to have a souvenir photo of Banaue Rice Terraces. I clicked and clicked. I took a panoramic shot. And I even have a shot with old 1000 and new 20 peso bills where it is printed with.

It drizzle a bit but it did not ruin this magnificent view of the rice terraces of Banaue.
You must love GREEN!
The old 1000 peso bill memento photo!
Never in my dreams, that one day I will see the magnificent rice terraces of Banaue that I only admire seeing in elementary text books, post cards, travel blogs and old 1000 peso bill to the current 20 peso bill.
Around the view point, there are also old Ifugao people in their native attires sitting and waiting for visitors to have a souvenir photo with them. There is also a souvenir shop where I bought some mementos of Banaue like magnets and keychains to complete my memorable trip to Ifugao province.  Ifugao is a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region. It is located in a mountainous region that’s why it has a rugged terrain, and forest covered areas.  Though, Banaue is a popular destination for the rice terraces, Ifugao’s capital is Lagawe. Local people here don’t want to be called Igorot but as Ifugao since Igorot is called to the people of Mountain Province. Ifugao is named after the term "i-pugo" which means "i" (from/people) and "pugo" (hill), hence it means “people of the hill”.
Banaue is mainly visited for its magnificent rice terraces, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The Banaue Rice Terraces also called Payaw, is said to be 2000-year old terraces carved into the mountains of Ifugao by ancestors of the indigenous people. Though, Banaue’s rice terraces is inscribed in the 20 peso bill as UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was not really part of the lists for the presence of numerous modern structures, making it score low in the integrity criterion of UNESCO. The rice terraces of Batad and Bangaan which are both in Banaue are part of the list. However, the Banaue Rice Terraces is a National Cultural Treasure under Ifugao Rice Terraces.

The Ifugao people in their native attires at the view deck.
Souvenir keychains!
The visit and experiencing the magnificent rice terraces of Banaue was a perfect way to end the Cordillera Region tour journey.
There are other rice terraces sites to visit in Banaue and Ifugao if you stay longer or you can make as a sidetrip. Batad and Bangaan Rice Terraces are both in Banaue. Batad Rice Terraces is located in Baranggay Batad and popular for resemble as amphitheatre. There’s also Mayoyao Rice Terraces in Mayoyao which are visited for growing a rare type of organic rice variety called “tinawon” in its terraces.   Another notable rice terraces in Ifugao is Hapao Rice Terraces in Hungduan. The stone-walled terraces date back to 650 AD! Lastly, there’s Kiangan Rice Terraces where they grow the rice varieties of nagacadan and julungan. Kiangan’s rice terraces clusters manifest a distinct feature - the fields are in ascending rows of terraces bisected by a river. All of these rice terraces are part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras which were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. All of these rice terraces are in the Ifugao province.

We left Banaue to take a long journey on the road again. This time our destination is going home. After long hours of drive to the 3 places of destination I visited in the Cordillera Region, it was an enriching and rewarding travel experience despite of the long and tiring road trip. The trip gave me an experience and a discovery of a lifetime in the northern places of the country. The visit and experiencing the magnificent rice terraces of Banaue was a perfect way to end this Cordillera trip journey. I will not forget the scenic mountains and rice terraces of the Cordillera Region. They will not last only in my souvenir pictures but will clearly stay in my heart and mind.  

Banaue's Magnificent Stairways to Heaven is part of my Cordillera Region Tour blog series where I join a road trip to visit the regions’ three main places of tourist destination - Baguio-Sagada-Banaue last October 5-8, 2012. The main destination of the tour is exploring Sagada, Mountain Province where I stayed the longest. Baguio and Banaue, Ifugao is part of the side trip of this Cordillera Region Tour.   

My Cordillera Region Tour is courtesy of Hannah Julianne Travel and Tours – 111 Fiesta Homes, San Jose, City of Dasmarinas, Cavite. For travel tour inquiries, contact 0916.6853413.
*This is not a paid article.


  1. there's a different kind of excitement when those places that you have only seen in textbooks during your childhood years are finally seen in real life. :)

  2. @Vin: Its like a "dream come true moment" experience... and you will not forget that moment!

  3. I went there almost a decade ago and upon seeing these terraces,there's this certain feeling of awe and it made me realize that traveling is something I'd like to do for the rest of my life.BTW, this is another beautifully written article. :))

    I'm finally going back next week and I can't wait! :))

  4. @Wandering Beyond Borders: Nice realizations while wandering... Thank you for reading my travel story. 'Hope you read the other stories here.

  5. wow ganda sana mapuntahan ko din to, ganda din ng pagkakwento mo sa experience mo sa lugar sir..

    1. Maraming salamat... sana mabasa mo din yung iba kong travel stories.


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