F To be on top of the world, or something like it - jeepneyjinggoy

To be on top of the world, or something like it

Virginia P. would have loved it here. She has this penchant for dramatic entrances descending slowly from a flight of stairs while a choir from heaven sings her name in crescendo. Here, there is a multitude of staircases to choose from. 

At the beginning of each year I sort through my bucket list, grateful for all places I found myself in, looking forward to visiting more, and adding a few more entries to the list that never shortens. The world is full of wondrous spots and I intend to see as much as I can in this lifetime.

For 2012, six places in the Philippines were added to the roster (http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/2012/01/on-2012-bucket-list.html). Surprisingly, not a week after, an invite to Sagada popped up. A good friend needed to group eight people to make the trip happen. To get to Sagada is via the Banaue Rice Terraces, one of the six destinations newly added to the bucket list. The decision is a no-brainer.

I believe this trip was fated – the departure to Sagada is on the same day I arrive from another trip, the connecting flight was rescheduled so I took the option to move it (a week later). Everything smoothly fell into place. Thank you, Universe!

They complete me or the number of people needed to fill the van. All 8 ready to go.
The davao contigent- with Karyn Flores & Kim Pamintuan.

A ten-hour road trip in the company of friends is nothing. Besides, leaving at 10PM, we’ll just be sleeping our way to our destination. Right? 

Wrong. Taking the front seat was not wise. With a driver from hell on the stirring wheel, overtaking on blind curves, sleep was impossible but a cardiac arrest is.

Dirt roads, dangerous curves, wooden bridges, the path to Sagada is...... too long... especially with a driver from hell on the wheel!

The hell driver who managed to take us to Sagada, Baguio & home... alive!

They slept, I palpitated. 

After hours of palpitation and countless ”oh my Gods”, I got tired of staring on the road, grasping handles and pressing my feet on a non-existent break gear. Humming “Que sera, sera”, I relished my intermittent moments in slumberland.

By daybreak and eight hours after, the Banaue gateway welcomed us. 

Halfway to the destination at first light of day- Banaue.

Breakfast was by a terraced mountainside eatery. We were expected ergo there was a reservation for us. VIPs? Yes, along with the rest of arranged tour groups that filled the resto. Anyhow, the scent of 3-in-1 coffee on the early hours of day was a nice welcome. 

Love the thermos. Haven't seen one like this in ages.

A prelude to the real thing- the BANANA RICE Terraces!

Checked the terraces at the resto’s backyard, I asked if this was “it”. Thank God it wasn’t. The shanty-clad terrace was not what I had in mind. The real thing was the next stop. 

No, this is not it. Whew! Relieved.

Finally, Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe aka the Banaue Rice Terraces. Goosebumps! I was enveloped with gratefulness as I stood gazing over the 2000-year old handcrafted spectacle. No wonder us Pinoys refer to it as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

Basking in nature + man's wonder. Gratefulness.

With a culture evolving on rice, the Ifugaos carved the Banaue Rice Terraces from a 10,360-square kilometer mountainside fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. If the steps are put end to end, it would encircle half the globe, so it was said.

The Banaue Rice Terraces are listed as a National Cultural Treasure but sad to say, not on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Impressive the “mountain steps” may be, the presence of numerous modern structures in the vicinity (maybe tourism, the other lucrative livelihood in the area, brought this about). This gave it a low score in the criterion of UNESCO.

It may have been more blooming and greener then plus a few “modern” additions today, but the Banaue Rice Terraces scores high on my list. I am grateful I made to the Cordilleras, stand on top of the world (5,000 feet above see level IS high enough) and view nature + man’s artwork.

The erosion, drought and the younger Ifugaos no longer find farming appealing may be causing this wonder to slowly deteriorate. I pray it gets the much-needed care it needs. Remember your pledge to your ancestors!

Pledge carved in stone....

Click, click, click. Photo-ops done. Banaue Rice Terraces, check. Moving on….

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/ 

Published in Sun.Star newspaper on June 21, 2012.