Experiencing the Tribal Life in the Banaue Rice Terraces
Our family’s ancestors were from Banaue, Ifugao in the northern part of the Philippines. It is a wonderful province where the Banaue Rice Terraces can be found. The Banaue Rice Terraces is a 2000-year old terraces carved into the mountains with the use of only the hands of the Ifugao tribe. It was engineered by the tribesmen so that there will be an effective irrigation for the rice field with water fresh from the mountains.
We originated from this tribe called “Ifugao”. This tribe is characterized by their colorful clothing, tan skin, straight black hair, almond eyes, and many skills. Along with the other tribes in the north, the Ifugao made the rice terraces.
I was curious to see our land of origin and the people there. I was also wondering how the tribes have westernized. When my dad went home for the summer break, I asked him to take us there for a tour. He was delighted to see the interest we had for our family’s history, and he agreed that we should have a trip to the north. Though we do not have any relatives left in the province because of migration, my dad was still very knowledgeable about the place.
While we were on our way to the province, I asked my dad to share something about our ancestors. He told me that our great grandparents from our grandmother’s side were Ifugao. When the Americans came to the region, the tribes started to become westernized. My grandmother was one of them, and soon she married a Latin-American who were among the invaders.
When we got to the place, I was thrilled by the cold weather and the glorious mountains. The fog was thick at dawn, and the water was ice cold. In the late morning, the sun started to shine through, and made the ambiance more wonderful. Yet it was the rice terraces that I wanted to see. According to my dad, the original 2000-year old terraces were far from downtown and we had to go mountain hiking for 2 hours to get to see the place. I was not prepared for such a hike, but it was my only chance to see the terraces. While hiking, my sweat was rewarded with such beautiful views of the mountains and the thrill and adventure of walking by the cliff and crossing spring waters.
When we reached the terraces, it was truly wonderful! We got to walk on the sides of the terraces while we were assisted by an old Ifugao man, who was wearing a “bahag”, the famous tribal g-string. He even sold us a native meal of grilled chicken for lunch. It was a super close tribal experience. We saw an original Ifugao house, and even experienced their food.
The trip was tiring, but worth it. I was imagining our ancestors while we were travelling. I pretended that I was a traditional Ifugao while I walked the terraces. I even bought some souvenirs that the tribe made. I was so happy that dad took us there. Yet I’m so sad that our pictures got ruined because of my stupid cousin who destroyed the film (digital cameras were not yet sold at that time).
If you want to visit Banaue, I advice you to be prepared for mountain hiking and cold weather, do not dwell downtown and talk to the natives to get to experience the original tribal living, and bring a decent camera.
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