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The Hapao Rice Terraces, an hour’s rough road from the Ifugao capital Banaue, is a breathtaking expanse of green rice paddies. The plains, less steep than its more photographed counterpart in Banaue, are home to a community of rice farmers.

Photo by Nikka Corsino

Like faithful treasure guardians, Banaue’s old folk man the thousands of years-old Banaue Rice Terraces.

Photo by Owen Ballesteros

It is common practice to keep the bones of dead loved ones inside the house, wrapped in traditional handwoven cloths. Photo shows the bones of a 90-year-old male kept in his grandson’s house, handed down like heirloom through generations. Diseases are believed to befall living family members should any of their ancestor’s bones goes missing. Photo by Owen Ballesteros

The Ifugaos lived with art—created it and then used it at home, in battle, and in important life ceremonies. From ladles to bowls to spears, each of the items inside an Ifugao household is both a utility and a work of art. Photo by Owen Ballesteros

The typical Ifugao hut, called bal’e /bal-eh/, has a thatched roof that is as big as the hut itself, completely obscuring it from the outside. Ifugao huts are raised about a meter from the ground, the void being used to house livestock and firewood for cooking. Japanese-commissioned stone sculptures are remnants of the Imperial Army’s foray into the Cordillera mountains at the thick of World War II. Photo by Owen Ballesteros

Smaller terraces dot the mountainscape of Ifugao, like this one found near the border of the towns of Banaue and Hungduan.

Photo by Nikka Corsino

There’s no more life in Banaue than in its market, coming to life every Saturday with crates of dried fish from the lowlands, vegetables and fruits, and other fresh produce from all its neighboring towns. Try coming in any other day and the silence needs some getting used to. The Banaue market is also one of perhaps just few in the Philippines where you can haggle in English. Locals, including little girls like the one on the right photo, speak the language fluently, an offshoot of the American occupation.

Photos by Owen Ballesteros

Watch as, in twos or threes, an entire truckload of chickens is brokered the entire day. And as in any market, expect to see friendly chitchat sessions as well, even under the rain. Photos by Owen Ballesteros

Watch locals go by their business. You’ll likely notice that they seem to be chewing a lot at any given time—not eating, but chewing betel nut, which, a local explained, is their version of the cigarette or chewing gum. Photo by Owen Ballesteros

Wooden pieces of Ifugao craftsmanship you can take home are available in curio shops around the market and at the three viewpoints of the Banaue Rice Terraces. Photos by Owen Ballesteros

Take in the rolling hills down below as whimsical flute tunes marry with the cool mountain air. If there’s anything that Banaue gives you, it is a sense of peace. Photo by Owen Ballesteros

A church figures prominently among the clumps of houses as a river cuts through the slopes and plains, bringing life to this community deep in the mountains. Photo by Nikka Corsino

Nikka Corsino

Nikka Corsino

Owen Ballesteros

Owen Ballesteros

Owen Ballesteros

get there BANAUE BY BUS (via Nueva Vizcaya) Route 1: 10 hours Manila-Banaue (Florida bus from Sampaloc terminal); round trips are available


Route 2: 10 hours Baguio-Banaue* (Ohayami bus from Burnham Park; Dangwa bus from Magsaysay Rd. terminal); round trips are available *Manila-Baguio (Victory bus from Pasay or Cubao terminals; Genesis bus from Pasay or Cubao terminals); round trips are available. Travel time is 7 hours

go around

TRICYCLES. These three-wheeled motor vehicles can seat up to four people at a time. Fare is P10 per head around the town proper. JEEPNEYS. If you’re planning to go to Hungduan, hire a 4x4 jeepney (seats up to 20 people) to take you through the rough road.

stay at

BANAUE HOTEL. Private balcony offers a breathtaking view of the mountains. Enjoy your breakfast overlooking the valley with its restaurant’s full-wall windows. Tours can also be arranged from here.

travel tips Arrange your tours through your hotel beforehand. If not, head to the Banaue Tourism Office at the Banaue market to arrange for a tour (services of tour guides and/or jeepneys to take you to far spots can be arranged here). Buses leave twice a day (morning and evening) so call beforehand for the trip schedule. Upon arrival at Banaue, arrange for your return trip immediately (you can also have your seats reserved in advance). Be on time for your return trip. When in doubt, speak in English, as locals are likely more conversant in it than in Filipino (Tagalog).

head to BANAUE MUSEUM. See artifacts from the major Cordillera tribes, including spears used during tribal wars and for hunting, headdresses for ceremonies, baskets for harvesting, etc. Step outside and look at the town proper down below. Take a tricycle (between P10 and P20 per person) to the museum, located atop a hill 3 minutes from the market. Entrance fee is P50. Museum is open daily. Taking photos is prohibited. TAM-AN VILLAGE. See bones of local folk kept in their relatives’ house (owner may ask for donation before letting you take photos of the bones). The village is a five-minute walk down the hill from the Banaue Hotel. Pass by a loomweaving shop on the way for souvenirs. HIWANG NATIVE VILLAGE. See several well preserved Ifugao native houses with a plethora of artifacts, made of wood or stone, all around. It was put together by a family who have also fixed up a portion of the property into rentable houses. Travel takes an hour from the Banaue market. A trip to the village can be included in a guided tour arranged through your hotel, or through jeepneys rented through the help of the Banaue Tourism Office. BANAUE RICE TERRACES (3 VIEWPOINTS). There are three spots where tourists can view the Banaue Rice Terraces. The view from the photo in the P1,000-bill is at the viewdeck with the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) marker. Rent a tricycle for P250 (good for 2 people) to take you to these viewpoints and back. Souvenir shops are located in each of the stops. HAPAO RICE TERRACES. Take a cable car ride for that once-in-a-lifetime ride you thought was impossible in such a far-flung place. BANAUE TRADE CENTER. More than goods, the Banaue Market gives you a peek into the local life. Make sure to drop by on a Saturday. Walk through curio shops for antiques, or dig into local cuisine like pinikpikan, a native chicken stew.

An Ifugao man below one of several traditional family houses in Hungduan town, Ifugao.


Material in this photo essay were collated as part of a travel assignment for AsianTraveler Magazine Philippines. This photo essay is not for commercial distribution and was put together purely to give glory to the creative process. No part of this photo essay may be reproduced or used in any other way without due permission from its original creators.

Ifugao: The Enduring Wonders of Old  

Photo Essay on Ifugao, Philippines, home to the Banaue Rice Terraces, by Nikka Corsino & Owen Ballesteros

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