The main reason I insisted going to Ifugao is to see the rice terraces for real. But, we have to choose which of those Cordillera rice terraces we should visit. Batad is the most recommended, but we found out that it’s a bit pricey and we don’t have enough time to include it in our itinerary. Then, we’ve chosen the less visited Hungduan Rice Terraces.
Few have known that all rice terraces in the municipality of Hungduan are protected and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Challenge of Getting there
There’s no definite schedule for jeepneys bound for Hapao or Hungduan, but most of the time they would arrive at Banaue terminal around 12nn – 2pm. At around 1pm, the PUJ has arrived loaded with passengers from Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
I have been warned how dangerous the roads going to Hapao, but I am a stubborn adventure seeker who doesn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. Don’t be surprised if you will have a flight tire in the middle of nowhere because its normal – like what we’ve experienced. I’m starting to wonder what we have gotten to when we passed by that stiff road and then we had a flat tire. My friends were worried that we might not make it to Hungduan after they saw the photo I’ve posted on Facebook. But the smile of our driver and the locals assured us that we will arrive safe and sound.
Finally! We have arrived at Happy Homes. Our chosen accommodation situated in the mountains and walking distance from the Hungduan municipal hall. If you’re familiar on the old Cebuano idiomatic expression “piso padung langit” (one piso to heaven) that’s the best way to describe it.
Aaron the grandson of the owner welcomed us to their humble home. We asked him some questions about the rice terraces, but he told us to visit the tourism office to know more about it.
That’s how we met their tourism office Rowena who was so helpful in giving us an advice on what to do in our situation.
We knew that we made a wrong turn after we found out at the nearest rice terraces where we have imagined to walk around and snap some photos is located 45 minutes away from where we are. That the earliest PUJ going back to Banaue will depart at 4am, and we have to check out at 3am and start walking down to the hi-way in order to catch the PUJ. What made it worse is that they can’t assure us that there is a PUJ going to Banaue or the time it would leave as it would depends if there are enough passengers.
Probably, Rowena can sense that we started to panic after we heard what she said, she offered to take us back to Hapao and arranged us an accommodation in the middle of the rice terraces just like what we have wanted in the first place.
We’ve both guessed that the reason why fate brought us to Hungduan instead of Hapao in the first place is to help the local tourism promote Hungduan rice terraces.
Before we left the municipal hall, Rowena introduced us to the local counselors which they have shared how their municipal has struggled in getting tourist to visit Hungduan. ‘Coz most of the time tourist prefer to visit Batad as it is well known compared to other municipalities. We promised them that we will help whatever way we can to promote the rice terraces of Hungduan. (Which I’m going to blog about it soon).
The Test of Bravery, ‘coz this is not for the faint-hearted
I do believe in the saying that goes “be careful what you’ve wished for.” Wishlist:
Sleep in the middle of the rice terraces, walk around the rice terraces and have our photos taken. These wishes were granted, but there was a price for it.
It was an honor to stay at the Mayor’s house and met his wife who took care of us despite the last minute arrangement. We met some local travelers whom we have enjoyed listening to their stories and advice. We said good night after we had dinner as we still need to wake up early.
At first, we were hesitant to leave when we saw how dark the place is. We can’t see anything. And we still have to count 1-2-3 and gather all the courage before we start walking the rice paddies arm with our phone’s built-in flashlight that guide us in the break of the dawn. Our bravery was tested, indeed. Every now and then, we have to pause to catch our breath while balancing our bags on our shoulders. Though I would love to look up and appreciate the stars for awhile, but I’m too afraid of the idea that someone might mistaken as thief walking the rice paddies. So, we keep moving and slowly made our way back to the hi-way.
Despite that I’ve worn three layers of clothes and a jacket made for winter, I was still freezing while I’m standing on the sidewalk looking both ways and hoping that PUJ would pass. Then, suddenly a private vehicle passed by which we look longingly. The driver might have sense that we are one of those adventurous tourists who are lost, he made a stop a few feet and backed up. We then gathered our things and ride the van back to Banaue which the ride only took 30 minutes.
Back in Banaue in One Piece
Kate almost kissed the pavement in gratitude when the driver dropped us off at the Banaue Tourism Office.
Then, I thank all the angels and gods above for we have surpassed the most challenging trip in our entire life. It is not the type of trip we have imagined, but it thought us a lesson and changed the way we look the Ifugaos, their culture, and way of living.
If you asked me if I still want to visit Ifugao again after what happened, my answer is big YES! In fact, I’m planning to make a side trip to Banaue this June. ‘Coz there’s more to see and experience in Ifugao more than what we have read and known.
P.S. I wish I have bought a DSLR for proper photos and should have taken lots of photos, but my phone was already low batt.