Most tourists that venture up to the Ifugao Rice Terraces of North Luzon in the Philippines typically visit the terraces of Banaue, the hub for the area, and Batad, a small village a few kilometers away. However, with a little more effort you can see jawdropping terraces and villages that see comparatively few tourists. If you are lucky, as we were, you might even happen on a local festival. We visited the rice terraces of Hungduan to the northwest of Banaue.
Where did we go and how did we get there?
Laura can never get enough rice terraces! Our overnight bus back to Manila was leaving at 6pm so we had a whole day to kill before the journey south. The genial owner of the Bogah Homestay recommended we visit the rice terraces of Hungduan and Hapao. He fixed us up with a local tricycle driver and after squeezing into the vehicle like sardines, we settled in for a rough, dusty, and ear-splitting ride up to the villages.
There’s lots of Whitey around in Banaue area, right?
Yup! The buses to and from Manila were almost exclusively for Whitey. Banaue is crawling with tourists and, even little ol’ Batad can be like Piccadilly Circus in Summer. But, out towards Hungduan it was just me, Laura, a whole lot of rice, and men in traditional garb revealing toned buttocks!
And, the festival?
Spectators at the Hungduan festival.
Oh, yes! The festival. We didn’t know there was a festival on. But when we pulled into to the tourist office at Hapao, we were accosted by an official who insisted we visited an annual village festival 45 minutes yonder. She invited herself onto our tricycle and even insisted we pay her 500 pesos for the privilege. It was all very confusing but she offered us some free local booze to smooth the way!
And, the rice terraces?
Well, they were there but we seemed to be racing past them. So, now we were paying 500 pesos for a guide we didn’t want and now we weren’t seeing the things we wanted to. It’s funny how sometimes your travels get hijacked by others! This festival better be good.
Well, was it?
Men in Ifugao dress at the festival. Check out the hornbill helmet on the far left.
To be honest, it was hardly a thrill a minute. But, it was interesting to see local festivities going on in a place where a tourist barely gets noticed. It was very colorful but it was difficult trying to figure out what was going on. There were lots of speeches. Some very interesting sculptures. And, everyone was decked out in their traditional clothing. Except, the surly teenagers, who seemed to delight in wearing t-shirts featuring Death Metal bands they had never listened to, or featuring the word ‘fuck’. All good fun.
There were rumors of traditional dances going off but, as is typical on such occasions, no-one had a clue when they would start.
We wandered around a few stalls, bumped into a few groups of men wasted on homemade hooch, and we checked out the work of local wood carvers. Mainly though, we were distracted by the large amounts of male buttocks on show.
Our guide didn’t do much guiding for her money but figured that after an hour of inactivity we were bored. So it was off to the rice terraces.
Rice terraces of Hungduan
Hungduan rice terraces from the official UNESCO viewpoint.
Bright green rice fields at Hungduan
What can you say about rice terraces? Well, not much. The Ifugao rice terraces really are quite a spectacle and worthy of the claim that they are the ‘8th Wonder of the World’. And, I do think it worth checking out the terraces beyond the usual tourist hotspots. We dropped our guide off at home, gave her a bunch of pesos, and stopped off at the tourist office to pick up our bottle of homemade booze. Which, of course, is hilarious. Maybe Yosemite Park Rangers should give each visitor a bottle of moonshine on entry!!
Actually, it was tasty stuff. It wasn’t strong enough to block out the noise from the tricycle engine but it sure as hell made the ride more tolerable.
When were we there?
April 14, 2016. Who knows if the Hungduan festival is on the same dates every year.