The second destination of my journey in the Philippines is Banaue, a small town located in the northern part of Luzon, the same island where the capital Manila is located. Starting from Manila with a night bus it took us about ten hours to reach what is considered the iconic destination of the Philippines’ rice area. The charm of this place it’s not only due to its indisputable beauty, but also to the centennial history hidden in these terraces. The very moment we faced such marvellous sight we couldn’t believe such a complex and efficient terracing system was built hundreds of years ago by the Ifugao tribe, and since then only few modifications have been made.
Several sources affirm that the first rice fields in Banaue date back to 2000 years ago, but the recent archeological studies tend to resize such esteem. Fact is that the Banaue rice terraces stand as an incredible example of environmental engineering. It exploits its staircase system to capture the water streaming from the mountain peaks. What catches the gaze of the visitors is a packed combination of basins limited by tall rocky walls.
The morning we arrived in Banaue there was a thin rain and a person from the guest house we booked from Italy was already waiting for us. The owner, Randy, was very kind and welcoming, although a bit bizarre. But his oddness was paired by a sincere smile and he was always ready to lend us some cover for the rain or an extra blanket for the night.
After a healthy breakfast we hit the road and marched towards the rice terraces. I couldn’t wait, it was the first time I ever saw anything like that and just knowing they were standing a few meters from me made me terribly eager. In the meantime, unfortunately, the thin rain became a mild storm and it kept going like that for the rest of the day.
While nearing a sight-seeing point we fought our way through the low clouds which more than once completely impeded us to see where we were going. Then they would leave some crack of light and hope, which just fed my eagerness for admiring the sight hidden ahead of us. Once we arrived at the viewpoint the clouds finally rewarded my obstinacy and moved away, revealing the landscape underneath in all its splendour.
Bewitched as I was by the stunning landscape, I didn’t notice at first those two eyes pointed at me. They were the eyes of Bulol, or at least of one of his many wooden representation. For the Ifuao people, Bulol symbolizes protection, and of course he protects the precious rice fields from bad weather and ravenous animals.
Before leaving the panoramic viewpoint I glimpsed at him for a short moment. Those clouds suddenly opening for us, I thought, might well be another one of its mysterious deeds.