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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Brief History of our Hike to a Village in Bangaan Rice Terraces


Years ago I remember dropping my jaw in wonder when I saw the rice terraces of Banaue for the first time. Laid out in front of me are stairways of rice paddies stretching almost infinitely. Since then, I've seen similar ones at Sapa in Northern Vietnam and smaller farm terraces in other provinces. Each opportunity, I find myself achieving a feeling of calm while engrossing the entire visual banquet it brings. Last February, a wonderful opportunity presented itself when I was invited to be a part of the launch of PHILTOA's (Philippine Tour Operator's Association) new travel program called Cordillera Heritage Caravan. In a span of five days, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Banaue, Kiangan and Bangaan clusters of rice terraces. 

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PHILTOA's Cordillera’s Heritage Caravan

This program is part of the Philippines Department of Tourism Visit Philippines 2015 campaign and participated by tour companies belonging in the PHILTOA organization. PHILTOA President Cesar Cruz shares. 
"The Cordillera Heritage Caravan will accommodate both foreign and local markets where they can choose to bring their own vehicles or avail of the caravan vehicle. The caravan is designed to provide flexibility in choices of activities and accommodations. The trip promises that each traveller will be able to choose according to comfort as they will be given options like a campsite, star-rated properties, lodge houses, and even hostels."
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Tucked within the impressive landscape of Bangaan situated a small village a few hundred feet down from the main highway. As we arrived on a top-load position of a mountain jeep, the sweeping sight of the rice terraces quickly heralded its presence to us. 

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As seen from the highway, the visible roofings of houses grouped together down in the valley represent its tiny place in the grand scheme of the surrounding mountains. All of a sudden, the vastness of open space made its existence known and coming from the crowded big city, I promptly embraced the kind of environment the small village presented to me. 

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Our group separated into smaller ones to hike down to the village. I found myself alone at the trail stopping not to draw breathe but to marvel at the nature encircling me. I turned left at one of the forks and ended up to a small school where I saw a few kids playing a game of hop-a-garter-rope.

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After half an hour, I arrived at the village and saw the others mingling with the kids. A local guide then showed us the few remaining traditional Ifugao houses and explained to us the significance of each design elements. I was particularly impressed with the Oliang part - a wooden disc attached to the four posts that prevent rats from climbing into the house. The significance of the use of cogon for the roof is equally impressive, as this simple material is able to insulate the whole house from torrential rain and the heat of the sun, plus it absorbs all the smell produced by indoor cooking. 

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The house itself can be easily dismantled and transferred to another place - making the concept of Bayanihan real in this part of the country. Seeing up close and learning more about the traditional Ifugao house was the highlight of this village hike for me. The Ifugao house is a shining example of a genius ethnic architecture because it engages an ancestral method of house building performing more functionalities than its humble design suggests. 

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With the daylight slowly drifting away from the sky's horizon and the wind starting to howl stronger, I feel the cold engulfing my body. However, my mind was filled with new knowledge about the simple life in these tiny villages dotting the long stretches of Bangaan rice terraces. Like how the ancestors of the Ifugaos, the ipugo ingeniously hand toiled their land and sculpted a world wonder rice terraces and designed functional traditional houses. This brief hiking trip help me to conclude that man and nature co-exist better even without the help of modern technology. 

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"About PHILTOA: The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Inc. is a non-stock and non-profit organization of DoT accredited tour operators and allied members actively involved in the advocacy of responsible tourism. The membership includes tour operators focused on promoting inbound and domestic tourism, hotel, resorts, transportation companies, handicraft stores, and other tourism-oriented establishments and associations."

For inquiries about upcoming Island Philippines Fun Caravan schedules please contact Tel. Nos.: (02) 812 4513; (02) 822 6964 | Fax No.: (02) 817 4608 | Email: info@philtoa.com; philtravelmart@philtoa.com Website: www.philtoa.com

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