For an easy journey to see the famed Ifugao rice terraces, opt for Banaue. It’s a scenic 2.5 hour drive from Bontoc and is supposedly only 9 hours from Manila.
Banaue is not actually part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the Ifugao rice terraces (too many modern structures) but it has been deemed a National Cultural Treasure, and graces the twenty peso banknote.
The area known as Banaue is a canyon lined with rice terraces that are 2000 years old, built and long maintained by the Ifugao tribe. The town of Banaue is built along a few snaky roads hewn into the canyon, and culminates into a small and ugly town center.
Unfortunately, probably because of the town’s accessibility, the burgeoning ‘hospitality’ industry in Banaue seems to be overshadowing the agricultural way of life that most tourists want to see and appreciate.
Many of the Ifugao youth are abandoning their ancestors’ traditional way of life for more lucrative jobs—actually understandable when you factor the backbreaking labor and proportionately low income—which means outside contract workers are brought in to help with the farming and maintenance of the delicate ecosystem of the rice terraces. Much care and constant reconstruction is needed to keep the terraces stabilized, and when a family is no longer able to properly care for their section of the terraces, rights to farm the land are transferred over to another family.
I didn’t enjoy much what little we saw of Banaue, as it is pretty obvious the town revolves around tourism. Unlicensed guides try to sell their services for cheap and mass-produced tourist souvenirs line the fronts of nearly every shop. There weren’t much options for eating, inside the town center, as turu-turò (point-n-eat) shops are few, and pricey hotel restaurants dominate the scene. Their menus offer a bit of Western food mixed with the usual Filipino dishes, but from what we saw, the serving sizes were blatant ripoffs— if you want good value for your peso, opt for a Filipino dish.
All told, we were here only to sleep and eat, choosing to spend the brunt of our one full day in nearby Batad. Still, in our opinion, if you want an ‘authentic’ Ifugao experience, opt for another nearby region; just be prepared to spend more money and sacrifice more time for it.
panorama from wikipedia