Banaue, Ifugao: Touched By Splendor and Simplicity

Witnessing with my very own eyes the surreal landscapes and the massive centuries-old rice terraces of Ifugao for the first time, stirred an unusual feeling that struck deep. The mystic mountain’s spellbinding charm held my heart captive even after a year had passed. I left Banaue bearing a promise of return, and now, I’m back to fulfill that promise. From Bontoc, my Cordillera backpacking journey carried on south towards Banaue, Ifugao where I realized even more what’s beyond the world-renown destination.

Mount Polis Ifugao Bontoc BoundaryStopping over at the misty Mount Polis.

Connecting Bontoc and Banaue was a 2-hour bus ride on zigzagging  highways nestled above misty mountains enshrouded in thick fog reducing road visibility to almost zero.  Bordering neighbor provinces was the historic mountain, Mount Polis, where 1st Republic President Aguinaldo and his regiment traversed their way for Abra to escape the American forces during the war. With an altitude of more than 6,000 feet, the peak ranks 3rd among the highest in the Cordilleras, and 124th in the entire country.

Vegetables mount polis mountain province ifugaoA row of vendors selling fresh vegetables along the highway in Mount Polis

Banaue’s cool and crisp mountain breeze gave me a warm welcome the moment I got off the bus. I could smell the fresh pine scents floating in the air.  Memories of my first trip flashed back in my mind. Hello Banaue, it’s  nice to be back.

Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant Banaue IfugaoAn old ‘Petromax’.

Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant in Banaue IfugaoMy new favorite spot at Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant.

Joel Ognayon guide Banaue IfugaoCatching up with my old friend, and guide, Kuya Joel Ognayon.

Home never felt so far away with Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant‘s cozy ambiance. The confines sprawling with pinewood planks of the floor and wood finishing gave a warm welcoming feel. Filling the lodge with antiques and traditional wood carvings amplified it even more Definitely, I call this my “home away from home” when I’m in Ifugao.

Panorama from Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant Banaue IfugaoA panoramic view from Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant’s veranda.

Rice Terraces BanaueRice terraces in Ifugao.

Morning in Banaue, IfugaoMorning in Banaue.

Fried BananasMy breakfast… lunch, snack, and dinner at Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant.

Waking up before daybreak rises on top of my day-to-day must-do list whenever in Banaue. The breathtaking view of mist rolling up and down a valley of multi-layered rice fields just before the sun peeks behind the massive mountain ranges, playing in tune sound of crowing cocks, chirping birds, and howling dogs while indulging on native coffee – it seemed liked orchestrated symphony of sight, sound. Tranquility of the highland town at it’s finest conveniently experienced in Sanafe Lodge’s veranda.

Native Longganisa Banaue Heritage CenterBanaue Heritage Cafe & Restaurant’s Native Longganisa is my favorite all day meal

Banaue Rice TerracesView from Banaue Heritage Cafe & Restaurant.

Went for a leisure stroll up the rice paddies.

Banaue Rice TerracesFrom above the rice terraces.

Kid in Rice TerracesA kid passing by the rice paddies on his way home back from school.

Opting for a more relaxed and laid-back impromptu vacation here in Banaue, I didn’t stray far from the destinations I previously visited. Never will this trip be complete without a visit at the Main View Point, where I spent the rest of the afternoon lazily sitting down and just admiring those magnificent rice terraces of grand proportions (until now, I still don’t know how to put its beauty in words).

Kid playing Fow-oh.

If city kids spend their free time playing Xbox’s and Playstation’s, here in the mountains of Ifugao, I saw kids engage in a game of Fow-oh, a hybrid of bowling and turumpo (top). Instead of attaching a pointed nail into teardrop-shaped wood armored with thumbtacks like the local turumpo, Fow-oh uses a carved wood resembling an inverted mushroom. Whip your spinning top from a distance and knock out your opponent’s in this melee and be king of Fow-Oh. That’s how I understand the game played by Ifugao’s for many years, every after a successful rice planting season.

Souvenir shops Main View Point Banaue IfugaoSouvenir shops at Main View Point.

Native percussion instrument bought in a souvenir shop at Main View Point (P300.00)

traditional woodcarving souvenirA small Bul’ul woodcarving souvenir.

Hours have passed and the sky got darker, so was Banaue where a town-wide brownout occurred, therefore affecting the street lamps. However, I decided to walk my way back from Main View Point to Poblacion following the lightless highway, while I struggled to keep a sharp eye out for vicious dogs using my tripod to fend them away.

Get CLoser to Banaue RIce Terraces“Get Closer”

In this two-hour hike, I realized how we take everyday things for granted easily compared to the simple life in Ifugao (and many more remote areas in the Philippines) primarily, when I met the kids playing Fow-oh. I saw delight and content in their candid smiles and joyous laughter while playing with barely pieces of wood and a string.  Nowadays, we’re surrounded with material things, especially those hi-tech gadgets, making us disregard the much bigger picture – the delight of enjoying the material things you have with the people around us. This reminded me of my previous Biyaheng Ifugao entry, “Banaue Rice Terrace, Ifugao II: From A Different Perspective” when I was so caught up about getting a unique photograph of this world-renown landmark, I almost forgot what truly matters – capture the beauty of the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces, not with a camera, but with my heart.


Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:

1. Sanafe Lodge have dormitory type rooms which costs only P250.00 per person. Perfect for budget travelers. Read more about Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant.

2. For a more detailed guide to destinations in Banaue, check out 10 Basic Travel Guidelines For Ifugao First Time Travelers.

3. More destinations in Ifugao.

4. Read more about this 7-day Backpacking Trip in Cordillera

5. Like Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant on Facebook.

6. Please LIKE Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.

7. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “Banaue, Ifugao: Touched By Splendor and Simplicity

  1. Brother,

    These is very helpful and informative. Its true when we were kids we are happy of playing outside the house. Now most of our young once are being blinded by Materialism. Simplicity is now like an endangered species.. But thank you for these blog i will make use of it for my honeymoon this September. Me and my wife will going there. Thanks and God bless.

    Best regards


    • Kung gusto mo ng malamig, Ian, ok yun. Kaso kakatapos lang ng harvest season nun, kaya yung ibang rice terraces, tubig tubig na. Which is mas gusto ko actually. Ok din yung green, pag mga May to July siguro naman. Start ng planting season niyan mga January siguro o February

      • So by November it will definitely the same view like empty fields. Mas maappreciate mo ba kung sa green field time ka pupunta? Sabi nga nila around Apr-July ang green time ng Batad at Banaue. March daw empty field pa din sya. I’m torn in deciding, first time ko kasi sa Ifugao if ever matuloy.

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