THE SOLO DRIFTER: Atop the mountains of Banaue

My travel column, The Solo Drifter, continues but this post is not about my solo travel. This time, I joined a group called Spice Gala Club (SGC). Thanks to my officemate, Atty. E, for introducing this group to me, and of course, to Gara – she told me that there will be an outreach activity. I said yes immediately. I thought I would not have any outreach activity this year – breaking my tradition every year. Thanks to SGC – I had one this year.

Spice Gala Club

The locals in Banaue, Atty. E (third from left) and Gara (second from right)

I would like to start this post by introducing SGC. It is an eco-tourism company that offers unique tours to more than seven thousand islands in the Philippines. Why ‘spice’? Because it always has a unique offering for each tour package. For more details, you can visit their Facebook page. You’ll meet Princess Tarah, who currently manages the group. She’s jolly. She takes care of the members of the tour. In the group’s Facebook page, it lays down tour packages for you – not only here in the Philippines but outside the country. The group is founded by Tiger Lila, a lawyer by profession.

Noah’s Ark Home for Children

So what’s the spice in our tour last 15-16 December 2018. It is an outreach program organized by the group as part of its year-end celebration. We visited Noah’s Ark Home for Children in Viewpoint, Banaue. The foundation was officially registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission on 18 July 1996 but it has been running since July 1989, initially founded by Tracey Pioveson, Annette Nyquist and Linda Veldhuizen, who eventually became the Director after four years of operations. Noah has been a home for orphan, abandoned, malnourished, special needs and educationally disadvantaged children for decades. Through a sponsorship program called Child Care Plus, many children also receive educational scholarships and special assistance.

Kids suffering from cerebral palsy

Morning of 15 December was full of emotions. We left Metro Manila around 10PM and arrived there at 7PM. During the outreach program, Linda shared her experience when they founded the home for children. Listening to her story, the room was filled with tears and inspiration. We have seen a number of children suffering from cerebral palsy. Thanks to the people who donated diapers, food, vitamins, and fruits not only for children suffering from cerebral palsy but also other special kids and the scholars. Linda said that this was the first time that a group helped the children and the staff. The staff were surprised when the group gave them gift baskets. Linda invited us to watch their year-end program featuring performances from special kids and scholars from private and public schools. Noah’s Ark team is very generous – they asked us to stay for lunch.

Rice Terraces

Banaue is home to the famouse rice terraces, occasionally called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” – an unofficial title sometimes given to new buildings, structures, projects, or even designs that are deemed to be comparable to the seven Wonders of the World. Locals up to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the 2,000-year-old terraces.

There are five clusters of Banaue Rice Terraces – Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao Central and Nagacadan but the first two are not called the Banaue Rice Terraces. Batad Rice Terraces have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Climate

December to March are coldest in the place, averaging to 18°C. April to May is planting season but heavy rain falls in June and July. The place is prone to landslides in August and September. If you’d like to see the rice terraces at their greenest, October and November must be the best time but don’t wait to have all the rice harvested.

What to wear

We experienced the 16°C temperature in the morning of 16 December. I suggest you to bring jacket (with a hood is better as the climate is unpredictable there. It might rain) and a pair of hiking shoes.

Other things to do

Our itinerary only includes the viewpoint but I list down other things to see in and around Banaue:
1. Hapao Rice Terraces And Hot Springs – At the end of the Hapao rice terraces is the Bogyah hot springs.
2. Tam-an Village – buy wood carvings and woven products made by the locals of the most most visited village by tourists.
3. Tappiya Waterfalls – trek and swim

Where to stay

Two of the houses in the village. Photo from Atty. E

We stayed at Hiwang Native House Inn, a village located on top of a mountain and overlooks the rice terraces. There are seven native houses which you can rent for an overnight stay (P300 per person for a group of four). It’s a perfect place to hang out and relax. Princess Tarah even cooked a dinner for us in the village.

Where to eat

Our food is part of the tour package except when we were on our way to Banaue and Manila. When we were on our way to Manila, we passed by Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya for lunch. Kamayan sa Kainyugan is popular amongst locals and travelers. What caught our attention was a signage saying ” The only day the original Ilocano pinakbet is not in the menu, is what our lola is not in the mood of cooking it.” But the best thing here is their concept of “self service.” They have an area where you can prepare your dipping sauce and an area where you get your own free soup. They have a special tapang usa (dried deer) – P250. Regular main dishes (averaging to P100) are sinigang na bangus, sinigang na tilapia, inihaw na bangus, inihaw na hito, inihaw na liempo, and inasal.

Budget

I spent P2,250 for the whole tour package, which includes private transportation, food, and accommodation. Before we went to Noah’s Ark, I attended a worship service in the locale congregation of Banaue Ext. Thanks to our driver for dropping me off at the house of worship, which is near the local tourism office in Banaue. From the tourism office, I asked a tricycle driver to bring me to the village. I paid P50 for the ride.

How to get there

Here’s a guide when you opt to commute to Banaue.

From Manila. Ohayami Bus located in Sampaloc, Manila (near University of Santo Tomas) has two daily trips – 9PM and 10PM. From Cubao, you may want to take Coda Lines bus. The bus leaves at 9PM everyday. Travel time is 9-10 hours. The fare is averaging to P500. Early booking is highly recommended. If you miss the bus bound for Banaue, you may take bus bound for Kiangan/Lagawe at 9:30PM. From Lagawe, take a jeep bound for Banaue. Travel time is 30 minutes. Fare is P30.  

From Sagada. Many people pair Banaue with Sagada, two-hour ride away from the former. From the intersection in Sagada, take a jeepney bound for Bontoc for P45. It leaves every 30 minutes from 6:30AM to 9AM, then every hour from 9AM to 1PM. From Bontoc, take a van going to Bananue for P150. The van leaves from the tourism office three times a day – 8:30AM, 10AM, and 1PM.

WRITE A RESPONSE ARTICLE
Response article enables VoicePoints readers to respond to the article published by the author by completing the form below. Under ‘Message’ box, please ensure to include the title of the main article you are responding.

About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloExecutive Editor
Paul is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a youth and environmental advocate, leader, writer, blogger, filmmaker and an organist. He’s the former Chairperson of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Ilocos Chapter. As a writer, he has found focus and interest on reproductive health, deaf rights, youth development. At the age of 14, he has fully embraced the call of leadership by leading student organizations and college publications. He was a recipient of the PGMA Campus Journalism Award. He joined and won national contests and published some articles related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in a Spanish paper and website. Some of his articles were also published in leading Philippine news websites and featured in international organizations website.

He launched his career as a CPA in KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. Paul is currently leading the Data and Analytics Network (and its university arm) of KPMG in the Philippines. He is also the Business Lead for Innovation. He provides trainings to KPMG professionals in the Philippines. He also joined Financial Services Academy for Shared Service Centres (SSC) as a presenter. He is part of the Technical Advisory Group of the Firm's Department of Professional Practice, focusing on data and analytics, audit methodology, accounting standards, root cause analysis, system of quality management, and financial statement quality control review. He represents the Firm as a resource and motivational speaker, arbiter, adjudicator and judge in academic conferences, audit conventions, accounting and audit cups, and audit case study competitions. He sits as a member of Root Cause Analysis team of the Firm. Paul is an Audit Methodology Champion and Workforce of the Future Champion of the Firm. He is also the Firm's System of Quality Management Implementation Manager.

Paul is the Review Master and Head Coach of PREMIERE Review School.

Paul is a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) and a Church officer in their locale congregation.