Swoosh! Another tree branch barely missed my head.
It’s been 11 hours since I left Manila, with the last hour’s ride proving to be a branch-dodging, butt-bruising and utterly hair-raising experience not inside but atop a jeepney overloaded with young boys spitting red moma, sacks of fresh greens, and a black native pig kept cool with some large leaves. While we bore the summer’s heat, the wide-eyed swine was comfily bound for slaughter on first class.
As the four-wheeled circus act grunted its way through the unpaved zigzag carved from the mountainous forest slopes, I clung for dear life onto the metal rails separating the top-loaders and the muddy ravine some hundred feet below. Beside the vehicle, the shoulders of the road slid abruptly down into thick foliage dotted with graceful tree ferns. This was a place where calming beauty and adrenaline wrestled to the heavens.
Swoosh! Again, I successfully dodged another. After rounding a bend, emerald stairways of mud-walled rice paddies appeared. I was in Banaue, I affirmed myself with a sigh.
In four days, I backpacked through the mountain ranges of the Cordillera from stunning Banaue through bustling Bontoc and foggy Sagada. I was on a mission to see something for real that never fails to impress me every time I see it in a textbook or postcard: our iconic 2,000 year old terraces.
While Jesus walked the Holy Land and the Great Wall rose from the ground, Ifugao highland tribes were making miracles of their own by sculpting a vast network of rice terraces with primitive tools, along the unforgiving slopes of the Cordillera mountain range some 1,500 meters above sea level. Rice terraces may be common throughout Asia, but no other can compare to the exquisite grandeur and solitude of Banaue’s ancient stairways. If these terraces were placed end to end, they will reportedly circle more than halfway around the world.
For the rest of the article, grab a copy of ROAM Magazine Issue No. 2. Photography by Jake Versoza. Available at National Bookstore, Powerbooks, Fully Booked and Booksale.