It’s surprising that most of us were already awake by 5am in the morning without even having to call everyone up. We were worried the night before that the constant bamboo-like clacking sound from the mountain frogs outside Bangaan Family Inn would keep us awake but it seems the frogs drifted to sleep as well. Or was it the amusing ghost stories that challenged to sleep? But ghostly presence or not, we were shooting trees from a hill far away as the soothing calmness of the morning in Bangaan unfolds.
It was rather an easy morning and participants are free to shoot which ever they want. Whether it’s the sunlight slowly draping over the mountains and terraces of Bangaan or the rural scene of people waking up to do their regular morning chores. I appreciate Bangaan for it’s simplicity. A place I can easily lounge around and take it easy.
The highlight of the morning was a cultural show by the young Ifugaos of Bangaan. We decided to do the presentation here to somehow help out the youth here as well. From afar, we could here the banging gongs signaling their arrival. We went to a venue just beside an Ifugao house I stayed the first time I went here in 2002. It still looks the same, clean, comfy and spacious with an improved bathroom outside. The place also has a marvelous view of the Bangaan Rice Terraces.
The kids started their presentation with an Ifugao welcome song followed by a traditional dance. We moved venue shortly to the view deck where they performed other dances on a much comfortable ground. The sound of the percussion and its rhythmic beats have always been enthralling to hear.
While not perfect in execution, the kids shows passion and energy and I applaud them for their efforts. It was not as refined as the performance we had during our Banaue 101 but it was the youthful energy and enthusiasm of these kids that won us.
We made our way down the village by another flight of stairs. It was fairly easy trek this time with only 15-20 minutes till we reach the terraces proper. But before that we met Apo Chumoh, the oldest living person in Bangaan at the age of 96, that’s almost a century! He was fully garbed in Ifugao clothes and was sitting idly as if looking at the terraces. But he was blind as we found out and already has problems with his hearing. We gave him a monetary donation after which he mumbled a few words. Our young guide there, Rogelio told us what we gave was too big which was in fact little but he prefers bread than money.
The sight of vast layers rice paddies with rice plants ripe for harvest was simply incredible to see. Bangaan Rice Terraces which is also part of the four rice terraces under UNESCO World Heritage List is has a character of its own. While Batad has that magnificent amphitheater look, Bangaan Terraces looks like a giant half-pipe ramp stretching along the mountains with a little compact village at the center.
I was dismayed at the sight of some concrete structures there which seems out of place from the native Ifugao houses at the village but Rogelio was quick to point out that there are already funds coming from Banaue to remove and replace them with traditional ones. Being under UNESCO, I thought building foreign looking structures would be much stricter.
The village at the terraces was small and charming. A mass just ended when we arrived at this small St Anthony’s Church. Most of the attendees were elders. We soon visited some native houses at the lower part of the village facing another view of the terraces climbing up the distant mountains. It was just a spectacular sight to see. Some of the native Ifugao Houses there were available for rent. It would be really interesting to stay here next time.
We left Bangaan by early afternoon en route back to Bangaan. The Photo Tour was about to end as we made a stop at the famous rice terraces of Banaue. Every time I go back here, my appreciation of Ifugao gets deeper and it really is a lot more fun sharing this spectacular sights with a group of like minded individuals. We trekked the terraces, climbed hundreds of stairs and took home memorable photographs from this journey which I’m sure will stay embedded in our minds for some time.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.