Since the 1990s, I have been traveling up to the mountain town of Banaue, and its outskirts. The place is famous for the rice terraces that extend through many mountain ranges, which were built by the Ifugao people by hand.
I have fallen in love with this place and its people, from their traditions to the simplicity of life, and their deep connection to the land. Much of my earlier travels were a mix of research and a break for the insane city life. And each time I visited, the Luglug-Beyer clan opened their arms and made me one of their own. Soon I was attending many of their social functions, including their ritual feast called the Cañao.
During my earlier travels, I never had photographs of myself in the mountains, because all my pictures were for research documentation. This particular image was taken by my girlfriend (and now wife), in 2001. As I kept on returning, I developed some close relationships with many locals, including Bernabe, a local carver and businessman. Here, we discuss the rituals of making the rice god, called the bulul, while he carved one for his tourist souvenir shop.
The Ifugao people have a strong belief in thousands of nature spirits. To carve wood is a scared rite, in which the people have to speak to the tree spirit to allow them to reshaped to another form and imbibe a new spirit.
After a long hiatus from Banaue, I finally returned to Banaue in 2013, with my family. Just like my wife and I, our daughter immediately fell in love with the land. At one instance she ran into the rice terraces, and joined the locals in planting rice.
Sad to say, no matter what the great engineering feats the Ifugao have accomplished, the rice terraces are under threat from neglect. Many of the local youth are opting to forgo the life of a farmer and work in the cities. Because of that, erosion and gigantic earthworms are slowly breaking down many of these structures.