Banaue, 1995 to 2013: A Second Family in the Mountains

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.

Banaue Bum 2001
Banaue Bum

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.

Bernanbe carving a Bulul 2001
Bernanbe carving a Bulul

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.

A child at play among the wooden pieces in his father's workshop 2001
A child at play among the wooden pieces in his father’s workshop

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.

Planting Rice 2013
Planting Rice

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.

A view of the Rice Terraces
A view of the Rice Terraces

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.

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