It was my last new destination of a trip that had spanned a mere 9 months. The north of the Philippines. An untouched place as a whole really. Banaue in particular, had evaded me on my last trip to the Philippines which were 4 months previous. I thought it was one of the clearest things I’d ever see when I looked at the pictures. I was actually a bit confused for a second when I first saw it. I thought the step-like terraces were of a size that I could physically step over them with my two feet and flip flops. Weird maybe, perhaps that was my inner subconscious of mine wanting to be a giant human, I don’t know. Maybe it was just pure disbelief looking at it; I hadn’t seen anything similar before. It was surreal to the eyes of a northern English guy brought up in an industrial forest of a town.
I actually went to Sagada first, so my real experience of Banaue started from the journey back down from there. It was an incredible ride down. On top (and yes on top!) of a Jeepney vehicle. Hanging and balancing for 3 hours with backpacks, luggage and other equipment as my rope. It was the best part of my trip. And it wasn’t even something I targeted to do. I never expected such a small decision to give me such a fulfilling experience. I really got to respect and take in the jaw-dropping surroundings. The journey ahead was just empty windy hill side roads with amazing scenery and death-defying drops at one side of me. It was a basic road, rarely any stalls or shops. No public phones, no barriers to the cliffs, no real road signs. There and only one way to go, north or south. Rice terraces just everywhere. Hours on the road and still all these rice terrace formations just at every angle.
When I got to Banaue, I inhaled the atmosphere of the place. I was on a high from clear, fresh, atmospheric air. The whole place had that sense of disconnection from any other community of civilisation of surrounding areas. Staying in a local guesthouse, I remember looking out on the balcony of my room. A pure mist of fog and clouds complied with one another rapidly smothered the tips of the rice terraces in front of me. It was intriguing to see such a natural climate change happen, something invisibly unappreciated when in the realms of the distractions within the western world.
The town village of Banaue was one community. Markets, transport, farmers. There was nothing complicated about this place, the vicinity was simple. A community embraced in the rice terraces, growing and living their existence. The warmth of being inside, onlooking the rainy weather outside, combined with the Banaue locals continuing their daily tasks, reminded me of that cosy feeling I get when back in the UK at Christmas time. That feeling where you are involved at something and you are relaxed enough to appreciate what goes on around you.
A day during my time there, I went on a trek with some travellers who I had just met. Believe me, the space you have to move your feet are actually scary when walking the frame of the each rice terrace. It’s almost your trying to walk a straight line over a road marking. It was so steep that if you fell, well there was no getting back up. It was thrillingly dangerous… it was worth it. The challenge added to the euphoric satisfaction that the view from a high point brought. The nature and the peace of it all. Looking down on small buildings engulfed in this kingdom of terraces.
This was a dream I wanted.… It was nature and the closest thing I’ve got to being one with it. It was a surprise for this to touch me so late in my trip, I never expected it. I felt like we were back to basics, almost tucked away from most things I knew. There was no modern life complications, no loud noises, no reputations it was just life. It’s just peaceful you know to cover myself with that way of living.
The way of life in Banaue made me want this life at some point. Being there I sensed clearness in my head. Pure tranquillity. It makes you think that we are human after all and sometimes we just want to that feeling of freedom. I felt satisfied. It felt I had found another world, or our world, the way it was, the way life was. I felt the breeze. I felt Banaue.