Surreal New Year Rice Terrace-2
on the last day of 2007 we landed in manila from gensan—manny pacquio’s mindanao outpost …then onto a van on our way up north to Ifugao country –Banaue and it’s glorious rice terraces over 5,000 years old….but first we had to make a few stops to eat and to drop off our luggage in Angeles City Pampanga… over the phone some weeks before, our guide assured me that if we left Angeles by 1pm or so we will be in Banaue by 6pm.. for sure by 7pm at the latest…we left Angeles City at about 4pm….i still thought we were good..we’ll be in Banaue no later than by 10pm…really now! hah!
first off, traveling on the last day of any year anywhere in the world , is at best a most insane idea…nothing specific or scientific.. just that feeling.. you know, one shouldn’t travel on unknown terrain on the last day of the year…and here I was leading a group of Americans from the southern tip of the island of Mindanao to the northern mountainous region of Luzon!!
we didn’t begin our climb until 8pm…it was real dark ….with only our headlights cutting through the pitch blackness enveloping us.. a two-lane winding road up the mountain with the fog embracing us completely…the poor visibility forced our driver to slow down to a crawl hugging the mountainside… he feared driving off an unseen treacherous ravine… then he informs me that he had only driven this way once before! so a 1 hour drive turned to 4!
like in a surreal horror flick….we felt like hansel and gretel lost and helpless in the woods ….
as we cleared one bend after another desperate hope would creep onto our consciousness.. that the group of lonely houses huddled in the dark & fog mysteriously lit by a dim light bulb or two would be it…our destination–Banaue….after awhile our hope turned into desperation..and we surrendered to the reality the this will take a very long time…
finally a few minutes before midnight, we arrived at the Banaue Hotel where the new year’s celebration was already underway full blast…it was from one surreal trip to the next..the hotel once an architectural marvel and the pride of Banaue is now an old fashion relic.. out of sync with the times.. it was like stepping into a time warp at a wanna-be swiss chalet in lake tahoe in the ‘70s…. a Pilipino band sang passable country music to a clientele of locals and mostly grey-haired and balding middle-aged white tourists, all happily sauced from one too many San Miguel…we ate tasteless wonder bread-white ham sandwiches and stale potato chips, drank red wine, sang auld lang syne, shook hands with a bunch of strangers and greeted each other happy new year… fireworks were exploding in bursts of thunder and light in the parking lot…and all we wanted was a bed to stretch and sleep..but hold up, after 15 hours we still have not reached our destination.. …tired and irritable we hoisted our luggage and dragged our tired bodies onto the jeepney… we left the van at the hotel parking lot because the van would literally sink in the muddy road …our local driver drunk as as skunk maneuvered the jeepney…i could feel the frustration seething and bubbling from my american companions..and i feared i just might find myself pushed off onto a flooded rice field…..the road was so bad that a couple of times we had to get off and walk.. the jeepney was too heavy with all of us in it..monster road threatened to swallow the jeepney whole..…the trek was finally over…what a crazy bumpy slippery ride… we finally arrived at the Native Inn Village In at 3am….we were greeted by a chorus of barking dogs and two sleepy girls
in the morning we were embraced by the magic of the rice terraces.
was 15 hours of travel worth it? nah…no way.. if you can get there in 5!