Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 160. The Luzon Highlands

Ah, the Highlands. They are so different from the flat lands. For one, the number of vehicles on the road is much lower, so you don’t have the exasperating traffic problems I encountered yesterday. In addition, the temperature is lower, the breeze flows, and the scenery is spectacular.

I spent the day around the small town of Banaue, in the province of Ifugao. The early inhabitants of this area were much feared head hunters, but also fearless rice farmers who 2,000 years ago built the most amazing set of canals and planting terraces throughout their lofty mountains. These terraces are still in use, and have been recently honored with the designation of World Heritage Site.
The descendants of the old head hunters are a fun, hard working bunch, who like getting together for the big jobs, like the building of a house or the harvest of the rice. To pass along the time as they tackle these tedious tasks they sing, or listen as their mythologic stories are told in sing song by one of their elderly storytellers. From what my informer explained, these stories are memorized by heart, word by word, which is quite a feat considering that some of the stories take hours to be told. Reminds me of the ceremonial stories of the Navajo nation.

I took a very nice walk through one of the “native” villages, which have been lovingly conserved for tourists, but also to celebrate special events, such as the harvest. The main structures are small silos for rice, expansively decorated with wood carvings. In fact, the locals are quite proud of their wood carvings, and even children practice the craft in the construction of small stilts and wood “motorcycles”.

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