Banaue Rice Terraces, Ifugao I: Chasing The Light
In the long list of Philippine travel destinations, Banaue Rice Terraces, the pride of Ifugao, probably earned the title as the most photographed landmark in Luzon Island, if not in the whole archipelago. Being bestowed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the iconic feat attracted travelers from all over the world to witness a world-class Ifugao artistry. Taking the best single image with a completely unique approach serves as a challenge for a travel photography enthusiast like me, where going home with a picture-perfect rendition of Banaue Rice Terraces will paint a vibrant smile on one’s face. Let us chase the light and capture the magnificence of Banaue Rice Terraces.
Using the golden hours’ natural lighting is a rule of thumb, or perhaps, a reliable guideline, in the sophisticated world of photography. To maximize my decent chances of a good image, leaving Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant before dawn breaks gave me a good head start. Crisp mountain chill and light mist shrouded Banaue’s town center where I hailed a tricycle that will take me to the first among the three viewpoints in Banaue.
Early morning in Main Viewpoint
Low altitude clouds hovered over the mystic mountains of Banaue and I felt the cool wind breeze stroke my skin, previously burnt from the Batad and Tappiya Falls hike. Sunlight still hid shy behind the vast mountain range when I arrived in Main Viewpoint. Lighting was a bit flat and the colors were dull, nevertheless, Banaue’s cluster of rice terraces with this colossal magnitude is a picture worth capturing. Furthermore, time still favors my side and I could save another shot later.
344 Kilometers from Rizal Park.
Visible from where I stood were the two other view points suggesting more angles, alternative approaches, and probably different lighting positions. Approximately a little over a kilometer of zigzagging downhill road separated me from the the Main Viewpoint to the NFA-Aguian View Deck. Certainly, switching from one angle to another is not a leisure walk in the park.
Local kids riding their wooden scooter.
Chirping birds, chuckling chickens, grunting pigs, and the brushing sound of the broomstick sweeping the cemented road were the symphony serenading my casual stroll until it was interrupted by my much awaited sunlight casting a long shadow in front of me. I was extending the 3-sectioned legs of my tripod as I walk with haste and started triggering the shutter, instantly after locking the mount to the pan head. “Click, click, click”, said my beat-up, 6 year old camera.
Stairway to heaven, Banaue Rice Terraces
Outlining the staircase of rice paddies with a golden brim was a bright light that peeked from ridge of the tallest mountain – a spectacular sight that welcomed my arrival in Dayanara View Point, named after the 1993 Miss Universe title holder, Dayanara Torres. After modeling in a photo-shoot for the 1994 Miss Universe, which was to be held in the Philippines, locals of Banaue coined the site after Puerto Rican beauty queen who also became a celebrated movie/TV star in the country. Dayanara has been in the limelight for 5 years while I, shooting in a view point named after her, had 5 minutes of sunlight before the sun hid behind the clouds.
Highlighting the terraces’ rim.
Layers and layers of rice fields carved the mountain.
Thin haze and partly cloudy skies refrained Banaue from delighting in a sunny Saturday morning. But on the bright side, I kind of enjoyed the non-perspiring walk to the most notable among the three view points, NFA-Aguian View Deck, also known as the “1000 Peso bill view deck”. Printed in the Philippines’ largest usable banknote is the picture-perfect image of the Banaue cluster viewed from the NFA vantage point. Just as I was about look for a 1,000 Peso bill in my torn out wallet, the cloud-filled skies opened up and the sun showered the rice fields with bright gold and luscious green.
The P1,000 peso rice terraces but I didn’t get it right.
Descending from NFA View Deck lead to another viewing area that grants those who brave a closer perspective. Adjoined to the view point was the top-most paddy packed with organic rice waiting for harvest. Connecting them both was barely a foot of slippery trail nestled at the top of the rice field’s mud wall. Getting passed this obstacle gives the daring a front row seat to Ifugao’s agricultural marvel.
Green fields turned gold when the sun opened up.
From the edge of the rice paddy.
Banaue welcomed the sunshine with arms wide open, embracing the warmth of a beautiful morning, while images from Batad and Tappiya Falls hike under the scorching heat flashed in my mind while I was hiking back up to where I first stopped, the hub of tourism activity, the Main View Point. Lodgings, restaurants, wood carving shops, and souvenir shops flanked both sides of the hairpin turn. Most importantly, the Main View Point is the highest, in terms of elevation, among the three viewing areas which means a wider range of sight, and a “bird’s eye” view of the Banaue’s Rice Terraces and Banaue Poblacion, as well.
Different establishments along the street at Main View Point.
Loads of souvenirs to choose from.
Ifugao’s traditionally woven cloth, bags, scarfs, etc.
Banaue Rice Terraces display the unique monumental achievement of the Ifugao from many generations of the brilliant innovation, and magnificent artistry. And, where else can the panoramic beauty be seen or photographed but the the three view points of Banaue, which is easily accessible to anyone – even beauty queens.
The rice terraces from Main View Point.
Every view point revealed distinct characteristics, angles, and features of the mountain-carved agricultural landscape but every time the shutter snaps, cliched photos, came out of the LCD. The quest for the single and most unique Banaue Rice Terrraces photograph has just began and is far from over.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:
1. This is the FIRST PART of my Banaue Rice Terraces experience. See PART II.
2. Tricycle ride to from Banaue Town Center to Main View Point and vice versa.
P50.00 – to Main View Point
P20.00 – back to Town Proper
3. From the Main View Point, you could walk your way downhill to Dayanara View Point and NFA-Aguian View Deck. Walking your way until town will give you more interesting vantage points of Banaue Rice Terraces which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
4. Travel time from Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant to the Main View Point is approximately 15-20 minutes.
5. You DO NOT need a guide in the view points.
6. The Main View Point is the best place to buy souvenir items, since there are lots of stores to choose from, lots of items, and lots of goods, tourist would want to bring back home.
7. BE CAREFUL when you are walking in the rice paddies.
8. Like BIYAHERONG BARAT on Facebook.
9. Follow BIYAHERONG BARAT on Twitter.
10. Have a safe trip and HAPPY TRAVELS.