The Philippines 1991
My mother was 65 years old and my son Xavier 12 when we decided to go to the Philippines for an adventure holiday. I had been there on business years before but this time we wanted to travel into the north of the country to see the 2000 year-old rice terraces at Banaue.
We travelled from Manila to Baguio initially by plane and then tried to find a driver that would be prepared to take us the 9 hour drive further north to Banaue. This proved to be difficult as apparently there were communist terrorist groups supposed to be hiding out in the jungle that we would have to travel through. Eventually we found a driver with a beaten up old red Toyota that was prepared to take us, and early the next morning we set off. On the way we had to stay overnight in a small hotel which was very basic with simple rooms with wooden bedsteads and very thin mattresses. I remember having a very sleepless night because of dogs barking and howling all night. For dinner we had had little choice about the menu, Pigs trotter! Actually, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds but it was hard work trying to find any meet on the bone.
Eventually we got to Banaue and check into the Shangri la hotel. Surprisingly civilised given the hilly surroundings, but it seemed like there was an American army camp nearby, complete with golf course.
The rice terraces were without doubt one of the worlds wonders. 2000 years old they stretched for miles and we could see the rice growing strongly in these fertile fields.
The Ifugao tribes-people that lived there, were still living in wooden houses on stilts with straw roofs. You climbed a wooden ladder to get into them and they were dark and dirty inside because of the smoke from the fires that burnt in the middle of the floor billowing smoke out of the roof. Each home had a number of crude carved black and rather sinister wooden statues presumably of a spiritual nature.