Travel Diaries: Banaue, Ifugao

Aguian viewpoint, the Red Bull ad and 1,000 peso bill angle

There’s always a reason why people travel. I travel to learn people’s culture, try new things and in search for a good profile picture. Let me borrow the words from the article the author wrote on Tripzilla.com: too often these days, traveling has become all about ticking off that particular location or activity off a bucket list of some sort. In the process, the very essence of travel has been lost. Rick Mereki’s video reaches out to every traveler, making them realize the importance of the journey and to learn and grow from experience at every new destination.

Panoramic view in one of the terraces viewpoints
Banaue marker at their tourist center

And that is exactly how I experienced Banaue.

Kareen and I with the English-speaking Igorots

Banaue is not your typical vacation spot to enjoy. There are no malls, ATMs, and taxi. Transportation is hard that locals take hitchhikers whenever they have space in the vehicle. Sometimes, people are rude that they throw a bucketful of water on your driver for no reason at all (we think that the tour guides were annoyed that we toured the town with the tricycle driver than get a guide). But generally, the bayanihan spirit is very much alive in Banaue. If you’re used to the city comforts, prepare to rough it up, city girl.

KMS van schedule from Banaue to Baguio

Traveling from Baguio to Banaue
I’m scared of traveling at night, so I am grateful of taking the ONLY day trip from Baguio to Banaue which leaves from the KMS Lines Bus Terminal at 8 am, 6 hours travel time. Fare is around Php 400. Our ride is a red van that have seen better days. The ticket seller asked me to check out the van first before paying for the ticket in case I don’t want to go through it. I told her, if the van works and doesn’t break down in the middle of the road, it’s a go. She must’ve pegged me as one of those fickle travelers. But to those choosy passengers, please take note that you will be riding a non-air-conditioned rusty van with a betel nut-chewing Igorot driver. Hey, we survived, so no worries.

When we arrived in Banaue, first thing on our list is to reserve seats at the KMS ticketing booth for our trip back to Baguio. We got the same driver on our way back which is cool since friendship forged in 6 hours road trip will make strangers bond closer. I’m no longer shy to inform the driver to make a stop that has a comfort room free of charge.

Room with a view in People’s Lodge
People’s Lodge and Restaurant’s bedding: handwoven and snug with Ifugao cloth and malong

Where we stayed
On our first night, we stayed at People’s Lodge and Restaurant. The lodge is run by a tiny old lady that goes by the name, Mrs. Terrado, who’s favorite fashion statement is wearing colored glasses and woolly beanies that badly reminds me of Mr. Bean’s girlfriend in the animated series, Irma Gobb. She gave us a price of Php 700 per night but when we arrived, she charged us Php 800. We shrugged it off since we have an awesome view of the mountains and background music from the little creek below but we have to go through a labyrinth of stairs and turns to reach our room–which feels like going to a stock room. Next complaint is that the service sucks! They charged us Php 5.00 for a cup of hot water, electrical sockets are only available at the restaurant and the serving girls are rude. Their food is okay but when it comes to their coffee, you pay an exorbitant amount only to get an unpopular-name 3-in-1 instant coffee and a cup of hot water. Never mind hot chocolate when you are handed an unopened Milo sachet and a cup of hot water. It’s a rip-off! We shared our experience to our trusty tour tricycle driver and he wasn’t surprised; he heard the same sentiments from a lot of tourists.

Looking through the window, our room in Stairway Lodge and Restaurant

On our last night in Banaue, we stayed at Stairway Lodge and Restaurant which is a good change from People’s Lodge’s hawk-eyed tour guides and bad customer service. It costs us Php 800 per night but we are very well accommodated. We got a good view from our room, a private bathroom with extreme temperatures (hot like boiling hot lava and cold like Arctic) and a good night’s sleep. Electrical sockets are still in the dining area, no sockets can be found within the rooms.

Both lodges have common rooms and common comfort rooms but we opted for the private option. With regards to the socket issue, Mrs. T shared that there was once a fire broke out in Banaue which prompted the lodges to have all sockets installed outside the rooms and within the walls of their restaurant. I think this is their lame marketing strategy to increase sales or they are telling the truth.

Kuya Benson Tid-ong is highly recommended to anyone traveling to Banaue

Around the mountains
We scoured the town at night looking for a decent tricycle driver who won’t rip us off. Our hunch led us meeting Ifugao native, kuya Benson Tid-ong. We negotiated that we want someone to tour us the following morning to see the terraces viewpoints. He gave us a good price of Php 300.00 for 2 for the whole morning trip. I feel that it is not enough but went along with it. We went to see a couple of view points, bought scarves and found a cute Ifugao skirt at one of the souvenir shops. Highlight of the trip is the 1,000 peso bill terraces angle in Aguian View and one of the view points where there’s a group of Ifugao women dressed in their full regalia. Always have an extra cash handy for impulsive buys.

Banaue travel tips
– There are no ATMs available, bring extra cash; the closest ATM is in Lagawe which is 25 km from Banaue and Solano, Nueva Visacaya, 70 km away
– If you are traveling from Baguio, be sure to bring a non-wheelie case to avoid inconvenience of heavy-lifting
– Pack your power banks, charging your gadgets can be challenging if guests are fighting for available sockets
– Weather can be unpredictable, bring a jacket and umbrella in case it rains
– Whenever you want to have your picture taken with an Igorot, you are obliged to give a tip
– Igorots converse English fluently, they don’t speak or understand Tagalog
– Be prepared to hitch rides on random strangers’ cars if you wander beyond the busy district area where there’s no tricycle or public transportation readily available

Contact information:

Stairway Lodge and Restaurant
Banaue, Ifugao 3601, Philippines
Owner / Manager: Pinky Dulnuan-Padua
Phone: +63 916 456 7346

Benson Tid-ong (tricycle tour)
Phone: +63 936 324 2747

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