THE RICE TERRACES of Banaue and Batad are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction in mountainous northern Luzon, the Philippines’ main island. Most tourists travel only from Manila to Banaue and back, but farther north is an area of traditional cultures and some incredibly friendly people not yet accustomed to the everyday sight of tourists. When I explained my trekking plans to Manila locals, I was warned of “evil” people who live “backwards.” What I found, of course, was the polar opposite.
While the experience was highly rewarding, I believe it is of the utmost importance to tread lightly. A guide is a necessity to aid in communication as well as to help you avert any cultural offenses. Also, things like candy and money should never be handed out, especially to children, although gifts are received warmly in the region — particularly matches — so stock up before arriving.
The Cordillera offers a glimpse of a completely different side to the Philippines. Here’s what I saw.