guy was squatting on the pavement in Bontoc by the Jeepney that was
about to take us to Banaue. He was very disheveled, matted hair, goatee
beard, a wacky hippy dude on the ganga. But then he got into the
Jeepney and I discovered he was the driver. It started raining quite
heavily and the road quickly turned into a quagmire, almost a river in
fact as he negotiated pot holes, puddles, rubble, broken branches etc.
Like a madman he drove round perilous bends, just inches away from
sheer drops and a certain death. Lots of landslides and with diggers
and dumper trucks adding to the mayhem. They're slowly metalling the
road, but it's going to take ages. All par for the course in this part
of the world. Anyway we got through OK and I give him a pat on the back
for his skill and dexterity, even though it did scare the shit out of
There was a classic scene of the Von Von Bus stuck on the
edge of the precipice with waterfalls thundering underneath. Would have
made a great picture, but the Jeepney was going too fast for a decent
shot, so the opportunity was lost.
BATAD AND BANAUE RICE TERRACES - THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
World Heritage Site. Up there, quite literally with the likes of Machu
Pichu. Built some 2000 years ago by the Ifugao, the famous headhunters
with a sophisticated irrigation system. Also experts in wood carving. 2
day trek to Batad to see the stone walled terraces with the network of
rice paddies, drainage channels, waterfalls and narrow embankments,
interspersed with patches of jungle. Really had to concentrate on my
balance, as some of the embankments were crumbling and the drop was
several metres - didn't want another broken ankle. Must be pretty
hellish in the wet season, with the leeches as well.
Tappia Waterfall down some very slippery steps covered with moss and
lichen for a refreshing dip. Tree ferns everywhere. Very humid - I
don't think I've sweated so much since the Pinnacles in Borneo. Stay in
Hillside Guesthouse overnight, propped up on concrete pillars
overlooking terraces in Batad. The whole area is amazing - post cards
simply do not do it justice and covers such a huge area. Highly
recommended. And if you have days or even weeks to spare it is a
Next day go to the Banaue Mud-Walled
Terraces and have my picture taken with the Ifuago tribeswomen bedecked
in the national costume. How touristy.
Corpse in Death Chair. If died from natural causes, treated with
respect. Cared for and carried to sepulchre on mountainside. If
murdered, armed with knife and spear and neglected - to make soul angry
for vengeance. No upper garments worn by women. Tattoos associated with
head hunting - fern leaf, dog, eagle, centipede, scorpion. Men have
necks, chest and arms tattooed, women arms only. Cock-fight dance.
tiny when compared to Roy Barton, photographer 5' 10" tall. Head basket
for someone's head. Kalinga shields and spears tattoo motifs. Pattung (
wooden clapper) used in war dance to avenge a murdered person. Sorcery
boxes - small statues used in vengeance and retribution - source of
disease. Like Voodoo. Minahut Hipag - handle of gong made from jaw of
Rice ritual boxes with stylised pig heads -
used by priests - blood of chickens and pigs. Bontoc Locust Containers
- captured in nets - then boiled and dried. Kinabbigat - House God.
King Post to support roof of wealthy Ifugao houses. Ifuago wooden
lounging bench - hagabi and coffin - tiking.
and Ancestor Worship. Female Mombaki dousing the pigs in rice wine
prior to slaughter. A man with a beastly willie - chimera. Fertility
symbols with erect penises. Head Hunting continued until 1913, when the
Americans persuaded the local villagers from practising decapitation.
But unofficially it still went on until the 1950's. Display post for
freshly cut heads. Wigan and Bugan - the Ifuago version of Adam and
Eve, Brother and Sister incest. The bent ones - women bent double
through planting rice. Ifuago boy with frightened hair, as he's about
The Head Hunters - info sheet posted on wall in People's Lodge, Banaue
the Western observer, accustomed to the specialisation, isolation and
fragmentation of all social experience, the unity and fluidity of
tribal life will come as a revelation. Where Westerners project
personal distance and abstraction through such basic relations as
monetary exchange, social status and hierarchies of power, these simple
tribes people engage each other immediately, through gifts and rewards,
constant concern and affection, and collective rather than individual
conceptions of well-being, happiness and abundance.
Maybe a lesson for us all, but not so sure about the head hunting bit - but there again.