Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rice-ing up the Cordillera Mountains

As a last hurrah for summer, my friend Pinky and I took a 2 day trip high up in the mountain provinces to experience rice aesthetically and gastronomically. We rode a 10 pm Autobus from Sampaloc and arrived in Banawe, Ifugao province at 8 am the following day. Our very first concern was to get breakfast. After a very long busride and a last meal of hotdog on a stick (in a stop somewhere in Nueva Ecija) we were already longing for a proper meal of hot filling rice. We got our first rice exposure in the People’s Lodge near the palengke.

Rice meal no. 1 was a traditional Filipino breakfast of longsilog. I could not even remember how it tasted but I recall enjoying because it was very nourishing. Plus the lodge gave us our very first glimpse of the world famous Banawe Rice terraces. Rice sighting no. 1 was more like a worm’s eye view as most of Banawe town is situated near the base of the famous landmark. People’s Lodge had a balcony with a long counter to eat on, while enjoying the view. It’s probably why I can’t remember how meal no. 1 tasted. I was very much overwhelmed by my first sight. The eye candy overcame my tastebuds.

Shortly after our first rice encounter in Banawe, we busied ourselves finding a ride going to upland Sagada. We found a jeep and 10 other people to share the transpo expenses. A few more minutes we were on our way to a 3 hour trip to Sagada town in the neighboring Mountain Province. But not before we could get our second peek of the Banawe Rice terraces.

Rice sighting no. 2 was a couple of kilometers uphill. Certain viewpoints were established to admire the Ifugao rice terraces at different vantage points. We got to stop at the highest view deck, giving us this time a bird’s eye view, with Banawe town at a far bottom. Here, a few women dressed in Ifugao garbs were chanting and posing away for tourist pictures. There were only a few of them but they were very animated, giving out their sweetest nganga-laced smiles to spectators. I myself could not resist having my picture taken with them against the backdrop of the terraces. Another aspect in viewing the world- reknowned Banawe, with the people and their colorful culture. After a few more snaps we were again on the high road heading for Sagada.

Rice sighting 3 and 4 were in Bayo Town and the outskirts of Bontoc, in Mountain Province. The route to Sagada was going up and down hills and mountains, through valleys and crossing rivers. The road was narrow, most of the time enough for opposite traffic. But it was heavily laden with fresh landslides and rock piles, thus at certain points, it was only passable for one car. But the views were spectacular and very breath taking. Rice terraces were everywhere. At Bayo it was smaller but also as steep as Banawe. In Bontoc, they are scattered, some very steep and some at flatter surfaces.

Rice meal no. 2 came at Sagada. After the 3 hour trip we arrived at 1 pm, barely in time for lunch. After settling in George Lodge, we immediately looked for a popular eating place in the area, Yoghurt House. We were seated again on a familar spot, a balcony with a long counter, fronting the street. On this balcony we enjoyed our second filling meal of the day. It was tuna and cheese pasta for Pinky and of course, rice with chicken curry for me. Both meals were very heavy and creamy. My curry was a little hot for my taste, but I eventually finished it off, downed with warm lemon tea and a coke. We were again rejuvenated, ready to sample the sights Sagada had to offer.

Rice Sighting No. 5 was at the outskirts of the small Sagada town. The place was on the flatter top of a high mountain and the rice terraces were gradually stepped. What made them interesting is that they were alternating with exposed limestone formations and heavy pine forests. The Sagada limestone cliffs are also famous for their hanging coffins and several were already quite visible near the town proper.

Rice meal No. 3 and 4 were at a quaint place they call the Lemon Pie house. This establishment is internet popular because of backpackers sampling their delicious and savory lemon and egg pies. I myself tried a few slices while we were there, 3 to be exact. It could have been more but the pies were already horded out by other tourists...sigh! For kicks we tried out their breakfast meal of sausage and omelet with rice (as expected) for dinner. The very next day we returned to sample their dinner meal of mixed vegetables, again with rice, for breakfast. What a mix up eh. I would have wanted to order their fried chicken with rice but every time I was discouraged as the meal was longer to prepare, as the chicken would come straight from the freezer, they said. Oh well, there is always next time.

On our way back to Banawe the following day we again took our second glance of the rice terraces. Halfway the sky turned dark and rain poured, thus filling up the terraces with rain water and creating mini-waterfalls. Eventually we got to see the Sagada outskirts, Bontoc rice fields and Bayo terraces before finding ourselves again eating our last rice meal of fried chicken (finally!) and (what else of course) rice in People’s lodge (at least for this Banawe-Sagada trip). It was here that we waited out our bus departure time, eating away rice meal no. 5 as we viewed the Banawe rice terraces one last time, till it was eaten away by darkness. A couple of hours we were again on the road, the bus going back to Manila, our tummies sastisfied with rice meals and our eyes and mind with memories of picturesque and panoramic views of rice up in the mountains.


pinkygendrano said...

at syempre in between rice meals, may iba pang meals & snacks, he he

Wencel said...

We thank you for visiting The Sagada Lemon Pie House. Great views in Sagada? :) I'm glad that you enjoyed your stay in Sagada. We hope to bump into you sometime. :)