Thursday, January 7, 2010

Backpack Photography: Banaue Workshops by Ironwulf and Lagalog

Oh, you may have heard it countless of times but it bears repeating that Banaue is the "un-crowned" eighth wonder of the world.  So, you may have seen the postcard-pretty image in books, in magazines, in TV travel shows, even in a Philippine peso bill but seeing the terraces with your own eyes really beg belief.  Sure, there are rice terraces elsewhere in the world, notably in China and Vietnam (I've seen the one in Sapa and they were also beautiful in their own right), but none as extensive as these, stretching beyond Banaue to the other areas of the Cordillera.

I know I already noted it in a previous entry but it also bears repeating the fact the Ifugaos and their highland cousins took 2,000 years to carve the mountains into this architectural/agricultural wonder using primitive implements, undeniable ingenuity, and painstaking labor.  Little wonder that in 1997, the terraces were accorded the prestigious International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Award by the American Society of Civil Engineering.  That the terraces are also included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list is not at all surprising.

Banaue is nestled 1200 meters above sea level, which is double the elevation of Baguio, the country's summer capital, so the air is cool and crisp even during high noon and downright chilly during the evenings. During the latter part of the year, the heavy fog rolls in early in the afternoon and stays there until the sun rises high in the sky.  Even just sitting by the window of your inn, you can get truly widescreen, high-definition entertainment watching the fog roll out and unveil the town slowly every morning and come back to claim the land way before dusk settles.

In between those hours, you can wander around the different viewpoints or for those brave enough, go to the distant towns of Batad, Cambulo, Hapao or Hungduan and try your knee strength and resilience in hiking the terraces.  If you so decide to stay in Banaue, there's a lot of things to do like people watch in the town center and appreciate the woodcarvers and craftsmen and women churn out souvenir upon souvenir that eventually end up in homes hundreds, nay, even thousand of miles away.  There's something about the cool weather that makes eating/vegging out or simple plain chilling come second nature.

It's a pity if you do wander around Banaue and come back home with nary a snapshot of the experience.  So if you're raring to practice your basic photography skills and shoot with the the rice terraces as backdrop, I invite you to Backpacking Photography: Banaue, the first of a series of photo workshops I and my best buddy, Ferdz Decena of, will be conducting for the first part of the year. 

This workshop will be held from March 19-21, 2010.  Fee is Php 8,000 which is all-inclusive (roundtrip bus fare from Manila, 3D&2N accommodations, all meals, transportation, course materials and travel insurance).  There will be really exciting arrangements like living in real Ifugao huts and immersing in Ifugao culture (how cool is that?). Interested?  Just email me at lagalog at or Ferdz at ferdzdecena at  For more details, please visit


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