The rains first greeted us when the Florida bus made a stopover for midnight snack in Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya. The crisp cool air blended with light rainfall took not a few of our fellow passengers by surprise. By the time we arrived in Banaue, the light rain has become the drenching kind. Photographers don't usually see inclement weather as good news but with the onset of El Niño, we welcomed the rains like manna from heaven.
Just the other day, Manila newspapers' headlines screamed "Ifugao declared as calamity area". With an upcoming workshop in Banaue, we were dreading what we may see. There were conflicting stories from the locals -- the rains were a result of cloud seeding said one; it was just one of them strange days when it rains out of season we heard from another. But one thing was for sure -- some of the fields were drying up but not yet to a calamitous point save for some areas like Lagawe which is known for its red mountain rice as well as the highly-valued Tinawon rice (appropriately called heirloom rice by people who know their rice) as well as other places like Batad ang Bangaan.
In any case, the cool temperature (20-21 degrees) was welcome relief from Manila's dry, 36 degree heat. With the rains, holing up in the room, drinking coffee while surfing the net (oh, SmartBro's signal wavers but otherwise available there) or simply doing nothing becomes hard-to-resist temptations. When it rains, the fog imparts an ethereal quality to the trees in the distance, the houses on the mountainside. Things (and time) seems to come to a standstill. Why, even the grasshopper that I took fancy on remained unmoved despite my incessant up close shooting.
Being here on business means doing what you have to do early so you can have more time afterwards to chill out. Stepping out into the rain from the lodge, we found one local sleeping on rounded pieces of pipes. (We went off to Aparnga-o, some 6 kilometers from Banaue town proper where it was even colder) When we got back 3-4 hours later, he was still at the same place as if the world stopped and time stood still even as the rain continued its pitter-patter. If that's not a real world concept of chilling out (or should I say, a most pragmatic way of not putting this kind of weather to waste), I don't what is.
Info: Florida buses ply the Manila-Banaue route twice a day, leaving the terminal near the corner of España and Arsenio Lacson (formerly Gov. Forbes) in front of UST at 9.15 pm and 10.45 pm. Fare is P450/pax (around $10) for the bus with restroom. Travel time: around 8 hours with one stopover.
Seeing the ampitheater-style rice terraces and the waterfall of Batad is a nice option when you're in Banaue. To read about it, click here.