Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Mountain Sound of Native Village Inn


Wow! What an amazing place! Absolutely stunning!

These were the very words we impressively utter while marveling the magnificent view. My wife and I were so exhilarated and obviously captivated to the grandeur of the site we will call “home” for the subsequent days of our holiday.


Hapao Rice Terraces - one of the renowned rice terraces of the Philippines Cordillera.

Our overnight trip to Banaue, Ifugao from Sampaloc, Manila via Ohayami bus started at 10:00 p.m. on January 7, 2013. After exiting NLEX from Plaridel, Bulacan, we navigate the roads of Pan Philippine Highway (Asian Highway 26) passing through key municipalities of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and outlying towns of Nueva Viscaya towards Ifugao Province. We made a brief stop-over in Aritao, Nueva Viscaya for gas, personal relief and some local treat. It was past midnight when we started negotiating the winding road of the Nueva Viscaya – Ifugao – Mt. Province Highway. We arrived in Banaue bus terminal at 7:30 a.m. January 8, 2013. Two welcome parties met us in the bus terminal and loaded our backpacks in their all-terrain jeep for our final transfer.

I booked our much-anticipated holiday at Native Village Inn – a modest rustic mountain resort renowned in the Cordillera Region for attracting both local and foreign tourists alike. It is located in upland Uhaj, Banaue, Ifugao.

Banaue is widely known as the location of UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Batad Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces. Contrary to popular belief, the Banaue Rice Terraces as seen from the viewpoint are not included in the UNESCO list, due to the presence of numerous modern structures. However, it is a National Cultural Treasure under the Ifugao Rice Terraces. Aside from the Banaue Rice Terraces there are 5 other similar terraces in the area that form part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordillera; they are Batad Rice Terraces, Mayoyao Rice Terraces, Hapao Rice Terraces, Hungduan Rice Terraces and Kiangan Rice Terraces. Tourism has become a thriving economy in Banaue Rice Terrace. It has developed a number of activities for visitors which include the traditional sightseeing of the terraces and visits to the tribes at the foot of the terraces.


Hapao Rice Terraces - irrigated step paddies ready to be planted

The last 10 kilometer trip to Native Village Inn took roughly 45 minutes to drive along paved and occasionally dirt road. The streets are winding with moderate pitch while there are noticeable steep drop-offs along the skirts.

When we arrived in Native Village Inn, we were cordially welcomed by Mrs. Monina Taylor, the lovely Filipina wife of British national and proprietor, Graham Taylor. The fine ambiance of the main lodge area which also houses the restaurant is well appointed with rustic furnishings and traditional ornaments.


Native Village Inn - Main Lodge and Restaurant

One of the lovely shed and spot garden in Native Village Inn

The interior of Native Village Inn Main Lodge and Restaurant

Our complimentary welcome treat

For our welcome drink, my wife and I settled for hot cups of organic dark roasted brewed coffee followed by a hearty Filipino breakfast consisting of garlic fried rice, fried eggs and the local sausage (longganisa).

We barely noticed the cluster of indigenous Ifugao huts perched atop a ridge on the hillside just behind the main lodge area and restaurant because it blended well with the foliage. The concept of lodging is simply indigenous and total serenity. There are no modern amenities in the huts to supplement your stay except for the indiscernible RF signal emanating from the local GSM provider situated on top of rolling mountain ranges.

We were accommodated in Hut Number 1 which I consider as the best among the other six (6) indigenous Ifugao huts. It is across Hapao Rice Terraces having the most superior view of its expanse. The hut is about 9.0 feet square and somewhere 4.0 feet above the ground supported by tree stumps. Entry into the hut is through a steep stairway with 4 steps leading through a narrow doorway. Because of its steep ascend; you can easily stand up once you are inside. The interior of the hut rises to a central beam. The upper portion has a platform resembling a loft, in typical local use; it is where farm produce and crops are stored. Bedding is very simple, a mattress on the floor with bed sheet, two pillows, sheets, and two natively-woven blankets. Towels and toiletries are similarly provided.


Our unique accommodation, a genuine indigenous Ifugao Hut

Its my wife's turn for a photo shot in our unique Ifugao Hut 

Our bed, pillows, and woven-blankets
  
The hut's central beam with platform resembling a loft

The view from our Ifugao hut

The toilet and shower blocks are communal. There are also separate wash basins adjacent to the toilet and shower blocks. The showers are equipped with hot & cold water but since the place is elevated, don’t expect water pressure to be vigorous. One very commendable fact about the communal toilet and shower blocks is they are "immaculately" clean and well provisioned. The housekeeping staffs ensure it is spick and span on-the-hour daily.

The restaurant offers a grand view of Hapao Rice Terraces. Similarly, service is praiseworthy. Foods are always served hot; they even baked their own bread daily. The value is economical and servings are always generous. For backpackers like us, we never failed to bring along our very handy Adobo jar. There are several viewpoints within the compound fixed with native hard wood slabs and benches where you can place your orders, savor your meals while enjoying the cool climate and magnificent view of the landscape.


One of the view points, where we usually take our meals

The other viewpoint of Native Village Inn

Native Village Inn sits atop a ridge several thousand feet above sea level. Low clouds usually enveloped the towering height dipping the temperature to a freezing chill. This mountain resort is full of life day and night; flying insects, crawling bugs, verdant floras and thriving faunas. The entire commune is bounded with diversity of flourishing foliage. We are so fascinated with the Inn’s house pets that are piously friendly; one is nicknamed Blackie, a massive mountain dog breed, the other is Jennifer, a very social collie breed and Francis, a somewhat snobbish macaque. We were advised by the local guides that the best time to visit Ifugao Province is during the onset of rice planting until the harvesting season.


The lovely colors in Native Village Inn garden

Blooming flowers add splendor to the foliage

Most foliage are endemic in the place

Blossoms come in varying colors and sizes

The most common and popular tree in the Cordillera Region - the Betel Nut Tree

Blackie - the massive mountain dog with a very quiet disposition

Jennifer - the more social yet friendly collie

Francis - a somewhat snobbish macaque

We spent our first day simply lounging in the comfort of our Ifugao hut while enjoying the sweeping, expansive views of Hapao Rice Terraces. We would sit in the viewpoints marveling at life in the countryside. It appeared surreal, watching how the rural life evolved in what seemed to be placid dioramas in a museum. The rushing stream of Hapao river from the valley floor echoes a reverberation that sooths. Even my camera was relentless as I diligently shoot away some unfolding events along a twisting mountain passage consequently authenticating our fantasy that it is indeed a diminutive landscape.


The rustic backdrop of Hapao Rice Terraces

Mountain ranges carved with rice terraces

Thick foliage abound the sorroundings of Hapao Rice Terraces

Preparing to be transplanted

My Sweety marveling the terraces on the other side of the ridge

A typical village at the terraces foothill

Hapao Rice Terraces from a vantage point

At Last, the irrigated rice paddy of Hapao Rice Terraces - up close

Our succeeding days were spent with exhausting hikes along the pitch and winding trails of Hapao Rice Terraces. After concluding our stay in Banaue, Ifugao, we decided to make a side trip to Bontoc and Sagada, Mountain Province.

Native Village Inn is a modest, clean and sensible alternative for your much sought-after rest and recreation if you’re planning your vacation in the Cordillera Region. It is a vernacular community that had diligently preserved the beauty of Ifugao culture as well as its natural resources. The location is simply amazing. Another fitting tribute and appropriate to mention about in this resort is the wonderful staff. They have definitely distinguished the simplicity of Native Village Inn's rustic concept into a prime venerated respite.


The welcome arch of Native Village Inn along the road

Welcome To Paradise. We Hope You Have A Pleasant Stay - WE DEFINITELY DID

While navigating the bumpy ride back to Banaue; I held my smart phone and listened once more to the buoyant music from Of Monsters and Men, and the lyrics go like these:

“I heard them calling in the distance, so I packed my things and ran.
Far away from all the troubles I had caused with my two hands.
Alone we travelled on with nothing but a shadow we fled far away.”

“Hold your horses now... sleep until the sun goes down.
Through the woods we ran... deep into the mountain sound.
Hold your horses now… sleep until the sun goes down.
Through the woods we ran.”

“Some had scars and some had scratches.
It made me wonder about their past
And as I looked around I began to notice
That we were nothing like the rest.”

With much admiration we are extending our sincere gratitude to Graham and Monina Taylor for their hospitality.




Acknowledgement:

Graham & Monina Taylor: http://www.nativevillage-inn.com/
Rafael Imayaho of Ohayami Trans: http://www.ohayamitrans.com/index.html



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