August 14, 2013
The Philippine Cordilleras
There is a magical place where the sun creeps over the mountain range and pauses in a fermata as it leisurely highlights the peaks before pouring its golden syrup into the crags and valleys and spills into two-thousand-year-old rice terraces layer by layer until the entire panorama is bathed in light.
As the cordillera’s baptism of light takes place, the village awakens. The birds chirp and the river answers with a rumble from the gorge in the distance. A dog barks, and chatter in the Ifugao language joins the voices of nature with the occasional sound of gongs or clanging cooking pots. While all of this takes place, I position myself with pen and paper on a simple wooden windowsill overlooking and overhearing the entire spectacle as a cool breeze caresses my face.
It is a place inaccessible not only to vehicles, Wi-Fi, and phone network signals, but also to the stress of the city and the sickening repetitive strains of the latest pop music hits. It is where all my anxieties and negative feelings become so extinct that I am left with nothing but a perpetual state of contentment.
It is a wondrous place where a long hike through the maze of rice paddies, steep and narrow stone steps, and precarious trails that go up and down the mountainside would bring one to a thundering waterfall and sparkle-splashed whitewaters or to neighboring villages with their own distinct patterns of rice terraces. It is where trekking under the sun would leave a person several shades darker but several shades happier.
Yes, there is a place where the closing of the day is no less magnificent than its glorious mornings; where clouds tuck the mountains in soft folds and fireflies dot the dark purple hues of twilight; and shooting stars, constellations, and the Milky Way embellish the night sky… and by some miracle your heart is made whole.
I am referring to the less-traveled and obscure nooks in the landlocked province of Ifugao in the Philippine Cordilleras. Some have called this region the 8th wonder of the world, and at last, I no longer have to wonder why.