It is a foggy morning and we are here standing on top of a historic edifice watching the jaw-dropping scenery of Kiangan. The clouds rendezvous with the jungle-clad mountains and emerald green rice fields below.
Apparently, the building where we are now which is akin to an Ifugao house is also historic. It is known as Kiangan Shrine which also earned the moniker “Yamashita Shrine”, because the place was where the Commander of the Japanese Imperil Army surrendered back in 1945. Fronting it is an Ifugao Museum draped by intricate Ifugao carvings. A noticeable artwork here is the pole carved with Hagabi which is believed to symbolize a family who followed the tradition of the elders and wealth of the said family.
RELATED POST: Kiangan, Ifugao Travel Guide
Together with the members of PHILTOA (Philippine Tour Operators Association), we head to the jumping off point of our next activity – trekking, or rather a leisurely walk around the town’s scenic interior stitched together with rice terraces! The star attraction of Kiangan is Nagacadan Rice Terraces. What makes this beauty special is, it is one of the UNESCO World-listed rice terraces in the Philippines, along with Batad, Hungduan, Bangaan and Mayoyao.
The sea of greenery is occasionally interrupted by a stream and small Ifugao huts. Along the way we met locals planting rice, kids who willingly pose for photos and kind-hearted old men and women. The locals here are indisputably hospitable and tolerant towards guests. Though they rarely get to travel themselves because of family ties and financial cost, they are open to embracing people from other cultures.
Modest museums built without nails and screws can be encountered along the trail, too! They give a glimpse of the rich culture of the Ifugaos. Here, Kiangan’s creative heritage is everywhere you look, exemplified through impressive basketry reflecting Ifugao tradition, to ornate traditional hand-weaved textiles and skillfully done wooden carvings of the local gods and goddesses. Everything, almost everything proudly speaks volume of the wealth of the Ifugao culture.
A few more minutes of walking and we reached a small open air museum which aims to present a microcosm of the Ifugao culture to visitors in a least intrusive manner. Here, residents clad in traditional attire show us their modest way of life here, like the traditional preparation of the rice. The daunting work will make you appreciate the rice being served everyday on your plate. The entire Ifugao life and culture is said to be strongly connected with the rhythm of the rice cycle and the entire ecosystem.
Additionally, they also show us the traditional Ifugao dance where tourists can participate. Interestingly, one can also listen to the Hudhud Chants, a UNESCO declared “Masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
On your next trip up north, why not choose to support eco-cultural tourism. Step off the grid in Ifugao and visit Kiangan. Get to know the interesting culture of the Ifugaos, walk around age-old rice terraces, get up close with untamed fauna that beckon the wild at heart, and meet the genuinely hospitable Ifugaos of Kiangan. A Heritage Conservation Fund here ensures that a portion of tourism revenue is re-invested into cultural enhancement and socio-economic improvement programs for terrace farmers.
WHERE TO STAY IN KIANGAN, IFUGAO
Kiangan Viewpoint Homestay
Dugong, Ambabag, Kiangan
Lena’s Pension House
Pico, Ifugao, Kiangan
Jo and Son’s Store and Homestay
Luz Martin Homestay
I joined the Cordillera Caravan 2015 organized by PHILTOA (Philippine Tour Operators Association). For inquiries about tours, contact them at (02) 812 4513/ (02) 822 6964 or email them at [email protected] / [email protected]
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