If you don’t have much time to spend in a place, a) try the local coffee, b) find the local museum, and c) talk to the person who runs said museum/cultural center. (Or, just hang out and watch people — this is also a fine option.)
I’m staying at Uyami’s Greenview Lodge, which is more like a hostel and is run by the whole family. You can pay for a private room and bath, but you’d miss out on meeting some random people (which is thoroughly entertaining 98% of the time). The restaurant is on the street-level, and if you’re staying there, you can pay for your food and bed at the end of your stay instead of each time you sit down. I sit in a window seat, every time… there’s not a screen on earth that could re-create this hillside and do it justice. There’s a stream serpentining through town creating constant music, it rains off and on all day long, and it’s roughly 20 degrees cooler here than it is in Manila. I could sit here watching the rice grow for quite some time and be perfectly content.
Learning moment: carrying one’s room key is normal in the States, so the size of my key chain is a bit startling… is this supposed to fit in my pocket?? Nope. It’s not. Apparently, leaving your room key at the front desk is customary in other parts of the world, and you simply pick it back up when you get in. I didn’t know this. Now I do. I won’t be trying to stuff one of these huge wooden disks in my bag or pocket again.
Walking around Banaue is the most peaceful workout you’ll find. The hanging bridge over the stream that runs through the middle of town connects the lower side of town — where the local road heads off toward Batad — to the upper side of town — where the hotels cling to the cliff side, while steep roads and staircases rise to meet the mountain highway. This is a very small town, but a walking tour of it will get you ready for a nap and definitely counts as “leg day.”
Once you climb the hillside to the highway, continue up the mountainous stairs to the Native Village Inn and take a break from the afternoon heat in the Banaue Museum, learning about the area and the people who live here. The lady who runs the museum can tell you more about the pieces, the photos, and the books & maps than the placards do, and I think she enjoys the interaction. The death chairs, coffin benches, individual spoons, headhunting trophies, baskets (!), and photographs are fascinating. Everybody wins!
Yes, the ladies hanging out at the “historic Banaue lookout point” in “traditional dress” are kind of a trap — they won’t ask you for a donation until after you take their photo — but then again, this is their greatest source of income, keeps them from becoming a burden to the town or their families, and who doesn’t want to return home with a photo of them?? Yes, they could sell postcards with their photos instead, and that might come across as more straight forward, but meeting them and hearing their giggles as you snap their picture makes for a much better memory. Bravo, ladies.
Funniest scene in town: a traffic jam. These narrow streets get overwhelmed pretty easily, but everything tends to move along in a matter of a few seconds… until you have one large truck trying to make its way up the hill. There’s only room for one four-wheeled vehicle at a time, so there’s not really anywhere other folks could go to allow the truck to come through. Somehow, they still get through, and in about 2 minutes, the traffic jam is clear.
There is a great pride in caring for the places and things in one’s charge. I respect and admire this wherever I see it. For example: sweeping the dirt patio — it doesn’t have to be messy just because it’s dirt.
Did you know: you can sand and stain a wood floor with coconut shells? Now you do.