Ifugao – of Headhunters, Hill-Trekking and Hilarious Jeepneys

After enjoying the most beautiful islands and beaches on Palawan and surfing in San Juan La Union we took a bus to Banaue in Ifugao, the mountains in Northern Luzon, about one night bus north of Manila.

When we told locals we are going there nearly all of them were excited and said we have to ride on top of a Jeepney! Jeepneys are incredibly fun long Jeeps that act as a form of public mini bus transport vehicle all over the Philippines. However, it seems that only in remote rural areas do people get away with actually sitting on top! An Uber driver even told us this is a great way to meet new friends… 🙂

A typical Jeepney in the mountains of Ifugao

Ifugao is a province that is part of the Cordillera region, an area which has a very interesting past. When we went to a museum about Cordillera sculpture to check out wooden statues of rice spirits in Banaue, we were intrigued to find out that 100 years ago it was business as usual for headhunters to kill their enemies of other tribes, bring home their heads and drink their brains out of their skulls in a celebratory ceremony. The sculpture museum turned out to be an amazing treasure trove of stories about intriguing rituals of old… Even though the Americans officially abolished headhunting, apparently this “custom” was still sometimes (albeit rarely) practiced as late as the 1980s.

In the days of headhunting daily life was centered on cultivating the thousands of rice terraces that can be found here. The first terraces were built about 2000 years ago when the Austronesian people migrated from Southern China and brought the knowledge to build them. Over the years the terraces were expanded. We were told that if you put the walls of all terraces next to each other the line would reach half way around the earth.


We spend one day walking through gorgeous terraces and enjoying a bath in a natural hot spring close to Banaue. Then we went on a two day hike with our guide Alvin and his 14 year old daughter, who has a 4-month vacation due to school renovations.

Our trekking team including our guide Alvin, his daughter and our dear friend Ruby

Our trekking path – right through the rice terraces…

We trekked through countless terraces and through the most jaw-dropping scenery! Terraces in a lot more than 50 shades of green and in every light imaginable. It was unforgettable to descend into the village of Campulo in the late afternoon light, passing cute school kids on their way home, enjoying the beautiful vistas of the lush green rice glowing in the sun…

Practical tips:

Accommodation: we stayed at the Banaue Homestay and really enjoyed it. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful and the view on the terraces was amazing!

Tour guide: Our guide was Alvin Gabriel, he can be found on Facebook and was really a very, very friendly and relaxed guide.

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