THE trip from Baguio City to Lamut, Ifugao (for overnight stay) took us five hours. That was exotic fantasy for the teachers (also for me) as the three vans made frenetic pace for us to experience the adrenaline rush. Most of the time, we were on top of the mountain having a visual panache of the rivers at the bottom of the “quebrada” (ravine).

The “tour-de-force” performance of our drivers provided us a literally nail-clinging scene wherein some disgorged green matters from their stomach. (I was almost there.) We traversed the plains of Nueva Viscaya passing Sta. Fe, Antao, Bambang, Bayombong and Solano. It was already dark when we arrived at the junction to Ifugao Province (town of Bagabag), then Lamut. We checked in at Palaisdaan Pension (and also Restaurant).

I was overexcited. I thought we have grilled fish and “sinigang” for dinner. We ended up with usual fried chicken, fish fillet, and chopsuey. I ate little rice only. (There was no soda.) That was the unusual welcome dinner I experienced after a visceral travel. Anyway, we ended up in another unexpected pairing in the same room (Room 10). My wife and I in the first bed. The teacher and her daughter (single) in another bed. We were obliged to know each other better.

Before we went to bed, the coordinator (from Iloilo) reminded us to be ready by 4 o’clock of the next day (graduation day). I did not get the right sleep (my bad habit). We were up by 4 o’clock pushing our stomach before the early morning shower. The graduates looked heavenly with their “dress to kill.” The maquillage and lipstick made them five years younger.

At the breakfast table, I enjoyed “carne frita.” It tasted like mother’s recipe. Coffee (brewed) was free, but one has to pay P25 for Milo. (This should be added in Tourism 101.) In the commencement exercises program, it is stated that the Baccalaureate Mass starts at 8:30 a.m. It was 8 a.m. and everybody was inside the bus already except the coordinator. She was still down on debit and credit with hotel clerks. Again, this should be included in Tourism 101.

It was not amazing! The bus left after 8 a.m. Many were mouthing you know who. When we arrived at IFSU, the priest, the other candidates for graduation, and the Ifugao State University administration and faculty (including the Ifugao parents) were patiently waiting in the name of God and their “anitos”! Just the same, the Baccalaureate Mass and the Hooding Ceremony went on in perfect pitch.

The graduation rite was some kind of a glitz and a show. (I explained it already in my previous article.) The Ifugao lunch hosted by IFSU was a benchmark masterpiece of a Filipino delight… crisp veggies, bangus relleno and “lechon baboy.” The desert was grated carrot with condensed milk. The food must be good. We all enjoyed… Filipinos, Malaysians, and Vietnamese.

We left IFSU after lunch to find another chicken intestine road (four hours only) leading to Banaue Hotel (Municipality of Banaue) standing majestically on top of the cliff facing the 2,000-year old rice terraces. Welcome drink is ginger tea. Four kilometers away from the hotel is the view deck. (View at your own risk. The facilities are not within expectation. The souvenir shops are like hardware stores in remote barangays).

Dinner at Banaue Hotel was good. That was the first pukka dinner I tasted in the land of rice gods. The cultural shows featured by the Ifugaos are mesmeric. The dances of their ancestors on good harvest, festival, merrymaking, wedding, and revenge (headhunting) showcased the proper movements of head, hands, body, legs and feet based on their somniferous instruments. The attire of the royalty, rich people, and the workers are explained properly.

We were invited to join their dancing. We danced a lot. That was my longest dance since birth. We were told that Ifugaos stopped dancing only when they are extremely tired. The Iloilo group presented a dancing song “Kuratsa” while the cantatrices sing “Iloilo ang Banwa Ko.” The Negros camarilla proudly presented “Bailes de Luces.” “Vamos a bailar!” (I believe that was final, not a rehearsal.)

We all ended in our rooms like dead logs. I was surprised to find out that my wife and I were the only occupants of Room 303. There was no refrigerator, no aircon, no radio, and no television. There were only a husband and a wife (and the unseen “anitos” welcoming us to “ulog”). That was really beyond forgetting!