To Filipino lowlanders brought up on sunshine and beaches, the tribal heartlands of the north and their spiny ridge of inhospitable mountains, the CORDILLERA, are still seen almost as another country, inhabited by mysterious people who worship primitive gods. It’s true that in some respects life for many tribal people has changed little in hundreds of years, with traditional ways and values still very much in evidence. If anything is likely to erode these traditions it is the coming of tourists: already an increasing number of tribal people are making much more from the sale of handicrafts than they do from the production of rice.

The weather can have a major impact on a trip to the Cordillera, not least because landslides can cause travel delays during the rainy season (particularly May–Nov, but continuing until Jan or Feb). Since the rains come in from the northeast it’s the places on the eastern side of the mountains – such as Banaue and Batad – that are usually worst hit, and fog can roll into those areas any time from October to February. Throughout the region it can get cold at night between December and February. It’s worth noting that the rice terrace planting seasons vary significantly; the lower-lying areas typically have two plantings a year while the highlands have one. Terraces are at their greenest in the month or so before harvesting, although their barren appearance after a harvest can also look impressive.

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