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How I found a piece of my soul in the little village of Pula, Ifugao, The Philippines

Why do you wander? I’ve also asked myself that question for the most number of times. When I got to Pula, Ifugao, I have found some of the answers. Pula reminds me of this: “it’s not down in any maps…real places never are.”

Getting there was a long journey. From Manila, we had to catch the bus and get off at Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya (approximately 8 hours) and enjoyed a misty jeepney ride from Bagabag to Lagawe, Ifugao (1.5 hours). From Lagawe, we took the muddy motorbike ride to Pula (2 hours). As someone from the Visayas, it’s always an unfolding to see the other provinces of the archipelago. While on the road, I watched people and how they moved in their daily lives. I’ve experienced how amazing the motorbike drivers really are when we had to reach very foggy Pula (in one piece!).


Mist and mud and everything magical – rice terraces, crisp air, quietness in the surroundings… My Couchsurfing buddy turned good friend, Mark, invited me to visit. He’d been there for some time as a WWOOFer (Worlwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). He cycled his way from London. Our lovely hosts, Gerald and Vanessa (newly-wed locals who are connected with the Julia Campbell Agro-Forest Memorial Park) had shared to us not just a roof but a door to a deeper understanding of simplicity and sustainability. They live in a simple house with a vegetable garden, a couple of dogs and some flowers; they both work hard to produce Civet coffee.

It was February and the forest was all green and dreamy. Trekking made me feel as if I was walking in some unknown land yet treading towards home – which has just been coated by lonely cities, thick smog and enormous commercialism. I sat on a rock while watching the vines touching the rich land; I could hear the waterfalls not from afar. In the afternoon, I walked to the kindergarten school where Mark’s playground project stood. The kids and their teacher greeted me in their dialect and so I observed, listened and smiled – I didn’t understand any word at all. Then, a little conversation I had with the teacher after the class made me feel a bit sad.

“I’m leaving this job and I’m going to the capital city to work as security guard.”

As the story melted inside, the mountains appeared before me so slowly in the afternoon. The evenings would mean rice wine and acoustic jams. In one of the evenings there, I and my buddies shared stories with new Couchsurfing friends from Canada, Dana and Joel (who have later stayed with me as their host here in Iloilo for two weeks).

It was my first time to experience the process of making Alamid coffee: raking them out under the sun to dry, pounding the beans by hand, and stirring the powder over a pan and some fire. Civet Coffee is very expensive abroad. I wondered at how people across the globe would spend so much money for a pack of it. Here, where the soil is rich, people tend to run to instant coffee. And, in most urban areas, expensive coffee shops tend to magnet customers endlessly.


In Pula, Ifugao – there were neither fancy bars nor guided tours. There were not too many people walking around taking pictures of almost anything and everything. There were no blinding colorful lights. There was no internet connection that would allow me to post a blow by blow update of how I enjoyed my stay there.

All I had was pure nature; the most resourceful shared home cooked meals, topload jeepney rides with local men, handmade wooden toy cars with the kids, slow life amongst simple villagers, organic coffee, water from the giving mountains and a lot of TIME.


From this travel experience, I’ve grown the fondness for those places in the Philippines that are not much talked about. In them are the richest learning and experience I have yet to unravel. And, yes, they are all waiting for me. One by one.

/// Written by Kristine Buenavista, The Philippines