“If you want to be happy, you have to be happy on purpose. When you wake up, you can't just wait to see what kind of day you'll have. You have to decide what kind of day you'll have.”
- Joel Osteen
If you can’t be with someone who makes you happy, then maybe it’s time to be someone who makes you happy. Or perhaps go somewhere that makes you feel the same. I have a place in mind - Kiangan.
About seven hours away by bus from Manila, Kiangan is the cradle of Ifugao race and civilization. The first Ifugao settlement originated near the bank of Ibulao River, and was known as the village of Kiyangan. In Ifugao folklore, it is believed that it is the dwelling place of mythical ancestors Wigan and Bugan (like Adam and Eve). It also used to be the capital of the province before moving it to the neighboring town of Lagawe. Thus, Kiangan became the oldest and most historic town in Ifugao.
Perhaps the most romantic place to stay while in Kiangan is at Ibulao Bed and Breakfast - a quaint mountain top retreat house of lovely couple Drs. Toto and Tess Kalugdan. They are obstetricians and former migrants from the US, who decided to build their home in Dr. Tess’ home province after resettling to the Philippines.
The bed and breakfast place is actually a compound composed of the couple’s main house, villas, and café. In previous lifetimes, the spot had actually been a coffee plantation and a Japanese military camp.
I got the chance to stay at the main house. Though it looks like a modern brick house outside, the moment I stepped inside, I was floored. From the sala, living room, entertainment area, dining room, kitchen to the rooms, I was in awe for the artistry, exoticness, beautiful mess and warmth all over the place. The house marries the traditional and the modern.
I was smitten with the shiny wooden floor, high ceiling, colorful throw pillows, Ifugao chess set, bulol table, gecko chairs, wood carvings and figurines mostly designed by Dr. Toto. And when I saw the glass window with a panoramic view of verdant mountains and the river, my heart skipped a beat. The scene was ethereal, almost like a dream.
I also got to see the rooms in other villas and some common areas. They have a homey feel and the wood works in every nook and cranny were simply creative. Dr. Toto said that the whole compound could accommodate maximum of 40 persons. So the place is quite ideal for small team-building activities, intimate gatherings or family getaways.
Another stand-out is the set gourmet meal they serve at the cafe. I was satisfied with the Robusta coffee, home-made longganisa, pako omelette, side vegetables, and fresh fruits they served for breakfast - so hearty, healthy and yummy.
Though I was already contented staycationing at Ibulao, I didn’t pass the opportunity to also see other cultural and natural treasures of Kiangan. I hired a tricycle to take me to nearby destinations.
Built in 1974, the Kiangan War Memorial Shrine is a giant pyramid structure resembling an Ifugao native house to commemorate the surrender of Yamashita (the highest Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army) to the Filipino and American Forces on September 2, 1945, signaling the end of the World War II in the Philippines. The compound with its lush and mountainous surroundings actually makes for a perfect date place, especially when on the view deck of the Shrine.
The 25 meter-high Imbuliklik monolith is another romantic spot, overlooking the Nagacadan Rice Terraces. Nagacadan is one of the five rice terraces in the Cordillera Region, declared by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site. It is also considered as an Open Air Museum because it showcases the magnificent living cultural landscape.
Julungan is another lovely rice terraces.
The highland Lake of Ambuwaya is the place to cool off during summertime. It was named after the buwayas or reptilian creatures that used to inhabit the lake. Scary!
Back at Ibulao, I wasn’t expecting that there would be someone waiting for me, eager for my return. Her name’s Cookie and she brazenly followed and flirted with me all throughout my stay. More than the warm welcome and hospitality of Dr. Toto and his staff, nice bed and great food, serene and cozy environment, I think I will miss this girl more than ever.
And of course, the fantabulous view. It was as if heaven descended to earth. I can just sit back and view the wondrous things life has offered me lately.
Someday, I’ll look back on this and smile. Because everything was too beautiful to be forgotten… and this might never happen again.
Ibulao Bed and Breakfast
Ibulao, Kiangan, Ifugao
Tel. No.: 0917-5533299
(Strictly by reservation)