The rice terraces in the Cordillera region have inspired both local and foreign filmmakers. So did the indigenous people and their culture. Some of these movies garnered international acclaim while others simply had a story to tell. It’s perfect for those who haven’t been to Banaue yet or for those feeling nostalgic.


Ifugao (1954)

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A critically acclaimed dramatic film shot in the Cordillera mountain region. It won recognition in the 1955 Asian Film Festival in Singapore and took home the awards for Best Director (Gerardo De Leon), Best Actor (Efren Reyes) and Best Screenplay (Cirio H. Santiago and Santiago ‘Ding’ M. de Jesus). The film focuses on the Ifugao lifestyle and their conflict against the American colonizers, according to The Philippine Star. No copy of the film exists today.   

Igorota (1968)

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Award-winning actress Charito Solis became the first Filipina actress with breast exposures on film. She played the role of an Igorota who fell in love with a man (played by Ric Rodrigo) from the city. Directed and produced by Luis Nepomuceno, Jr, “Igorota, the Legend of the Tree of Life” was an aim to break into the international market. It won eight FAMAS Awards, including Best Director and Best Actress.

Banaue: Stairway to the Sky (1975)

“Doesn’t take much skill to hold a man close, then stab him in the back!”
– Banawe played by Nora Aunor

Directed by national artist Gerardo De Leon, the film is produced and starred by Nora Aunor. According to Businessworld, Aunor had enjoyed the experience of working with the director on a previous film (“Fe, Esperanza, Caridad”) so she herself asked to work with him again. “Banaue” was perhaps the biggest locally produced film at that time with an estimated budget of Php 1.6 million.

Aunor played the protagonist Banawe, a proto-feminist who fought for her rights and had a sophisticated take on love as she took on more than one lover. This brings to mind a memorable line from the film where one of Banawe’s lovers confronts her to ask, “Who do you love more–me or him?” Her answer, “You–him–but more than either, my people.”

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

It’s an Australian romantic-drama starred by Hollywood actors Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. Based on Cristopher Koch’s 1978 novel of the same title, the film shot scenes of the Banaue rice terraces. It also used Manila as the setting for 1960’s Jakarta. Filipino actors Bembol Roco and Kuh Ledesma appeared in the film.

Mumbaki (1996)

The film stars Raymart Santiago, Rachel Alejandro, Albert Martinez and Joel Torre. Mumbaki is an Ifugao native shaman. They reside over the indigenous pagan rituals and recite prayer-chants during occasions such as weddings, voyages and funerals.

Metro Manila (2013)

A British indie film directed by Sean Ellis, “Metro Manila” filmed entirely in the Philippines starred by Filipino actors and with mainly Filipino dialogue. It’s the story of Oscar Ramirez, a rice farmer from Banaue who moves with his family to the megacity of Manila. It won audience award for Best World Dramatic Film in 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the Hamburg Film Critic Award at the 2013 Filmfest Hamburg, and won three major awards at the 2013 British Independent Film Awards.

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