Travel Date: February 5-7, 2016
Date Published: 7-13 April 2016, Issue 365
Visit www.filamstarnews.com for the actual article.
BATAD: THE BEAUTY BEYOND BANAUE
It was late in the afternoon and we were sitting by the veranda of our hostel in Banaue, Ifugao watching the rain. We’ve just arrived that morning, and it has been pouring non-stop. Everything was covered in thick fog and we were stuck indoors. We even came up with a moniker for our situation: iFOGao.
Sitting there, I noticed that Banaue has become more of a commercial center for tourists. Low-rise buildings are clustered everywhere. A seven-story parking lot is being built right across our hostel, while tour vans lugging Koreans and Chinese line the narrow road. Needless to say, Banaue was quite a disappointment.
Banaue was supposed to just be a stopover on our way to Batad, a lesser known part of the Mountain Province. It is a small village in Ifugao, about one and half hour from Banaue Town Proper. But because of the weather, we decided to stay the night.
The following day, our group took a tricycle to bring us to Saddle Point – the drop-off point before the hike going to Batad. The trip from Banaue to Saddle Point goes through a winding road. The roar of the motorcycle, along with the dampness of the weather and the doleful grayness of the view gave the journey a peaceful, almost reflective feel.
We arrived at Saddle Point and started the trek down, stopping by a small store to rent walking sticks. This was also where we met our tour guide for the day: Basir, a pretty 11-year old Igorota.
Batad lies on a lower elevation compared to Banaue, hence the descending trek. The trail was muddy, slippery and stressful. My short (but ever-reliable) legs had to flex and stretch to reach the unstable stones that lined the towering pilapil or dikes.
After about half an hour, we were finally standing in the middle of the Batad Rice Terraces. With the sun out, the fog dispersed and we were treated to jaw-dropping view of Batad.
The Ifugaos made this wonder 2,000 years ago using only their hands and legs as their tools and machinery; and mud and stones as their raw materials. The result is an endless stretch of green “steps” carved on the side of the mountain.
The vastness of it definitely made me feel small and insignificant. Standing in the middle of it all made nature feel more magnified. I can’t help but imagine waking up to watch Haring Araw (Sun King) embrace the landscape in his warmth while Amihan (Wind Goddess) caresses my face. I immediately regretted not spending the night there and promised to come back in the future.
Banaue Rice Terraces may be the world-famous man-made wonder of the world, but if you want to see the majestic beauty of unspoiled rice terraces, skip Banaue and head straight to Batad.
How to get there:
From Manila, take the Ohayami bus going straight to Banaue.
From Banaue, there are two jeepney trips that leave for Saddle Point daily: one in the morning (around 9am) and in the afternoon (around 3pm). (Php 150).
You can also rent a tricycle. (Php 800).
From Saddle Point, trek down until you reach a store. Ask if Basir is around to guide you. (Walking sticks for rent : Php 20, Guide fee: no standard fee, but tip generously. The money is used for Basir’s schooling).
Ingat and see you on the road!
Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org