Thursday, April 12, 2012

Garden of Eden: Batad (Banaue, Ifugao)

This is way overdue, but there's no better time than the present to make up for it. Last January 27-30, I went on a field trip for my Geog 173 (Cultural Geography) elective to Batad, in Banaue, Ifugao. And I just have to say before anything else, that it is the most breathtakingly beautiful, and simply unforgettable place I have ever been to in my whole twenty odd years of existence. As I sit here typing this, it's actually hard for me to find words to describe it, nothing seems fitting, or quite suitable, or, even enough, just for me to articulate how majestic a place it is. I could go on and on all day about how wonderful and sublime it is and enumerate all its synonyms, and still not be able to do it justice. Nothing comes close to encapsulating the grand scale of Batad, and I don't think anyone could appreciate it without seeing it for themselves.

But this is my own humble experience of the heaven on earth that was Batad. As I've mentioned, it was part of the field work requirement of my Geog 173 class, and from our first meeting where our professor laid out what our class would be all about, I was filled with nothing but anticipation the whole semester for such an epic field trip. Before our most recent Ilocos trip, and before Batad, the farthest North I'd ever been to was Baguio with my family, one of the more typical and tourist friendly destinations. If there's one thing that I love about UP field trips, it's that I get to go places that are out the ordinary. Nothing wrong with going to the usual places, but sometimes it can get old, like if you've seen one, you've seen them all. And there are places that you only need to visit once to get your fill, and there are others that when you go, you leave behind a piece of yourself, and you don't feel quite the same afterwards. Going to Batad was just such a life-changing experience and I swear one day I'm going to come back for another visit. It's as if I left my heart back in Batad and ever since then, I've looked at things differently, or had a shift in my perspective.

I am a city girl, I was born and raised in Metro Manila and I don't have a province. My parents have their own provinces that they went to as kids, but they also grew up based in Manila, so their provinces didn't really become our provinces. I've always felt that because of not having a province, or a sense of having some place to go home to outside of Manila, that I lack a sense of rootedness or belonging. I can't quite explain it, it's as if I've always missed a crucial ingredient in feeling that I belong to a place, or that it belongs to me. I've always envied my classmates who would get excited to go home to their provinces because it's a part of them. I've never felt that way about Manila. I do feel that way about our house, our home, but not about Manila, or the city, in general. In as much as I've lived in a highly urban city all my life, it hasn't touched me, or made any deep impression on me. No, Manila does not stir or inspire great love in me. But when I went to Batad, it felt like a home away from home. There was something about it, that until now I can't quite name or put my finger on, something barely tangible, amid all the natural beauty, that has left an imprint on me. I don't know, I just fell in love with the place.

So, here it goes. I actually almost missed out on the field trip of a lifetime. At the time, since I knew I would be gone all weekend and I wouldn’t be able to take any work with me in the mountains with no internet, much less cell phone signal, I had to get everything done before leaving, especially all my assignments that were due the following week upon coming back. The week of the field trip, I was so overworked from pulling several all-nighters in a row and from pushing myself to finish all my pending school work, that I came down with a nasty cough. It was my fault, I was really abusing my body by rushing everything that I got sick. I wasn’t sick in the sense that I felt weak and unwell, I was tired yes, but I had such a terrible dry, heaving cough that would rack my entire body. I was hacking incessantly as if I had Tuberculosis or something and every bout of coughing would go up to five minutes at a time and I really had to stop whatever I was doing and ride out the coughs. My throat was raw and scratchy, and I had a bit of a runny nose too. But there was absolutely no way I would let a cough prevent me from enjoying a field trip I had waited eagerly for since the start of the semester, over my dead body! I was bullheaded enough to forge onwards, even at less than 100%, and impaired at that, but Mama had me on pretty strong antibiotics and other medications and sent me off with a full prescription, so I came out of roughing it in the mountains, none the worse for wear.

AkFRSvECQAAcmp8Also, on the day of the field trip itself, right before leaving, we had our midterm exam, so the day before, I packed in between reviewing. I would review, pack, and then nap. Then I would review again, and resume packing after that. And I was Tweeting all the way because packing is something I always dread when going on a trip. My bed was covered in clothes and notes. Anyway, we were only allowed to take one backpack, and with good reason too because we would be hiking up and down the mountain and the lighter we packed the better. Just ONE. It was for our own good, but given my history with packing that was a pretty tall order. So it was no small feat when I managed to pack everything into one of Papa’s big backpacks. It was fit to burst, but I took only what I really needed on an outdoorsy trip, and that meant no makeup. Le gasp of horror. My classmates had never seen me without makeup and looking haggard, what’s more, I was sick, but I had to sacrifice my vanity and pride in not allowing myself to be seen looking less than my best, for the sake of practicality. And anyway, what good would makeup do me in the mountains, my sisters even said to me in jest, what would I need makeup for, to attract Ifugao men? Very funny.

In any case, after our exam, I went back home for a few more last-minute preparations, and to eat dinner and shower before the trip. Our class met up with our professor at Ohayami bus terminal in Manila, and we took the 8:30 pm bus bound for Banaue, Ifugao and since less than half the class could go, we couldn’t charter a whole bus, and basically commuted along with other tourists, mostly foreigners. The trip to Banaue is around ten to eleven hours by bus, unlike Baguio which only takes around seven to eight hours, but I mostly slept right through it. There were two stopovers at Bulacan and Nueva Vizcaya for those who needed to use the bathroom and to stretch their legs, which was good because the bus was smaller than the big tourist buses I’m used to and there wasn’t much leg room. But other than that, since land travel is more agreeable to me, you would know this, if you’ve read about our Ilocos trip a few entries back, I made myself comfortable. The air-conditioning on board the bus was really cold, but luckily I wore long pants (so unlike my normal short shorts wearing self) and I brought a thick jacket. We only actually spent one night in Batad, from Saturday to Sunday because we left Friday night and arrived early the next day at Banaue, and then we left for Manila Sunday night and made it back early Monday morning.

The trip cost PhP 2500.00, and that’s pretty impressive considering it covered our roundtrip fare, overnight accommodation, insurance, and guides, plus one breakfast meal. Not bad at all. So we arrived the next morning in Banaue, and from the moment we stepped off the bus, I really felt the difference, the cool mountain air was really refreshing after sleeping in a sitting position with nippy air-conditioning, and there were all these locals waiting for tourists to offer guide services and the like. Our professor told us to text our parents and guardians to tell them we had arrived safely because the Banaue town proper would probably be the last place we would have reception. Even then, my Sun cellular was pretty much a dud, and I had to borrow my classmate’s phone. Then, we all trooped to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. I remember I had porridge with cream and bananas and tea, which is pretty much just oatmeal with condensed milk and banana slices. But it was really good, I have to say. While eating, the restaurant we went to was at the edge of a cliff (which would reoccur at an alarming rate), and there was a small stream right below us.


We also had a really spectacular view of the town proper.


And seeing the sunrise over the mountains was really beyond compare.


Anyway, after filling our stomachs for the long trip ahead, because don’t be mistaken, making it to Banaue was just the proverbial halfway point, and not the destination yet, not by a longshot, our guide met us at the restaurant. Our guide Kuya (Big Brother) Charlie, a local of Batad, is a friend of our professor’s, as it was already his seventh or eighth time to visit Batad, and he regularly takes on Kuya Charlie as a guide, for the benefit of us students. A little after that, our ride had arrived, a big jeepney to take us to Batad Saddle deeper into the mountains! Jeepneys in Banaue are a lot different from city jeepneys, they’re built a lot bigger and heavier and they have tires for trucks to suit the rugged and rough mountain terrain. And guess what? I rode topside on the jeepney’s luggage rack, along with some of my classmates! I’ve never done it before, and I figured, when in Ifugao, do as the Ifugao do, or something like that! It was dangerous because the whole time we were on the side of a cliff, as the roads were literally carved out of the side of the mountain, but it was so exciting! Some parts were already paved, but others were still just dirt roads, and sitting on the luggage rack, it could really make your rear end sore, but it was worth it because my classmates and I had the best view, completely unobstructed, even as we held on for dear life. There were times that low tree branches actually skimmed us a bit, and at certain points we had to run reverse to accommodate other jeepneys going the opposite direction, as the road wasn’t big enough for two lanes. In the safer parts where you didn’t need to hold on, we cracked jokes and took pictures. Here are some that I took, you’ll have to forgive the awkward angles and some blurred edges as I took these on top of a moving vehicle. But it was beyond glorious, mountains as far as you can see, and nothing between you and the sky, no tall buildings!




















































There were rice paddies everywhere and a smattering of lone houses here and there, and we also saw the native dogs just walking about, and they all had a really strong built and thick fur, unlike city mongrels. But all the greenery so far was just a preview, and the best was yet to come, because after nearly two hours we reached the Batad Saddle, and I took these last few pictures before one of the most torturous hikes of my life.


















Batad Saddle is at a mountain top, in between Banaue town proper and Batad and there is a small lookout point and a few stalls selling refreshments at exorbitant prices because you can’t get those things anywhere else in the mountains. Our professor gave us the chance to use the restrooms which had a small fee before we went down the mountain because there would be no more restrooms the mountain over. There were even walking sticks, these really long wooden staffs for rent for ten or twenty pesos, I can’t recall…at first I thought they were just a tourist trap, but since all my classmates rented their own sticks, and so did my professor, I joined the bandwagon, and as it turns out that stick would be my lifeline in the mountains because we were on foot from there and basically, Batad village is at the foot of a mountain, but it was OVER the next mountain, a two hour hike away. It was agonizing. I mean, I knew we were in for a really hard path, and I’ve hiked long distances before, but never up and down mountains. I held onto my walking stick and it was the only thing keeping me upright, to be honest, the whole way down. There are two paths down to Batad, one with stairs, and a beaten path. We took the stairs going down, and again the stairs were along the side of a mountain and it’s a really treacherous way down, especially if you lose your footing. Which I did. I fell on my bottom and would have slid down and maybe broken my neck if the guide hadn’t grabbed me. I ended up with dirtied pants and a bruised ego, but the rest of the trek down, I was more careful and used my stick for leverage, pointing it away from me going down, to break my fall, just in case, and toward me, going up, to help support my weight. I was wearing my Merrell hiking sandals because they had a better tread than my rubber shoes that were more for running and weight training than hiking in the mountains. I’ve had those shoes since first year college because of my long walks and commutes, but taking them to Batad, gave them mileage unlike any other, and completely changed my notions of long distances. The whole way there, my mantra was to just put one foot in front of the other and to keep on going. It was so painful, I am telling you. Before I went there, I thought I was in the best shape of my life, it made all the squats I’ve ever done seem like child’s play, so easy, compared to that hike. It was excruciating, and my legs would wobble and shake with every step I took, and I leaned on my stick for strength. I couldn’t take any pictures because I had to concentrate on getting there. We actually bumped into foreign tourists who were on their way back up and they were as drenched in sweat as us, and really sunburned. Even if the air was really cold, we were under the scorching sun, so thank goodness I slathered on my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen before the hike and I brought my cap and my sunglasses, which are medium tinted, but because the sunlight was so bright, all it did was help reduce the glare. At first, I was keeping up at the same pace as the guide and our professor, but somewhere along the way, we lagged behind, and the guide would wait for us to catch up. Our guide barely broke a sweat and when we would ask how far away we still were, he would nonchalantly say oh, twenty minutes. Twenty minutes in Ifugao time, but on untried tourist muscles twenty minutes is an hour or more. We even saw old ladies carrying heavy sacks and looking completely unfazed and they didn’t rely on sticks, while we were wearing backpacks and holding onto our sticks like dying cripples, staggering down the mountain.

I don’t know how we made it, and now that I try to remember it I can’t seem to recall the trek if not for the distinct memories of pain. I remember the before and after, but not during. I’m sure it was all mountain, but there’s a huge gap in my memory where only vague impressions are. Only the pain is seared into my memory. But when we reached Batad, this feeling of relief and astonishment washed over me and for a moment I forgot all my aches and pains, because I had laid eyes on the most gorgeous, most spell-binding sight ever--Batad.















It stopped me dead in my tracks, it really stole the breath in my chest, this paradise nestled in the mountains, like a hidden gem. This was it. Batad Rice Terraces. As a kid, I had seen and heard of the Banaue Rice Terraces in school and on TV, but I only learned about Batad in my Geog 173 class, and it makes everywhere else I’ve been to in the Philippines overrated, it’s totally re-set the bar for me. As much as I admire natural beauty, and fine architecture, I was utterly mesmerized by the sight of the rice terraces with the village right smack dab in the center, because it’s testament to how even 2000 years ago, the will of the Ifugao to master their environment and to survive in the harsh mountain conditions and conversely, how much agriculture as a way of life is treasured that such an ordeal, carving out this niche in the mountains was undertaken by the Ifugao people, were at the forefront. It’s really awe-inspiring to bear witness to that kind of industry and I stood there, and took it all in, the mountains were so high they were skimming the clouds and it was so remote and isolated that everything petty falls away, because none of it mattered in the mountains—not the school work I left behind, nothing—it was just me being dwarfed by the enormity of Batad. All of the complications I had from Manila withered away and everything was simple and clear. Batad is beautiful; life is beautiful, why be encumbered by things like homework when this haven is right there for you to delight in? I embraced that philosophy, as we still had a way to go before reaching the Hillside Inn.

The Hillside Inn is just as its name suggests, by a hillside. It offers a roof over your head, a bed to rest your weary bodies, a simple washroom, and hot, tasty meals at a tolerable price. By the time we got there at around noon, we were practically limping and we had a short orientation and we had a bit of free time to have lunch and rest before going to the Tappiya Waterfalls. There were three to a room and I was with my classmates Sammy and Kat and the first thing I did was set down my bag and lie down for a little while. Then I went up to the dining area and ordered some lunch. Apparently, there is no Ifugao cuisine, or dishes unique to their province, because I scoured their menu for something new to try, some delicacy, or another, yet all I found there were the usual Filipino menu items. The Hillside Inn however, strangely enough offered a few Israeli dishes for their bestsellers, and I tried one out, their Malawach. It was like a pizza except the dough was different, it was similar to puff pastry, with really flaky crunchy layers, and it was topped with tomatoes and cheese and it was really filling.

I freshened up, changed into my swimwear under a shirt and a pair of shorts and re-applied sunblock and we all set off to the Tappiya falls. We were all under the impression that it was nearby because our other guide Kuya Darwin (if I remember correctly) said so, so we were wearing slippers for swimming, but again, we didn’t take into account how relative distance is. Of course to them, it was just twenty to thirty minutes away with their mountain men physique, but to us city dwellers, that was another grueling hour or so of blistering walking. We walked along the side of rice paddies, as there was a slim path, and to give you an idea of how big the paddies are in real life, the levels are about 8 feet apart, and if you fall down, mud will catch you, but it’s still going to hurt. There were times that the path would be interrupted and you had to hug a cliffside to get to the other side. There were strategically placed sheds at intervals on the path to the waterfalls where we would stop to rest and catch our breath and Ifugao children would be there manning these small sheds, selling drinks, with a medium size bottle of water costing PhP 40! But in the mountains, you’d pay any amount for cold and clean water to quench your thirst. Anyhow, Kuya Darwin like Kuya Charlie was very knowledgeable, and he would answer any questions we had about Batad. When we went there, it wasn’t planting season yet, so most of the paddies were just being prepared for planting, and only a few crops were growing, so we didn’t catch the rice paddies at their greenest.

We made it to the falls eventually, after huffing and puffing and going uphill and downhill across the mountain and going behind it to reach the falls. Here the path was a lot more precarious than going from the Saddle to Batad because it only fits an averagely built Ifugao person, and that is slim and wiry even for my standards, unlike in the saddle where two people could pass at a time. And even when we were still some distance away, we could already hear the sound of water, the rushing of the waterfalls and we were so elated, that we got a sudden burst of energy, or we were revived.

The sight that greeted us was truly invigorating, indeed.















Kuya Charlie and Kuya Darwin warned us not to take a dip right away and cool down a bit first because we might get cramps. The water looked so clean and so tempting though, but we waited a while because, I for one was really afraid of getting leg cramps and not being able to walk back.









We ran into some foreign tourists who were already there and were laying on the rocks sunbathing, and I was so envious. They didn’t seem to have a guide though and they were just a group of three, I admire their backpacking ways. We encountered other foreigners at Batad and sometimes they would hike shirtless and really look cooked, but they were always so spirited and lively.











Our guides finally gave us the green light and they were like our lifeguards really, so we felt pretty safe and we went ahead. The water was really cold, and the waterfall was so strong you could feel a current, as if you were at the beach! I stayed mostly in the shallow parts because I just wanted to float leisurely, while some of my classmates ventured into the deeper parts to play and splash and paddle at each other. It felt so good, even if the water was so cold my teeth were chattering. After all that sweating, it was the perfect way to cool off. After an hour or so, we packed up and left to go back to the Hillside Inn, which was a lot more uphill on the way back, so any freshness we had from the waterfall turned into buckets of sweat again, and my legs were crying surrender when we got back. Along the way, we took the path through the town and visited the native houses and I even climbed up a really old native house, complete with their antique wares, and it was very well maintained. I didn’t get to take pictures though because it slipped my mind at the time.

Anyway, we had some free time before dinner, so we all washed up, taking turns with one bathroom. It was basically a tap with a pail and a dipper, and ice cold water. You could ask for heated water, but it came with a charge, so I decided to suck it up and take it, after all I’d just come from a cold swim anyway. I was moaning and groaning while pouring water on my body, and I could hear my classmates laughing at me behind the door, while they were waiting their turn. After the first five minutes though, I got used to it and the water started feeling nice sluicing over me and I was squeaky clean in no time.

Before the trip, we were told the food at Batad was a little bit pricey, that a normal meal of rice and a viand would cost Php 100 as if you were eating at a restaurant and not just a home-style meal, so our professor advised us to bring our own food and snacks like canned goods. I actually planned on doing that to save money, but then my bag was already heavy enough, that I didn’t take canned goods anymore and just brought small snacks like chocolate and cookies and biscuits, and I just bought big meals, after all nothing beats hot, freshly cooked food even if it’s a little more expensive. So, after my bath, for dinner, I ordered at the Inn’s dining area again, and I asked for plain rice and sautéed vegetables because I wanted to taste the local produce, and it was so delicious, everything tasted so wholesome and natural because everything was grown there with love.

Of course, we still had a worksheet to accomplish, and it wasn’t all merry-making, so after eating, my partner and I interviewed a local woman and it was really enlightening to learn her insights about Batad. And as it turns out, not only do the locals speak Ifugao, Tagalog, and English, they’re also fluent in Ilocano, so my partner Sam, talked to them in Ilocano. At times like those I really wish I could speak another Philippine tongue aside from Tagalog, so I could relate to more people. In any case, there were ladies who came up to the Hillside Inn to offer massage services to tourists, who no doubt had aching muscles. I can’t remember how much it cost, other than I was willing to pay just for some relief.

But after dinner, we had a bonfire and the locals prepared a program for us guests, a cultural show of sorts, where they played some songs and performed a dance in their traditional costumes, even the little kids participated. Kuya Charlie, who has good English shared to us and with the other foreign guests about their rituals and traditions, and they demonstrated the steps in the dance and invited us to join them. I have pretty bad coordination so I kept moving the wrong direction, but it was so much fun. At first glance, the moves seem simple and repetitive, but it’s a lot harder than it looks!































Kuya Charlie is the most adept at handling the foreign tourists who were really curious and he even had some funny anecdotes for them and entertained all their questions. After the program, they gave us a taste of their rice wine called Tapuy, and it had a nice smoky, sweet flavor, but it had a strong kick, and it really warmed my tummy.

My classmates all went back to the dining hall to play games and to unwind, but I was really sleepy, so I retired early. I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was that exhausted by all the hiking and trekking. I don’t think I’ve slept quite so soundly anywhere, not even in my own bed at home. It was cold and I was wearing two layers of clothes, I had a jacket over my sweater, and a shirt under that, long pajamas, and socks too, and I very comfortably snuggled into bed. My roommates  went to bed a lot later because they all had beers and enjoyed some card games.

The next morning, I woke up early after a glorious eight hours of undisturbed sleep, and watched the sunrise before breakfast from the dining hall, which has a great view of the rice terraces.










The mountains are actually too high too see the sun at sunrise, it has to get higher to be visible above the mountain tops, so by the time sunrise is over, and it’s bright and sunny, that’s when the rays of the sun hit the rice terraces, and it’s so beautiful to see them glistening in the sunshine.











For breakfast I ordered chocolate chip pancakes and tea, and even if Php 100 for a single pancake and a cup of tea sounds outrageous, I don’t care. The pancake was as big as the whole plate and I helped myself to their syrup and the tea was piping hot, just what I needed to wake me up and get me going that morning.


I woke up ahead of everyone else and made it to the bathroom first and I tidied up my bags to get ready to leave for Banaue town proper again. Well, I did all that so I would have more time to just savor my last moments at the Hillside Inn and at Batad. It really just blows you away, and to have to leave, was sad. I wanted to stay longer and experience more of Batad. It has so much to offer, yet after spending just a night, I felt like everything was in its rightful place, there was none of the tumult of the city, and I felt so welcomed by the people. In a way, it’s like they’ve imparted their culture with me, no matter how short a time I spent there, the way they so generously shared their land, their legacy.

In short, we hiked back up to the saddle, and I, with a heavy heart to match my leaden legs. Alas, all good things have to come to and end, and we had an itinerary to keep. So we hiked going up this time, and we took the beaten path instead of the stairs because none of use were up for it, our legs hurt too much. It was extra challenging going up, and I could feel my sweat rolling down my scalp, on my forehead, and into my eyes and, wow, I was really dripping at the top and I drank almost all my water. Some of my classmates hired “porters” to carry their bags for them because they really couldn’t take it going up, but they paid a bit. Thankfully, I was restored after 8 hours of wondrous sleep, so I didn’t lag behind, and kept up with our professor and our guide.

When we finally reached Batad Saddle again, I took pictures of where we had just left and I really couldn’t imagine that we walked all that way.









So we rode a jeepney again, but this time I rode inside instead of topside because I just needed to catch my breath. And if anything, it was a lot of fun inside too because our driver was playing Bon Jovi songs and one of my classmates was really enthusiastically singing along, and it was so funny, I sang along too! I mean, in the mountains, good taste in music is something universal!

Back at Banaue town proper we stopped for lunch at another restaurant, Las Vegas, I think, and I ordered chicken and rice with vegetables, and just about wolfed it down, I was so famished. My plate was virtually wiped clean, and it was kind of embarrassing because my classmates were pacing themselves, while I devoured my meal the moment my plate was set before me.

Our trip back to Manila was later than evening, but we still had places in Banaue to go and see, like the Banaue Viewpoint, which is along the route going to Sagada. Here there are souvenir shops and a huge balcony over a cliff where you can get a bird’s eye view of the rice terraces.
































It was a perfect day and I captured these pictures of the clouds. Banaue’s so high up, that the cloud are almost within reach.


















The next place we visited was the Banaue Museum, housing the private collections of an anthropologist’s family. We weren’t allowed to take pictures with flash though so I just went around to take a look. There were really amazing black and white photographs and really big maps and antique Ifugao pottery, weaving, clothes, weapons. It’s really too bad I didn’t take any pictures, there were even miniature models. It was quite a way to wrap up our sight-seeing, with informative displays, and such.

But as it happens, we were ahead of schedule, and didn’t have any other places left to see, and our bus back to Manila wasn’t until 6 that night. So our professor took us back to Banaue town proper and we lounged at Halfway Point, I think its name was, a hotel and restaurant where he had visited before, and that’s where we passed the time and ate dinner before boarding our bus. From the restaurant there’s a nice view of the town and the houses.









While it was still light out, we explored the town proper a bit. You can actually go around the whole town proper on foot because it’s just that small, though there are tricycles plying their routes. We even crossed a creaky hanging bridge! Anyway, we were really tired, so we went back to the restaurant and had dinner. This time I just had a light sandwich because their menu items were the same as Hillside Inn’s and Las Vegas’ almost. It was so-so. Nothing extraordinary. If there’s one thing I found lacking in Banaue, it’s that I was actually looking for different food. I mean, like in Ilocos, where they have specialties, I thought, there would be Ifugao food.

But yeah, before 6, it started raining really hard, and we all walked to the terminal a short distance from the restaurant and boarded the bus shortly. I was kind of dazed, I couldn’t believe we were already leaving. Everything had happened so quickly, and I felt like there was still so much to do and see, that I really regretted leaving. It’s so rare and unlike me, uncharacteristic of me, really, to miss a place, the way I miss Batad. At the start of this entry, I talked about how I don’t have a sense of rootedness, but I kind of took root in Batad. Of course I don’t think I’ll ever have that authentic Ifugao love of the land, but for someone like me, who’s never experienced attachment to any particular place, missing Batad, while we were still in Banaue, was this foreign sentiment. There I didn’t feel disconnected the way that I feel when I’m in cities. There, I felt like the mountains embraced me and eased all my worries and soothed all my senses with its quiet and its serenity.

I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it all that well myself. But when I got back to Manila, everything came flooding back, all my stress, frustration, weariness. That perpetual feeling of being ill at ease.

Maybe someday I’ll find the answers I’m looking for, maybe when I come back to Batad for another visit.

I saw on the news recently that there was an unfortunate incident of a Romanian tourist who drowned in the Tappiya Waterfalls. It’s really tragic to hear of something like that, but I hope it won’t discourage people from visiting Batad, because that would be a real shame. I hope it won’t affect the local tourism, and as much as I feel bad that a event like that could taint Batad’s reputation as a tourist-friendly place, it doesn’t change the way I feel about Batad.

Batad, wait for me! I’ll see you again!


  1. Thanks for this well elaborated blog about Batad and the majestic rice terraces. I've been in Banaue when I was an elementary but was not able to trek down the rice terraces before since it's only a day trip with my family. That memory already has cobwebs not until recently when I meet someone originated from Batad. I keep on reading about that place and that's how I stumble into your blog.

    You presented your visit there in a very personal and straightforward manner. I appreciate that you did not cut the difficult experiences you had. But what caught my attention to read until the end is on how you describe how simple and yet how peaceful life there is.
    Thank you so much!

  2. wow, i have been there just last week, and i really agree with all that you said.. it was really breathtaking to see the Batad Rice Terraces. i cannot forget the experience i had in that place, very refreshing.. awesome indeed!


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