Saturday, June 7, 2014

Breathtaking Batad Banaue Ifugao Philippines

Ifugao Province in Philippines Cordilleras is best known for the Rice Terraces, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Philippine. It has always been in my bucket list to visit and explore it one day. And that "One Day" happened just recently my friends and I went to Sagada last April 16-18, 2014 for Holy Week gate-away. It was a side trip actually. On April 18, 2014 we found ourselves travelling Sagada bound for Bontoc then Banaue and finally Batad. 

Batad is a village within the municipality of Banaue, Ifugao Province, about 370km by road from Manila. It is about 18 Km travel from Banaue, of which about 15 Km is by road (to the Saddle) and about 3 Km is walked along a mountain trail. 
Sign that welcomes visitors to Mountain Province and Statue of Mary that welcomes visitor to Ifugao Province. 

Boundary between Mountain Province and Ifugao Province.

After two hours and half travel from Bontoc to Banaue we finally arrived in Banaue, and we hired a Trike or Tricycle going to Batad Junction, since the last bus ride going to Batad Junction left already. Take note, last bus ride bounds for Batad Junction is at 2:00PM, but you can hire tricycle and make sure to negotiate the price because some drivers will reap you off. After a minute of negotiation we managed to hire a tricycle going there for Php200.00 per head. The roads going to Batad Junction is way worst than Sagada. It was a bumpy ride, the roads were really really rough, dust everywhere and the road was on going construction.
 Road construction going to Batad.

Road construction going to Batad.

After an hour of bumpy ride we finally reach Batad Junction or Saddle point- a three-way intersection wherein the main road drives all the way to Mayoyao, and the off-beaten passage perpendicular to the main road lead to Batad Rice Terraces cluster. Batad Junction is the jump-off point to our arduous journey trekking Batad Rice Terraces and Tappiya Waterfalls. 
Batad Junction or Saddle point– jump off point to Batad Rice Terraces. 

When we reached saddle point, we continue our journey going to Brgy. Batad, going there has two option the long cut and short cut.We took the short cut that leads us to 412 steps downhill. It was so tiring and my legs were trembling and already hurting, I felt like quitting midway. But of course, I had to match the pace of my friend Bhem and Edz my travel buddies. And thanks to the wooden sticks for helping me get through our journey. Batad is best explored on-foot – not on any mode of transportation, no nothing roads still on going construction. Only the soles of your hiking shoes or the rubbers should set your un-callused feet apart from the face of the earth. Your muscle endurance and heat tolerance will be put to test in an agonizing trek of uphills and downhills through narrow walkways, uneven terrains, and steep slopes, to witness a renown UNESCO World Heritage Site situated at the heart of Cordillera Mountains.
Roads for shortcut and longcut going to Batad.

Those signage signalling us that were getting closer to the village.

Rice paddies carved in the slope of a mountain. Viewed on the way to Batad Terraces.

Getting closerrrr!!! Welcome To Batad!!!

A few more steps later, unfolding before my eyes was the majestic man-made marvel of ancient Filipino engineering, the Batad Rice Terraces. For a while, my heavy breathing literally stopped as I awed with the spectacle that I can’t even think of the exact words to describe it with. No wonder it was among the five (5) inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List under the cultural and landscape category back in ’95. Travel time from Saddle point to Brgy. Batad, including viewing and picture-takings stopovers, took us 2 hours to reach the Breathtaking Batad Rice Terraces and its small village. Our guide Tatay Jun took us at the information center, we were asked to register and ink our name and purpose there (for security and tourism). We also handed out Php50.00 cash donation and enviromental fee for the village. The roads to Batad follows numerous twists and turns and offers stunning views of its rice terraces.
L: At Information Center. R: View from the Information Center the breathtaking Batad Rice Terraces

We arrived Batad at around 5:00 pm our tour guide Tatay Jun lead us to our guesthouse for the night. Journey to Batad is not complete if your not going to experience to stay in an Native Ifugao house. So my friends and I decided to stay in a Native Ifugao house, wherein there are plenty of lodges you can choose from, we stayed overnight at Ugay Lodge.
Stairs going downhill to Ugay Lodge

Stairs going uphill from Ugay Lodge

Ugay Lodge our Home for the night.

It was such a nice feeling sleeping over in a Native Ifugao House. I can't believe it was happening, I remember I used to want it when me and my co-worker Rose went to Tam-awan Village in Baguio last 2-years ago. The house is very small, it has 3 beds and surrounded with wood carvings, they even have small mezzanine and we cant stand straight hahaha. The window is overlooking at the rice terraces. It was soooo cold during night and early mornings. Fogs comes in to our house because we didn't close the window and it was so surreal...When I open my eyes I thought I was in heaven. We woke-up around 5:30am it was all white...especially outside, you cant see anything, fogs are everywhere, rice terraces and mountains were invisible to see. My travel buddies Bhem and Edz went around the neighborhood to check what kids was doing early in the morning and talked to the locals. We felt like we were just in our province in Leyte feeling so at home at Batad.
5:30 AM Foggy Morning Batad!!!

Fog started to disappear.

Nothing beats waking up in the morning in Batad! Waking up today was bliss, still cold but this time we saw the sun. Sunrise at Batad is a new experience for me. We were surrounded by rice terraces.

After breakfast we head back to our house to get ready for the day's activity walking around the rice fields and cooling off to Tappiah Waterfalls. Unfortunately, Batad just had their harvest so it wasn't as green as those in the postcards. But it's still drool worthy nonetheless. I mean sure you get to see rice terraces around the town center of Banaue, passing by on your way to Batad, however what you see in Batad is just different. The terraces were perfectly designed from all angles. It's amazing! And you gotta credit the ingenuity of our indigenous architects of the past. Climb a flight of narrow stairs. Cling on to the side walls and rocks. Trek down, walk a bit, climb up, rest for a while, then go back again. That's how you about the terraces. The Batad rice terraces is famous with amphitheater shaped terraces and it is also part of the Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordilleras.These amazing irrigated rice paddies were carved into the mountains over two thousand years ago. The village is nestled among perhaps the finest examples of them in the region. Anywhere in or above the village provides phenomenal views. 
Ancient rice terraces - a step back in time - a place to trek, walk, reflect, gaze and wonder at the beauty of it all.

L: Batad Rice Terraces Water irrigation. R: It’s amazing to even think that the natives carved these terraces from the steep hillsides by hand, walling the terraces using embankments of rocks and stones nine feet high held in place by clay.

Overlooking Batad Rice Terraces

Standing at the highness point of Batad Rice Terraces.

Imagine going up and down these terrains everyday. Cultivate the soil then carry sacks of harvest every now and then. 

It was so tiring going up and down yet it's embarrassing to complain when I've just been going around for a couple of hours. So I found myself always stopping, resting and taking pictures ha!ha!.

Found this so interesting the only grave right at the middle of the Terraces. Our tour guide explain that the person whose lying here is the land owner of this Village. He died eons ago.

2,000 years later, their descendants have continued the practice and maintained the beauty of the landscape. Batad is the gateway to more enchanting paradise destination in Ifugao and Mountain Province.

Trekking in Batad Rice Terraces is more than just sight-seeing and feeling one step closer to heaven, the trip is intended to be more fun and adventure.
If you wish to have an escape from the busy, noisy Metropolis and want to experience simple life and up-close to nature. Batad is the place to be.
After countless of trial and error, I finally have my perfect Batad Rice Terraces Jump-shot. Thanks to Cyrus.

Beyond the Batad Rice Terraces lies an attraction that has nothing to do with rice. We continue on hiking past the village for an hour and half and we reach the Tappiyah Waterfalls. Cascading over a cliff and into the pool below, the waterfall is more than just a pretty sight. Having spent a good chunk of the day hiking, the waterfall provides an excellent opportunity to cool off. Roughly an hour or two of walking along narrow walkways of the rice terraces, climbing up and down steep staircases carved in the mountains, and trekking along dangerous pathways in the sides of cliffs (one wrong step and you know what will happen) to finally see this raging cascade of waters, the mighty and majestic Tappiyah Falls. Dipping into its ice-cold waters makes up for that long and tiring trek. It's worth the trek! 
Signage going down to the falls.

Trek down to Tappiya Waterfalls.

Trekking along dangerous pathways in the sides of cliffs.

Trekking to Tappiyah you'll see this view surrounded with green trees.

After 1 hour or 2 we finally arrived the junction point of Tappiyah, from here you can already see the beautiful falls of Tappiyah.

The waterfall from a distance.

The waterfalls up close.

After taking the obligatory pictures, we take a bath, wade into the waters and splash around a bit. Perfect to cool off after the long hike down. Please be more extra careful if your not a good swimmer like moi because the water current is so strong and waterfalls were so hard coming down and they made waves and the stones were very slippery. 

After cooling-off we had our lunch.
One last snap-shot before heading back to the Village.


We trekked back to the Village to get our belongings and head back to Banaue to catch up the latest bus ride going back to Manila. But before we bid farewell and goodbyes, my friend Bhem and I had a quick photoshoot wearing the traditional Ifugao costumes, whom they called "Ifugao Languege" which include Congcong (the headpiece), Laphi (the vest), Tarquey (the skirt), Phur-oh (the belt).
Ifugao traditional costumes.

 I Survive Batad!!!

Batad Village from a far. I was at Saddle point when I took this shot.

Surviving Batad would not be possible without this people whom we meet along this journey. Kind and hospitable people who made our adventure more fun and memorable. First there is...

1.) Edward Cassidy from USA. We meet Ed in Sagada, we were the group of tourist who set on top of the jeepney bound Sagada to Bontoc. We got to know him and found out that his going to Batad as well. So that's how it all started. Ed stayed with us through out our adventure in Batad and we parted ways in Banaue the next day, because were heading back to Manila while his heading to Hungduan Rice Terraces another  renown UNESCO World Heritage Site situated at the heart of Cordillera Mountains.
 Were on top of the jeepney from Sagada to Bontoc. The guy wearing cap that is Ed.
L: Ed and Tatay Jun R: Group shot with Ed C, Bhem and Edz.

2.) Jun Ambatali, we fondly called him Tatay Jun. When we first get off at saddle point, locals started to approach us if we need tourist guide. Of course we need one, but we were having hard time to choose from, plus some locals are reaping us off, so we were a bit disappointed. Until we decided will just follow the locals and some tourist going down the hill. And Tatay Jun was one of the locals who were we following then. On the road I was negotiating with them, if they could carry my bags and how much, because I was kinda embarrassed by Ed C. He carry may bag and it was so heavy. Tatay Jun carry my  bag and asked us if we have place to stay once we get to the Village of Batad. My friend Bhem was the one talking to him. We originally had a reservation at Ramon Homestay but my friend find it kinda expensive for the overnight stay, so we took advantage of Tatay Jun's recommendation which is Ugay Lodge. It wasn't a bad choice after all. Plus it was so kind of him to make sure we were okay and he even introduce us to the neighborhood, where to eat and take a bath. Until we finally ask him if he could tour us around the Rice Terraces and to Tappiyah Waterfalls. And he gladly said yes. We paid him Php500.00 for his service and treat him lunch with us. Before leaving Batad, my friend and I gave him some memorabilia likes shades, slipper, t-shirts, cardigans, fashion accessories and doll shoes for his wife. I could still the smile on his face. He was really happy receiving those small things from us. Then he shared that it was his first time to receive gifts from his clients even the meals. Usually tourist only pays him the touring fee and that's it. Being with Tatay Jun for the shortest period of time we also found out that he has a college student son in Manila taking up criminology course. He is so proud to share that being a tourist guide in Batad and owning a small amount of land in the rice fields he was able to send his son off in college. Because of that, we salute you Tatay Jun, and were hoping to see you again in our next visit to Batad.
 with Tatay Jun and moi.
me, Tatay Jun, my friend Bhem at Tappiyah Waterfalls

Group shot me, Tatay Jun, Ed C, Bhem and Edz.

3.) Cyrus Manipog. He was one of the kids whom we saw carrying baskets of Coca-Cola bottles from saddle point going to Batad Village. Yes you read it right, in Batad prices of commodities are quite expensive because locals have to transport it carrying, and trekking from saddle point right to the Village. It was heartbreaking to see those kids whose carrying baskets at very young age and only get paid Php50.00 to Php100.00 not worth the effort. But they don't care. It was so surprising to see Cyrus at the Rice Terraces, his family owned one of the stores along the rice fields. My Batad Rice Terraces jump-shot is credit to Cyrus. :)

Local man carrying baskets of goods from Saddle point to Batad Village. This is how there mode of transportation looks like.

with Cyrus Manipog

4.) Cora and Donato Ugay, they were the owner of the Ugay Lodge. This couple and the rest of Ugay family in Batad, made our stay feels like home. They were so accommodating especially Mommy Cora. At that night, she went to our lodge and had talks and jokes with us. It was so nice meeting this family and would surely recommend Ugay Lodge. You can reach them at 0916-146-0745 and 0918-674-8979 please note that Batad has poor signal connection. And there are a lots of inns, homestay to choose from prices ranges to Php200.00 to Php400.00 per night.
with Ugay Lodge owner.

5.) Of course last but not the least Ate Lorna Heppog. She is our official cook on our stay in Batad. She also own a Homestay called Lhoren's Homestay you can reach her at 0909-216-4662, 0946-257-5800 or you can email her at romy_heppog@yahoo.com.
with Ate Lorna

Batad is truly a remarkable experience and it proves once again that no expedition is too arduous when the payoffs is so large and the journey is fun and adventurous. Hope to be back in Batad when roads are all done. :)

Thank you for reading.

Xoxo,
Tine :)



"Life is a journey. If we choose to spend it complaining about what has gone wrong,were going to miss out on some wonderful sights."