Ifugao, home of the 5 World Heritage sites inscribed by UNESCO more known as Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, is surely a great experience to every backpackers out there searching for both adventure and gaining cultural knowledge of our brothers from this mountainous region.
The name Ifugao was derived from I-pugo (prefix “I” denoting people and “pugo” for hill) hence, people of the hills. This land-locked province is one of the country’s culturally-rich region dating back as early as 2000 years ago. Their sophisticated way of living is both a legend and pride.
When my awesome friend Anne (@traveladik) invited me to go to this province, I did not decline but I gave her an astounding YES! I’ve been dying to see Batad since I started traveling years ago. I am not open to the idea of doing a solo travel to places with limited means of transportation and telecommunication coverage. In fact, I have been demanding her to join me should there be a chance for me to travel there. Anyhow, her Instagram username speaks for what she is as a traveler. I came from Bamban, Tarlac and 2 of my other friends need to travel to Manila to catch our 10PM booking at Ohayami. Traffic is really hell in Manila and we almost failed to reach on time. Thanks to efficient pedicab available in the busy streets of the city and we were just on time before the bus depart. We are 10 in the group and half of the passengers were, yeah, Western backpackers I supposed.
During our trip, Anne and I were talking about Imabayah Festival, a celebration of abundance and good harvest happening in Banaue, which for the first time will be held annually. Since I love travel photography, I was imagining my self of producing photos after our 3-day trip. Fast-forward 8 hours after, Anne told me that the festival just ended yesterday as per Ate Irene, our contact in Ifugao. Oh well, I was still looking forward of an awesome trip with these group since this part of the Cordilleras is really new to me.
After 12 hours of traveling, we reached the bus terminal in Banaue and we were greeted by porters . The dynamic tourism industry in the area is quite noticeable though everything was already arranged to us by Ate Irene. We had our jeepney to bring us to Batad and we had a side-trip in Bangaan. So our journey started after we had our lunch at a local inn in Banaue.
Everything is Green!
Since Ifugao is sitting within the Central Cordilleras, my mindset is already fixated that everything that I will see outside will be green. Of course, I mean mostly green. These rice terraces are a marvel of ancient civil engineering, a labor of love using only the most primitive tools.
On our way to Batad, we decided to visit Bangaan Rice Terraces for an additional 300 pesos for the extra trip. We are 10 in the group so that is only 30 pesos per head so we agreed to take a look of it. When we reached the area from the highway, I quickly set my camera and prepare for some snaps. Looks like rice have been planted for a couple of weeks already as the rice field is already in full green color. This was one of the most amazing views my eyes have seen. From afar, the paddies are like maps. The village look quaint sitting on one single area and Ate Irene soon revealed that UNESCO inscribed it as a world heritage site because of the presence of traditional houses built. There is also one vantage point somewhere and the rice terraces look like a fruit basket. Just WOW! Makes me want to go down the village and check more of it but we had limited time and it’s still quite a long way to Batad.
It’s actually great that we visited Batad during this time. Anne recalls that a few years back, you need an extra hour or more just to pass through Saddle Point to reach Batad Junction. There was a rainfall when we reached Batad Junction so we had no choice but to let it stop. Well, a perfect time to drink a cup of coffee. In less than an hour, we reached the village and registered and met our guide for our next day’s trekking at the rice terraces and Tapiyya Falls. She mentioned that it was the first rainfall after they planted rice and it was a blessing since the natural irrigation can no longer supply water to the rice. We stayed at Ramon’s traditional hut and it feels comfortable to sleep that night after our simple dinner and playing games and trying the local rice wine.
The sun has risen!
The morning sunshine greeted us with a wide rays like hot pancakes while birds and other insects were like a singing choir inviting us to stand-up to eat breakfast. Truly, the feeling was different from the usual. I ordered a heavy meal with brown rice to survive the trek after.
The whole village was quiet and peaceful. You can feel their love of their culture despite the presence of the influence of the modern world. They cook using wood, they feed their livestock like the way we do when we were young and kids play local games. No wonder many foreign backpackers love this spot on earth.
Our group started our trekking adventure with full energy. I can hear a number of Wows and Awws but I think it’s normal for a first-timer (like me!) The trek is truly enjoyable because of the breathtaking view. Like how on earth could this be built 2,000 years ago? It’s totally magnificent!
While I find this trek easy, the way to Tappiya Falls was a grueling one. The trail was rocky and steep with some loose soil. But I was very excited to see it so I survived it! The more you get nearer, the strong rapids of the water becomes more audible like marching tribesmen preparing for war. So there’s an adrenaline rush for me to move faster while my heart beats move with more excitement. Alas, we had a first glimpse of the falls standing proud like an immaculate piece of natural art! The water cascading from the top is enough to bring life to all the people in the Cordilleras. The water is also cold and only one guy from our group dared to swim. There are also a large group of foreign tourists enjoying the falls while I ate a cup of noodle soup to get some more energy.
The over-all experience was awesome and beyond my expectation. Batad is beyond words to describe. You must visit it to understand. But for now, let me think where I go next.