Wednesday, January 4, 2012
This sleepy village is home to one of the country's UNESCO World Heritage sites. It's actually not that easy to reach Batad but it is worth to suffer a bit. Seeing these clusters of rice terraces in person was simply a breathtaking experience.
Dubbed as the 8th wonder of the world, the rice terraces of Batad belongs to the 5 rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras that has been enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage sites and is arguably the most popular one with its fantastic panoramic views of giant stairs of lush greens that has been carved by ancient Ifugao tribes over 2 millenniums ago.
What I noticed about the Igorots is that they all look the same. The Igorots have that similar facial features that one cannot miss just like the Ivatans have their own. With just one look, you can easily distinguish if one is a native of Ifugao. Simply think of Marky Cielo, a proud Igorot who rose to fame after winning a youth talent search on a television network (unfortunately he died in his sleep). They have slanted eyes and if you compare them to the rest of the Filipinos, they are thinner. And with these physical features and a well-preserved culture, who wouldn't want to be an Igorot?
At first I was disappointed to see some houses near the slopes but hey, they were the ones who built this renowned world wonder anyway so who am I to complain? One should understand that these majestic rice terraces were not purposely built as tourist attractions but rather as a source of livelihood for the Igorot tribe. These people live in harmony with nature and we are just tourists so to say that these houses are eyesores is an insult to their culture. Knowing that they've created this engineering marvel by hand during those times when modern construction materials where not even invented yet and the fact that they were able to preserve their culture amidst the threat of modernization is already something that we must be proud of.
Secluded at the back of the high-rising rice terraces is the Tappiya Waterfalls, the biggest in the Cordilleras. Almost an hour hike away from the barrio proper, the trail to the falls isn't actually that easy and you need to prepare yourself to experience some difficulty by passing through rough and steep slopes. But what's great about this trek is that you will have the experience of walking through these amazing giant terraces on the way to the waterfalls. This finally erased my idea that these terraces are small. You see when I was a kid, I had this impression that these terraces are as small as a regular stair and climbing the top would be easy but I was hell wrong. Each terrace is close to a storey high so imagine how big this architechtural wonder is.
After passing through these giant terraces comes the most difficult part of the trek where we had to undergo a series of vertiginous descents and ascents. Playing around while trekking this part is a big no-no because one wrong move can send you plummeting into a pit. But the challenge of this trek is worth taking on as you will be rewarded by a beautiful cascading waterfalls where you could enjoy your lunch and have a good swim. The icy cold water coming from the colossal waterfalls is just too hard to resist especially if you survived that torturous trek. I didn't want to leave but after an hour, we began our trip back to the inn and ended the day with a sumptuous dinner served with organic rice which most likely was grown and harvested from the village.
At night the cool gentle breeze coming from the mountains and the sound of crickets occasionally chirping added to the calm realization that I was actually in Batad. And just before I crawled into my sheets, a flock of fireflies flew outside my window as if they were saying goodnight.
We woke up early morning the next day and packed our bags for our departure to Sagada. And while waiting for our guide to fetch us, we took a quick breakfast and watched as the sun lights up the majestic natural wonder that's right in front of us. Everything was still, and I felt happy.
How to get there:
From Manila, take a bus bound for Banaue (9 hours). From Banaue, you can hire a jeepney to take you to the Saddle Point (1 hour) where you will start your trek down to the village of Batad (1 hour).