We Survived Batad!

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“Batad Village” Photo from Jonna Lams

Batad is one of the most craved places to visit among travelers and backpackers because of its amphitheater like rice terraces. It belongs to the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras that was recorded on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. We considered ourselves blessed, as we were able to visit this place, be teleported back in time and had the best exhausting hike in our (my) life so far.

Beforehand, Jo and I availed a Batad tour package from Ramon Homestay and Restaurant, so when we arrived in Banaue bus terminal, our guide named Leemas picked us up. Leemas brought us first to have breakfast in a certain resto in Banaue and he introduced us to two other travelers namely G-nette and Che.

After having breakfast, we rode a chartered van that brought us to Batad Saddle. The road was bit tricky and dusty; there were parts that were unpaved, however the view of Cordillera Mountains is prominent.

Welcome to Saddle

For about one (1) hour travel from Banaue, we finally arrived in Batad Saddle. There were souvenirs stores where you could buy some Batad memorabilia, something to eat, drink and all that jazz, a view deck to have a 360-degree panorama on the place and a paid comfort room. We rented a walking stick at the saddle that proved helpful to us during our whole stay in Batad Village. Jo and I decided to get a porter for our extra baggage that contains our camping materials since obviously it will become a burden to us.

On our Way to Batad Village

After a quick rest and some photo ops at the saddle, the four of us started our trek down to Batad Village through their “shortcut” road which at first phase consists of 412 steps stairs down unto the unpaved, rocky and sometimes steep narrow road.

Along the way, we encountered different kinds of individuals or group ascending to the saddle. There were these foreigners half naked and exhausted, there were these locals who carried heavy loads yet they just took the walk easy just like nothing had happened and there were these tourists who took one step at a time exhausted yet enjoying their journey. There were also cottages were trekkers could take a quick rest and take some pictures just like what we did. We stopped by also at Payay’s souvenir shop, where he sells wooden rice god statuette and other figures which he carved himself.

"Payay" Photo by Jonna Lams

“Payay” Photo by Jonna Lams

After a few more minutes and a few more meters of walk descending to the village, we arrived at the registration post where every visitor should register. A few steps from the registration post, there was this view deck where your eyes could feast the grandeur of the hand carved rice terraces on the mountain slopes. And upon contemplating for a moment, images flashes on the back of my mind were that Bahag (loincloth) wearer’s labor not as a slave but a free man just to carve this masterwork using their bare hands.

Photo by Jonna Lams

Photo by Jonna Lams

Ramon’s Homestay & Restaurants

We then headed to Ramon’s Homestay and Restaurant after taking pictures at the viewing deck. We were welcomed by Mang Ramon’s (the owner) beautiful smile and accommodating aura as if we had known each other for a long time. As soon as we put our things, Mang Ramon showed us the century old Phaluy Hut (Ifugao’s Native Hut) that he inherited from his ancestors. Aside from the rice terraces, the Phaluy hut are also a living and tangible proof that manifest the talent and creativity of the Igorots in relation to architecture and engineering. With no single nail or metal being used to fasten its parts, the phaluy hut is not only unique but also substantial and functional.

"Century Old Phaluy Hut"

“Century Old Phaluy Hut”

According to Mang Ramon, there are three functional levels of a Phaluy hut. The first level is the space under the hut which is called “daulon”, it is used for entertaining visitors, serves as social and cultural space such as ritual celebration and accomplishing other household chores. The second level is the living room and at the same time serves as the kitchen and the bedroom. And the third level is called “palah” or the attic that is utilize for storing rice.

There were also animal’s skull that were hanged on the wall, which is believed to drive bad spirits away, and on the interior, there was a wooden statue particularly a rice god, other carved or handmade objects, jars and a fireplace. The lighted candle adds drama to the hut interior during Mang Ramon’s history lesson.

Once done with the story telling, Mang Ramon showed us the Phaluy hut (recently made) that we were going to occupy. There, we took a quick rest while waiting for our lunch and for the next activity of the day. The cool and relaxing atmosphere of the place sent us to a peaceful nap. If not just for a protesting stomach, we could just sleep indefinitely. Therefore, we just prepared ourselves and headed to the dining area for our lunch. We had chicken tinola and chicken asado for the reason that we would like to fly upon going back to the saddle 😀 with Batad rice that fed our hungry tummies.

Despite being exhausted, being full and the desire to sleep, we did not entertain the temptation; we resumed to our next activity, the Trek to Tappiya Falls.

Trek to Tappiya Falls

"Mighty yet Tranquil Tappiya Falls" by Jonna Lams

“Mighty yet Tranquil Tappiya Falls” by Jonna Lams

A challenging trek but a rewarding one once you’ll get to see the hidden beauty of Tappiya. We passed through villages and walk through narrow ledges of rice paddies, almost vertical slope and tricky path before reaching the falls. Along the way there were cottages where someone could take a rest and buy some refreshments. The refreshments are bit pricey but still reasonable because of the location. I opted for an energy drink that costs P70.00 and water for Jo that costs P40.00. Upon reaching the falls all exhaustions will wane specially if you will be able to dip into the freezing water and the four of us did not missed the rare opportunity. At first, it was cold but once you submerged your whole body, the cool waters gave a soothing potion to your worn-out muscles and cleanse your whole being. It was so tranquil that I was reminded of how blessed I am and how God loves me endlessly. Everything was priceless at that very moment.

Going Back to Ramon’s Homestay

According to the bible, “for you were made from dust, and to dust you will return”. Yes! Enough for my daydreams, it was time to face the truth and conquer those obstacle along the way so I could rest and plunge into a dreamless sleep on the cool relaxing “Phaluy Hut”. I didn’t have a choice; I need to retrace those steep steps up even with shaking knees and fading morale. I was just lucky to have those very supportive buddies who encouraged me along the way.

When we arrived at Ramon’s, Jo teased me. “Ang hina mo pala”, she said and laughs. I was not able to hear her at first because of her hoarse to no voice at all. Lucky for me at least she was not able to laugh out loud and let the whole world know. I admit, I thought I was going to have a heart attack it feels like my heart is going to puff and put me in shameful and in drastic situation; luckily I was able to survive.

While waiting for dinner we had a massage except for Che after the local masseur lower their price to 150 for a foot massage. It was relaxing that I could sleep with an empty gurgling stomach. It was around 8:30 that our dinner was served; we had Batad pizza and rice cake, partnered with sugary 3in1 coffee and milo. After dinner, Mang Ramon invited us to join in the bonfire and storytelling; unfortunately we were too tired from the previous activity that we opted to go to sleep.

Trek to Batad Rice Terraces View Deck

It was daybreak when I caught myself struggling to wake up just to attend the urgent nature’s call. I was given no choice no matter how sleepy I was. Known that we were staying at a Phaluy hut, it was expected that going down the hut be not easy, combined with muscles pain from yesterday’s activity. Plus going up and getting back into my bed was really a superhuman performance. J

I attempted to go back to sleep, but when I checked the time it was already 5:00 in morning, it means that we need to prepare for the early morning activity. How I wish at that time to extend the night and if only we could stay longer in Batad I would surely postponed the scheduled activity and would sleep endlessly. However, I dragged myself and again performed some superhuman act, prepare my self and get down the Phaluy hut.

We waited for our guide to fetch us up at our hut so we could head to our morning trek to the highest view point of Batad Rice Terraces. A Batad trip is never complete if you could not walk on rice terraces ledges up to the highest view point. At the top we were able to see the whole Batad village, watched the rising sun and simply appreciated the life that we have.

Upon returning to Mang Ramon’s Homestay we then had our breakfast and after that we were also given the chance to wear the Igorot’s traditional clothes. Photo Ops here and there, pose, smile, smile and smile ( Ang hirap maging model! I quit! :D).

Going Back to Saddle

To make the long story short, it was not easy! I ended up giving my 15kg backpack to our guide and just carry a tripod and a sling bag. Salute to my friend Jo who definitely carry his 15 kg pack up to the saddle. It was not easy, promise, especially when you are not an experienced hiker like me. However to make the hike worthwhile, just focus on the goodness, focus on beauty and just appreciate every shaky step, every salty drop of sweat and every deep or shallow breath you take.

All in all it is just that We Survived Batad!.