1 photography guru, 27 photographers from all walks of life, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 2 crazy actuation-packed days, 2 grueling treks and rice terraces to last us a life time!
Staircases, It’s more fun in the Philippines!
Finally, after years and years of mixed planning and that mañana habit I finally managed to go to Banaue and Batad and experience it first hand. As a budding travel photographer, this two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are always on each and everyone’s to go list. So why not once and for all cross it out on my own travel bucket list?
An old Ifugao woman on cross process
You have to hand it to the Ifugao– strong and mighty tribe in the mountainous regions in the northern part of the Philippines who decided to carve the sides of the boondocks just to have a place to plant rice, a staple food of Filipinos even during those precolonial times. Aside from being master engineers, these people are also accomplished head hunters and tribal wars are quite common during those days.
The Batad Rice Terraces
Ifugao brown rice – Rice is generally a Filipino staple in every meal. A meal is not a meal without rice!
Fast forward 2000 years and a nomination for UNESCO world heritage site later, I find myself apprehensive of actually doing the trek. Primary reason is my weight (I am way past being skinny) and asthma, another is the weather for it rained hard all morning dampening the spirits of the phototrekkers, another reason is I’m just plain tamad. But eventually, it was the ego who eventually won. The prospect of being left alone at saddle point till they all return, the idea of being left out in every conversation possible about the experience is something that is unbearable. So there, I find myself wrapped in cellophane and a walking stick at hand, psyching myself that I can do it.
in Batad, it is the walking stick who chooses the wizard, errr… I mean the trekker
One of those life’s toughest moment. LOL
So after an easy-peasy descent, and a gruelling climb back, I finally made it and hey, it wasn’t that hard at all when I compare it to the Mt. Pinatubo crater I climbed years back. I guess I’m ready for Mt. Pulag this year!
The entire trip was not at all calorie-burning activities. We are also pampered through good food, participate in a motor-less drag racing (their own version of Harley bikes) and a night of cultural presentation through songs and dance over bonfire.
Gaze of a 95 year-old serenity
So what did I actually encountered there? I encountered a great deal of pride, pride on what freemen of those times could accomplish. That our ancestors could build something as grand and majestic that could rival the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Roman Colosseum and other imposing structures built out of slave labor. This is what ours differ and this is why ours stood out.
On a personal note, I also encountered realization that I have persistence. I can do everything I put my heart to, even in the cliché-est sense of it. Looking back at the pictures I took had become a therapy for me against self-doubt. It reinforces something in me told by a stranger years back…
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can actually go.”
— T.S. Eliot
I guess I did go far, and hopefully in my own way made the Ifugaos proud.
Getting there and away
The most convenient means to go to Banaue and Batad is via bus. The Ohayami Trans (Contact Number: 0927-6493-0355 or (02) 5160-501 Manila Booking Office/ (+63) 917- 506-0817) offers direct buses from Manila to Banaue, Ifugao. Travel time is usually 8-9 hours. Fare is 500php per person – one-way. The station is located at Corner J.Fajardo, A.H. Lacson, Sampaloc. For full trip schedule and other details, go to http://www.ohayamitrans.com/ or check their Facebook page.
From the terminal in Banaue, you can take a tricycle to Banaue town proper (Php 10 per person). Look for jeeps going to Batad saddle point, for there are jeepneys bound to Batad junction only (about 3km short from the saddle point). There are two jeepneys in the morning and one at about 3 pm at Banaue.
Try to visit Banaue and Batad around April and May, where everything is at their greenest. Octuber-November is their harvest season and everything is golden brown prior harvest time.