To See the Eighth Wonder of the World in Banaue

Apr 9, 2012 by

The plan sounded simple. We book our flights, research online, make the necessary reservations, and we get to spend the Holy Week somewhere else other than Boracay. We did all of the above several weeks prior to the trip. Everything’s laid out quite neatly. Until the journey actually started. And I knew it wasn’t as simple as it sounded.

Going to Banaue, we booked a bus called Ohayami. It leaves Sampaloc (near UST) at 9 PM and reaches Banaue at 6 AM the next day to complete the 9-hour journey. It wasn’t as grueling as I imagined it to be because I spent most of the time sleeping. On a couple of stops I got off the bus to stretch a bit as my sitting position for hours got me a bit numb.

A few minutes before we arrived in Banaue, the views were un-exaggeratedly breathtaking.  Fogs, mists, the rolling hills, the mighty lushness of the mountain ranges that make up the cordillera regions. It was different for a beach person like me. For a while I felt like Frodo Baggins.

Then we arrived in Banaue. We were welcomed by a throng of guys who were either tour guides, or drivers, or booking agents or porters. Getting off a 9-hour ride made us very groggy and deciding upon which of these people we should seal a pact with was made difficult. So we decided to have breakfast first. Then off we went to ride a jeep with 6 other tourists to another hour’s ride up to the saddle (this is the drop-off point for tourists going to Batad — the barangay that is home to the world-renowned Rice Terraces).

The jeep that took us to the saddle.

The drive up to the saddle was steep, treacherous and definitely crooked. It looked like no one would know if you fall off the cliff. And the adventure was adrenaline pumping.

The view on the way to the saddle was immaculate. It was like seeing the work of God's own hands that shaped the mountains and colored everything around it.

When we reached the saddle point, we were faced with two choices: the long way and the short way down to Batad. Of course, the choice was a no brainer. We took the short way. It was a concrete little stairway that snakes along the very, very steep wall going down. We bravely took one step at a time, stopping from time to time to enjoy the epic view before us. We continued to walk, and walked we did. The walk didn’t feel like it was going to end. We passed through little waterways, through thick vines, through steep rocks and mud, then stopped at rest stations for water, then walked again. And then, we saw this.

We realized there was no other way to get to Batad Rice Terraces, so their means of transporting EVERYTHING is really to lift them and walk the walk. What the hell am I complaining about? So I shut up and continued walking.

Seeing these signs gave us so much hope that indeed, the end of this seemingly unending walk is about to come.

Then lo and behold, the view of our INN was in sight. And yes, our backdrop was the grand Batad Rice Terraces. Amazing beyond words.

Once there, our romance with the Rice Terraces began. Most of the people who were at the inn’s restaurant were Europeans and we did nothing for the first few hours but sit and marvel at this extraordinarily unbelievable human engineering feat. It is a wonder, no less.

It was a one-room affair, and definitely no aircon necessary.

The toilet and bath in our Inn were separate from the rooms, so we basically shared it with all the guests. The water was freezing cold and one had to pay for hot water from the restaurant. No electric outlets to charge our phones in the room as well. One must go to the restaurant to pay for charging. But why charge? There was no signal anyway. Haha!

But the view. Oh man, the view. This is how the view greeted us from my bed. A quiet spectacle.

Before trekking, we had a hearty lunch along with the other guests and the pita bread was really good. The rest of the food however, other than being pricey, weren't something to look forward to.

After lunch, we readied ourselves for the trek. We had a young girl for a guide named Andrea and she was perhaps the sweetest girl around. She was too sweet she wasn’t talking too much until you ask her something, which for me was okay. I mean, the trek is best experienced when one is half-meditating about the beauty of the place. We were practically walking on structures built hundreds of years ago. Structures that have withstood natural and man-made calamities. Structures that have earned global admiration for its achievement in engineering and sheer magnanimity.

A huge dent on the mountain edge caused by erosion.

We have observed that in the villages that we pass through along the terraces, very few, if none, have retained the traditional cogon roofing in their ifugao homes. Most are now using GI sheets that somehow taint the overall effect of the terraces views. We spent about 1.5 hours trekking the terraces edges. From time to time, I had to slow down when descending because the stone steps were too steep. I had to refrain from looking back, looking down or looking too forward to avoid feeling dizzy in my attempt to seize up my paths. At some point it was too terrifying. I imagined the possibilities of falling and Kevin would tease me by saying it doesn’t matter if I fall. I’d hit mud anyway.

Then we went down to the end point of the trek which is the Tappia Falls. While we were descending towards the falls, we would encounter returning trekkers — all in utter struggle making their way back up. I asked our guide Andrea if there was any other way back other than the stairs we were taking and she said, confidently, no, we have to take the same path. I shuddered. I told Kevin I wasn’t keen on seeing the falls. I said, they’re all the same anyway. But he insisted and said we’re here for this adventure and giving up was not an option. I wanted to kill myself. So we took it easy and after about 45 minutes, we reached the abyss of our trek and was greeted by a beautiful vision.

 

When we climbed back to the terraces view, I was panting like a mad dog. It was the most tiring thing I have ever done and I blame my idle days instead of being part of Multisport Iloilo. Hahaha!

Then we were advised by Andrea to walk a little faster as the approaching clouds might bring rain. We trod on for another 30 minutes and with our Inn in sight, a thunderous pouring of rain had us ducking in in one of the houses along the way. We waited for about 20 minutes until the rain subsided. It was a welcome disruption of sorts, as we were treated to a view of how it is when it rains in the Rice Terraces. What we were basking at in view a few hours earlier were now nowhere in sight, except for those terraces very close to where we were.

Upon reaching the Inn, we showered and dried ourselves and sat by the balcony to witness once more the resurfacing of the mountainous majesty. I finished a bottle of cold beer (at 70 pesos, consider how it was brought in) until sundown. The rays of light of the setting sun ascended along the slopes of the mountains, drifting up like a curtain opening a yet grander show for the evening. When visibility drowned the view, we were treated to a dance of fireflies while we were having dinner and were entertained with an orchestra of crickets and jungle sounds from afar. The rest of the guests kept their conversations to a hush, allowing for those who came to enjoy the solitude and quietness of Batad.

We tucked ourselves in by 8.30 PM as the thunderstorm earlier struck an electricity line leaving the entire barangay in darkness. It was eerie, but delightful. It was cold and the chill factor was a bit difficult to bear if not for the layers of clothing we had to put on before sleeping.

The next day we had to say goodbye to Batad and moved on to our next destination, Sagada. We walked back up to the saddle for another hour starting at 6.30 AM. When we reached the steep stairway we took when we descended from the saddle, we decided to take the long road. My legs were already shaking and I couldn’t bear to get injured while in Sagada, so the plan was to stay able on our feet because Sagada was waiting.

And then once more, the plan sounded simple.

2 Comments

  1. Bopeep

    Wow! Pero hindi ko kaya!

  2. When I read this, I felt like I’m one of the trekkers! Compelling! I should visit Banaue soooon!

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