For days I walked with a limp, every step had me writhing in pain. I descended the stairs like a crab, screaming expletives like an old woman suffering from bad arthritis. But it was a kind of pain I could never hate and was willing to endure for it bore my pride. In exchange for a bit of suffering, I had the privilege to see the famed beauty of the rice terraces in Batad, Ifugao.
Ifugao is one of the six provinces (the others are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Kalinga, and Mountain Province) in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). It has 11 municipalities, one of which is Banaue. Our adventure began in Batad, one of the 18 barangays of Banaue.
The tour was organized by Ram; a seasoned traveler and a former office mate. I decided to join this trip just a week before the scheduled departure. To get there, we took the 9PM trip of Ohayami transit that lasted for 11 hours.
It was another one-hour long road trip to Batad. Somewhere along the way I heard them saying that we should try “taplod.” I thought it was a local word referring to a dish, which should give you an idea what is my foremost concern about this trip. When our guide, Abner, started climbing on the roof of the jeep and I heard Ram saying that we’re doing the taplod, that’s when it hit me that taplod actually means, “top load.” In Banaue, locals can sit on top of the jeep while traveling. On why they practice such a dangerous thing in a place characterized by rugged terrains and zigzag roads is beyond me. But it is definitely, one of the things we enjoyed the most during this trip.
Well apparently, except Joanne (hahaha…). She’s the one squeaking and begging the driver to stop the jeep in the video below.
I failed to anticipate that it would be less cold in the region in this time of the year so I brought more jackets than what is necessary. The result, a carry-on luggage twice my weight. Ram suggested that we just bring what we need for the night and leave our belongings in the jeep. I didn’t want to, so I hired a porter to carry my bag. It cost me PHP 125. A good call, considering the fact that the trip down the hill is long, tiresome, even perilous, the kind that would make you atone for all of your sins kind of dangerous.
There’s a store on top of the hill where we rented some wooden canes and believe me they work wonders! In those moments I needed something to hold on to, because unlike the three of my companions, I have no boyfriend to catch me when I fall (wow), this cane supported me like a true friend.
The jagged path was steep, coarse, and at times slippery. The thin pathways had us walking on a single file. My tongue was in my mouth by the time we reached our destination. The descent took us an hour and a half to accomplish. There are some small houses, stores, and rest stops along the way to help hikers catch their breaths.
Wood carving is part of the rich culture of the Ifugaos. As Joanne puts it, “everything in Banaue is a work of art.” From the kitchen utensils, wooden idols, trinkets, and house decors, the art of wood sculpting is deeply ingrained in the everyday life of the people of the hill. We even spotted a wood carver bent on his work on our way down.
The road that never seems to end finally ended. We were greeted by the friendly locals with chinky eyes, brown skin, rosy cheeks, and permanent smiles. For our effort, we’d been rewarded by the view of the most photographed rice terraces in Ifugao, the Amphitheater.
After having our fill of the spectacular view, we proceeded to Batad Pension and Restaurant where we stayed for the night. Just when I thought I could finally eat, Ram announced that we’re going to Tappiya Falls. [Read: Review of of Batad Pension and Restaurant]
And so we continued the road to Calvary the falls. The guide said that it’d take us another 30 minutes. He lied! And it proved to be more difficult than the trek down. The trail was more harsh and narrow, some uneven steps were even smaller than my feet, some were even high that my arm had to be yanked by the guide so I could climb. My guesstimate is that the trek took us another hour. My only consolation is that the view is lovely. Not only did I get to see the terraces, I even walked through them. This fact alone was enough to make me push further.
Like the great descent, this trek was also worth every effort. The Tappiya Falls is ruggedly beautiful. Seeing the beauty of Tappiya Falls up close and swimming in its ice-cold water are my first reward. The second is food. Ram brought some camping essentials that allowed us to eat. Outside I looked calm, but inside I was screaming like a banshee. Finally! Food!
The trek back was equally challenging especially when we were beginning to feel the brunt of the day’s adventure in our fatigued bodies. No other choice but to push on. I was thankful that at least none of us met an accident, which an unfortunate foreigner experienced that day. The place has no rescue team and communication is hard, but I am amazed at the locals’ willingness to offer assistance. While we were climbing up, we saw a group of men carrying the woman on a hammock made of cloth, supported by a long wooden stick. And I was thinking, would she grow a resentment and remember Batad with bitterness? I’m praying that the beauty of the terraces would disallow such ill feelings.
Because that is the thing about Batad. It’s like a dream that you need to work hard for to achieve. And once you’ve attained it, you are never the same.