LOCATION: BATAD, IFUGAO, PHILIPPINES
A first timer’s guide to the terrace cradled town of Batad. For the most amazing rice terrace formation, skip Banaue and go straight to Batad…
For the month of February this year, I saw my fair share of Rice Terraces. My favourite, though, by a long shot would have to be the perfectly preserved Rice Terraces in the small, secluded town of Batad. Hidden within the mountains of northern Luzon in the region of Ifugao, Philippines, this secluded, little town offers a unique perspective to ancient, cultural traditions and simple ways of life led by the Ifugao people.
Compared to Banaue’s rice terraces, Batad’s stone-walled formations are much better preserved in comparison to the deteriorating mud walls of the Banaue Terraces. Thanks to this extra use of building materials, the structures in Batad stand to promise breath taking sights for generations to come. Here’s my advice and experience from my recent trip to the mountain province to inspire you to see the beautiful sights of Batad for yourself.
HOW TO GET THERE
Option 1#: Car
I travelled by car because I wanted to take my time and stop at different places along the way. From the town of Bananue (see my Guide to Bananue here) it’s a short hour drive to Saddle (the nearest road access to Batad). We parked the car and paid a small tip for one of the men to look after the car. We had no issues with vandalism or damage whilst the car sat at saddle over the course of two nights.
Option 2#: Bus
Traveling by bus is a perfect option for those who don’t want the extra fuss of driving. Ohayami Trans Bus company offers direct trips from Manila to Banaue for about Php470. It’s an overnight trip that leaves around 10pm (exact times are available on their website) and drops you in Banaue at 7am the next morning. Going to Batad from Bananue, there are jeepneys that travel to Saddle twice daily from town centre and fares are Php150 per person.
Best Time to Go
The planting and harvesting of the rice are a seasonal event so the rice terraces will showcase a different colour, ranging from green to gold to brown at different times of the year. The terraces are greenest before harvest which is around April to May and October to November. During harvest the terraces take on a golden appearance during the months of June, July and December to January. During the time I went, despite the harvest not being at its greenest, I still enjoyed the view regardless.
WHERE TO STAY:
Ramon’s Homestay offers a unique experience of staying in a native nipa hut. These nipa huts or ‘bahay kubos’ are kept in their traditional state: devoid of any electricity and modern fittings. The exception is that they are fitted with a mattress and pillows, which are heaven sent after a day of climbing. Be sure to pack repellent and a torch or two. Also, be sure to ask for blankets unless you want to freeze your butt off. For some reason, blankets aren’t placed in your room automatically. Ramon’s also has a little restaurant which offers filipino comfort food with some international additions. My recommendations would have to be the Chicken Tinola (a ginger and young papaya broth with chicken) and the homemade veggie pizza. You must order early though, as food is limited and the place becomes quite busy at meal times, so ordering in advance is a must.
WHAT TO DO:
Hike to the Highest View Point
There are two view points. The highest is the Awa View Deck, which involves a half a day hike up a mountain to experience a bird’s eye view of Batad. However, I chose not to murder my legs and just hike to the highest point of the rice terraces themselves. This hike is a relatively easy trek of two hours and it brings you up and around the amphitheatre rice terraces. After balancing on the edges of rice terraces, you’re rewarded with an amazing view of the step-like formations of the terraces.
Trek to Tappiya Falls
Best done first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and heat of the day, the trek to the falls is a moderately challenging endeavour. Some steps are a foot high and although the trek is completely down hill, the challenge lays on the way back. However, thankfully the falls offer a chance to cool down (or freeze) halfway through the hike. The waters are deep and very, very cold. You’ll soon forget the hot and sweaty mess that you were a few moments earlier when you plunge into its waters. The sight of the falls itself is amazing with it’s 70 meter, cascading waters dousing the entire area in mist. Be sure to bring a stick to help you balance and pack light. There are a few simple tables and seating at the base of the falls where you can have your packed lunch and rest those aching legs.
Visit the Weaving House
Within the simple town, you can witness the weaving of traditional Ifuago clothing by hand at the weaving house. Depending on the hour of the day, you can watch the people at work, creating these intricately designed, bright red pieces. They are also up for sale and make great souvenirs to bring home with you.
Have fun exploring the Rice Terraces of Batad!