The bustling traffic and smog of the city made me realize that I needed a breather from all the chaos. I quickly called my good friend and travel expert, JP of Vagabond Pinas Travels and Tours, if he has a trip bound to the mountains the coming weekend. The universe was kind to me on that fateful day when I got news that there is still room for Banaue, Ifugao trip. I quickly confirmed a slot and prepared all the things I needed for the 15 hour land trip up north.
Good Morning from Mother Nature
I woke up from the glinting sunlight touching my face, it was 7 am. I squinted to check where we are exactly and I was greeted with breathtaking blue skies, sprawling hills, and towering mountains. I hopped out from the van and headed towards the small cafe where the rest of the group was eating breakfast. I cupped my hands with a warm mug of freshly brewed coffee and marveled at the view that lay ahead of me. The coldness of the mountain breeze and warmth of the fresh brew was indeed comforting. I savored every moment of peace and thanked Mother Nature for waking me up in her own fashionable way.
We transferred to a huge jeepney where a local guide led us to a viewpoint by the highway. Our guide briefly discussed the history of the rice terraces and how it was able to withstand time. We were able to learn that the terraces are around 2,000-6,000 years old and cultivates an heirloom rice called, “Tinawon Rice”. “Tinawon”, meaning “annual or yearly”, does live up to its name because this particular type of rice is only harvested once a year. I was able to try in one of our meals and it was indeed very filling and delicious.
Batad Rice Terraces is part of the UNESCO Heritage List, a stairway to heaven at 1,100 meters above sea level. I was in awe when I first laid my eyes on this monumental site. It was a dream seeing it upclose because I used to draw it as homework for Social Studies class way back in grade school. As I stood before it, I had more respect with the ancestors of Ifugao, who painstakingly built and maintained each level of the amphitheater terraces for generations.
As I hiked Batad, I breathed in clean fresh air and exhaled negativity. My lungs have never thanked me this much before. The behemoth rice terraces embraced our group, making us look like tiny ants all lined up. I ran my fingers along the tall stalks of rice which painted the amphitheater in lush vivid green. I eagerly weaved through the path that led to Tappiya waterfalls, the main source of water in Batad rice terraces. I discovered tourists and locals flocking together and enjoying the hot summer sun. I immediately joined in the fun and giddily waded in the cool streams nearby.
I remember holding my breath underwater to muffle the rumbling sound of the falls and chatty crowd. The silence and coldness of the water was cathartic, renewing my weary heart and tired mind. I looked for a sweet spot away from the growing number of people and sat there for a while in peace. I later found myself thanking the heavens for the gift of life, nature, and this trip.
By the time we got back to our bed and breakfast place, local masseuses approached our group and offered massage services. I easily gave in since my legs have been aching from the day-long hike. As the masseuse kneaded my tired muscles, I happily dosed off for a good one hour and woke up very refreshed. The massage was cheap for its price so I decided to give my masseuse a generous tip for a job well done. I capped off the night with a cup of hot green tea and a few chapters of a good book before completely retiring after a long day.
I woke up early the next day to catch a glimpse of the sunrise then I hurriedly scoured the area for some fun activities. I found native huts adorned with animal bones and excitedly took photographs of every nook and cranny I can find. I even tried pounding rice just for the heck of it and my newly found friends laughed at how much I struggled. From there, I became conscious of the mere existence of nature, resources, and community and it made me realize that these things are enough for one to live a happy and contented life.
The Big Reset
My journey to Batad was like a huge reset button, it took away the weariness I felt prior to the trip. The breathtaking views, fresh air, and good company was a big break from city living and the stress that goes along with it. I will definitely go back here because its grandness became the antidote to my dysphoria, a quick fix to my adventure-seeking soul. I don’t mind spending another 30 hours traveling by land to reach Batad and then coming home with a happier disposition. As long as I am able to tame the wanderlust within me, everything is just fine.