The Batad Experience: How Far Will You Go for an Epic Adventure?

Word on the backpacker’s grapevine says that Batad is one of those rare glimpses of heaven on earth. A village that used to be a well-kept secret, Batad is neatly tucked away, almost in the shadow of Banaue, its more-familiar neighbor. A few souls have dared call it as the 8th Wonder of the World, but seriously, the title has been thrown around so often, that we can probably come up with a Top 7 ‘8th Wonders of the World’ list.

In the end, curiosity got the best of us, and at the third year of a tradition that we unknowingly started, my bundok buddies and I trooped off to Batad to kick off the year with another adventure.

The Challenge of Getting from Point A to Point B

The first step of the long journey to Batad is commitment: it will demand almost a day of bum-numbing rides in buses, jeepneys and whatnots. As for us, our supposedly 7-hour ride from Manila to Solano took 11 hours when the bus broke down midway. When we finally reached Solano, the jeepney drivers have already called it a day, so we had to hire a whole jeep to take us to Banaue, where we shall transfer to another jeep to take us to the Saddle Point. Now, the thing is that, at the Saddle Point, it’s literally the end of the road. So finally, at 11:30 PM that day, we were just ready to start our grand descent on foot to Batad proper. The moonlight guiding us on our way down to the valley was comforting. I was almost grateful that it was too dark to see the sharp drops right next to our trail.

Finally!

Our epic midnight trek ended once we FINALLY reached the Hillside Inn (trumpets sound with joy!). I tell you, after what we went through, we dropped like flies at the sight of our beds.

Now, that's breakfast.

We got up early to greet the sunrise. The air was freezing, but taking your morning coffee before an astounding view trumps anything. From our balcony, you can see the rows of photographers poised behind their tripods from the balconies of the other inns, waiting for the sun to make the miles of rice terraces below glisten. We’ve often seen the rice terraces in textbooks and postcards, but it is quite another thing to see them in person. I thought that the tiers would be just waist-high; each layer was actually about 5-7 feet tall.

A bunch of photographers next door were hamming it up when one of them put a traditional Ifugao costume and posed for photo-ops.

After a stone-cold bath and a hearty breakfast, we were off to explore the valley itself. Our guide, Derek, shot me a look, asked whether I had a fear of heights, asked about my balance, all before handing me a walking stick. After a few minutes, I would find out why. For all my supposed “prowess” in tackling the great outdoors, the sight of the narrow paths made my knees buckle. We were to walk right on the edge of the stonewalled rice terraces, which I swear, were tailor-made for ninjas. As the big klutz that I am, I had two choices — to my left: a muddy facial, and to my right: a muddy facial with an oomph (read: a 5-foot drop. Oomph indeed!). Honestly, it was terrifying to take those first steps across, but after some encouraging words from Jan, Stan and Biboy, I was able to cross and saw that it wasn’t that bad. It was just a shame I couldn’t walk and take in the glorious view at the same time. Afterwards I kept thinking, with a playground like this, the Batad kids must be shoo-ins for the Olympics!

Nature's natural ampitheater
People originally used the rocks jutting out of the walls (over the ravine!) to make their way down, before the stairs on the left was made.

After the terrace traverse, we started to descend down yet another flight of stone stairs, to be later greeted by the highlight of the trip for me: the Tappiya Falls. Man, it was worth it. Pure, crystalline water that urges — no, compels you — to take a dip. Gaze upon it, and for a few seconds, you’re left speechless.

One of highest stone stacks I think I've seen in a long time. Bravo!

After literally soaking in the sights, we trek back up the stairs again, and onto the Batad village proper in the heart of the valley. Derek filled us in on the tribe customs and way of life. Over at one hut, we saw a trio of elders chatting away the afternoon. One of them, a smiling grandma, was nice enough to let us watch as she continued to work on her Ifugao weaving.

That's the local Catholic church peeking from behind the thatched-roof hut.
We found several of these "cellphone banderitas" --- as a phone signal was hard to come by, people would punch in their messages and then hang their phones outside, in hopes of it catching a signal long enough to send the message.

We capped off the day back at the inn, with just how every good backpacking day should end: with beers in hand, a guitar in the background, and rounds of drinking songs to boot.

Horsing around: More fun in the Philippines!
Our tab. Count the beers!

In hindsight, of all the faces I saw during the trip, more than half belonged to foreigners — backpackers who willingly crossed a lot more miles than us, and who whole-heartedly embraced the notoriously-bumpy journey on the rough roads — all simply to see Batad. I guess, sans all races & backgrounds, we were looking for the same thing — a respite from the clutter, a world wherein you can be happy with the bare minimum, where every step taken is deliberate and thought. Swap the skyscrapers for the mountains, the the flashy billboards for the falls — all you need is real, unpretentious beauty, and of course, awesome company.

With our guide, the talented Derek


Batad Tips:



For the weekend warriors who want to go the extra mile, Batad needs your help! The Bachang Initiative is a volunTourism project which aims to rebuild the portion of the Batad rice terraces recently damaged by landslides. If this sounds like the trip for you, you can sign up at the BatadWeekendWarrior FB page.

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12 thoughts on “The Batad Experience: How Far Will You Go for an Epic Adventure?”

      1. @Ula: Guides go for Php 1,200/day (that’s for guiding our whole group already). However, it will be the transit rates that can be the budget-killer (as much as PhP 2.5k for a roundtrip ride from Banaue to the Saddle Point) — the wikitravel site gives a good rundown on how to go on public transpo to get to the Saddle Point & back: http://wikitravel.org/en/Banaue#b.

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      2. Hi ishg!
        Thank you very much for your help. It is very kind of you. I am going to Philippines on July. I hope everything wil be OK!!!
        Best regards to you.
        Ula

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      3. That’s awesome, Ula! If you have time, you might want to check out Sagada as well — it’s another gem in the mountains that I heard is worth the extra trip. πŸ™‚

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      4. Hi ishg!
        I will be in the mountains only 3 days. From Banaue I want to go first to Batad Village (Tapia falls) and from there I would like to take two days trek: Batad-Cambulo-Pula-Banue. I heart about Sagada. It should be very nice place, as well, but I don’t have any mor time. Thanks for your suggestions.
        Regards to you!!!
        Ula

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  1. Yeah, Batad IS a work out. Damn, that trek up and down from the saddle is a killer. The hike and cliff-hugging required to get to Tappiya is also something else!

    Welcome to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers group! πŸ˜€

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