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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Getting there: Here’s a very useful article for transpo rates to and from Batad.
- Lodging: We stayed and enjoyed the killer view from the Hillside Inn, but here’s OAP’s rundown of other options around Batad.
- I almost forgot! More Batad pics over here: Picasa Album: 2012-02 Batad
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.