Batad Rice Terraces: A Man-Made Marvel of Ancient Filipino Engineering
Banaue is best explored on-foot – not on wheels, not on any mode of transportation, no nothing. Only the soles of your hiking shoes or the rubbers of your fancy flip-flops should set your uncallused feet apart from the face of the earth. Your muscle endurance and heat tolerance will be put to test in an agonizing trek of uphills and downhills through narrow walkways, uneven terrains, and steep slopes, to witness a renown UNESCO World Heritage Site situated at the heart of Cordillera Mountains. Join Biyaherong Barat on a trek to Batad’s Rice Terraces.
The loud barks of street dogs broke the deafening silence which woke me up that shivering morning just before my mobile’s alarm clock went off. Good. I’m off to an early start, having more than enough time to laze in Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant’s balcony while delighting myself with a hefty serving of authentic Filipino breakfast of longganisa (a local sausage), garlic rice, and egg, and served with a warm cup of a freshly brewed coffee. Just as I was sipping on the last drops of my coffee came my travel companions for a whole day trek in Batad.
Smiles from my Batad hiking buddies, Joel & Nika
Susan Paredes of Sanafe Lodge & Restaurant referred me to one of their handpicked and trusted guides named Joel Ognayon, a local of Ifugao who has been active in the local tourism industry for over 10 years. Armed with a medical kit, a sharp knowledge, and cultural know-how’s, Joel safely guides visitors in their treks whilst tale-telling the importance, significance and the history of the destination. Completing the group was the solitary intrepid traveler, Nika, who came halfway across the world to discover the hidden treasures of the Philippine archipelago. Our band of three set off to Batad where our on-foot traveling capabilities were put to the test.
A house watches over a vast land of rice terraces in Sitio Liwang, Banaue.
Guihob’s natural pool and river surrounded by rice terraces.
Cool water from the mountains run into River in Guihob.
Tons of Banaue’s attractions en route to Batad deserve a quick stopover simply just to absorb the marvelous view of the innumerable rice terraces sprawling all over the province. Sitio Liwang offers a road side view of multi-layered paddy fields with the gigantic mountains of Cordillera serving as the perfect backdrop. Situated only a few kilometers from Liwang is the picnicker’s favorite Guihob Natural Pool. Nippy running waters gently flow from the mountains to Guihob’s river, flanked by balconies and balconies of rice paddies enveloped in luscious green foliage. Both superb sights are just appetizers that teases its viewers of what grandeur lies ahead.
Passing by Hanging House/Dalican Viewdeck en route to Batad.
Hanging House viewed from the road side.
Hanging House Souvenir Shop Dalican Viewdeck.
Kid playing with the wooden statues displayed at the Hanging House.
Winding bumpy roads running along cliffs started getting really rough as we penetrate deeper into Ifugao’s remote towns. The last stop before our jump-off point is the so-called Hanging House which seemingly clings to a cliff’s edge. Combined panels of thin metal sheet roofings wrapped the entire house standing on large tree trunks for foundation. The bizarre location of the Hanging House declared itself a destination on its own where tourists drop by not only to get souvenirs carved from wood, but to view the rice terraces of Dalican, as well. The Hanging House gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “living on the edge”.
Batad Junction – jump off point to Batad Rice Terraces.
“Batad Rice Terraces & Tappiya Waterfalls”
Travel time from Banaue, including viewing and picture-taking stopovers, took us a few minutes over an hour to reach Batad Junction, a three-way intersection wherein the main road drives all the way to Mayoyao, and the off-beaten passage perpendicular to the main road lead to Batad Rice Terraces cluster. Batad Junction is the jump-off point to an arduous journey to both our destinations – Batad Rice Terraces and Tappiya Falls.
Beads of sweat began to break from the temple of my head down to the neck, just only a few meters after kick starting the ascent, and it got me questioning my endurance. To get our minds off the agonizing trek ahead of us, our trio engaged into conversations of life, religion, politics, history and culture. Before we knew it, the “saddle” was in sight.
Foreign visitors waiting for the jeepney bound for Banaue in a store in Batad Saddle.
A window giving glimpses of the rice terraces.
Hiking from the junction to Batad Saddle was a manageable 45-minute to an hour walk on arelaxed pace. The saddle sits on a ridge in between two mountains which resembles the shape of seat on a horse (or a camel maybe), thus, being called the saddle. Small eateries and local sari-sari stores selling drinks, snacks, and souvenirs are available at the Saddle but on higher retail price understandably due to the difficulty of transporting goods. Nonetheless, Batad Saddle is still the best resting point before pushing forward for the rice terraces.
Rice paddies carved in the slope of a mountain. Viewed on the way to Batad Terraces.
My dri-fit badminton shirt was soaking with sweat but Joel appeared to be just warming up as we advance to our next destination and the second part of the hike – Saddle to Batad. Descending from the saddle passes through narrow staircases and pathways under the shade of a thick foliage of tree canopies. At certain points, the clearings present remarkable views of rice terraces isolated from the huge clusters, which dotted many parts of Ifugao.
A few more steps later, unfolding before my eyes was the majestic man-made marvel of ancient Filipino engineering, the Batad Rice Terraces. For a while, my heavy breathing literally stopped as I awed with the spectacle that I can’t even think of the exact words to describe it with. No wonder it was among the five (5) inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List under the cultural and landscape category back in ’95.
The amphitheater-shaped Batad Rice Terraces cluster.
Rice paddy fields on the mountain.
Batad’s cluster of rice fields possesses two distinct characteristics which made it popular among the other rice terraces: first, the collective assembly of the rice fields forms the shape of an amphitheater, second, the walls of the paddies are made up of stones. Being boxed in by colossal mountain ranges, building the rice fields follows the contour of the slopes as it was built from ground and elevates to a higher sections of the mountains, thus, resembling an amphitheater.
A beautiful pattern sculpted in the mountain slopes
Most rice paddies in Ifugao are walled with a complex fixture of hard soil and mud but Batad’s pond fields were secured with stones and rocks. Joel gave us a walk through on how the Ifugao’s of Batad turned immovable heavy boulders, the size of a tricycle, into stones that can be carried by 1 or 2 Ifugao’s. Setting the rock on fire and instantly cooling it down softened the gigantic boulder which now can be broken down by tools made from harder stones.
Batad village in the middle of the terraces.
Ifugao came from the word “i-pugo”, “i” meaning the “tao” or people, and “pugo” meaning hill or mountain, hence, “people of the hill (or the mountain)”. No other ancient civilizations have engineered a series of terraces on a grand scale. The mountain people have mastered a monumental feat that absolutely deserved the world recognition.
I hope this will serve as an inspiration to my fellowmen that Filipinos, working as one unit and setting all their differences aside, can change the fate of our country wherein, WE, as one, will build a strong and peaceful nation recognized, even in the farthest corners of this planet.
This made me a prouder Filipino in my thoughts, words, and actions.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on the trip:
1. That was the easy part of the hike. The real challenge was the Assault To Tappiya Falls.
2. Joel Ognayon is an experienced Ifugao tour guide who provides relevant and factual information about the destinations, and its cultural and historical significance. Being in the tourism industry for over 10 years, he already underwent many tourism seminars that recognizes his guiding skills for both local and foreign visitors.
You could reach him through:
Mobile: +63918 436 77 08 (recommended)
Facebook: Joel Ognayon
3. Joel’s tour guide rates (standard for registered guides).
P1,200.00 (USD 28.00) – Tour guide to Batad & Tappiya Falls
P700.00 (USD 17.00) – Private tricycle (2-3 persons) from Banaue-Batad Junction and back.
P2,500.00 (USD 60.00) – jeepney (more than 3 persons) from Banaue-Batad Junction and back
If you’re charged by other guides above this rate, they’re ripping you off. If some charges you lower, think again, ask for credentials. Beware of unregistered guides.
4. Wear light clothes during the hike and bring an extra shirt.
5. Wear your most trust-worthy outdoor shoes.
6. Hiking from Batad Junction to Batad Saddle is approximately an hour, and from the Saddle to Batad is approximately an hour also. Both on an easy and relaxed pace.
7. When you reach Batad, there is a small outpost where you will register and “donate” any amount. I think P20.00 is enough.
8. Bring a bottle of water, at least 1 liter, if you’re not willing to spend an extra buck. A small bottle of water is quite expensive at the saddle.
9. Take time to drop by the stopover destinations even for 5-15 minutes.
10. Don’t rush your hike to Batad. Enjoy and absorb the picturesque view.
11. Please LIKE BIYAHERONG BARAT on Facebook.
12. Don’t forget to FOLLOW BIYAHERONG BARAT on Twitter.
13. See nearby destinations in Biyaheng Ifugao.
14. Always be safe and happy travels to you all.