Most visitors to the Philippines are so fascinated with the 7000 or more stunning islands that they never think to see any other areas of the country. Visiting El Nido’s turquoise lagoons was on my list of places to visit. Below is a glimpse of the stunning waters from that portion of the trip…
The 16-hour flight from Washington DC to Manila caused me to do a quick search to make sure there wasn’t something else worth exploring while on that side of the world besides the stunning islands. Researching top 10 destinations in the Philippines listed……. island, after island, after island and then up popped the UNESCO World Heritage Batad Rice Terraces.
Just the brief description had me hooked and the terraces (even out of season) sounded spectacular.
However, getting to this UNESCO World Heritage site is not for the faint of heart. Getting there involves a herculean effort especially as I chose to go up and back in one day. Located North of Manila, it is a 9 hour overnight frigid bus ride to Banaue. The driver stopped every two hours to stretch and smoke so naturally passengers end up stepping off as well to stretch and warm up a bit. Needless to say sleep over two hours is futile.
You arrive early in the morning to Banaue with the “the saddle” and entrance to Batad still another hour ride away. From the entrance you hike to and up through the terraces themselves. Everything I had read advised to pay for a guide to hike the terraces as the paths are narrow with no signage and steep to traverse. Imagine steps a foot high…You really should be in good health to hike these terraces.
As the bus arrives to Banaue, a person comes down the bus aisle asking each passenger whether they have lodging or are hiking the terraces? It looked suspiciously like a sales pitch to me that the bus drivers and locals had going, so I shrugged and let them know I wasn’t sure yet. Upon disembarking, they load all the remaining passengers without pre-arranged lodging or drivers into a Jeepney to go a short distance down the road to a different guesthouse. They then ask all passengers to go upstairs to the restaurant for further information. Since I needed my return bus ticket, I had to go inside to wait.
So here’s where it felt like a hustle, if you get off a 9 hour freezing bus ride, and are asked to wait in a restaurant, you are most likely to order food, coffee, or something warming, so essentially, they have you spending money at their chosen location. I already had researched a breakfast spot, saw this situation for what it was and stayed put downstairs to wait for them to give me my return bus receipt. They tried to sell me on getting a terrace hiking guide through them at an inflated price or to go upstairs to wait. After repeated requests, they reluctantly gave me my return bus receipt and I headed outside to get breakfast at 7th Heaven Café which I heard had some good food in town.
As I left, a driver seated outside offered to take and guide me through the rice terraces for 1200 pesos door to door. It was a pretty rainy dreary day but I thought that was a reasonable fare. JR and I agreed and shook hands. I next advised him where I was going for breakfast. He told me he needed some gas but to hop in and he would take me to 7th Heaven café. We gassed up the ride (as you can see) and then he ferried me up the hill and patiently waited over the next hour while I ate and refreshed.
7th Heaven café filled me up with eggs, pancakes and hot tea, getting some needed warmth into my bones. After eating a terrific meal with a great view to boot, the café was kind enough to let me leave my luggage for safekeeping while I completed the rice terrace hike.
Off we went to the terraces! JR stopped to let me take photos of the views entering the area.
Can you believe I picked a driver whose motorcycle sported my favorite number? I also marveled that he did the whole hike in flip flops!
Banaue is a municipality of the province Ifugao (people of the hill) and Batad is a village of Banaue. Batad is a tiny village that relies on rice farming and tourism. Mountain streams and springs have been channeled and guided into irrigating these rice terraces for 2000 years. Each individual terrace is privately owned and protected through ancestral rights, tribal laws and traditional practices however the younger generations are no longer staying to tend to the rice terraces so the terraces are in danger of disappearing.
The only way in to the village is by foot so pack lightly but remember that everything here is brought in by foot so prices of water and snacks reflect this isolation. Always best to bring your own.
Once in Batad, the trek to the waterfall is well worth it. Tippiya Falls are a roaring 47-meter cascade behind the terraces. It takes about 40 minutes to walk down to the waterfall, but about 1.5 – 2 hours to climb back up and each step can be just as tall as a foot or more! You will have to stop to rest for your thighs and calves will be aching and your lungs crying out for air. If the sun is out, do carry cold water to refresh yourself in the humidity.