The soothing voice of Celine Dion sang on the bus radio when a faint light from the window forced my eyes to crack open. She started her greatest hits with ‘My Heart Will Go On’ when I brushed the curtains aside and realised we have arrived in Lagawe. It was 6:00 in the morning when ‘Immortality’ almost serenaded me back to sleep, but her powering through ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ made me watch the roadside view instead. By the time I was mouthing the words to ‘That’s The Way It Is’ we have already arrived in our destination up north: Banaue.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of my favorite places in Luzon.
A week before the trip, I suddenly had the itch to travel without any specific plans on where to go. With a limited budget and no time to work on an itinerary, I browsed for available group tours or hikes that I could join for the following weekend. I wasn’t keen on hiking any mountain but the desperation for a quick weekend getaway overtook. Luckily, Trail Adventours had an overnight trip to Batad and coincidentally, my friend Osep was guiding the tour. So after making sure that I had enough budget to pay for an impromptu trip, I confirmed my attendance and asked around social media if anyone else was interested to join me (Hello, Ayra!). Now, if only hooking up would be just as easier for me.
Hire porters at Saddle Point to help carry your baggage. Pictured above was our teen guide, named Machete, strumming the guitar.
Rita’s Inn is known for the collage of photos pasted on the eatery’s front. Rita said that some of the photos left years ago, including mine, were destroyed by a storm.
It was my third time at this small village in Ifugao. Back in college, I had no idea what was in store for me because I have not heard of the place and I was unprepared for the trek that took place to reach the village. Since then I vowed never to come back and relive the physical stress the place brought to me. But years later, I found myself trekking the same beaten path with a friend and several strangers. Still, I told myself that would be the last time I set foot in that community no matter how breathtaking the view is from the porch of Rita’s Inn. On my second round, I didn’t even bother hike down to the waterfalls because I knew how strenuous that was.
Even though some of the meals were provided for at the inn, we would still hike up to Rita’s Inn to get some grub. Their pizzas are a must-try!
Imagine waking up to this view every morning. Photos by Ayra Michelle Santiago
Accommodations are limited to lodges, inns, and native huts in Batad and rates can go from P200 to P300 for a basic room. No air-conditioning needed!
See, getting to Batad is not as easy as one would think. Even though it’s an hour away from Banaue by jeep, the road was not always as smoothly paved as it is now. On my first two trips, I had to rock and roll with the jeep as it awkwardly attempted to run across the numerous bumps on the dirt road. And it’s twice as uncomfortable when you’re toploading the vehicle, forced to endure the pain of steel bars rubbing against your bony ass.
Arriving at the Saddle Point means the actual hike on foot begins. Depending on the speed of your group, getting to the town proper of Batad can be as quick as 45 minutes to a grueling hour or more. But once you reach the place, the amphitheatre would warmly welcome you and your sweaty inner thighs, so take a moment, and let the cool mountain breeze blowdry your wet underarms while you silently admire the view.
Our group stayed at Simon’s Inn, arguably the largest ‘hostel’ in Batad. Their blankets are comfortable!
Stephanie, a foreign national who was in the Philippines for 3 months working with W.H.O. and saved all her weekends to tour around the country.
The locals believed that having photos taken of them would damage their souls so it is advised to always ask for permission before clicking that shutter.
The local government is currently building better roads leading to Batad, but that takes away from the experience of hiking the normal, much challenging route. Though I believe it is a much better reward to see the village’s view of the terraces after an hour of arduous hike, if this development would make things easier for the 1500 people living there, then it is a change that tourists must accept. I’m sure the lazier ones won’t mind an easier route anyway.
Accommodations provide the most basic of needs, the use of their electricity has corresponding charges, and the rates of beverages are unbelievably high (a can of Coke costs P60), but when you consider the time and effort it takes for them to bring these products up the mountain and down to their quaint village, the price hike becomes a tad understandable.
Osep, my colleague and lead guide of Trail Adventours during that hike.
The interior walls of Simon’s Inn were filled with memorabilias left by foreign and local travelers. All who fell in love with Batad.
Despite these factors, Batad was still as endearing as I remembered during my first date with her, especially with a view worth waking up to every morning. The people are friendly enough if the conversation is properly initiated. They don’t like it when tourists take photos of them without permission in belief that doing so will take away parts of their soul. But if you ask nicely, maybe they’ll let you take a snap or two.
With its rustic appeal, the lazy atmosphere, and the chill in my spine every time the rush of ice cold water touches my bare skin during morning showers, I have grown to love the place and have stopped making sweeping declarations on how I will never return to Batad. It’s only a matter of time before I let myself get dragged back to that familiar view.