The Banaue Rice Terraces - a common feature in our history books and found at the back of the 20-peso-bill - but did you know it's actually quite a vast area with mountains and mountains of terraces? Batad is one of the towns in the Ifugao region and it's definitely interesting how they've kept their traditions intact.
1. Live in the mountains
Apparently there are a ton of homestays in Batad! Just look in this photo here:
If that doesn't look inviting enough, then I don't know what else is.
Batad has very limited mobile signal though so it might be a good idea to book your stay with a tour provider during the peak season. There are some people who actually literally just do a walk-in, if you're more adventurous like that.
2. Get to know the locals.
The locals in the Ifugao area are definitely interesting. We chatted some of the elders up and found that they apparently learned to speak English from the American tourists who are always in the area. (It's really never to late to learn anything and age is no excuse.)
We also found that most of them don't even really know their age (they didn't quite use the calendar yet back then so they don't know their birthday). They have had children though so their descendants have been raised in the modern era of calendars and do already know their own birthdays.
A couple of the elders are blind (depending on the area - different groups have their own hangouts). Every morning, they hold each other's hands to walk down to the viewpoint so they can take photos with tourists like us.
We also found that their headdress didn't traditionally have feathers like they do now. It actually used to showcase skulls of the Banaue bird. :o
3. Get to know their livelihood and culture
The region is known for their handcrafted woodworks. It was curious because we found a lot of souvenir shops carrying this ashtray with a design of a private part. Apparently, a gay club owner had these made and the design became very popular with American tourists. Thus, the proliferation of this otherwise-offensive-to-conservative-sensibilities product. But most of us in the group are just very amused by it.
After interviewing the local shopkeeper at the viewpoint, we've come to found that they also have what's called "OTOP" or "One Town, One Product". Definitely interesting to find what the product of the different towns are.
One town for example, is known for their coffee.
Don't forget to buy some pasalubong for your loved ones and support the region's livelihood.
4. The breathtaking view of the Terraces.
This is just one part of the whole Banaue Rice Terraces!
What's amazing about the region of Ifugao is that it is just filled with terraces like these.
What's unique about the area of Batad is that the locals have kept their traditions and only plant rice. They also don't use any pesticides and have to resort to natural ways of fertilising the soil - so they can really only yield rice for once a year enough for their own consumption.
5. The 600-step hike in the area of Batad is an adventure in itself.
It's actually an easy hike especially because of the (very tall / steep) steps but for beginners to hiking, you might have to take it easy every few or so minutes.
It's definitely quite a view while doing the hike though and for many, you won't even notice the climb. It's also great to feel the cool breeze up in the mountains.
6. Cool down at the Tappiya Falls in Batad
The waterfalls were majestic. The falls were definitely a welcome and cool respite from the hike down. It will also prepare you for the gruelling and tiring hike back up.
Just be careful as the waters can become much more powerful when it's raining with the undertow becoming stronger. Our guide mentioned to us that there was one Korean and another man (separate instances) who died there. One when he went back closer to the falls to get his bag and another who had leg cramps. Be sure to get a guide when you're there and follow their advice. Avoid the deep and strong part of the falls and stick to shallower areas (feet- to chest-deep) especially when it's raining.