A 6 to 8 hour bus ride from Manila to Banaue leaves an adventurer with an interesting dilemma. Where does on go from here? Where does my journey bring me next? He or she has 2 main choices. Sagada or Batad. The answer I suppose idepends on what one wishes to experience. Not just see or hear, but experience. If you’re after an adventure filled weekend and a brush with culture, Sagada is the place to be. Cave explorations, swimming near a waterfall, the hanging coffins and friendly locals make Sagada a favourite of most travelers. Who would not want to visit Sagada, it’s an activity rich place and very accessible as well. A jeep ride brings you to itsdoorstep which welcomes a guest to come and see. This is the path most take.
The less obvious choice is to visit Batad
. It does not sound as exciting as Sagada nor does it ring a bell as clearly as Sagada and what one can do is not as much as Sagada has to offer. But with a deeper gaze one will realize it has a beauty and charm that enchants. For those who want a deep, silent interaction with nature and culture Batad is where your compass must lead you. It takes an hour descent to the village of Batad. It’s not a long hike and not a hard one to say the least but for those not used to walking long distances in can be a detractor. But as I always say the harder it is to get to a place the more beautiful it will likely be. The trail you walk on is the start of your cultural interaction; you are walking down a path passed by all the local people and one that was carved by their ancestors. Along t the way friendly locals will walk with you carrying goods or just on their way home, and if they are not in a hurry will share a conversation with you. On one of my visits I came across a young student. She was a grandchild of a “mumbaki” (traditional healer/elder) and she shared stories of what her “lolo” (grandfather) would do and how it is a dying tradition. Sad as the story may sound I find that interaction a rare encounter of the local culture, raw and real.
After that “long” walk you are welcomed by the grand amphitheatre like rice terraces. It is most beautiful before the harvest season when the fields are bright green, and full of life. It’s as if a celebration is at hand. As one stares in amazement he or she will be asked by locals for a donation in preserving these terraces. Again it is an interesting interaction as the locals share their efforts and love for the terraces.
It is silent in the Village. Not quiet, but silent. There is sound but not noise. You can sit on a bench and stare at a magnificent interaction between God’s creation and man’s design. A love affair between heaven and earth. The peace allows you to notice life’s little joys. The joy of seeing cloud rolling in and out of the mountains. The joy of seeing the sunlight as it hugs the mountain side. The joy of the cool breeze and sound of the wind that soothes you and seem to trance you to rest. A favourite joy of mine is the welcome site is of kids playing in the rise fields. I remember watching for 20 minutes children throwing mud at each other on the rice fields. It was so “crude” a game, so non-sensical in a way, so unsophisticated yet it brought an overwhelmingly delight an Ipad or new phone would not give. Simple joys are very infectious and one can’t help but smile as he or she witness and realizes these joys.
Walk down the rice patties for more local interaction, you can play with the kids or talk to the elders. Your guides may have very touching personal stories of Batad, one which is worth an ear. There is a small “village” situated within the terraces where one can catch locals carving images of the local Gods, hunters, charms and other figures.
showcases Mother Nature’s power. The Tapiyah falls is a must to visit. I love fresh water forms specially raging rivers and waterfalls. I find it having an attractive contrast. Powerful and swift but also gentle and soothing. Tapiyah Falls is no exception it drops with much power that you have to raise your voice to be heard but it is also refreshing as its cool waters and waves relax one’s tired body.
At the end of the Batad journey, one realizes that it has been a truly amazing adventure. It is not because he or she did so many things, saw many sights or met a lot of people but it allowed an individual to find one ’s self. What I love about Batad is how it allows you a peaceful, simple and beautiful venue to find one ’s self. Find the self in relation to others, find oneself in relation to nature and to fin oneself in relation to oneself.