I have only traveled a couple of times before this trip, but I realized I did enjoy going solo, I would always reminisce about my first trip to Singapore. Even though it was confusing and frustrating at times, it was a nice challenge and really tested my wits (and sanity? lol) Since I only had limited time to do some research, I decided to join a group tour to Sagada from a tour guide I found using Sulit.com. Normally, people would be hesitant to do thing like this (joining strangers on trips like what I did during my trip to Ilocos) since it doesn’t really sound safe enough, but I was so naïve then and I haven’t watched enough suspense criminal TV shows to make me paranoid. Anyway, I only have good words for my tour guide and no regrets of choosing that mode of travel. The group was supposed to be fetched somewhere in Manila, but I wanted to take a side-trip to a nearby province that is not included in itinerary.
|how our bus ride looked like at Ohayami Trans (picture from lakas.com.ph)|
Fast forward, I was all alone going to Banaue. And because I wasn’t still used to traveling here in the Philippines, especially during Holy Week where most locals are also eager to go back to their provinces, I didn’t know that I should reserve for bus seats early on, I only bought mine a couple of hours before my expected departure and I was told I was a chance passenger. (airlines lang ang peg?) I arrived at Ohayami Trans a couple of minutes before 9pm and unfortunately, my “chance” was nowhere to be found. “You can only sit in the middle”, said the bus contractor. “What middle?” I saw they only had two seats per side, so what middle? Turns out, there are mini foldable seats, if you can even call it that, located in the middle isle. And because I wanted to be out of Manila, I didn’t back out. Don’t expect to get decent rest during the trip though, because every time we reached a pit stop, all people in the middle have to give way for people who want to take bathroom breaks. I don’t usually get a good sleep when I travel by bus, so this was fine with me, but it’s really unfair that they charge us full price for this ‘experience’. If you are going to Banaue, I suggest that you look for another bus provider and book your tickets early.
|My morning view from Greenview Lodge|
Straight from work, a 14-hour bus ride with fitful sleep, I arrived at Banaue feeling nauseous with a side of pounding headache and sore buttocks. It was easy to get a cheap yet decent room in Banaue, so worrying because I didn’t have any reservations was pretty useless. You can just walk to any of those establishments and ask if they have a spare bed, in my case I chose Greenview Lodge because they had a nice view deck facing the rice terraces. Unmindful of the time, I decided to take a nap first before I went out and explore.
When I inquired around for tour groups that go to Batad in the tourism office, I was informed that they have already left and that I should have went there earlier if I wanted to join bigger groups. :/ Not my fault, bruh. I was also told that the public jeeps only have trips around 9-10AM, so I was already too late for that. Because I didn’t do enough research, the tourism office was my only source of truth so I believed them. I still wanted to go to Batad but no other travelers in sight that I can join to divide travel costs, so it’s either the pricier route or I stay within the comforts of my modest bed. I chose to stick with my plan, so I asked the inn’s receptionist if they have any recommended tricycle drivers who can take me there. It seems like the route going to Batad is a complicated one though.
Anyway, back to reality. I met with my assigned tricycle driver for the day. We negotiated the rates since I want it to still be affordable. We settled with 600 pesos for a round trip to the Batad junction, not knowing where it was exactly. I was told I still need to do some trekking to the Saddle, then a couple more huffs and puffs to the town of Batad. I mean, how hard could it get, right? Oh boy, was I wrong.
We left before noon, and 40 minutes later, Kuya informed me that we were already at the junction. I was confused at first, I thought he’d be taking me to the top of the mountain, and he told me that’s not quite possible with his tricycle. Uh-oh. I would need to still hike up the rough terrain leading up to the Saddle, which is like the main jump-off point for people going to Batad. I thought he would be taking me there! :( I asked him how long it would take me to go all the way up, he looked at me and said “probably an hour.” I just felt the burning rays of the sun sink through my skin. Great, exactly what I needed, and I was wearing a long sleeved hoodie. :/ At that point, he bid me good luck and that he will fetch me at around 5 in the afternoon at the same place.
(By the way, I did this trip way back in 2012, I was told by an internet stranger that the road up to the Saddle is now paved. What a good news!)
|need to go up to the Saddle, let's do this!|
If you frequent this blog, you’ve probably read how I used to be physically inactive and dreaded any fitness activity. I was a slug. So imagine what kind of torture it was for me to do this trek. But still, my mind won and I managed to hike up to the rocky grounds leading up to the Saddle. I saw jeepneys passing by with no passengers, some even stopped at my direction and talked to me in local dialect (who knows what they could have been telling me, ‘Good job on this accomplishment’, ‘How you wish you could own a jeep right now’, ‘hehe sucker!’) but they certainly weren’t offering me a ride as they didn’t really stop that long to let me get in. No hard feelings, you guys. After an hour, I finally made it to the Saddle. Woooot! And there’s a store there, so I celebrated with some soda.
|mountain ranges of Ifugao|
After getting some rest to get my heart rate beat to normal, I asked if I was already close to Batad and they informed me “not quite yet, you’re just halfway there.” I still needed to go on a downhill trip that might take me 30 minutes or more. Now I forgot to mention that in the Cordillera, when people tell you that you can reach your destination by an hour, you need to multiply it by two. These people have strong endurance and are very fast! Imagine, you are going through the same route every day, your body will catch up. Even though the route to the town goes downward, the roads leading to it can get slippery and the stairs can be a challenge especially if you have acrophobia.
|happened to pass by these small section of the terraces before arriving at Batad|
Finally, after around 2 in the afternoon, I was able to reach Batad! But during this time, I was already dead beat and felt like my legs can move no more. I had no energy left to explore the town so I just sat in the viewpoint to appreciate the magnificent landscape of Batad.
|Just imagine how painstaking it was constructing these terraces by hand and only basic tools|
The road going back felt easier, probably because I already know the way and I was so eager to take a long sleep. I met some locals who pointed me to some shortcuts (like I can opt not to take the stairs but go through a roundabout path, might seem longer, but it takes less toll on the legs). I was also astonished to see some locals carrying a pregnant woman in a makeshift stretcher, it was either I was so slow or they were in a hurry due to the emergency (they went past me !_!). This is one of the problems many remote towns in the country face, the lack of proper healthcare. I wish this would improve with the 2016 administration.
|It’s baffling to think this have been standing strong for more than 2,000 years|
Luckily, I was able to catch the last jeepney ride back to Banaue at around 5PM, so no need to go down by foot from the Saddle to the junction. I asked to be let off at the junction because I promised Kuya Tricycle Driver I will be there to meet him. Didn’t want to make him wait and haven’t paid my fare yet, so I declined some of the passengers’ offer to join a wedding reception in a nearby town, which would have been nice though.
The next morning, I only had a couple of minutes to spare before I met with my Sagada travel group, so I didn’t have the chance to go around the different observation points recommended to offer the panoramic view of Banaue, so I’m lucky that the inn I was staying at offers this one of a kind picturesque vista.
Now, if you are also planning to go see the wonderful rice terraces of Batad, these are some of my learnings that I would like to impart with you
• Prepare a proper trekking outfit
• Long sleeves and pants, not a good combo
• Start early
• Bring snacks (energy/protein bars would be a good choice) and enough water
• Bring sunscreen
Who would have thought I was able to complete a trek spanning 18 kilometers! I was amazed that I pushed through it! I would love to go back though and probably stay one or two nights in the town of Batad, but nevertheless, I was satisfied with what I accomplished on this trip.