Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Banaue Rice Terraces at Batad

As promised, here is the story of our tour of the Banaue Rice Terraces at Batad.

The rice terraces were built by the indigenous mountain people about 2,000 years ago.  In comparison to the vast rice fields in the provinces north of Manila, these are very small, only producing enough rice to feed the locals.  Unlike some areas where rice can be grown twice or even three times a year, Banaue rice is grown only once.  We were lucky to come early in the growing season, which will end around June; the rice will then turn golden brown and be harvested.

We got up early because of the long hikes ahead of us.  Some people told us that Banaue is as cold as Baguio in the morning, while others correctly noted that it is lower (3,700 feet vs a mile) and therefore usually warmer, although much more moderate than most of the Philippines, including Corregidor and Manila.  Pants and long-sleeve shirts were not needed after all.

The trip consisted of a jeepney ride as far as the road would take us, followed by lots of hiking.  We had to get down to the Banaue barangay of Batad, which is mostly on a hillside.  It consists of a small commercial area at the top that we'll refer to as "upper Batad," the main part of the village that is on a steep hillside, which we'll call "middle Batad," and a small part in the center of the lower rice fields, which we'll call "lower Batad" for lack of better terms.  Once we saw what we came to see, we had to walk back the same way we came.


Digital cameras have difficulty shooting directly into the sun, so this isn't exactly what we saw from our room in the Banaue Hotel, but it comes pretty close.

From Banaue as far as the road would take us...

Before we began our hike we had a one-hour jeepney ride to a drop-off point above Batad.  The guide asked the driver to stop several times so that we could see other terraces along the way.

Really young seedlings.  The rice is sown and harvested entirely by hand.

Many older people in the Philippines have a permanent stoop due to the constant bending required to plant and harvest rice by hand.

The "Hanging House"

Steve with a very special little girl named Nancy, whose family lives in the Hanging House.  Nancy was exceptionally friendly to Steve, who probably scares lots of Filipino children because of his height and their natural shyness.

From the drop-off point to upper Batad

The jeepney driver drove as far as he could, and further than the jeepneys have been able to go in the past.  Nevertheless, we had a long downhill hike ahead of us.  This is our first view of Batad and the rice terraces, way off in the distance.  Don't worry, we'll show you much closer views soon.  Center left is a road project.
Telephoto view of the road construction project we were soon to pass on our way down to Batad

For a short time we were able to walk on the new concrete road, which is very steep here, so steep that the jeepneys usually stay at the top of the hill.

One of the rock walls we talked about in our last post.  By the time this road is completed, there are going to be a whole lot more of them.

We've now walked down to the excavation site and are looking back at our starting point, realizing that later, when it's hot and we've walked a lot further, we have to trek back up.  If you look closely in the center of the photograph you can see a very large rock wall, the same one as in the previous photo.  How do they do that?

Digging away the side of the hill to continue the road in the same as the ancient walking trail that we are about to enter.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's down the trail we go.  In front, our guide, Jun.  Next, in green, Marcia.  Then Mike, and finally the photographer, Steve.  Since Steve is "bringing up the rear," a lot of shots will include just that.

At this point, quite a ways further down the trail, Steve was wondering if one of the signs said, "I'd turn back if I were you!"  Mike was reminded of a line from Dante's Inferno: "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

A carrying device consisting of a pole with two baskets that is used to transport supplies to the village of Batad, which as you know by now has no road.  Everything is brought in by foot.

The older indigenous people believe that having their photographs taken will steal their souls, so Steve always asked permission to take pictures of people.  These kids weren't shy.

Looking at one of the terraces across the valley, not yet down to Batad.

A telephoto shot.  By this point we are wondering how the workers got from level to level.  We were soon to find out. 

The view from upper Batad

Our first glimpse at a part of the "amphitheater" of the Batad terraces (from center to upper left)

Guide Jun as we arrive above the terraces.  The sly look on his face may be indicating that he's thinking, "You ain't seen nuttin' yet!"

The left side of the amphitheater
The center of the view from the top.  The right side, which is what we first saw from above, is not visible from this lookout point.  Even though the opposite side is far away (a mile or more?) Steve could not come close to getting the whole view in one frame, which really goes to show just how large this area is.  We are currently in upper Batad.  Lower Batad can be seen in the bottom left of this photo.

Descending through middle Batad

We begin our descent through the part of Batad that sits on a hillside.  Can you see how steep this is?

Houses, some thatched, much like what we saw at the Bontoc Museum the day before, and others with corrugated roofs.

Down, down, down we go.  Notice the flame tree in the upper right, according to Jun these are relatives of the ones we are used to seeing on Corregidor (poinciana), which don't bloom here until May.

This is the first time that we are walking along the top of a terrace wall.  One false step to the left means wet feet, to the right means taking the plunge.

The protruding stones just left of center form the "stairway" we just went down.  Not nearly as intimidating as when you look at them from above.  One slip and you're in a rice paddy up to your ankle in muck.  Jun called this a "hanging ladder."

Did we mention it was steep?  At the top of the hill where we left the jeepney vendors rent walking sticks for ten pesos apiece, the best twenty peso investment Steve and Marcia ever made.

Planting something other than rice, Jun said it was beans, which would later climb the existing plants.

Finally at the bottom, walking across to the other side

We're now down to the bottom and are about to walk across to the other side, passing through lower Batad along the way.

Wide "tightrock" walking

Looking back toward middle Batad

Looking to the right...

...and further right

Entering the part of the barangay that's in the middle of the fields, which we are referring to as lower Batad

Chicken coop

Inside, each basket is for one hen and her chicks

We let a group of younger people pass us while we rested.  A minute later, Steve would misstep and plop his left foot in the paddy about where the woman on the right is standing.

Another hanging ladder, much easier to ascend than descend

Looking back

Looking up.  We don't know how many levels there are, but there are a lot!

We've almost reached the far side now

Starting the ascent to the stairs which lead to the waterfall

We've now started ascending the other side, the purpose of which is to reach the path which leads down to a waterfall.

This is a good photo to show where we have been so far.  We started at the top (upper), just left of center, descended through the village on the side of the hill (middle), and walked across the bottom through the more concentrated residential area (lower).

When the guide tells us that the path to the waterfall is even narrower and steeper than what we are currently attempting, we decide to turn around.  After all, we still have to make it all the way back to where we started, and knowing that our legs are already feeling like Jello, we decide to head back.  Let the younger folks go for it.

Steve took this picture to try to show a "stairway" but it does a better job of showing his two shoes, the left one soaked in mud from his previous misstep.  And where the heck is the stairway?  We did not actually go down these stairs, we just wanted to show you what the local terrace workers use regularly.

We wonder if this little girl appreciates how easy she has it?

Back across the bottom, and starting back up

Back across the lower levels.  Germaine, Rita's daughter, is looking for us so she knows when to begin cooking our chicken, chicken, and chicken viands.

And back up we go...

A flower along the way.  Jun said it is in the poppy family.  Jun is a specialist in herbal plants and local medicines.

  Upper Batad for lunch

For you puppy lovers.  These belonged to Rita the restaurant owner, and were the sweetest little puppies when they woke up.  Later the mother laid next to Steve's feet and he could hear the slurp, slurp of the puppies feeding.

A postcard of the waterfall we didn't attempt to get to.  As pretty as it is, we are not sorry that we turned around when we did.  Even from the restaurant in upper Batad we still had to climb all the way back up to the jeepney.

Jun eating chicken adobo.  We also had the adobo, along with chicken curry and a soup called chicken tinola.  All three of these have become favorites of ours in our six-plus years in the Philippines.

A couple of cuties at the restaurant.  Through the miracle of modern science, Steve was able to show them the photo immediately, to their delight.

Marcia, Mike, and Steve with the Banaue Rice Terraces of Batad way down the hill in the background.  We're rested and ready to head back up.  Above Mike's head is the stairway we began to climb before turning back.  Falling onto Steve's cap is a landslide, not a waterfall.

Back up to the jeepney

These are the same terraces we saw on the way down, but now the lighting is better.

These men have just passed us and are delivering supplies to Batad.  They would not permit Steve to photograph their faces.

We're finally back to the pavement.  This is the rock wall that extends way down the hill.

The last leg.  Steep!

Our jeepney driver Ben as we head back to the city of Banaue.  Marcia sat up front while Mike and Steve rode in the back with some students who asked if we could give them a ride, it being Sunday.  They were returning from their remote homes back to their schools in the city.

On the way back up through middle Batad, Steve took a short video of the entire amphitheater and posted it on YouTube.  The video should give you a better idea of the vastness of the terraces in Batad.  While Steve was recording, Jun was giving Marcia an herbal recipe for treating high blood pressure using the young fruits of the wild sunflower plants that you can see at the end of the video.

Truly a fantastic day.  This is rivaled only by our trip to Mount Pinatubo shortly after we moved to the Philippines.  And a great beginning of the end for our six-and-a-half-year stay in the Philippines.

If you never saw or want to revisit our Mount Pinatubo adventure in early 2009, go to:
Or you can look at the majority or the Mount Pinatubo photos at:

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

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