Spelunking in Sagada and Rice Terraces in Batad
Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
55Trip End Oct 05, 2008
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This last week of traveling with Heidi has been one of the highlights of our trip and one of the most physically active portions as well! On Sunday we loaded a bus leaving Baguio at 1pm and headed to Sagada, Mountain Province. Sagada is a beautiful little mountain town about 7 hours north of where I live and is known for their caves and beautiful hand woven products. Being that the Philippines is a Catholic county and that this week is Holy Week I was worried about our destinations being packed with people, but surprisingly it has not seemed that packed and we have continued to enjoy our one on one time!
One of the benefits of being a PCV is that there are fellow PCV spread all over the country so one, you have a free tour guide and two, a free place to stay
That evening Heidi was nice enough to cook for myself and five other PCV's. Stan our host kept saying what a treat it was to have a home cooked meal, and indeed it was especially, Heidi's wonderful cooking. We walked up to the small but well equipped public market in town and Heidi was inspired! She made gazpacho (cold Spanish tomato soup), coleslaw, jicama salad, and mongo beans with fresh local zucchini. Everything was delicious and we all enjoyed the treat of a good home-cooked meal! That night Heidi finally experienced the thrill of the most popular Filipino past time, Videokee!!! Dan a PCV from last years batch who works and lives in Sagada lead us to a small little place, on the outskirts of town being that Sagada has a 9 pm curfew. The place was set underground and surrounded by rocks and when we entered there was a bunch of locals signing already. The rule of videokee here is that no matter how bad you might sing you never boo someone and surprisingly enough the entire room gets into the songs and creates a choir of backup singers
On Wednesday morning we departed Sagada and headed out on a 3 hour bus ride southeast to the famous town of Banaue. Banaue is located in Ifugao Province on of the poorest in country, but is also home to the 8th Wonder of the World, 2000 year-old rice terraces. Prior to coming to Banaue I had heard form many locals that Banaue is over run by tourist and has lost its charm. When we arrived in the afternoon and got settled in out hotel right in the town center Heidi and I both commented that the terraces did not seem that great. We both had been expecting a view that would literally take our breath away.... patience was all we needed because once we left Banaue and headed to Batad Village further north of Banaue we were amazed!
Yesterday morning we took an 8:30 am bumping hour-long trike ride up the mountain side to the Batad Junction. We thanked our red toothed trike driver Jun-Jun, and headed out on our 2 1/2 hour hike up and down to Batad Village. (Side note: Almost every man you see in Ifugao has read teeth from chewing Moma. Moma is a local nut of sorts that they combine with lie a slightly tobacco ridden white powder and chew
While the hike to Batad was indeed a grinder it was well worth the fresh air, views of terraces, mountains all around and the sounds of the birds along the path. There were many a tour group passing us on our hike there headed further up to the Batad Saddle, and we felt a little smug waving the jeepneys by and hiking the entire way. Once we reached the saddle I was instantly approached by a nice looking older gentleman who asked to be our guide. I immediately began speaking to him in Ilocano and assured him we did not need one but thanked him very much. He was quite surprised to hear a white person speaking his language and once I did he seemed less interested in being our guide and more interested in why I could speak Ilocano. The language has been a very fun part of this trip with Heidi. As many of you know she has always been the world traveler and linguist of the family and while many Filipino's do speak English, it has been fun to be able to use the little Ilocano I have learned and I think Heidi has enjoyed watching my interchanges with the locals in their language. People receive you very differently when you can communicate with them in their language and it helps separate me from the "Average Joe" tourist that is just passing through.
Our long hike was worth the effort once we caught a view of the incredible rice terraces in Batad
Another highlight of Batad was our interactions with the local people. Both times we walked amongst the terraces we walked through the village, filled with a combination of native Ifugao Huts and the more "modern" GI sheet (steel roofed and sided) homes. While the GI sheet roofing is much more practical then the grass roofed huts it was incredible to see these simple structures serving as a home to so many people. The cooking in the native huts is all done outside so as we walked along we saw, men, women and even small children preparing their meals with simple pots and sticks of wood burning underneath
Sadly we had to leave Batad this morning and are now back in Banaue where we will spend the night and catch the 7 am bus to Baguio City tomorrow. As I have said before this time with Heidi just keeps getting better and better and it will be sad to see her go on Wednesday at the airport in Manila! I feel very fortunate to have a sister that will put her life on hold in the states and take a month to come explore my second home in the Philippines! This is indeed a very special country and I feel so blessed to be getting to know its people, culture and traditions! The humble village of Batad and its rice terraces will remain a highlight and at the top of my list of destinations here in the Philippines!
Sending love, peace and hugs to all!