The overnight bus was slightly glacial (the aircon), the sharp winding curves were dizzying, but the morning sunshine that awakened me wriggling its rays through the green mountains was breathtaking. I was aboard a Florida Liner bus from Manila to the town of Banaue in the rice terraced countryside province of Ifugao, the Philippines.
After a quick breakfast and a teeth brush at one of the world’s more magnificent sinks, our group hired a jeep to transport us an hour away where we would begin about a one hour perspiring hike to our intended destination: Batad Rice Terraces. We passed the final corner of the hike and presented in front of us was a formation of endless terraces of rice formed directly into the mountainside in the shape of an amphitheater, a world away from anything I had ever seen in my life.
I got that speechless feeling, the kind of beauty that struck me from within. The different hues of yellow and green, the varied array of rice fields at different stages of cultivation, and no two of the terraces were the same in shape.
The Batad rice terraces changed in elevation correlating with the mountain, a small valley, a ridge, or whatever was naturally in place. I feel into a daze and after taking 100 photos, I shook myself back to my senses and it was time to make the trek to the bottom, where we would spend the night in a traditional style Batad hut.
The sophisticated Batad rice terraces system, that was built over 2000 years ago, is an amusement to explore. Small streams of water flow from the top, filtered into one terrace and on to the next, linking the fields together. Ancient and perfect stepping stones are placed on pathways to create natural staircases from different levels. The entire system of terraces is extremely peaceful and works so well together using only natural gravity as it has throughout antiquity.
20 minutes anaerobic ups and downs through terraces and one reaches the turbulently hammering Tappiya Waterfalls just accross the ridge from the Batad rice terraces. After a day of hiking, the refreshing water provides a splendid relief from the forsaken drenching heat of daylight.
At night the moonlight softly blankets the entire environment and the stars add to the serenity. My stomach was filled with the organically grown local rice as I crawled into my sheets. Amidst the silence, I could hear the faint sound of water running and an occasional cricket. The tranquility at the Batad rice terraces is so ideal that it is truly unblemished for drifting into a deep slumber within seconds.
At the rise of dawn I was awake for some moring exercise. The climb to the top of the terraces was worth the effort with astonishing views spanning the valley. From the very highest terrace filled with golden riced grass I began to count levels as I carefully made my way downwards, hoping not to slip and meet my end. When I reached the bottom I had descended 116 levels of rice terraces.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Batad rice terraces of the Philippines, take it!