Rice is life in Batad, Philippines.
It’s what you look at, it’s what you think about, it’s what you eat.
And it’s not just the rice grown on terraces that reach the heavens that produces an omnipotent amazement, it’s the entire atmosphere, the trickle of the gravity fed irrigation system, the peace of being surrounded by mountain walls, the chirping of the birds and the warm hospitality of local Batadians.
My initial viewing of the amphitheater of Batad rice terraces gave me that jelly weakness, a feeling only possible to obtain from a true natural miracle or a man-made masterpiece. The Batad rice terraces were both.
It gave me that same adrenalized feeling of being a millionaire on the island of Palawan, dreamy emotions that can make anyone feel like royalty.
I’m not the only one, the authorities in the Philippines also felt the natural power of the rice terrace region in the Cordillera’s – as depicted on the backside of the 1000 Philippine Peso note.
The hardest thing about hiking down the trail to Batad was remembering to look at your feet; a moment of staring at your surroundings and it could turn into a far out gaze, a dream – and then a twisted ankle.
This particular view of the Batad rice terraces put me into a mesmerize silent state of trance, a soothing rhythm of harmony. It was like a magic eye staring into the fingerprint of the earth.
Whatever angle I looked at the rice terraces produced another stunning view of the same thing, with a different perspective.
I felt like a gladiator on the fighting floor of the coliseum, looking up at the mighty Batad rice terraces with an energized feeling of triumph.
For the next couple of nights I camped out in a local Batad style hut (middle hut). I slept next to the rice, derived beauty from the fields, and learned to truly appreciate rice.
It’s a routine, there’s no example that can bang the point home harder; You don’t work, you don’t eat.
The process begins by husking the dry grains of rice off the splintery grass. I tried this a few times, believe me, your hands need to build up a series of callus’s to protect from the sharp bits of the dry grass.
After the rice is plucked from the grass, it’s placed into the pounding stone. We pounded back and forth, alternating thrusts of the 15 kilo mallet into the stone, attempting to get the hard wrapper off each grain.
The final step of rice preparation was sifting the rice to get ride of the outer shell that we pounded off.
I won’t lie and say we ate luxuriously, we didn’t. But those plates of rice mixed with green beans and flavored with a splash of soy sauce were the brute force of century’s old techniques of rice cultivation and sustenance.