Photo Essay: Batad Rice Terraces in the Philippines

By Mark Wiens 60 Comments
Welcome to Batad
Thins way to Batad rice terraces

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.

View of Batad rice terraces
First view of Batad rice terraces

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.

1000 Pesos and Batad
1000 Pesos and Batad

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.

Trekking through Batad
Hiking down to Batad village

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.

Terraces of rice at Batad, Philippines
Batat rice terraces in full glory

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.

Batad, Philippines
Batad rice terraces, Philippines

Whatever angle I looked at the rice terraces produced another stunning view of the same thing, with a different perspective.

Batad rice terraces
Batad rice terraces

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.

Home in Batad, Philippines
Home sweet home in Batad, Philippines

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.

Rice in the Philippines
Learning to husk 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.

Pounding rice in Batad
Pounding rice in Batad

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.

Sifting rice at Batad
Sifting rice at Batad

The final step of rice preparation was sifting the rice to get ride of the outer shell that we pounded off.

Plate of Batad rice
Plate of Batad rice

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.

Though our meals were plain, they were truly special.



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  • Jeff | Planet Bell

    5 years ago

    What time of year did you visit? I am planning to go in November or December of this year.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      I believe it was around August or so, but I think November or December should be good too.

  • Cassie

    5 years ago

    Beautiful photos! And a surprising amount of work for such a simple food!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you Cassie, I know, it really made me appreciative!

      • Maricon De Dios

        5 years ago

        Hello! Could I include your essay in my workbook for my students to appreciate their own culture? Thank you!

        • Mark Wiens

          5 years ago

          Hey Maricon, sure, as long as you give me credit. Thanks for asking.

  • Scene Stealer

    5 years ago

    Hi Mark. Thanks for seeing the wonders of my beautiful country. I went to that place on a different high. And by this I meant, I rode on a chopper, flew through a sudden storm cloud that formed, and made an emergency landing on one of those cabbage patches. They really grow humongous, healthy cabbages there. Same with the size of an earthworm. But I digress. Your story just made me remember my crazy adventure. Thank you for doing that. If you pass by our islands again, keep in touch on my side of the archipelago.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Jojie, wow, seeing the terraces from a helicopter must have been incredible, but glad you made it safely off the helicopter in the bad weather. I’ve been browsing through your photography on your site, amazing photos and makes me want to return to the Philippines as fast as possible. Will let you know if I return!

  • Scene Stealer

    5 years ago

    Hi Mark. Thanks for seeing the wonders of my beautiful country. I went to that place on a different high

  • fred

    5 years ago

    Hi,

    May i use one of your pics for a tarp?

    Thanks
    .

    fred

  • edi

    6 years ago

    Great pics! I wish I had that same experience you had. I was there a couple of years back. Batad is amazing!

    Check out my pics here: http://trip-na-trip.weebly.com/batadsagada.html

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Ahh, cool, thanks for sharing your photos Edi! Looks great – Batad really is amazing!

  • Melody

    6 years ago

    Thank you very much for appreciating and visiting our rice terraces in Ifugao Province. Your photos of Batad are really good. Likewise, I admire your patience when you tried to pound rice, and your flexible character in mingling and eating w/ some of our folks w/o reservation. I know they appreciated you for that.

    The rice terraces in Ifugao, including Batad, is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Visiting there is, indeed, a worthwhile experience. 🙂

    Here is an additional link about the Ifugao rice terraces (LivingAsiaChannel). It gives historical explanations on how these terraces were built. Hope you’ll like it. Thank you very much! 🙂

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dges4fW-JmU&feature=BFa&list=FL5rRA5qC-o0U&index=45

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Melody. I had an incredible time at Batad and consider it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Thanks for the video, very interesting.

  • Emy

    6 years ago

    Amazing Marcos!!

    I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy looking at these pictures. And reading your descriptions makes them seem more vivid.

    Just A-ma-zing!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Muchas Gracias Emy!
      So glad that you enjoyed these photos and thank you so much for taking the time to look at them! I’m hoping to be back for a visit next year.

  • Lisa

    6 years ago

    This is such a stunning group of photos.

  • Tijmen

    6 years ago

    Rice fields always make for good photos, yours are no different 🙂 Never really realized how much work it must be before you can have some rice on your plate.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks, yah – and the process of planting and caring for the rice is tough work!

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    6 years ago

    The rice terraces are beautiful! Your pictures are amazing and tell a great story.

  • Sophie

    6 years ago

    I’ve not been to the Philippines yet, but this post is very tempting. Love the photos, all the green, the interesting and varied angles… just beautiful.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Sophie! The Philippines is truly an amazing country.

  • Grace

    6 years ago

    Mark, jealous. I haven’t been there only to some parts of the Banaue.I actually have an entertaining story for you by another travel blogger: http://langyaw.com/2007/12/18/how-i-broke-a-ritual-taboo-in-batad/

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Wow Grace, I enjoyed reading that story. Glad he got out of that one without have to pay too much!

  • Senaf

    6 years ago

    I had no idea how rice was grown. What an amazing site this is and for you to experience it. I love the bill pic, it seems the scene in the bill fits the pic. The pictures are awesome!

  • inka

    6 years ago

    Fabulous pictures Mark. I saw some of the rice terraces in a magazine recently, but yours are better.

  • adventureswithben

    6 years ago

    I love how the photo of the bill matched the place you were at. Didn’t realize exactly how rice grew – in steps, and loved how you helped!

    Great post.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Ben! I also didn’t even realize it was on the money, until I arrived there and a Filipino friend actually pointed it out to me.

  • The Travel Chica

    6 years ago

    That’s so cool that you actually got to help prepare rice for your own meal. (And I don’t just mean boiling water and adding some spices which is my normal definition of preparing my own meal.)

    Love the photos. The rice terraces are really stunning, especially at such a large scale.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Stephanie,
      I think it would be really cool to spend an entire rice season at Batad, planting, harvesting, and then doing the whole process mentioned here, and finally eating. If there was wi-fi, I’d probably try it out!

  • Laurel

    6 years ago

    Beautiful photos, love how green everything is. Sounds like an incredible experience.

  • Kat

    6 years ago

    My grandparents planted rice, and I had a taste of how it’s done when I’d visit them during summer growing up. Thankfully, we didn’t have to husk or pound them manually. By that time there were thresher machines (although we had to rent that from a neighbor).

    You learn to appreciate these things. It’s a sad fact though, that not many young ones want to take over this tradition.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Cool Kat!
      Thresher machines are definitely a huge saver when it comes to productivity, but you are right about really learning to appreciate it. Learning and remembering how to pound rice will definitely make one realize the work that goes into it.

  • Weyland

    6 years ago

    Well done good sir!

    Can you please share your itinerary for Batad if you don’t mind? I will be in Manila sometime end of July for a week, perhaps a few days of north bound trekking would land me to the majestic wonders of Batad.

    Gracias!!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Weyland,

      I took an overnight bus from Manila to Banaue, arriving in the early am. I was with a few Filipino friends, which made all the logistics easier, but from Banaue we took a truck about an hour away to the start of the hike. Then it’s about a 1 hour hike to get down to Batad. There are a number of huts that are available for rent in Batad, but not sure exactly what you need to do to rent them. If you just go there and ask, the people that live in Batad are extremely friendly and helpful.

      From Batad, I actually went on trekking to a placed called Mayoyao, and that’s 1 – 2 days trekking away. I hired a personal guide (by that time I was solo) for about $5 a day.

      Hope this helps a bit. You will have an incredible time!
      Mark

  • jamie – cloud people adventures

    6 years ago

    like the others said, great photos! i love the perspective given to the size of the fields compared to the houses. also pretty impressed you got there amongst it! nothing like earning a meal the hard way.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Jamie! It really tastes good when you work for it!

  • Kelly

    6 years ago

    Amazing photos! I have so much respect for rice farmers, it is such incredibly hard work! How awesome that you got to try it out for yourself. When I was in Thailand, I was having dinner with my Thai friend and he said to me, “Do you have the ability to grow rice?” I said, no. He said, “Then out of respect to the farmer you should eat every grain.” I had no problem doing that, but that conversation really made me think. It’s a good little reminder.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Wow Kelly, that’s a great statement. Growing rice and harvesting it all by hand is really a lot of work, and it Batad their lives completely revolve around it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lily (Explore for a Year)

    6 years ago

    Great article Mark. I like seeing how food is grown and harvested, especially since rice is a staple in my diet (yes, I am Asian!) Reminds me there was sweat in the process and it doesn’t just magically arrive at the grocery store. Beautiful photos. The first shot of the terrace reminds me a bit of the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

    Lily

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Lily! I grew up eating rice as well, and I still need to eat it everyday to feel best. It was a great experience to be able to pound my own rice for dinner!

  • marvin chua

    6 years ago

    hey i remember this. hehehe. good times!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Yeah! I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been! Hope you are doing well Marvin.

  • Dean

    6 years ago

    Beautiful. I love the different shades of green in the rice terraces.

  • Rain

    6 years ago

    Amazing photos! I’m jealous, I haven’t even tried pounding rice.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Cool, thanks so much Rain. Pounding rice is hard work!

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World

    6 years ago

    Beautiful pics! Makes me a tad homesick to be honest.