An Impromptu Trip

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*Warning: this blog has tons of pictures, all taken by Filbert Amory.

A spark. An idea that suddenly entered my head.

“Let’s go out of town tonight,” I told Fil around 4pm last Friday.

We talked about it for a while, and around 5pm, when I suggested Baguio, Fil said, “but we have been there already. Let’s go to Banaue instead.”

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We invited our friend Dalvin along with us, and he gladly agreed to come. With little time to prepare, we headed off to Ifugao province around 730pm.

The road was narrow and dark, with only the full moon lighting the sky. A part of Sante Fe was congested with trucks and buses. The nearer we got the Cordillera Administrative Region, the rougher the roads were. We would climb up one mountain, only to go down to the next town, and back up again. The zigzag road to Baguio was nothing–we drove through intestines that night.

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We finally arrived in Banaue Hotel around 430am, Saturday. Tired and weary, we booked a deluxe room for the three of us, for P3650 a night. They were kind enough to let us check in early, so we slept and rested for a few hours.

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I was awaken by the birds chirping outside our room, the clicks of Fil’s camera, and Dalvin’s running commentary about our room’s balcony view.

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What a sight to wake up to!

Breakfast buffet was part of what we paid for, and again, we enjoyed the view 🙂

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There were a lot of places to visit around the small town of Banaue. There were Tam-An Village, Banaue Trade Center, Banaue Museum, Viewpoint, Hiwang Native Village and Viewdeck, Hapao Rice Terraces, Poitan Village, Guihob Natural Pool, Bangaan Village, Mayoyao Rice Terraces, and Batad Rice Terraces.

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We chose to go to Batad because of the description written in the brochure we found in our hotel room: “To see the amphi-theater like terraces, the trip to Batad takes practically the whole day and is recommended only to STRONG HIKERS. From Banaue, Batad is approximately 16 kms, about 12kms of the way can be travelled by transportation with the rest of the distance can be traversed by foot on mountain trails (about 2hrs. hike). Batad boasts of the beautifully contoured rice terraces where tattooed men and women cultivate their daily staple.”

The front desk people also told us that we arrived just in time for their Fiesta! And God’s timing is always perfect. On our way to the marketplace, a police car stopped us and told us to park right on the street. The parade was coming!

Men and women of all ages walked proudly, representing their association, hometown or school. Most wore their traditional Ifugao costumes. What I noticed was, their men were all muscular and fit.

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It took an hour for us to travel to Batad. The road was extra rough, with several mini landslides.

When we got to Saddle Point, the place in Batad where all the tourists begin their hike, we negotiated for a guide. We talked with Benjo, who agreed to bring us to their viewpoint, local village, and Tappiyah Falls for P900.

It was a good thing that I bought a good walking stick from the souvenir shop at the hotel. It was very useful during the trekking.

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We reached their viewpoint after one hour’s hike. That was two kilometers worth of walking, from top of the mountain down to their viewpoint, equivalent to 80 storeys!

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We rested a bit and had lunch in one of the restaurants there. We also needed to pay P50 per person, for it was one of UNESCO’s heritage sites.

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After a hearty lunch, we weaved thru the rice terraces to go to one of their villages. That was around 1pm. We arrived in the village around 2pm. Then, we took another 30minutes to go to the first stopover on the way to the falls. That was where I experienced climbing like a cat– on all fours 🙂

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When we got down to the second pit stop on the way to the falls, Dalvin and I decided not to push thru with it. The road was too steep and we were quite tired by then. That was already 330pm. Fil and Benjo went on.

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Good thing we didn’t go! Dalvin and I climbed back up to the first stop, and the rain poured wildly! Poor Fil. He got really wet. But of course, he was fit enough to climb back up.

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When he got back up and met us, the wind blew harder and it was really cold all of a sudden. Behind the pit stop was a house made of stone, and an old lady who beckoned us in. We gladly took refuge in the comforts of her home. We sat quietly in her small living room and prayed hard. If the rain wouldn’t stop, we would be forced to spend the night there. After 30minutes, around 430pm, the sun was up! God answered our prayers! We now began our long journey back.

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The sun was setting, and the trail was wet and muddy. Our aching muscles complained as we climbed up.

We reached the viewpoint around 6pm. It was getting dark and that was what prodded us to push harder, and push faster. At around 7pm, we began climbing the 412 steps back up to Saddle Point. Benjo used a Nokia phone as flashlight. We could barely see, and we hardly had energy to climb up.

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One good thing we experienced was the fireflies dancing in the night. Another thing that kept us alert was the lightning in another far off mountain and the occasional running water we stepped on. Did I mention also that almost all the paths we took were on the ledges and edges of either the mountains or the terraces? The total distance that we traversed was 14 kilometers. What a feat! I was in better physical condition than I thought.

We left Saddle Point 730pm. It was completely dark then; there was no electricity in the area because lightning struck down their transformer just a few days ago, knocking their power off.

We arrived in the hotel around 830pm, had quick dinner and slept. We wanted to have a massage, but it wasn’t available. We simply slept it off.

Today, we woke up late. We were supposed to hurry back to Manila to attend an event, but because of the long drive just the day before, coupled with the extreme physical activity we did, we decided to take it slow and drive back slowly. One plan is to stop by Clark, Pampanga. Who knows what will happen next?

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Note to self. Things I learned in this trip:
1. Aqua shoes is the way to go!
2. The bag I bring should always be weatherproof.
3. The walking stick is highly helpful in hikes — and there are sticks available for rent in Batad for P10.
4. Alcohol or hand sanitizer is essential when traveling.
5. A raincoat is better than an umbrella when hiking.
6. Bring more cash that I expect to use. There might be no ATM machines in the places I go to. Oh, and bring loose change.
7. Plastic for camera and other gadgets, even when it’s all sunny and dry. You will never know!
8. Flashlight should not be left in the car 🙂

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