We got up close and personal with the Banaue Rice Terraces. When I was younger, during Sibika at Kultura class, I thought one could step on the terraces as if they were in an ordinary staircase.
Jil was really happy. Everyone was.
Traditional huts were meant to shade the farmers from the sun.
The rice paddies weren't that green because the harvest season was already over. Our guides told us that the perfect time to visit is on March or April, but then again, one has to contend with the deluge of tourists from all over.
We were happy there weren't too many people, but we spotted quite a number of foreign tourists hiking around.
We then took an hour and half hike to Tappiya Falls. This was by far the hardest trek of all. The inclines were steep and the path seemed all uphill.
The water was clear.
And the warnings were serious.
And there it was: Tappiya Falls!
With some hesitation we changed to our swimming gear. The water, after all, was freezing—like water left in the fridge for hours. I felt numb for a minute there. "Wear your glasses so you can see clearly in the water," said my brother. It worked.
After having a picnic of sorts—our late lunch—we took the same route, only in reverse. We were so tired all we wished for was a helicopter to take us back to the Inn. It was around this time that my companions began alluding to the Lord of Rings. Some had walking sticks similar to Gandalf's to help them stabilize. Because of fatigue and dyspnea, I found myself crawling like Gollum, screaming, "My precious!"
The day after (Sunday) I woke up to a cold morning.
And the view from my window was this glorious sight. I was praising the Lord.
After breakfast we had devotions. Manong had a short exhortation, and Kuya Dingdong led us in singing. It was a treat to tired and weary souls.
After packing our bags, we started on our trail to Cambulo, the neighboring village. This was a two- or three-hour trek from Batad.
Gary B—as in, Gary from Batad—was one of our guides. We all had a lot of laughs with him, especially Jil.
Joan discovered her fear of heights while traversing steep and potentially life-threatening gorges. What an interesting self-discovery.
She sang familiar songs along the way, and I often chimed in.
Ate Leah, who was behind me most of the time and who was responsible for organizing this trip, took great delight in asking me to pose many times, with various views of the Palayan in the backdrop. This trip could not have gone smoothly without her.
This is the view from the highest point of Banaue Rice Terraces. Glorious.
I took a video:
Cedric, one of our guides, left school for a year to work. He plans to go back to college this year and take up Hotel and Restaurant Management. We wish you well, Cedric!
Didn't I tell you ABS-CBN was documenting our trek? I'm kidding, of course.
Because the trail is rough, rocky, and occasionally muddy, the guides strongly advise against wearing slippers without straps. Hiking shoes or sandals with straps are recommended.
Ate Liw was doing her signature pose again. This was a makeshift bridge where we had a 10-minute breather.
We had our own moves, of course, like this shadow portrait. It's always more fun the Philippines.
I like this composite photo. The brown object below is my right thigh.
Here's Jil again, risking her life for a good portrait.
Finally we got to Cambulo.
We stayed at a local inn and had freshly picked vegetables for lunch.
Ifugao kids gladly performed for us. What a cultural celebration! They were so graceful.
Kuya Dandi was showing us the Chap-Ayan (I don't know how to spell this correctly), the area where the elderly leaders of Cambulo tribe used to gather to pass judgments on thieves, murderers, and other law offenders. This has been here for hundreds of years already.
I'm sharing my favorite composite in this set.
For dinner we had tinola. Our guides demonstrated food preparation—from killing the chosen fowl, to draining the blood from the neck, and removing the outer skin. Katie had to go somewhere so she couldn't hear the chicken scream, while Sally watched the process at a distance.
At night the Cambulo children sang rhymes for us, and we had a surprise for Frances. It was her 27th birthday.
In the morning we began packing. Outside we saw someone selling this, a literal double-edged knife.
Here were some photos of tourists who stayed in the Cambulo Inn. What fun they must have had.
I didn't want to opportunity to pass, so I decided to try out how betel nut chewing felt like. It tasted a lot like mint or uncooked leaves. I was spitting everywhere. Studies have shown that this practice increases the risk for oral cancers, but the locals enjoy their nganga anyway. A pack costs cheaply, around five pesos.
The trek back to Batad Junction took us five hours. These wild berries were a refreshing sight.
There were still thirty minutes left to go. I was cheering for myself. I was glad the trail was mostly flat or downhill.
Finally, Batad Junction! The finish line!
I'm still nursing thigh and calf pains, about 5/10 in severity, relieved by rest, and aggravated by movement, but I keep looking back at the past four days of this rather spontaneous trip to Northern Philippines and ask myself what made this trip awesome. Was it the view? Of course, that was a major factor. Was it the fulfilment at having survived the longest treks I've done in my life? Yes, that one, too. But more than these, I think it was the company.