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Feeding butterfly watermelon Davao Philippines

Philippines: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost

Date: May 4, 2014

The first half of my day was spent at the SkyCycle and zipline area. Now it was time for lunch.

Forest path Eden Nature park Davao
I crossed the road and walked to the cafe where my lunch coupon was valid
Restaurant Eden Nature park Davao
This is the main restaurant at Eden Nature Park
Buffet Eden Nature Park Davao
They have buffet lunch too, but that costs extra
Cafe Eden Nature park Davao
This is the cafe where I was going to get my ‘lunch’ as included in the ticket
Spaghetti tomato sauce Eden Nature park
A glass of soft drink, a cupcake and a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce, and garlic bread

If you are wondering where the meat in the sauce is… yeah I wondered that too. I only got mushroom bits, and when I asked the server where the beef bits where, he looked at the plate and poured more of the same sauce.

So after a sloppy, lousy spaghetti meal, I began to explore the rest of the park.

Family Village Eden Nature Park Davao
I walked to the Family Village
Philippines monkey Eden Park Davao
More of a mini-zoo really. This the Philippines Monkey.
Cockatoo Eden Nature park Davao
Peacock Eden Nature park Davao

There were a few more animals and birds but it was all things I had seen at many other zoos or bird parks. Plus the condition the cages were in were pretty poor. So I felt guilty standing there taking photos of these animals. Continue reading “Philippines: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost” »

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Date: 19th April 2011

The whole of today morning was spent in a jeepney – first from Banaue to Bontoc, and then again from Bontoc to Sagada. After checking-in to George’s Guesthouse, I went downstairs for lunch.

Sagada chicken curry rice San Mig beer lunch
The George's Guesthouse restaurant had Filipino curry and it was the first time I saw curry in a menu here. I had to try it! It was quite spicy, mostly because of the pepper. Not bad.

I sat at the table and had a slow lunch (even though I couldn’t honestly afford to). My plan was to try and see if I could finish seeing Sagada’s famous caves and hanging coffins by end of day. Both attractions were among the “must see” sights for me on this Philippines trip.

Today was a Tuesday and I had to be in Angeles City at the most by Thursday, because on Friday, I needed to be in San Fernando town for the Good Friday activities. Trouble is, I was really worried about the Holy Week national holidays and all the talk of everything shutting down as Good Friday neared. So I wondered if I could finish seeing everything by today evening and then leave for Angeles City tomorrow itself, just to be safe.

Sagada village downhill road kids on kart
At 2:30pm, I decided not to waste anymore time and decided to begin my tour
Sagada kids playing on kart
The perks of living in a hilly village
Sagada Guides Aassociation office philippines
I went to the guides' office because I read that you are not allowed inside the caves without a guide!

Inside the office, I speak to the guides and I tell them what all I want to see first. They told me the caves are doable but I may not be able to see the hanging coffins by sunset — nor the church (which wasn’t high up on my list of things-to-see anyway). I told them I needed to be in Angeles City by Thursday and the guides informed me I first would have to go to Baguio city and catch another bus from there to Angeles City.  It was going to take an entire day, and if I had to see the church or the hanging coffins, I would have to do it before the last bus to Baguio leaves in the afternoon.

I thought to myself about the journey to Angeles City and realized I would be cutting it a little too thin if I left Sagada in the afternoon (and I may have to spend the night in Baguio if I miss the last bus from there to Angeles City!)

So I decided not to waste any more time ‘thinking,’ hired a guide and told them I’ll try to see everything I wanted to see today itself. The other guides were pessimistic, but I was quite adamant.

Sagada curve road
The guide and I walked down the road towards the caves
Limestone rocks hill Sagada Philippines
Jason, my guide, pointed to these limestone rocks and asked me if I could spot the hanging coffins
Sagada hanging coffins limestone rocks
There they were. (By the way, these are not the main hanging coffins site)

Jeepney locals Sagada road

Way to Sumaging cave Sagada village

Sagada village concrete road
I was impressed by how clean and neat Sagada village was
Way to Sumaging Lumiang caves Sagada Philippines
After 10 minutes of walking, Jason asked me to wait here while he went inside the store to get his lamp

Sagada old beetle car

Sagada trail to Lumiang cave trees
Jason led me up the path to Lumiang burial cave
Sagada way to Lumiang cave guide
It was a short walk

Sagada limestone hill near Lumiang caveSteps to Lumiang cave Sagada Philippines

Going down to Lumiang cave Sagada
We slowly climbed down
Lumiang cave ancient burial coffins Sagada
Lumiang burial cave
Lumiang cave guide tour Sagada Philippines
...and this is what it's famous for
Lumiang burial cave wooden old coffins Sagada
Hundreds of coffins which have been placed here for more than 300 years, the last one being in 1986
Lumiang burial cave pine coffins Sagada Philippines
The coffins are made of pine wood and have stood the test of time quite well
Lumiang caves Sagada panorama
(Panorama comprised of 8 shots)

For more on the Lumiang burial cave, check out this video.

Steps up Lumiang cave guide Sagada
We climbed back up
Trek to Lumiang caves Sagada
Walked back out to the main road
Sagada village coffins near Lumiang
Jason pointed out to me coffins buried below here as well (bottom right)

I sat a few minutes for a breather. As it turned out, my body hadn’t fully recovered from its abused state from yesterday.

Road to Sumaguing cave Sagada Philippines
But I couldn't afford to sit around for too long, as I was the one who told the guide I wanted to see as much as possible by sunset
Sagada rice terraces hills Philippines
It only looked like the views were going to get better on this tour
Sagada trek road to Sumaguing cave
Walking these neatly paved roads, all I could think of was: "Wow, a village here has such nice roads where as many Indian cities don't even have them!"

Tall trees Sagada Philippines Trekking trail to Sumaguing cave Sagada

Sagada rice terraces trees
Looked beautiful even through these trees
Sagada rice terrace farm Philippines
Sagada rice terrace farm green fields Philippines
Even their rice terraces are prim and proper
Sagada rice terrace Panorama
Panorama comprised of 8 shots

Sagada steel house Sagada road to Sumaguing cave treesSagada rice terrace farm green hillAnother 10 minute walk later, we reached the entrance to Sumaguing cave.

Entrance steps to Sumaguing cave Sagada

Steps down to Sumaguing cave children
Down we went again
Sumaguing cave entrance panorama
This was the big one (Panorama comprised of 3 shots)
Stepping down into Sumaguing cave Sagada
First step: Take a lot of steps down

Inside Sumaguing cave stalactites limestone rock

Preparing to enter Sumaguing cave with guide Sagada
Second step: Wait for guide to light the lantern
Sumaguing cave guide lighting gas lamp
Sumaguing cave guide lighting kerosine lamp
Okay, I guess we're ready
Going inside Sumaguing cave guide with light
Final step: Descend into the darkness
Inside sumaguing cave rocks guide holding light
I used the lantern as the point for the camera's auto-focus to lock on to
Inside Sumaguing cave guiding light
Jason told me from here on, it's best that I walk barefoot -- and be prepared to get all dirty
Inside Sumaguing cave guide holding lantern light
Visitors are advised to walk barefoot because the grip is better
Inside sumaguing cave bat shit covered rocks
As for the getting dirty bit, the rocks at first are all covered in bat droppings (a.k.a bat shit)
Inside sumaguing cave slippery limestone Stalactite rock
The bat shit-covered rocks eventually give way to the smooth limestone rocks
Inside Sumaguing cave going down
We kept descending further
Inside Sumaguing cave slippery limestone rock
The rock surface is super-smooth... and wet, with water dripping from above
Inside Sumaguing cave dinosaur foot rock water
Jason would stop at places to show me unique formations inside the cave. Guess what this looks like?
Inside Sumaguing cave dinosaur foot imprint
And it's highly unlikely that a T-Rex dinosaur took a stroll through these caves
Inside Sumaguing cave darkness tourists
We still had more darkness to cover

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rocks water

Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks flash photograph
One of the few photographs taken using flash. Most of the photographs I took using the tripod and on long exposures -- and some even hand-held. (Most were shot at f4-4.5 and exposure ranging from 1/10 to 1 second)
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks guide smoking
Jason helped carry my tripod so my hands were free to climb down (the camera was on the neck strap)
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks water pool
Be prepared to get wet too
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks shadows
It was quite chilly inside and you could see vapour every time you breath out or speak. Even the rocks were cold and walking on them felt really soothing.
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock pond
I got this blur-free shot after six attempts
Inside Sumaguing cave clear mineral water
Even the chilly waters felt therapeutic, don't know if it was the minerals or not
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock formations Mithun
This is for those asking why there isn't one single photo of me in these posts
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks with flash and without
Here's an example showing you how the caves look with flash and without. See how the characteristics of the cave differs?
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock formations panorama
A formation that resembles molar teeth (Panorama comprised of 4 shots)

Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock teeth formation

Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rocks guides lights
Yes, there was more going down to do

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock craters

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock other tourists
There were few other tourists/visitors inside the caves as well, mostly Filipinos
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock Sagada tourists
The guides all knew each other
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock Sagada Philippines
Another shot which took up to five attempts to get right

Inside sumaguing cave limestone cave rock

Inside Sumaguing cave visitors swimming water pool
You reach all the way down when you get to this pool of water, in which you can swim if you wish. Given how cold the water was (and given the lighting conditions), I chose not to.
Inside Sumaguing cave limestone rock water panorama
It was time to head back (Panorama comprised of 2 shots)

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock massInside sumaguing cave limestone rocks smooth surface

Inside Sumaguing cave limestone sharp tooth stalactite rocks pointed
One of the most photographed rocks from inside Sumaguing cave
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rocks foggy air
The moisture in the air when you breath out inside this chilly environment. Amazing thing is, despite the chill factor, you don't shiver one bit!
Inside sumaguing cave guide sitting limestone rock
Jason, my guide, isn't much of a 'smile' person

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock teeth jaw shape

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock jacuzzi
There was water inside this, making it a jacuzzi of sorts (minus the bubbles)
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock filipinos
The obligatory "Hey foreign guy with DSLR, take photo of us" shot
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock gap
Tried a shot without flash on long exposure before this, but all I got were the people in the back
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock Mithun climbing up
That's the only way to go back up

Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock flash photo

Inside sumaguing cave limestone family kids
It must be a challenge to visit this cave with family

Inside sumaguing cave limestone cave familyInside sumaguing cave limestone rocks in water

Inside sumaguing cave limestone visitors heading back
Jason suggested we wait for other groups to go first
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock people going back out
It was our turn now
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock shape
I can't remember what this rock shape resembled but Jason did say it looked like something (a hippo?)
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock guides lanterns
The stars align
Inside sumaguing cave limestone rock guides Sagada
Oh look, Jason is smiling
Sumaguing cave darkness Sagada Philippines
Back up to bat shit territory
Sumaguing cave bats Sagada Philippines
I know using flash would be wrong (and Jason reminded me not to do so) so I tried my best to try and capture the bat clusters using long exposure. I wasn't in a position where I could set up the tripod well.

Inside Sumaguing cave going back Sagada Philippines

Sumaguing bat cave Sagada Philippines
Another attempt to capture the bats (ignore the large shadow, that's me). The bats weren't flying about inside. Maybe they were camera shy.
Walking out of Sumaguing cave opening
And then there was light...
Steps leading up Sumaguing cave Sagada
We had spent nearly 2 hours doing the Sumaguing cave part of the tour
Steps out of Sumaguing cave Sagada Philippines
But the reason why it takes that much time is because you have to tread very carefully! This is why they insist you hire a guide, because they know the caves and the trail to follow.
Steps up from Sumaguing cave Sagada
I had never been inside a cave like this before so this was quite an amazing experience!
Sagada Cave Man Inn Philippines
This is an Inn just outside the caves (thus the clever name)
Sagada rice terrace surrounding hills
Shot this at 5pm
Sagada trekking trail evening sun Philippines
Sagada is a truly beautiful place to visit
Sagada trees Philippines
These trees are everywhere here in Sagada (Are they a type of pine trees?)
Sagada trek road trees evening
I can highly recommend Sagada as a pleasant trekking destination
Sagada rice terraces green trees
Had to stop and get one final look of the rice terraces as we walked past it again
Sagada rice terrace farms evening sky Philippines
Really beautiful

Sagada evening dog on road

Sagada Blackberry lane Philippines
Pff, so outdated
Sagada evening grey skies Philippines
As we walked back to town, I asked Jason if there was anyway we could go to Echo valley and see the hanging coffins today itself as I didn't feel like staying back another day just to see them -- and I REALLY wanted to see them!
Sagada concrete road house Philippines
Jason, took a pause and said: "Sure". I told him I wouldn't mind walking a bit faster, and then he told me there was a shortcut we could take.
Sagada shortcut to Echo valley
So I followed my guide, through small alleyways and past village houses

Sagada house near limestone rocks Sagada steps to open groundsSagada grounds evening PhilippinesSagada playground children playingSagada open grounds PhilippinesSagada path to echo valley church

Sagada church forest Philippines
This is the famous church. You normally come here through another path from the village center.
Path to Echo valley Sagada Philippines
We were near
Steps to Church cemetery Sagada
Sigh, I officially hate climbing now
Sagada church cemetery burial ground Philippines
This is Sagada's main cemetery, where they bury people nowadays

Trek to Echo valley Sagada Philippines Way to Echo valley Sagada village

Sagada echo valley Philippines
After 15 minutes of 'speed walking,' we were in Echo Valley

Echo valley earned its name for obvious reasons. You could see visitors shouting to hear their echoes in return. Though, I’m not sure the dead who were laid to rest here really wanted to hear “I love Justin Bieber” and the equally famous “Justin Bieber sucks”. I’m not kidding, Filipino kids were having a blast shouting it out.

See, even the dead aren’t spared from the Bieber.

Sagada Echo valley hanging coffins limestone rocks
Jason pointed to the coffins... and if you can't spot them...

(takes out the 70-200mm zoom lens…)

Sagada hanging coffins Echo valley zoomed in
Sagada hanging coffins echo valley
The lens was at 200mm
Sagada limestone rocks hills coffins
There were a few older coffins a bit further away

Even after witnessing the hanging coffins from up here, I still felt ‘incomplete’. I knew I would feel like this unless I went all the way to the coffins and took photos from up close, because that’s how I saw them online. And I wanted that.

I asked Jason if we could get a lot closer. He sighed and asked me if I was willing to climb down (he knew I was a bit tired). I told him that I had come this far already, no point in coming back tomorrow just to go up close to the coffins.

And down we went, to get a closer look at the coffins. Took just 5 minutes.

Sagada hanging coffins echo valley Philippines from down
Eerie as it may sound, I felt much better coming down here
Echo valley hanging coffins closeup Sagada
Even though this is originally a centuries-old Chinese tradition, it isn't practiced anymore. Despite that, the brown coffin was the most recent addition as the person insisted on being laid to rest here, along with her ancestors.
Sagada hanging coffins tradition Echo valley Philippines
The rest are decades old, some even centuries old
Sagada hanging coffins cliffside echo valley Philippines
Because it was getting dark, I set the camera on the tripod and shot these at f4, 1/2 second exposure to absorb as much light as possible
Shaky cam falling down photograph
And this is what happened when the camera nearly fell to the ground after I clicked
Sagada hanging coffins hillside Echo valley Philippines
If you are tall enough, you could touch the lowest hanging coffin (but that would just be disrespectful)
Sagada hanging coffins Echo valley Philippines
It was nearing 6:30pm, so we had to head back before it got too dark
Sagada hanging coffins Echo valley night shot flash
Took this using flash so that you get an idea of just how dark it really was

The climb back up was tough for me, simply because there were no proper steps. I found myself panting for breath, but in some ways, I now felt ‘complete’. I had accomplished everything I wanted to see in Sagada.

We walked back, a bit slower this time…

Sagada village homes at night dark
... and this is how dark it got by the time we were out of the woods

When we got back to the main road, Jason said he would be heading straight home from there. So I paid him the ₱700 ($16/€11) guide fee, plus a ₱100 tip, and thanked him — for putting up with me and my demandsrequest to see everything I wanted by the end of daylight.

Sagada wooden house at night lap post
Took this photo from where we got down to the main road
Sagada Goerge's Guesthouse at night
This is George's Guesthouse... at 7pm

Back in the room, I rested my feet briefly, took a hot shower to cleanse myself of all the bat shit, and then stepped out again for dinner, because Sagada (like Banaue) has a 9pm curfew.

I had read a lot of good recommendations for a place called the Yoghurt House, so I went there for dinner just as it was winding down for the night.

Yoghurt house apple ham sandwich Sagada Philippines
I had the apple ham sandwich...
Yoghurt house banana yogurt Sagada Philippines
... and the banana yoghurt with granola topping. It was alright. Cost a total of ₱180 ($4/€3).

On the way back, stepped into a souvenir store, bought a neat-looking ‘I Survived Sagada’ t-shirt (₱180) and some biscuits to have tomorrow morning as I was going to be waking up really early to catch the first bus to Baguio city.

Back at George’s Guesthouse, even though the doors were shut, men were drinking and having a jolly time proving that despite the 9pm curfew, the night doesn’t end early for the locals. I copied over today’s photos from the camera to my laptop and made the most of the wi-fi to make bookings for the coming days.

Today was yet another stupendous and memorable day for me. Like yesterday, despite how tired I was trying to see as much as possible, I felt glad at end having accomplished everything I came to experience. Sure, Sagada has some famous waterfalls too, but the trek to the waterfalls was surely not possible today and I had no regrets about missing it either. The main attractions on my Sagada checklist were Sumaguing cave and the Hanging Coffins of Echo valley. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the photographs I took of both the places.

Sagada makes for a perfect weekend getaway for Manila’s residents but even as a foreign tourist, I would still recommend one make the effort to come all the way here.

I was tired, sure, but with nothing else to do in Sagada’s chilly nights, I cuddled up and went to sleep satisfied. Only  dreaming this trip would keep getting better.

Previous posts:

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Date: 18th April 2011

The bus departed from Autobus station at around 10pm and not soon after the bus had started, we encountered a problem — the air conditioning wasn’t working. Which made sitting inside a small bus (ticket costs ₱450/$10/€7) all the more uncomfortable.

When I was doing my research, Autobus and GV Florida were the two bus companies that were popular for overnight trips to Banaue. Both had customers complaining about how cold the ride was because the A/C inside the buses were often so cold. How ironic that I experienced the complete opposite!

The passengers were getting quite restless as there were a few children in our group as well. Eventually the bus stopped just off EDSA and the bus personnel tried to repair the A/C. A good 15 minutes later, repair it they did… slightly. There was air being recirculated, which was essential, but not cool enough to call it ‘conditioning’.

Overnight bus ride to Banaue Philippines
We stopped halfway through the journey for a break
Full moon ride to Banaue
Full moon night

I tried my best to sleep, but given that I can hardly ever get sleep in bus journeys, this too was one of those journeys. We arrived in Banaue town just past 6am the next day. We were dropped just outside the main town and I had to take a trike to the area where all the hotels were.

As soon as I got down, the trike driver asked me whether I wanted to do a tour, to which I obviously said “yes,” but I told him I wanted to have breakfast first. I took a room at New Wonder Lodge (cost ₱250/$5.8/€4.1) which wasn’t a rice terrace facing lodge but given I was going to be out all day, I didn’t care much for the view. All I wondered was how long this lodge has been ‘new’ (hint: it wasn’t).

But I did hop over to the plateau facing Greenview Restaurant for breakfast.

Banaue town view from Greenview restaurant
The view from their balcony (Taken on Nokia E72)
Filipino breakfast Banaue food
My Filipino breakfast - rice, eggs, pork sausage, a pineapple slice and coffee

Post breakfast, I began shooting.

Banaue town view from Greenview Lodge panorama
Panorama comprised of 13 shots

Banaue town rope bridge Philippines Banaue town narrow bridge tourists Philippines

Banaue town river stream view from lodgeBanaue town rice terraces view from lodgeBanaue town houses lodges hilltop Luzon Philippines

Banaue rice terraces lodge view panorama
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Banaue rice terrace farm Phillippines
The Banaue Rice Terraces are one of Philippines' most popular natural treasures

The trike driver who offered to take me around for a tour of the rice terraces was waiting outside and I asked around to find out how much the tours generally cost. They all said ₱900 ($21/€14) if going by trike (which is the most common). I hadn’t even slept properly so I asked the trike driver if we could go a bit later, say around noon. He said that’s not possible because if I want to trek all the way to Batad village and see the other rice terraces, we would have to leave now.

Guide trike riding through Banaue Philippines
So, I got in his trike and we set off
Driving to Batad from Banaue town
It was a bumpy ride
Driving to Batad Banaue village children
That's because the road aren't always smooth
Driving to Batad Banaue farmer kid
My guide told me this region is prone to frequent landslides
Guide trike window stickers Banaue Philippines
If there is one thing I learnt Filipinos love, it's basketball (and obviously the NBA)
Banaue rice terrace small farm Philippines
I just had to ask my driver to stop whenever I passed by such beauty
Arnel Banaue guide Philippines
My moma (beetel nut) chewing guide, Arnel

Banaue rice terrace small farm road Philippines

Banaue road to Batad hill Luzon trike
We moved on
Banaue bad road hill Luzon
Quite a dusty ride as well

Banaue road side dog Luzon

Banaue rice terrace farm Luzon Philippines
Had to ask Arnel to stop again. Beautiful, isn't it?
Banaue road to Batad landslide Philippines
Arnel wasn't kidding about those landslides
Banaue road to Batad curve hill
I guess there's a pretty good reason why they're not allowed to drive post sunset
Banaue jeepney passengers landslide road Philippines
If it isn't trikes, the not-so-frequent jeepneys are the only other mode of transportation the locals have to get to town
Banaue jeepney passengers trike Philippines
Couldn't help but imagine how tough life must be out here
Banaue mini waterfall road to Batad Philippines
Pretty now, dangerous during heavy rainfall

Banaue church hilltop remote Philippines Banaue jeepney stuck Philippines

Barangay Bangaan Banaue Ifugao sign Philippines
Barangay means village and Ifugao is the province Banaue is situated in
Banaue road construction Luzon hill Philippines
This was a common sight
Banaue hanging house cliffside Ifugao Philippines
This sight, wasn't 🙂
Banaue hanging house Ifugao Philippines
True to its name
Banaue rice terrace farm hill hanging house view panorama
Stopped here for a bit as well (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)

Banaue rice terrace Ifugao province Philippines Banaue hill rock god figureBanaue concrete roads Ifugao provinceAfter nearly 40 minutes since we left the main town, we finally arrived at our first stop on this tour.

Road to Batad rice terrace Banaue
No, this isn't Batad. This is the point from where, you have to go by foot to get to Batad
Batad rice terraces sign Banaue
I set off
Batad concrete road to viewpoint Banaue
You do have a stretch of concreted roads...
Batad rough road to viewpoint Banaue
...though the concrete stetches would often give way to rough ground
Batad road landslide Banaue Ifugao Philippines
Landslides here too
Road to Batad junction jeepney Banaue
Wait, they have a jeepney service here?! -_-
Batad jeepney kids hanging on Banaue
Yes kids, I'm walking it up
Wet road to Batad junction
After 15 minutes of trekking, I began to huff & puff. I stopped for a break.
Hill curve to Batad panorama
Panorama comprised of 5 shots
Banaue hills Ifugao Luzon Philippines
I had to stop, smile and ask myself: "Where on this earth am I?" 🙂
Road to Batad market Banaue Philippines
I moved on in the hopes Batad's rice terraces were just around the corner

Way to Batad junction Banaue hills Batad hill water collection Ifugao Philippjnes

Wooden pattern fossil Batad
I wonder what caused these patterns?

Batad tree wood shed Banaue

Trekking to Batad jeepney in sight
I could see a glimmer of hope I was getting closer to civilization again

Batad junction jeepney art Banaue Ifugao Philippines

Batad market junction jeepneys Banaue Ifugao Philippines

It took me nearly half-an-hour to get to this point and I was only halfway through my journey to Batad’s rice terraces. Arnel had told me the walk would take me an hour. So I figured it would be another half-an-hour more.

Batad market shop Banaue Ifugao
It looked like there was only one way to get to Batad village
Batad viewpoint junction panorama Banaue Ifugao
At first glance, I wondered if the trek to the village was surely going to take *just* 30 minutes more
Batad local carrying goods on log Ifugao Philippines
Down was the only way to go
Steps to Batad village toilet hill Banaue Ifugao Philippines
Long way down (That shed is a toilet by the way :))

Batad hills Ifugao province dog Philippines

Batad tourist viewdeck Banaue Philippines
I decided to try and a get a better look before descending down
Batad viewdeck puppy dog Banaue Luzon
Batad hills Banaue Ifugao Luzon
Batad hills Banaue Ifugao province panorama
Were those the Batad rice terraces?
Batad hill path road Banaue trek Philippines panorama
But I had already come this far
Batad chicken Banaue
And I didn't come all this way to watch chicken feed on rubbish
Trek to Batad steps downhill
So I took a deep breath, and took my first step down
Steps to Batad locals carrying suitcase
Locals were carrying tourist's suitcases and heading to the village
Villager carrying rice to Batad village Luzon
So I had to make way for locals carrying way more heavier loads than I was carrying -- and walking a lot faster than I was
Trek to Batad rice terraces villagers carrying rice
I was carrying around 5kgs in camera equipment -- these guys were surely carrying WAY more
Batad village electricity line Banaue hills
Apparently Batad village only got electricity until recently

Trek to Batad village narrow path Steps down to Batad village Banaue Ifugao

Steps to Batad village Banaue hill trek
It took a good 5 minutes for the steps to get over
Batad hills landslide Ifugao Luzon Philippines
More landslides up ahead
Trek to Batad rice terraces landslide hill
From here on, it was just rough terrain
Trek to Batad rice terraces landslide hill path
I had to tread very carefully

Just around the corner, I passed by an elderly American who nodded to me as if to say “Boy, this is tough!”. I asked him if he made it to Batad village but he said his legs couldn’t even make it halfway through the journey. On hearing that, I though to myself – “Maybe it’s because he’s old”.

Trek to Batad rice terraces landslide hill road Philippines
Over in the distance, there was a group of villagers carrying a wild boar on wooden logs. Thing is, the boar was still alive, and squealing so loudly you could hear its anguish echo through the valley
Batad trek hill landslide path blocked Banaue
Nearly half an hour into the journey, I thought to myself just much further I had to go
Trek to Batad village Banaue landslide path
Mentally, I kept telling myself "Slowly, slowly" as I crossed such paths
Steps fall Batad
And just after I took this photo and stepped on the stones up ahead, I trip!

I tumble once but fortunately I didn’t roll any down any further. My immediate reaction was: “Oh shit, my camera!” Fortunately the 7D is built to take a bit of a beating so nothing happened to it. The only damage was a few scratches on my arm and on my knee. I got up, washed the very same parts of my body but realized I wasn’t carrying any band-aid with me!

So I had no other choice but to continue walking towards the village. I didn’t walk back because I wasn’t sure how far along I was — whether the Batad village was closer or was I much closer to the viewpoint junction back uphill.

Trek to Batad rice terraces store Banaue
They have a few small stores on the way to the village but this guy didn't stock any band-aid
Trek to Batad village Banaue
I moved on, limping a little

Batad trek path Banaue Luzon

Batad trek locals carrying wild boar comfort room
I caught up with the wild boar group at the 'comfort room' stop on the way
Batad village Rita's View Inn banner ad
I kept hoping the village was right around the corner
Batad village homestays banners Philippines
I must be near, right?
Rice terrace Batad trek Banaue
Did I walk all this long for a rice terrace this big?
Getting to Batad village Banaue trek Ifugao
Few minutes later, my first glimmer of hope
Entering Batad village Banaue Philippines
This should be it right?
Arriving at Batad village rice terraces

It took nearly an hour to get to Batad village — and that was just from the junction, not including the trek uphill from where Arnel had dropped me.

So, were the Batad rice terraces worth the trek?

Batad rice terrace village Banaue Ifugao
I guess so

But the rice terraces could wait. I approached a store and asked if they had band-aid, fortunately which they did. I asked where I could wash my wounds and the store lady pointed down to the basement.

I washed up, plastered up and sat down for a while. I needed to rest my legs!

Had something to eat and drink before resuming my photography.

Batad village baby boy store BanaueAs I check out the surroundings, I feel something touch my legs.

Batad village little girl running Banaue
It was this small girl
Batad village small kids playing Philippines
Looks like they wanted to play a little hide 'n' seek with me
Batad village small children playing Philippines
Felt sorry for them. Guess they don't get to see many new faces, let alone some Indian.
Rita's Mountview Inn Batad rice terraces
There's aren't that many places to stay in Batad -- but then again, I'm sure there's enough accommodation for the number of tourists who make it here
Hillside Inn restaurant Batad Philippines
One of the bigger inns
Batad Pension Inn restaurant Batad rice terraces
Pension inns are the name used to refer to cheap, simple accommodation all across the Philippines
Batad Elementary school Banaue village
Decided to walk to the school

Batad rice terraces shed

Batad Elementary school village basketball court
Batad Elementary School

There were village kids following me asking for money (don’t want to use the word ‘beg’), and I gave them ₱10 each, out of sympathy.

Path to school Batad village
Walked back up

Batad rice terraces valley Philippines

Batad bible church village BanaueBatad rice terrace view window

Batad rice terraces village Banaue Philippines panorama
Panorama comprised of 5 shots
Batad rice terrace village Banaue Philippines
I really wanted to go all the way down to the village but I knew my legs couldn't take it anymore

Batad rice terraces steps valley

Batad village rice terrace steps Philippines panorama
That thin line are steps... I could only imagine myself walking down those from here
Batad village rice terrace hill
If at all I dare do this again, I would spend a night here and only leave the next morning
Batad village rice terrace plateau panorama
Imagine waking up to a view like this at the break of dawn

Batad rice terrace farms sunlight Banaue Philippines Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in Batad any longer. It was already 12:30pm and with an already tired body, I knew I was going to take another one hour just to get back.

Batad village locals garbage signThey were requesting visitors to make a donation to the village for its ‘upkeep’. Whether it was for Batad’s development or just for the locals to make good use of the money for their daily lives, I still donated ₱100.

I also asked if any local was willing to carry my bags as I just couldn’t walk uphill with the load I was carrying, now with an injured leg. One of the villagers agreed to carry my bag uphill for ₱100.

Batad village Banaue Philippines panorama
I took one final panorama (comprised of 7 shots) and bid Batad's rice terraces goodbye

Batad valley rice terrace hill Banaue farms

Walking back to Batad junction local guide
The local who offered to carry my bags (forgot his name unfortunately)
Trekking from Batad village to junction Banaue
He was always ahead of me and would often stop until I caught up

Batad trek landslide damaged path

Batad trek uphill landslide terrain
Just to give you an idea of the terrain
Batad trek back to junction
I tried to match his pace but I couldn't

Eventually he too had to stop for a break and we rested for a few minutes at one of the makeshift stores along the way. I bought him something to drink and I asked him how long he has been walking these hills. As a native of Batad village, he told me they’ve been doing this since they were little. Young boys are made to carry goods up and down the hill, so their bodies get used to it as they age.

I even saw a small boy carrying a load of potatoes on a log uphill and the expression on his face was nothing short of hardship. It really was revelation of sorts for me. Here I was on this trip, to take my mind off from being laid off from work and yet, here are people who have been living like this for decades… all because of their lineage. Few make it out of Banaue, let alone their own village, and move to bigger cities.

I asked the local what their primary source of income was. He told me it was mostly farming, but a lot of the rice that’s grown in their rice terraces are for their own consumption as very little is sold in the markets. Of course, tourism is now helping them a bit as well.

As we moved on and neared the junction, I caught up with the American I crossed paths with earlier on my way down. He still hadn’t reached the top. I told him about my ordeal as we walked up together.

The American (again, forgot his name as well) told me about a different path up but I decided to just stick to the steps and follow the local who carried my bags. I told him I’ll catch up with him later.

Batad trek alternate road
The American took that road, which is an alternative to the steps
Batad hills Ifugao Luzon Philppines
I took one final shot before climbing the hundred steps up

Once I reached the junction, I paid the local ₱150 instead of the agreed ₱100. He was grateful, and I had no reservations about my actions. I thanked him for carrying my bags and he headed back to his village.


The American reached the junction at about the same time I did, and we both sat at a store because sitting was exactly what we needed! A few minutes later, we were joined by a Brit who was with his trekking guide. With all three of us sweating profusely as evidenced by our shirts, needless to say, our conversations immediately began with how each of our experiences were. The Brit was concluding his nearly 4-day trek across Batad and was panting as he spoke. He spoke of how his guide (surely a local) just wouldn’t break a sweat and how he couldn’t do without his trekking pole.

Anyway, myself and the American couldn’t sit there forever and though we thought of taking a jeepney back, none of the jeepneys looked like they would be moving until they had enough passengers. So as one final effort, we both decided walk back down to where our trikes were waiting for us.

The trek back down was easier this time simply because, one, it was downhill, and two, there were concreted patches of road. Also, speaking to each other about topics ranging from the world economy to where else both of us had traveled took our minds off of how much distance we had to cover.

Thirty minutes later, we were back to the starting point. The American and I parted ways but he suggested that we catch up for a beer later at night once I’m back in town.

Once I was back in Arnel’s trike, more than beer, I just wanted to get back to my room to wash my wounds properly and then rest.

But instead, Arnel took me to the next stop on this tour:

Rice terrace near Batad panorama
Another rice terrace village, but I forgot its name (Panorama comprised of 8 shots)
Rice terrace village in Banaue Philippines
Arnel told me I could walk down there but it would take some time. I told him my legs couldn't take anymore climbing and asked him to just take me back to Banaue town for the main rice terraces.

Despite being a bumpy ride back, because of how tired I was, I still dozed off in between.

Banaue road repair bulldozer
Only to wake up on occasions when a heavy duty machine had to clear up debris on the road due to a landslide

Once back in Banaue town after nearly an hour, Arnel drove me up to the first of three viewpoints for Banaue’s rice terraces.

Banaue Nfa-Aguian view deck rice terraces
This was the first view point

Banaue rice terraces first viewpoint Philippines

Banaue rice terraces first view panorama
Panorama comprised of 8 shots

Banaue rice terrace wet farmsBanaue rice terrace farm Ifugao

Banaue house on rice terrace Ifugao
Walked past this house to get to another viewpoint
Ifugao rice terraces placard description Banaue
Panorama comprised of 9 shots

Banaue rice terrace wet farm Banaue rice terrace farms first viewpoint

Banaue tinawon rice plantation
The sign was describing the stage during which rice seeds are planted

Banaue rice terrace mud farmBanaue rice terrace farm sky viewWe moved on higher up to the second viewpoint.

Banaue rice terrace second viewpointBanaue rice terrace waterfall

Banaue rice terrace second viewpoint panorama
Panorama comprised of 16 shots

Banaue rice terraces viewpoint middle panorama I asked Arnel to take me to the final viewpoint.

Banaue rice terrace tribals at shop main viewpoint
You need to walk down to the platform

Banaue rice terrace view from platform

Banaue rice terrace steps down to house
My worst enemy: steps

But this being the last stop on my tour, I decided to push my legs one last time and walked down the steps towards the house.

Banaue rice terraces hill Ifugao

Banaue house facing rice terrace
The plan was to stand in front of the house and take photographs
Dog house facing rice terrace Banaue
But as I got down the steps, the dog in charge of the house came barking at me... so I stayed right where I was and didn't venture any further
Banaue house white dog
Oh well, good dog doing its job
Banaue rice terrace steps burning smoke
Took the 70-200mm lens out for these shots
Banaue rice terrace farm levels locals steps
This gives you a scale of just how big these rice terraces really are
Banaue rice terrace level farms size
Imagine how many man hours it must have taken hundreds of years ago to carve these lands
Banaue rice terrace long steps
It's no wonder these rice terraces are considered by Filipinos to be the '8th Wonder' of the world

Banaue rice terrace hill levels Banaue rice terrace wet fieldsBanaue rice terrace farms wet fieldsWith that, I decided I had taken enough from the main viewpoint.

Banaue steps to main viewpoint
Now came the tough part

My legs were really quivering with each step I took. I had to use my tripod as support to raise myself to take each step. I was that tired!

Banaue rice terrace paddy field Ifugao

Misty hills Banaue Ifugao
It was a really misty day today
Banaue 8th wonder sign
Thanks, but I was done!
Banaue road shanty houses locals
Walked back to Arnel and asked him to take me back to my lodge
Banaue main viewpoint chicken crossing the road
Don't ask me why the chicken crossed the road

As we drove back, Arnel told me if it wasn’t so foggy today, I would have gotten a better view of the entire Banaue rice terraces. I said it’s fine, because at this point all I wanted was to take a hot shower and give my feet the rest they needed.

Arnel dropped me back and I paid him ₱900 plus a ₱100 as a tip, simply because I felt like it. I first went to a store to buy some biscuits and cake in case I woke up too late. Because here in Banaue, there is a 9pm curfew and just about every shop closes by then. It’s wise to stock up on essentials before the sun sets.

Back in the room, I first took a hot shower and felt so much better. After that, I just crashed on the bed. Given the fact I barely slept at all the previous night due to the bus journey, and after all the tiring activities from today, it only took me a matter of minutes to doze off.

I hadn’t forgotten to meet up with the American from earlier, but when I did wake up…

Banaue town at night People's lodge
... this was the scene outside
Banaue town at night curfew
It was past midnight

Yes, I overslept. But I didn’t care, I needed the sleep.

My legs felt a little better and I sat on the bed, switched on my computer and ate something. As I transferred today’s photos on to my hard drive and reviewed them, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement. Despite how my body felt, today really changed me in some ways. First, I couldn’t imagine where on earth away from India I was. Secondly, the trek really changed my perspective on life (in some ways). I shouldn’t be complaining about losing my job when I go back to my office. At least I had an office in a city to go back to. To the people in Banaue, life wouldn’t be that much different when they wake up tomorrow. Tomorrow, all I was going to do was see even more amazing places!

This is undoubtedly is the most epic post I’ve ever written (so far). 170 photos just to show you, my reader, what all I saw today. Over 3400 words to tell you what I experienced on my second day of sightseeing across Philippines.

I have been trekking since my college days and I enjoy walking, a lot. Trekking to Batad was undoubtedly the toughest trek I have ever undertaken. I cannot believe I walked 9kms up and down. A total of 18kms in Batad. And you know what? I didn’t even know it was 9kms to Batad village until I began working on these photos!

Go read the sign about ‘Batad rice terraces’ up above just after Arnel dropped me to the point I had to then go on foot. I didn’t notice the description and 9kms mentioned on the sign until I worked on that photo!

In a way, it’s a good thing I didn’t. I would have had second thoughts of trekking 18kms had I known the distance and the terrain I encountered along the way. Also, had it not been for the pleasant, not-sunny-at-all weather, there’s no way I would have gone all the way.

But would I do this again?



Edit (16/09/2011): I found the map I had with me that day

Bananue Batad Ifugao province tourist mapHere’s a much bigger version for reference.

Previous posts:

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

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