Sarah and I were excited to come see the rice terraces of the Philippines, and in particular those in the remote mountain village of Batad, reachable only by foot, either with a 2 hour hike or a more expensive ride and then a 45 minute hike, details here:
So we asked the nice lady at our guesthouse about getting a trike to the junction and quickly learned that the trikes now take you (for more money) up to the saddle and down a good percent of the way on the other side due to the new road.
It didn’t sound like quite the quiet little village we had been so excited about, but we set out anyhow.
We quickly decided the trike was worth the price, the scenery was excellent and the driver stopped to let us take pictures and take pictures of us at the best spots. He navigated through construction and rough roads safely. He deposited us at the end of the road (for now) and told us if we came back early enough he’d take us to see another village.
We set off down the road and passed some pretty cool construction. These guys were using what looked to us like 2,000 year old expertise building rice terraces to build a road to this village. Walls built by hand, tar boiled over fire and poured out of cans by hand. They were making progress down the mountain at a pretty quick pace given the techniques in use.
We reached the end of progress and our taste of the former trek began. A nice path led through the forest and we wound our way down the mountainside looking over a village with a hint of the rice terraces to come. It was really cool. When we broke out of the forest 30 minutes later or so we were greeted by a small village where we payed our conservation fee, turned down a guide, and got our first view of the terraces. WOW!
We set off down a random path and soon met up with a group who had sprung for a guide. There were two kids following them, who decided they liked us and followed/led us for a while. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking through the terraces. The views are simply stunning and seeing up close the irrigation systems and solid construction developed 2000 years ago is pretty awe inspiring. The kids were cute, but we felt really bad about the idea that they were “guiding” us instead of going to school. Every time we encountered locals they spoke to the kids and we would say “bye bye” to the kids and motion for them to go back to no avail. After making our way through the terraces we descended towards the water fall.
Stairs, lots of stairs, led down into a valley and we were greeted by a fairly impressive fall with a nice pool at the bottom. Local guides lounged nearby while several caucasians and a few asians were busily changing into swimsuits and jumping into the brisk waters. We joined them. The cool water was incredibly refreshing after the hot (no, the mountain air here isn’t cold during the day) hike.
After our swim we sat in the sun for a few minutes to dry out, suited up, and began the hike back to the main village. We ate lunch and chugged gatorade while looking out over these terraces and discussed the future of the place. The road would obviously bring convenience and probably economic advantage to the villagers, and we felt bad thinking about how it would be “ruined” for tourists like us who want to see a remote village living in the traditions of their ancestors.
Soon the road will be complete, construction materials will no longer be hauled by boys and men with cardboard pads, harvests will be carried out by trucks instead of on shoulder poles and tour busses will roll in.
Is that good? The villagers think so. Do you?