The Banaue Rice Terraces easily comes to mind when we talk about Rice Terraces in Ifugao or Cordillera Regions. Probably because it’s the most accessible and is part of our P1000 peso bill. But there are several clusters of rice terraces in the Philippine Highlands and they have different characteristics and how they were made. One such terrace not given much exposure or frequented by visitors is Hapao which is only an hour away from Banaue Town Proper.
Batad which I have written here several times before of course is one of the most magnificent looking among the lot but it takes time and a certain level of fitness to reach even the viewing point of these terraces. For those who are not really hard core hikers or are looking for a light trek, Hapao is a good option.
We learned about Hapao from a local in Banaue at the time when lands were drying up and cracking from the effects of El Nino. We were told the rice fields in Batad were dried up but the ones here in Hapao were still verdant green and had minimal cracks on the field. We hired a tricycle to take us to Hapao. Our first visit there was damp and rainy making the muddy road a challenge but despite the rough journey and the misty veil hovering along the mountain peaks, Hapao showed its unique beauty.
The rice terraces of Hapao stretches long towards the foot of the mountain. They are low and angular and made of stone walls. It spreads beautifully on the horizon cut only by a raging river where the vegetation feeds on. We knew upon seeing this place that it was a perfect to take our participants for Backpack Photography, it’s an easy trail along the rice paddies.
It was a bright and lovely day when we came back here with our participants. The rice fields were still lush green and with the foot paths dry and white drawing a wonderful pattern on the rice field. We took our lunch first at the nearby huts at the jump-off and started our decent along the rice paddies.
With Mang Jun, our knowledgeable guide at the helm of the group, the walk along the rice paddies was more than a hike as Jun shares a few trivia about the Ifugao and the rice terraces. At some stops along the way, he would pick out a plant and let us sample a bit. There was one which turned out to be a mint and some horsetail stalk which when boiled are used to treat urinary tract infections.
We stopped at Giovanni’s Resort by the river for our break, a brief lecture and more shoot. Aside from the river, the local kids there were happy enough to be in front of our cameras.
We continued with the rest of the trail towards the setting afternoon sun. We observed the bucolic life here as we go higher up the terraces. Passing by several houses even a church amidst the rice field. The sun was already hidden behind the mountain peaks but it didn’t fail to paint the sky dawn as we reach the end of our hike. I thought it was a real pleasant stroll along the right paddies, not too strenuous but with also a little challenge as well.
Join our Backpack Photography Workshop, Photography 101 at Banaue at March 4-5, 2011 and Island Hopping Photo Tour in Batanes on April 17-23, 2011.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.