“Why do you have to go back here? The trail is exhausting!”, a participant exclaimed while we were hiking from the Saddle to Batad proper learning that it would be my fifth time to come here. While I laughed it out as I carefully navigated through a rocky downhill part of the trail, I was thinking at the back of my mind that there are places really worth going back to. Places you have to work hard for and feel rewarded once you reach it. Batad is still one of those magnificent places and I never get tired looking at.
The Philippines is known for its numerous festivals and apparently, some towns even ‘created’ a Festival just to somehow draw in tourists to their place. Most of these popular festivities, which are usually posh, glamorous and heavily choreographed are in honor of the Sto Nino. But up in the highlands, there is another festival that is somehow underrated, yet after seeing it I think should also be one of the top festivals along the likes of Sinulog, Dinagyang or the Maskara Festival. The Imbayah Festival in Banaue, which happens every 3 years is a grand festivity highlighting the rich and colorful culture of the Ifugao and it’s 10th year was recently held last April 26-29, 2011.
The rain continued to pour down but that didn’t stop us from further exploring the eastern side of Ifugao for our ocular. Our tricycle drove 10 more kilometers from Hapao Rice Terraces (which is already 15km away from Banaue town proper) to reach the Rice Terraces of Hungduan, one of the 5 Rice Terraces enlisted under UNESCO World Heritage Sites which also includes, Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan. Banaue Rice Terraces is not part of the UNESCO list but it is declared a National Cultural Treasure.
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.
It was cold even with the windows closed. I woke up with the cool morning air at one of the three bedroom lodge at Stairway Lodge. It was a spartan room with en suite bathroom. Much of the accommodations here in Banaue Town proper are like this – basic, functional and homey. I have never tried staying in town before as I have always used Banaue Town as a gateway to either Sagada or Batad. But my last visit gave me a chance to get to know this little town more.