Not many people really stay in Bangaan as it’s a place that’s either far or in between. The rice terraces of Batad usually overshadows that of Bangaan by coming in first geographically and If you are headed to Mayoayao, it’s a place you usually pass by on the road. But how did I came about it? Well you could say early in my traveling sojourns, I was with a bunch of crazy travelers with sadistic humor and chose to torture us then, newbie hikers, by going to a longer back trail route to Bangaan from Batad. But seriously, we were just yearning for more adventure then and took an off-the-beaten trail which promises a much rewarding experience.
It’s surprising that most of us were already awake by 5am in the morning without even having to call everyone up. We were worried the night before that the constant bamboo-like clacking sound from the mountain frogs outside Bangaan Family Inn would keep us awake but it seems the frogs drifted to sleep as well. Or was it the amusing ghost stories that challenged to sleep? But ghostly presence or not, we were shooting trees from a hill far away as the soothing calmness of the morning in Bangaan unfolds.
It’s such a sheer delight to open our doors and be greeted by the morning scenery of Batad Rice Terraces and the surrounding mountains. Waking up was effortless, but seeing the warm-lit clouds like a painted sky above the mountain skyline put each of our initial plans to wash up when we got out of bed to a halt and quickly grab our cameras instead to capture what’s left of this sweeping light. Having woken up several times in this place, it’s a rare moment for me to see the sky lit up like this.
“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 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.
My good friend Oggie of Lagalog.com and I were conceptualizing for some time on how a photography workshop would be set apart from the numerous workshops being offered right now. One, we don’t want to have the usual classroom setting. We want participants to be out there on the field where most of the photography would happen and learn on the spot. Second, we want the participants to experience the place and the culture. Getting postcard pretty pictures is one thing but getting good pictures with relevance is another. So Backpack Photography Workshop is born sharing our style of shooting.