The Amphitheater at Batad

Still feeling a bit tired from the nine-hour bus trip from Manila plus another hour by jeepney from Banaue town proper we trekked the remaining 3 kilometers to our destination on foot. It was already late in the morning when we arrived at the village entrance, accompanied by Manong Jun, our wiry local guide. A few meters past the entrance, a sight until now hidden from our view emerged: amphitheater-like terraced rice fields carved from the mountainside now almost golden yellow in color from ripening rice stalks..

the Batad Rice Terraces viewed from the village
The sight that greeted us as we entered the village of Batad

Experienced travelers to these parts often recommend heading for the Batad Rice Terraces rather than spending time at the more famous terraces at Banaue town proper. We did get to visit and spend some time at the latter but now, gazing at the spectacle before us, it was obvious Batad’s amphitheater-like terraces is a real winner.

Batad Rice Terraces showing the small village at the bottom of the bowl
Batad’s terraces is one of 5 terraces in Ifugao that are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site

Contrary to popular local belief, the Banaue poblacion terraces which has often graced postcards and older thousand-peso bills, is NOT a UNESCO World Heritage site. But Batad and 4 other terraces, all in Ifugao, (Bangaan, Mayoyao, Hungduan and Nagacadan) are.

Batad Rice Terraces - a closer look
Walking around the terraces may be challenging but has its rewards

After taking lunch and enjoying a short rest, we were off with our guide for a walk in and around the terraces. The hike that followed was not a walk in the park. Already tired from not having had a good night’s sleep on the bus we soon discovered that the trek involved scaling some steep slopes and doing a delicate balancing act while traversing the edge of the terraced embankments. To add to our troubles an afternoon drizzle made the pathways rather slippery. One mistake would have sent us crashing down almost 10 feet into the next rice paddy below. But we were too mesmerized by the sight all around us and the realization that the massive terraces were all done by hand beginning almost 2,000 years ago to mind the effort and risks involved.

native huts at Hiwang village, Banaue
A native-style hut similar to many dwellings at Batad village. However many of the locals are turning to more modern construction materials due to the decreasing supply of native materials.
ripening rice stalks at the Batad Rice Terraces
April to May and October to November are the best months to visit Batad; by then the paddies would be green to yellow-green in color due to the ripening rice stalks.

It took us something like 3 hours to circumnavigate the whole amphitheater and were looking forward to hiking to Tappiyah Falls. While resting briefly we encountered a group of Australians who were returning from their trek to the falls. Already bone tired from our previous exertions and lacking sleep the previous night we heard from our Aussie mates that part of the trek to Tappiyah is on an almost vertical slope. We obviously were in no condition to do this hike and were soon headed back to our inn, making it there just before dark.

Batad Rice Terraces in early morning light
Early morning sunlight casting its yellow glow on the terraces

That evening was probably the most restful sleep we’ve had in years. Though dead tired after all our trekking we were grateful that all the effort we expended just to see the beauty of Batad’s terraces were well worth it. (In retrospect we should have done the hike around the terraces the following day, taking time to rest on the day we arrived at Batad.)

close-up of the rice terraces in Batad
Photo gives an idea of the size of these terraces. Make one misstep on those narrow walkways at the edge of the terraces and you can come crashing down about 10 feet into the paddy below.

The next morning we woke up to see the sun cast its early morning glow on the terraces, a really spectacular site, turning the color of the rice plants to a golden yellow. You hate to leave a scene this majestic but we had a bus to catch later that day and had to leave Batad that same morning. Still it was a fitting finale to a truly remarkable visit.

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