Monday, January 24, 2011
The Batad Rice Terraces are among the most spectacular of the Ifugao Rice Terraces. And aptly so since it's one of the five rice terrace clusters inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List under Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. The other four are Bangaan, Hungduan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan. I've see the first three. And finally, I've been able to trek to Batad! Which leaves just Nagacadan on my list of rice terraces to visit.
We took the late evening bus to Banaue and arrived early the next morning. As soon as we arrived, we purchased our bus tickets home since demand is really high and we wanted to make sure we had our tickets back. For more information on getting there, read How to get to and from Banaue, Ifugao.
We then proceeded to the Banaue Hotel, the best accommodation in Banaue, where we stayed for the night. I spent the rest of the day catching up on sleep so that I'd have the energy to trek the next day. I actually spent the whole time at Banaue Hotel where I had all my meals, including the buffet dinner, since I was just too exhausted to go out.
Banaue Hotel is one of two places where you can hire accredited jeeps and guides at fixed rates. Be careful dealing with unaccredited guides and transportation since there have been not so nice stories from guests that were cheated or abandoned. The jeep to the Batad Saddle costs Php2500 while the guide fee is Php900.
The trip to the Batad Saddle was about an hour and thirty minutes. Unfortunately, it had been rainy the past few days. And since the road to the Batad Saddle is quite bad, when it rains, it can become impassable to vehicles. So we had to get off our jeep and walk a few more hundred meters up to the Batad Saddle.
Good thing, it's mostly downhill to the Batad Rice Terraces from the Batad Saddle. It takes another hour of trekking to get to Batad. I noticed the road was being widened and it seemed like they were building a road all the way to Batad Village.
One thing which is sad about Ifugao is that despite the fact it's one of the provinces most visited by foreign tourists, the roads are still bad. Maybe because foreigners don't vote? Well, it's part of the experience I guess. But the rice terraces deserve better roads. But it must come with stringent development safeguards to ensure that the rice terraces outside Banaue are protected and preserved even when infrastructure to get there is improved, so that they don't suffer the fate of Banaue.
At the entrance to Batad Village is a tourist information booth where visitors log and pay a donation to the community. It also offers a really great view of the Batad Rice Terraces. While many visitors stay overnight, we had to rush back to Banaue to catch our bus back to Manila. So after having lunch at Simon's Place (I had the Batad version of pizza), we made our trek back up. And that's the hard part!
But I did make it up in one piece and we finally got on board our jeep for the bumpy trip back to Banaue. We had about two hours to spare before our bus left, just enough time to freshen up and get a quick snack. Despite that quick stay, the trip to Batad was most worth it.
Where to stay in Batad
The accommodation in Batad is quite basic and not that many. Note also that mobile signal in Batad is close to none. So to book a place, send an SMS/text message and wait for the lodge to respond. Calling them would be difficult. Here's a list of places to stay in Batad Village:
Hillside Inn +63 (929) 1268340
Kadangyan Homestay +63 (920) 4686307
Ramon's Homestay +63 (929) 6124423
Rita's Mountain View Inn +63 (910) 8423076
Simon's Viewpoint Inn +63 (930) 5077467
Batad Pension +63 (921) 7371745
Cristina's Main Village Inn +63 (906) 9773771
For some activities in the area, you can visit some of my previous posts on Banaue, Hungduan, and Mayoyao. And here's a list of Banaue hotels and budget accomodation.
Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel
+63 (74) 3864087 / 3864088
Friday, January 21, 2011
After our visit to Taal Volcano, we drove all the way to the heritage town of Taal, Batangas via STAR Expressway to visit the grand old houses and other heritage structures there. I've been to Taal many times before. But the town never fails to fascinate me. In fact, we're in the process of stakeholder consultations to determine if the town wants to push for inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Unfortunately, it is not yet in the tentative list. But the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape is. To make a stronger case for UNESCO inscription, countries usually cluster sites and structures into a single inscription that together, tell a compelling story with universal value to humanity.
One idea would be to expand the Taal Volcano listing from a natural site into a cultural landscape, to include the underwater ruins in Taal Lake and the town of Taal. Together, these sites tell a story of resilience amidst volcanic eruptions and how communities rise after every eruption of the volcano.
For this trip, we got to visit to visit the Taal Basilica National Landmark and Agoncillo House, as well as the Villavicencio Houses. As always, I stopped by the Taal Market to buy piña cloth for my barongs.
It's a good thing new restaurants have opened offering several local dishes of Taal. We had Taal Longganisa and Taal Tapa among many others at Don Juan BBQ which is right beside the Taal Market.
There are several tour options in Taal. you can contact Heritage Tours and Travel through Bennet (0918) 3155634 for a guided tour of the heritage town. There are half and whole day packages with meals (see their site at heritours.multiply.com).
You can also visit Villa Tortuga for a different kind of tour experience. It includes lunch at the old house complete with colonial-period costumes for you to wear while dining. Contact Lito Perez of Camp Suki at (02) 7250819 or (0917) 8246900 for reservations.
Where to stay in Taal
Baby Joven-Quiblat and Benny Quiblat have rooms available for visitors. You can reach Baby at (0917) 8970363 for rates and avalability.
Robert Arambulo, a balikbayan architect from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, also has rooms available in his restored Taal house called Casa Severina. Contact him at (0917) 5018060.
Casa Cecilia has eight bedrooms and a restaurant that serves great tasting Taal cuisine. Specialties are bulalo (with a twist) and their maliputo. Contact numbers are (043) 4080048 or (0906) 2225339.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
While most only get to see Taal Volcano from the Tagaytay Ridge, a few adventurous souls venture down to Talisay, Batangas to set foot on Volcano Island and trek to the crater lake. A good number ride a horse going up to the view point, while others trek up. Even more challenging is the trail that leads all the way down to the banks of the crater lake.
Boats to Volcano Island are readily available. In fact, you'll see touts with small signs trying to get you to ride their boats around Tagaytay. But the problem with this is having to haggle with them. So I decided to take a boat from the Taal Lake Yacht Club where fees are fixed and parking is free. The boat and guide to Taal Volcano costs Php1,800 there (maximum of five passengers).
This time, I chose to trek up to the crater lake viewpoint. The trail is 1.7 kilometers and you can finish it in about an hour. It was quite funny that the horses and their caretakers followed us up, hoping that we'd get tired and decide to ride a horse the rest of the way. The horse ride should cost Php500 for the trip up and back. You can arrange this at the resort to avoid haggling when you get to the island.
Note that there is also a Php20 landing fee when you reach the island. Along the way, you get to see vents spewing out sulfuric gases. The view from the top is really stunning as you get to see the entire lake as well as the coast of Batangas.
As I mentioned, you can opt to go down the crater lake. But this would cost a bit more. I've never been down there. And too bad we didn't have time to do it since we planned to visit Taal Town after lunch.
Taal Lake Yacht Club
Talisay, Batangas, Philippines
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Dinagat Islands was a province of the Philippines until February 11, 2010. If it still was a province, I would have been celebrating my completion in December when I set foot on Dinagat Islands, my 80th province (81st if you count Shariff Kabunsuan, another defunct province).
But even if it's been ordered back to Surigao del Norte, I was quite surprised to discover that the Provincial Government of Dinagat Islands is still up and running. In fact, a few days before I arrived, the Bugkosan sa Isla or Dinagatan Festival 2010 had just ended.
To get to Dinagat Islands, you have to hop-on a ferry in Surigao City. As soon as I arrived in Surigao City from Cebu, I rushed straight to the ferry port. There are ferries to various towns in Dinagat Island such as Dinagat Municipality and the capital town San Jose. The one for San Jose leaves at 12 noon. While the one for Dinagat Municipality leaves at 1 p.m. Make sure you mention the exact town because if you say Dinagat, they will point you to the ferry that goes to Dinagat Town.
Since I just stayed overnight, I got to visit only a few places. One of the beaches I saw in Dinagat was Tagbirayan Beach in Cagdianao. We were actually trying to look for a beach in Dinagat Municipality but couldn't seem to find one. So we crossed to Cadianao, the opposite side of the island which faces the Pacific Ocean. I noticed that the waves were stronger there. I later read that they have also have a surfing area in Cagdianao.
The gold sand is very soft and your feet will easily sink in. They have several resorts in Tagbirayan Beach. If only I had more time in Tagbirayan Beach, some of the nearby islands looked enticing. Tagbirayan is definitely a must-visit when you are in Dinagat Islands.
Update (03/29/11): The Supreme Court flip-flops again and reverses its earlier decision nullifying the creation of Dinagat Islands. Dinagat Islands becomes the 80th province of the Philippines.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Last December, I made a trek up Taal Volcano. I usually take a horse up the crater lake viewpoint. But this time around, I decided to walk for some exercise.
Like in most of my hikes, I was expecting to consume a large amount of water since I get dehydrated really quick. This time around, aside from the water, I decided to bring with me some 500ml bottles of Powerade. I drank my first bottle midway through the trek. And I was pleasantly surprised that I did not need much liquids until I reached the top. I only opened my bottles of water when we got back to the shore.
It seems that Powerade is a really viable hydration solution. It's important during strenuous activities like these that you get the proper hydration. I checked out the label and discovered that Powerade has the right amount of electrolytes and carbohydrates which explains why it provides effective hydration and energy.
I found it funny that the horse owners followed us up hoping that we would tire out and finally say yes to riding a horse up. But I guess, I wanted to challenge myself to walk all the way. And thanks to proper hydration, I was able to do it.
I got the blue-colored Mountain Blast flavor. Powerade also comes in Berry Blast and Orange Burst. And good thing, it's conveniently available in supermarkets & convenience stores. So when going on your own mountain trek, make sure to Power up! Drink up!