Early in the morning, you are woken up by birds chirping, roosters crowing or if your unlucky dog’s enthusiastic barking. Now you are faced with a choice to laze in bed and soak in the cozy weather or rise early and greet the morning sun. Since roosters are rather persistent creatures you tear yourself away from the bed and head down for your morning coffee.
You sit down in your favorite spot when a tour guide starts playing his guitar as he sings some local folk songs. He would later apologize for the songs as he was just trying to wake up his guests ( but why apologize for such a beautiful piece of music?) You enjoy your omelets and coffee, folk song playing in the background when a hen with chicks in tow forming straight line, cross between your feet under the table (in search of better pastures on the other side of the compound?).
You draw your attention to the scenery in front of you, clouds touching the mountain peaks and the morning mist still lingers in the air as you take a refreshing breathes and remind yourself you are lucky to be here.
Couple of minutes after, as the sun shines brighter, the whole town wakes up. Farmers leave their homes and start working in their lands, residents with goods saddled on their back begin their hike to saddle point to catch the ride back to Banaue. Some women brings out their laundry and men break rocks ( Yes, they break rocks. I watched one guy break one huge piece of rock to tiny pieces with nothing but a force and sledge hammer. As if that wasn’t enough he started chopping woods right after)
In the afternoon, right after we play ‘dress up’ using Ifugao’s traditional clothes (it must be something in Mang Ramon’s coffee because he was able to convince us to dress and POSE with it. Yes, he made us do solemn and wacky poses – some photos not shown to save the owner’s dignity)
We gather around as Mang Ramon starts to tell stories about Batad’s cultures and traditions. On why a marriage may be halted due to a chicken’s inferior bile or why a first born child may never marry a third born. Bad bile means incompatible marriage or bad luck. In their tradition, only the first and second born can inherit their parents properties no matter how vast it may be. So a person with inheritance is not allowed to marry someone who doesn’t (fortunately things are changing).
Later that night, together with other travelers, we were invited to watch traditional dances and songs presented by the kids. The young boys wear nothing but thin strip of cloth and the girls, a colorful weaved vests and skirts. It was so nice to see the folk dance presented to us the same way they would’ve been performed by their ancestor. After the presentation, the locals invited us to join in dancing.
Although I am fully aware by the absence of dancing skills in my body, I cannot miss out on the fun and joined the group. It was awkward at first as I do not know what I was doing. The children’s giggles made it easier for me relax and just have fun (and besides if white dudes can do it, I can do it. No pun intended :))
On our last day in Batad, we have to hike back up to the saddle point so I asked Jimmy, our tour guide if he can help me with my bag. It was a long hike up, my body is still beaten and we have a time to catch so having someone to carry my bag is reasonable, no? We arrive in the saddle point just in time and there were only few seats left on the topload (mostly occupied by travelers).
When we arrived in Banaue, it was time to bid good bye. I don’t know when or where we’ll I’l cross paths again but hopefully in the future, we do. Because it means by that time, we are still traveling. I arrived in Banaue alone and now I am leaving with wonderful memories and new connections. We have great adventures still ahead of us and you’ll never know we just might share about it over rice wine and bonfires someday.
I guess that’s one of the perks of traveling solo, you may start out reluctant and doubtful but if you accept the surprises and challenges along the way it will turn out to be an exhilarating experience (at least for me).
Batad thank you. And now, Sagada.
If you are planning to stay in Batad, I highly recommend Mang Ramon’s Lodge. He treats every guests like family. He knows a lot about the Ifugao culture and does nightly bonfire inside his compound. To know more about him, you may visit:
His cellphone # are:
There is virtually no signal in Batad so don’t be surprised if he does not reply to you. When I went there, we were the only visitors in his lodge so the chances of running out on accommodation is unlikely although its better to have a plan B just in case 🙂