Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Batad: An accidental anniversary getaway

…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Not just because of the holiday seasons, but because it’s the part of the year where we celebrate our anniversary. Char!

So to start our new year together, we had options in tow. Celebrate it underwater, through scuba diving in Anilao, Batangas, or shoot the rapids in a day trip to Pagsanjan Falls.

After some research, we both realized that scuba diving is out of our league. 2,100 per person, for a day trip was the cheapest rate I found, exclusive of our transportation to and fro Manila. And take note, it’s just for a 30-45 minute dive. You have to pay another 1,500 for a re-dive. Whew! This cannot be my part time hobby.

Shooting the rapids in Pagsanjan falls is way cheaper that scuba diving, but J find it nakakabitin if we just do it day trip. We cannot spend overnight either (with just the two of us). And it seemed like no one among our friends were interested to join us.

Days before the dates we allotted for this getaway, Mommy Earl, ang aming tanging ina suggested that since we won’t have any climb this month because of the holidays, we might as well take the chance to travel to Batad, instead of doing it on its original schedule – January of next year. I was totally elated with the suggestion, but a little hesitant because my partner might not like it. He simply hates long hour bus rides. But after using my super convincing lambing powers, he agreed to it and we had our (my) dream anniversary getaway. Haha.

14December, 2011

Happy anniversary!

We decided not to go out to celebrate as we needed to prepare our things for our trip. We just went to our suking tindahan and shop for our baon sa byahe. Even if this is our anniversary getaway, it doesn’t mean we had to overdo our expenses. But for an overnight trip, I think we spent nearly 500 pesos for our baon only. Tsk. Tsk.

**Going to Batad, you need to take the bus to Banaue. As of this writing, only the Ohayami bus company (516.05.01) is servicing the route Manila-Banaue, daily at 10 in the evening, for 450 pesos, one way. Bus terminal is located in Espania cor. Lacson St. (near UST). Make sure to call for ticket reservation as they can go fully booked. Other buses that travels the same route are Autobus and Florida bus but they temporarily suspended their respective trip schedules.**

So I called for our ticket reservation and the attendant told us to pick up the tickets before 6pm. Good thing my adopted brother Inch, who is joining our trip, is just a stone away from the terminal, so he was the one who claimed our tickets. Do take note, Ohayami bus honors student and senior citizen discounts.

And when they say, claim your tickets before 6pm, trust them, as there are a lot of chance passangers in the terminal that might benefit from your ticket reservation when you cannot claim it on time. Just like this Brit-accented family who wasn’t able to claim their tickets on time – they were left with no choice but to settle in the aisle of the bus. The mother sat on a mono block like a queen, while the father set an instant bed in the aisle. They managed however to provide a comfortable seat for their son.

We arrived the terminal almost two hours before our departure. We decided to fill our empty stomachs in a nearby karenderia. At least, before we ended our very special day, we had our traditional dinner date.

15December, 2011
After nine long, tiresome hours… we finally arrived Banaue. This is my second time in Banaue, and my third in Benguet – for this year. Whew. Parang divisoria lang haha..

Upon disembarking the bus, we were welcomed by a flock guides and drivers offering their services. Most of them were asking for Sagada-bound passangers. We just ignored them and proceeded for our breakfast at the Greenview Lodge. I personally wanted to let J experience ‘the pancake ‘at Greenview Lodge. We were surprised by its size when we first saw it last March (enroute Sagada.)

J said it taste different. May kakaibang sarap daw. I can’t tell because it tastes normal to me. Haha. I’m just amazed by its enormosity. Haha.

While enjoying our breakfast, someone gently approached us and asked where we heading. He offered his jeep for rent for 2,000 to Saddle, our next destination. We tried to bargain, as there were only four of us, and 2,000 budget for the jeep rental will surely hurt our budget. We were even hopeful to find another set of Batad-bound travelers for us to split the amount with, but there was none.

So we decided to arrange our transport to Saddle through with Kuya Rhenson (0916.713.1679, 0905.3718033, who casually talks to us in English. In all fairness, he has better English than tour guides and drivers from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand (no offense meant.)

** Options to go to the Saddle**
  1. Take the public transport, for 100-150 pesos only. BUT there’s only ONE trip in a day, that’s at 2pm daily.
  1. Rent a trike to the junction, for 400-500 (per trike).. BUT after arriving the junction, you still need to trek an uphill, rock-strewn trail for an hour or two to the Saddle, depending on your strength… (most foreigners do this, alongside with their large-sized backpacks. But I won’t suggest you take this option.)
  1. Rent a jeep, for 2,000 or less … find more company to split the amount… be in the Saddle a little after an hour and thirty minutes. (a bit pricey but more comfortable)
Obviously, we took option three. We needed to arrive Batad village before lunch, so we can rest for the trek to Tappiya falls in the afternoon. Option one is better when you plan to stay longer in the town.

On our way to the Saddle, we passed by a couple foreign backpacker, we offered them a ride and asked them to help us pay the jeepney rent, but they declined. They wanted to pay the fee for the public transport only. My bad, I immediately told me that we had to split the 2,000 rent. I could’ve asked them to pay what’s due for a public transport, at least, nabawasan pa rin kami ng ilang daan… tsk..tsk.. Oh well, it wasn’t really a good decision for them either, as the way to the Saddle is a serious matter. We weren’t even allowed to top load, as the roads were rough and uncomfortable. There were some major constructions along the way that made the roads even more difficult to navigate.

I seriously felt guilty for the two backpackers. I can’t imagine how will they manage to pass the crooked roads with their feet and with heavy backpacks. Tsk tsk.

We also passed by the famous hanging house, but we never bother checking it, as we were conscious about the time.

After 45 minutes, we reached the junction. We asked Kuya Rhenson to stop for a while for us to have some photo ops.

We hopped back to the almost empty jeep. There were only four and a half of us, so Kuya Rhenson asked us to move closer to the front to minimize bumps at the backseats. It doesn’t sound good to me. It was like a warning that something is about to happen in the second half of our ride.

Well, nothing bad happened. It was just another monstrous ride, just like what we had on our way to Mt. Pulag. I think it was even worse than that. That’s why I won’t recommend that you take option two on your way to Saddle. No wonder, tricycle can only go until the junction as their wheels and strength cannot handle the roads up to the saddle. It’s more rocky than the roads to Mt. Pulag.

Being a driver himself, J was telling me that the 2,000 rent is worth all the sweat, as it is never easy to be driving that kind of an exhausting, jagged road. Well, Kuya Rhenson made it worth all our penny.


After more than an hour drive, we arrived the Saddle, relieved from yet another exhausting and challenging trip. We wasted no time, and started our trek to the village.

Going down the trail road has two option. The short cut and the long cut. None of which requires a guide, not yet, as there’s only one trail in each way. We first took the long cut and the more tiring short cut going back. (I’d suggest you take the short cut on your way down, and long cut on your way up.)
welcome to Batad!
It’s Mommy Earl fifth or sixth time in Batad, so we’re confident not to ask for a guide on our way to the village. Even when you’re a first timer. Just trust your instinct and follow the road to the village (there’s only one…)

The trek down to the village was like a walk in the park for us. Even Russel, 4, our little backpacker enjoyed every single step of it. Nauuna pa nga sya samen, palibhasa wala syang bitbit.. haha..

You’re nearly there when you started to see the signages below.

It took us an hour before we reached the village. We then registered our names in their tourist office. They require no registration fee, but an ample donation will surely be appreciated.

Personally, I wanted to stay at Mang Ramon’s Homestay. To experience firsthand practice and better understanding how Igorots live in the village. They charge 250 per person, per night, for a nipa hut, and 200 for a normal room accommodation.

But upon reaching the village and realizing how far Mang Ramon Homestay was from where we were standing, we decided to settle in the next best thing right in front of us – The Hillside Inn.

The Hillside Inn, I think has strategically the best location in town. It’s located right next to the registration and tourist office. When you’re dead tired from the trek, and all you want to do is to relax your begging feet, isang kembot mo na lang, nasa Hillside Inn ka na. Haha.

It’s an off peak season, so we needed not to reserve for a room beforehand. Besides, if Hillside be fully booked, there are a lot of choices in the village, with standard rate of 200 per night. Dirt cheap huh. The cheapest accommodation I know, so far. It’s very basic. Room with no aircon nor an electric fan (who needs one when you’re in one of the coldest places in the country). No toiletries (bring your own.) No hot/cold shower (it’s one of the challenging part of the trip.) 

But at least you have this:

a priceless scenery you will never ever forget
While waiting for our lunch, we savor every second of our time for our much-needed rest. And this is what rest meant for our guys.

Batad village is situated in a tiny town in the midst of the mountains of Northern Luzon. A little harder to get to, considering the hours we took to reach the village. Having said this, expect everything here is not ordinary especially the prices of their goods.

Instead of ordering ala-carte meals, we decided to order one whole chicken, 570 and had it cook for our lunch. (at ang tira, pwedeng pang dinner pa!) And just because their surrounded with rice fields doesn’t mean makakatipid kayo sa rice dito. Haha. One cup of rice will cost you 25 pesos.

There’s nothing fancy about their food. But eating with your beloved friends next to one of the world’s wonderful creation, I think it can be compared to dining in a five-star hotel.


If you consider yourself more of a tourist, then there’s nothing much to see in Batad. But if you’re a natural born traveler, and it’s your deepest desire to experience life beyond theme parks, then, Batad has something magnificent to offer. I have read blogs from most of Western backpackers that their trip to the Philippines won’t complete without visiting Batad. So don’t be surprised if you see them living like locals in the village. I then remember our driver, Kuya Rhenson who preferred to speak to us in English, I think he's more used to it - talking more often to foreign travellers, than Pinoy visitors.

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