I love nature and I love to travel. During 2011, after my graduation, I was able to go hiking to one of the UNESCO sites of the Philippines called the Banaue Rice Terraces. I was the one in charge of the itinerary and specifically chose to go to Batad where a village lies in the middle of the terraces. Before I recount my experiences, the Banaue Rice terraces are built by the ancestors of an indigenous tribe called the Ifugaos in the Philippines. Each terraces take many years to create, an estimated 100 years I think and are passed down by family. Nobody really owns the land but each family is responsible for the land that was passed onto them by their ancestors.
Old Ifugao tribesmen don traditional clothing whilst younger ones often either leave the terraces or opt to run inns and hostels for travelers.
I enjoyed the trip very much despite a city-boy companion in our group who constantly complained about the trip. A shame to not be able to enjoy nature. I didn’t expect that I needed some reconditioning, but managed the trek anyhow. We took a more than 6 hour bus drive from Manila, and rode a 2 hour very cramped jeepney (The Filipino kind) ride with crying babies and bundles of fruit and another few hours ride to the drop off point for our hike to the village. A couple of tour guides had thought we were foreigners, and blurted out that they “caught/ trapped” some foreigners perhaps to overcharge and fool which was weird because she kept on talking to me in english and I replied back in Filipino.
What was very memorable for me was the thrilling experience of the hike. I was surrounded by nature with barely powered guest-houses, I felt very close to nature (even if I had the hardest time with other comforts). I had hiked a long way and felt invigorated like a long successful exercise with a beautiful scene to boot. I discovered a great fear of ledges, the one where you imagine you would fall off a cliff or one wrong clumsy step and you will fall and at least break or wound something. I was seriously scared but I also seriously loved it.I wish I could have stayed a day or few hours longer though, watched the tribes do their traditional dance and even perhaps chat more with the tribes especially the older ones with their tattoos and I wish I could have reached the very peak. I got to talk to some of the locals about their conditions, like how the younger ones are moving away from the village to farm for others and since then the “career shift” endangered this protected site. I talked about the litter I see along the trails, how they were able to bring the fridge with such small trails, how they went to school, and so on.
My trek to Banaue Rice Terraces made me realize how much I was scared of ledges and yes, even if I don’t want to admit it, heights (but not so much I tell myself). But I enjoyed myself all throughout the trip and I’m very confident I would love to go back there again to conquer my fear and to conquer this challenge for myself. There are small successes in life that you keep on fighting for despite the challenges. I wish to come back and face those ledges again and perhaps make it the entire way without having a case of vertigo and make it to the peak with my camera. All the while I blamed the shoes I was wearing for making my footing slippery but maybe it’s my nerves that made it “slippery”. The next few times I climb a mountain again (especially the rocky parts) I might find myself conquering my fears and becoming as sure-footed as the dog and the chicken who jumped those ledges with perfect ease. A few more mountains to climb, and I’m hoping to have at least conquered my fear of ledges.
It’s not only in cases like these where despite fear and challenges you feel a certain win, a certain glory and a certain sense of fulfillment. In every day life, when plans that we create for ourselves work, when we face the worthy battles that even if we don’t reach the top, we feel a sense of fulfillment that makes us feel successful. Then we don’t stop there, we look for other things to conquer.
The rice paddies look small, but it is in fact, taller than 6 feet and the path way small. (photos by one of the people we met during the Banaue-Sagada trip.)