Friday, January 21, 2011

Climbed my first mountain

...Okay, so not exactly, since there is no such thing as Mount Batad, but getting to and from the place of Batad in Ifugao territory and trekking her steep sides and carved terraces was a mountainous experience, and it's one off my bucket list.

I was so afraid before the trip. Only God really knows how fearful I was the few days beforehand, and how, very partial, tiny and minuscule, I kinda wanted to find a way out of it. I think it's why, on the day of departure, when my "friends" (I put you under quotes because it was not funny) decided to pull a fast one on me and said the trip was canceled... dagnabit, I readily believed. Although there was a tang of pain at the same time, you know? Something broke in me when the thought of not getting away from the city seemed true.

Buti na lang it was joke. I swear it wasn't funny, but when they admitted it was just a prank to get me all panicked and crazy, reality struck. I was climbing my mountain. Batad is one of my dream destinations. I read about the place in some obscure travel club; Batad boasted of the amphitheater rice terraces, luscious greens, colder-than-Baguio weather and the majestic Tappia Falls. After that one write-up, I was convinced I had to go there and see it's beauty firsthand.

I still just can't believe I have. It's no leisure trip, I tell you. If you're thinking about milk and tea with your buttered toast as you take in the view... *BLEH*! So wrong!

Getting there is an adventure in itself. We took the Flo'ridah bus from Manila (Sampaloc) to Banaue from 10:00pm to 6 in the morning. It was not a good night's sleep, even though I was dead as a rock practically the whole way. OH! And one particular province (you know who you are!) really riled me up with a particular provincial ordinance. You cannot ban the simple joys of people! Heartless! You're as cold as your weather.

But anyway... the bus ride ended on a high note. The sun was just brightening the horizon when I peeked out my window and I got the most gorgeous first glimpse of the terraces. They're HUGE! And they're right outside my window. Imagine this: if the bus stopped and I got off, I could hop in one and plant rice away. They were so close, so there, so real! The rice terraces are beautiful to behold. How our ancient brothers and sisters even thought of building them centuries ago, and how their children are still keeping their work alive today... Amazing!

However, Banaue was only the drop off point. After a quick breakfast with a view, we were on a 4-wheel drive jeepney and it was another hour or so of ultra rough road up to Saddle. The "road" was concrete in some places and mud in others. It was not an easy trip either, but nothing would top what came next. When we got to the jeep's final destination, Saddle, we had to trek down the mountains to get to our final destination, Batad. An hour and a half later, with countless "are-we-there-yets" and waterbreaks in our belt, we were there.

Bus-Jeep-Trek was worth it. The view Batad offers is breathtaking, and the hospitality of our host, Tito Ramon of Ramon's Homestay, quickly melted the stress of travel away. I had a lot of firsts in this little adventure, too. First time to experience minimal butiki presence in the province. Boracay had more lizards than Batad! First time to feast on roasted marshmallows. Nom-nom-nom is all I can say. Of course, where else do you roast marshmallows but over a bonfire. Though if was small, my first bonfire was cozy and surrounded by good friends and love. But the best of all firsts is, what can ever top you... my first waterfall!

Tappia Falls is another two hour trek away from Ramon's Homestay. Tucked away inside the winding curves of the trail, Tappia Fall is the huge crash of a treasure in the mountains. She's beautiful, just as awe-inspiring and majestic as all the write-ups have harped her to be. Wait, no. She's better!

These scenery could have come straight out of a Tolkien novel. The dwarfs were probably deep in the mountain, mining their gems and ruffling their beards, and the fall's mouth was their main gateway. Frodo and Sam can easily be using the cloak of invisibility gifted by Galladriel to sneak in for a shortcut. Gollum could be inside with the ring of power!

Of course we didn't just stare at her from a distance. That pool she gathers 'neath her, we swam in it. Those boulders you need to cross to get there, we traversed them. Best part, no one was injured on the way and back!

My first trip to the mountains is perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better experience and I thank my friends for bringing me there. Yes, to be afraid at first is normal (*tilt head*) and to get over the fear is enriching. I discovered limits and thresholds I never knew I could challenge before and only emerged a better individual at the end of it.

Batad, I'll be back. As La Union is my home by the sea, you are my home in the mists.

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