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One of the most breathtaking trails in the Philippines can be discovered in the interior villages of Banaue, high up in the Ifugao hinterlands. Tucked into these mountains are grand rice terraces, gorgeous waterfalls, lush forests and an ancient culture still steeped in its time-honored ways. The trek demands effort as the path wanders through valleys and up across high mountain passes. But the rewards are larger-than-life postcards, where the landscapes and memories are etched forever in the minds of those who take the less travelled path.
There are numerous trails linking the many settlements of the Ifugao highlands. Primarily used by the locals travelling to and from the central market in Banaue, these footpaths also serve as scenic routes for intrepid travellers seeking to explore the grandeur of the Cordilleras. Here?s a comprehensive three-day hike starting in UNESCO heritage site Batad and continuing on to the traditional villages of Cambulo and Pula and finally back to Banaue.
How to do it:
Get to Banaue via the 10pm Autobus Liner. Its Manila terminal is located in Sampaloc, along Espana Avenue, near the University of Santo Tomas. There is normally just one bus daily for Banaue, though additional trips are added on certain holidays. Just the same, try to reserve seats a few days before your scheduled departure. As of March 2005, the fare is P342. Expect to arrive in Banaue at 7am the following day. (The air conditioning can sometimes sink temperatures to arctic levels, so be sure to have your sweaters or blankets.)
Once in Banaue town center, look for jeepneys on their way to Batad Junction. Ask for other tourists headed for Batad. Chances are you will save money if you can negotiate with more people for a single jeep. On good days (during the summer/dry months), jeepneys can ride up to the saddle point. This will save you one hour or so of walking uphill, though would of course cost extra. Chartering a tricycle for the junction can cost you P250 or more. Haggling would be fine. There are regular jeeps plying the route to Mayoyao and Bangaan, though these arrive in Banaue at around 9am and don?t start their way back (passing the junction) until after lunch. Batad Saddle point is one hour from Banaue poblacion (though this depends on the condition of the road).
At the saddle, you may either follow the stone stairs or the winding path down to Batad proper. Whichever way you take makes little difference as both converge farther on. There are several choices of accommodation in Batad. Hillside Inn, Rita?s, Simon?s, Batad Pensionne are all located on a foothill overlooking Batad. Foreigner?s Inn and Green Hill are located down in the village proper itself. Hillside Inn would probably be the recommended choice as its balconies afford the best unobstructed views of Batad?s Rice Terraces. It cost P100/per head/per night.
Tappia waterfalls is about one hour of walking away. You will pass through the village center, across the amphitheater terracing, and finally down a trail by the mountain side. The hundred feet high falls thunders down to a numbingly cold pool. Take a dip in the chilly waters.
The following day, start your way for Cambulo. Amble to the top of rice terraces and cross the high ridge to the northwest. Ask the locals you meet for directions. Two hours to Cambulo is generous and you should find yourself in Cambulo Friends Inn for lunch. You may opt to have some of your provisions cooked if nothing on the menu attracts you.
The trail to Pula begins with a walk up cantilever steps to the middle levels of the rice paddies You will pass by two bridges. The second hanging bridge spans Wang-wang river and also directly brings you to a tall flight of stairs. Take the stairs to the house far above and ignore the intersecting trails. Once at the top, follow the trail to the left to the small collection of houses on the rocky ledge. You can verify directions here. Continue along the stone path as you cut across the valley. The walk is long but the scenery of all the rice terraces carved out of the mountainside is simply stunning. Precarious at certain sections, trekking poles will be handy in steadying your balance along the narrow path.
If you leave Cambulo just after lunch, you should have no problem arriving at Pula with daylight to spare. Pula is just a number of houses nestled in the middle of a mountain. Look for elderly Cham-ag Bentican or his daughter Aurelia. Their home has rooms for travellers for P100/per head/per night. Aurelia can also cook for you. Although Pula, like Cambulo, has yet to be serviced by proper electricity, Cham-ag?s house has solar charged batteries to power the lights at night. If you arrive with time to spare in the afternoon (and if you still have energy for a little bit more walking), you may cool-off at the small waterfalls and swimming hole down the river.
On your last day, start early and head back to Banaue. From Cham-ag?s house, take the path downhill to the river (passing by the falls) and get to the trail up to the mountain ridge. The climb is quite an effort but the views of Pula and it rice terraces will be awe-inspiring. From the shed on top, the trail is fairly easy as the way snakes under cool forest cover. Continue on to Awon-Igin, the PNP detachment along the National Highway, where you can hop on jeeps going to Banaue. (If you?re lucky, you can hitch a free ride on the trucks bound for the poblacion.)
The Autobus liner leaves for Manila at 5:30. If you can?t wait, you can take a jeepney to Bagabag or Solano (fast food chains and ATMs here) in Nueva Vizcaya and transfer to a Manila-bound bus.
These are generous hiking durations. A physically fit individual with a good sense of direction will probably need less time.
Junction to Batad proper
2 hours (if your ride takes you to the saddle, save 1 hour)
Batad to Tappia Falls
Batad to Cambulo
Cambulo to Pula
Pula to National Highway
5 hours (Awon-Igin)
Awon-Igin to Banaue Pob.
1 hour (try waiting for ride to cut your travel time to 20 mins)
It is a good idea to reserve your Autobus tickets (for your return trip to Manila) as soon as you arrive in Banaue.
As of early 2005, there still no banks or ATMs in Banaue, so make sure to bring enough cash.
Mountain guides are a big help. Though you can probably make it on your own, guides not only know the easiest and most scenic trails, but will also fascinate you with information about the customs and traditions of the Ifugao as well as the geography of the land. They can also offer to carry your bags as well as cook for you in Pula (where there are no formal inns). Their fees are quite expensive, but for those who can afford it, definitely worth the price. Dereck Gano is well-known and equally well-recommended.
Food in Batad, and more so in Cambulo and Pula, is limited to canned good stuff and fresh vegetables. You may wish to bring some food with you and have it prepared if you don?t want to be bored with the monotonous fare. The local rice though shouldn?t be missed.
Heat protection is necessary as much of the trail is exposed. Bring your bush hats, sunglasses, arm warmers, and use your sunscreen.
Please respect the norms of the place. Ask permission before taking photographs of people. Never spoil the children with money or candy, even if they ask you for it. Many of the locals get up early to work at the paddies, so keep voices down as the night deepens. Be sure to be kind to everyone you meet along the way; they will provide you with directions and help you should you lose your way.
Bottled water and other beverages are expensive. Bring water containers as there?s plenty of mountain tap water available, especially in the villages. Along the trail, you can spot pipes continually gushing with water. These are generally safe to drink.
Flashlights or headlamps are necessary.
Waypoint narrative by: Jay_J 2005 follow Jay_J on Facebook
Additional narratives or blogs:
We had the same itinerary in our trip last March, 2008. Here are just some additional comments:
A guide from Batad to Pula initially charged us P1200 but we decided to pay P1500 since he is gracious enough to bring us to his relatives in Banaue town proper so we can take a bath. Even at that rate, they say that it is still cheap compared to what other guides would charge because that route is mainly taken by foreigners. It helps to have a guide since during our trek for some reasons, it's mainly kids that we encounter in the trail. It's hard to ask for direction since they don't speak Tagalog nor Ilocano.
Maybe trek from Cambulo to Pula can be done in 3.5 hours, i suggest that you allot more time. The best views can be seen during the trek. There's not much to see in Pula. 4-5 hours would be a relaxing journey.
There are leeches (limatik) in the trail from Pula to the highway so be ready for it.
Just my suggestion for travelers:
What i particularly liked about Pula is that it's rice terraces are well maintained unlike in Batad where most of them are reinforced by concrete. This is mainly because Pula's main livelihood is still agriculture. Hope the travelers keep it that way and let's help preserve their culture. Batad is way toooooo commercialized to my disappointment.
By: Lester_Sablay 2008