My time in Manila was actually sandwiched around a couple day trip to northern Luzon (the principal island in the Philippines, and where Manila is located). The object of the trip was the town of Banaue, and the 2,000 year old rice terraces that surround it.
There was a bit of concern that going in the winter would deprive us of a view of the terraces in their greenest- and most impressive- slate. When we went, they did back the neon green of later in the year, when the new shoots are beginning to spring forth, but there was plenty of greenery to spare, and I can’t complain about the view we got.
The first day we spent hiking up to the several viewpoints of the Banaue terraces that line the road out of it. Each successive view was more and more impressive as the panorama unfurled itself a little more each time. Along the way we ran into some of the native tribesmen of the area, the Ifugao, dressed up in their traditional clothing. They hang out at the viewpoints all day, charging for pictures, but they were full of interesting information and never pushy, which was rare for the tourist areas we visited in the country.
Once we reached the top of the road, we decided to go along with a guide and take the long way back to town- through the terraces themselves and a smattering of small villages scattered among them. The hike actually reminded me quite a bit of Peru, especially trudging through the green fields and up the rocky paths of the town I lived in for two years- Madrigal. Even the tiny hamlets we passed through had a similar smell to my host family’s house- a mixture of burnt wood, dirt, and day-old rice that was unmistakable and deeply nostalgic.
One difference- this hike involved a lot more teetering, particularly when width of the terraces thinned to an eighth of those pictured above.
The next day we set off for Batad, which boasts your more typical stone-walled terraces (as opposed to Banaue’s mud-walled ones, which being 2000 years old are flat-out amazing), but with a more spectacular setting. The steep rise of the terraces against a backdrop of low, forested mountains reminded me of the area around Macchu Picchu. While Batad doesn’t quite have the stunning dramatics of the Peruvian wonder, it’s beautiful in its own right.
After taking in the sight, we hiked down several hundred steps to a waterfall that was tucked away below the town. Even in the ‘winter’ the hike was plenty hot and humid, and it was amazingly refreshing to take a dip in the cool waters below the cascade.
Enjoying a hot bowl of pork sinigang and a cold San Miguel and basking in the lingering chill of the swim and the tingling exhaustion of my well-worked muscles was one of the most restful experiences of my entire trip.