Saturday, April 11, 2015

BATAD RICE TERRACES

Location: Brgy. Batad, Banaue, Ifugao, Philippines

Batad is one of the 18 barangays of the Municipality of Banaue. Banaue, on the other hand, is one of the 11 municipalities of the province of Ifugao of Northern Luzon. Batad is famous for its majestic rice terraces. These rice terraces of Batad along with Bangaan (both in Banaue), Mayoyao Rice Terraces (Mayoyao Municipality), Hungduan Rice Terraces (Hungduan Rice Terraces) and Nagacadan Rice Terraces (Kiangan Municipality) were inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site under the collective name “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.” In 1995.

The majestic Batad Rice Terraces


Like any other rice terraces in Ifugao, Batad Rice Terraces was also built 2,000 years ago equipped with strong stone walls by means of primitive tools and early methods in order to maximize the use of land space.

The first rice terraces which can be viewed 5 minutes before Batad proper


“Historically speaking, the rice terraces of the Cordilleras, including that of Batad, are the only monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by colonial cultures. Owing to the difficult terrain, the Cordillera tribes are among the few peoples of the Philippines who have successfully resisted any foreign domination and have preserved their authentic tribal culture. The history of the terraces is intertwined with that of its people, their culture, and their traditional practices.”(Wikipedia)

A closer look of the tribal village in the middle of Batad Rice Terraces


Indeed, visiting Batad is such a prized event as it is regarded as the most beautiful rice terraces not only in the Philippines but also with those of Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand not to mention its unique culture and being endowed with such a cool climate all year round.

The expansive Batad rice terraces scenery from Hillside Inn Restaurant (Model: Cynthia Manalad)


Being based in Metropolitan Manila, I traveled by airconditioned bus for a distance of 355 kilometers or a minimum of 7 hours with the Ohayami Bus Liner as my choice of transport from its Sampaloc terminal on its last trip at 11:00 P.M. for a one-way fare of P450 (As of this posting).

While at the second highest terraces viewpoint


The following day, at around 6:00 A.M., I arrived in Banaue to have our breakfast at Halfway Lodge and Restaurant. Food is affordable at a minimum meal of P85. It was also there that we contracted a jeepney to be chartered at P150 per head for one-way. We were given our tour guide (which requires one guide for every 8 persons) in the person of an accommodating and honest Jeonel Dumar with +639261646299. By contacting him, he can arrange for your transportation going to Batad. He was our tour guide for 2 days from Banaue to Batad and vice versa for an amount of P1,000.

Still at the second highest viewpoint of the terraces


We had a 50-minute jeepney ride from Banaue to the junction of Batad. From the junction, we had a downhill trek of 30 minutes going to the saddle and another 40 minutes from the saddle to Batad proper. Five minutes before Batad proper, we happened to drop by at a shanty store with a background of rice terraces and an erected marker of Batad which revealed that the Batad Amphitheater Rice Terraces is at 1,100 meters above sea level. We bought some cold drinks there to quench our thirst. Fresh buco fruit was also available at P35 per piece.

A wider angle of the rice terraces amphitheatre


Upon arrival in Batad, our tour guide directed us to pay for an environmental fee of P50 per head and we registered our names there with some personal information in their logbook. Then, just a few meters away, we trailed down concrete stairs of 25 steps if I can still recall to Hillside Inn where we were booked earlier. We paid thru Fredelyn Addug Sanchez in her BDO Account No. 3940677609 where we communicated thru the inn's email address at hillside_inn@yahoo.com. We are charged for P250 per head per day. Our accommodation were simple rooms with two single beds with no amenities to enjoy. No TV and the comfort rooms are common which can be found separate from the main building. There is one comfort room and bathroom with automatic hot shower. We were at the second floor while the restaurant was on the third floor and there are still accommodation at the fourth floor.

The rice terraces in more rich green color


Batad generally has no signal connection with all networks though there is electricity. However, there are no outlets in the guests' rooms. Charging the cellphones and other gadgets are done in the restaurant's counter where each gadget costs P25 for charging.

A closer shot of the rice terraces


As to food, there can be good choice of menu to choose from even at the Hillside Inn. But you can also go to Simons for their great-tasting pizza. Meals starts from P120 and above. Hot water during breakfast charges P5 per glass or cup. Visiting Simon’s View Point Inn and Pizza Restaurant, we learned that they also charge P250 per head for their accommodation with an option to have a double-bed or a single room. There is a large outside verandah with great views over Batad from which to enjoy your meals or drinks. The verandah feels a bit like a construction site which is the only negative. Their menu is extensive and the food and service are good. All bathrooms are common. Electricity is also 24 hours. To place a reservation for accommodation, you can contact its proprietor, Ezereel Illag Immotna at +639305077467 and +09192176986.

Trekking down the terraces leading to the tribal village


Accommodations in Batad is called homestay with no amenities to enjoy. Aside from the Hillside Inn and Simon's View Point Inn, there are also: Batad Pension and Guesthouse, Rita’s Mountain View Inn and Restaurant, Ramon Homestay, Gilbert Homestay, Foreigner's Inn, Cristina’s Main Village Inn and Restaurant, Waterfallside Lodge, Samson Inn and Batad Kadangyan Lodges. For more information, you can search the link of Batad Accommodation Guide.

Jeonel Dumar - a native of Batad and our very honest guide


Guides are a big help to the guests as the former can help save time in locating places with accuracy considering that you need to trek uphill and downhill in very narrow rice paddies of the rice terraces. Falling from stone wall paddies may not be a good experience as they have an average of 3 meters high and rice fields are wet and the clay is sticky. Who would get you down and pull you up from the dirty clay with sucking leeches abound. To save time, you better have a guide for non-athletic people may find it difficult to be trekking long due to being lost to their desired destination. Guides can even tell you which foot of yours to step first to avoid being out of balance.

An invitation to the hanging bridge


On the first day of our tour, our guide toured us to the second highest viewpoint of the terraces. The weather was perfect and the paddies were dry as their was no rain, the fact that it was summer time. At around 4:00 P.M., my companions wanted to go back to our accommodation at Hillside Inn for they got exhausted trekking through the terraces with downhill and uphill variation. So, I decided to have a different route alone since I really wanted to go the tribal village in the middle of the terraces. It was a good experience to see them and the way they live and their culture as well.

The hanging bridge


As I am about to go back to Hillside Inn, I saw a directional board going to the hanging bridge and I was so excited to see the place. I asked a couple of villagers around where I can find the place and I assumed that one kilometer was really just the distance I have to trek down. As I went along, I realized it was not really one kilometer because as per Mathematical distance computation, there are 1,000 meters in a kilometer but my calculation has exceeded far from that distance. I trekked through the long and deep trail going down to the river. The sound of a rushing water which I knew was of a river has even stirred up my adrenalin. I almost ran down and just to find out that the place was really hidden. It was far really far and there was nobody to address my query. Anyway, I was then determined to reach the place and I did it. Well, as the whole placed unfolded to my eyes, I realized my effort was really worth it. As I took pictures, a native suddenly appeared from nowhere and I asked him to take me a couple of shots and he just disappeared in the thick bushes then. As I climbed back the almost steep trail, I was running like a marathon gasping for my lost breath for it was getting dark and as I kept on counting the elevated concrete stairs leading to my accommodation where it was like at 792 not to include the flat surfaces which I have to take by my long strides of steps.

The cultural down at Mang Ramon's Homestay: the dancing guests with the native dancers


After our dinner at Simon's Viewpoint Pizza Restaurant, our group proceed to Mang Ramon's place to watch a cultural show where it was organized provided the guests can raise P3,500 which will be paid to Mang Ramon. The show has two parts, the first one is the introduction of dancers and their traditional costume: who wears it as in a social class, the name of the costume and its materials and followed by their cultural dance around a bonfire. The second part is the guests will dance along the native dancers and the donation box will be passed for the guests to donate. Earlier, however, the audience guests were able to raise P2,100 just for the show to push through.

Taken at Hillside Inn restaurant balcony while having breakfast (Model: Teresa Santiago)


The best thing I like staying at Hillside Inn is when I am dining on its restaurant for a meal since the total picture of Batad rice terraces will really be yours. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best time of the day to view the rice terraces as it is on its most greenest color. It really feels good experiencing such.

Just about to cross the terraces leading to Tappiya Water Falls


Heading to Tappiya Water Falls was really a challenge as one has to cross the entire expanse of Batad terraces from end to end and down to a very deep gorge. Really so deep that going up is a tenfold challenge. But experiencing the said water falls is a priceless experience that one should have in his lifetime. It has its own charm as compared to other water falls of the Philippines and Uganda where I was able to visit already.

Descending the terraces and heading to the Waterfalls Jump-off Point


It is advisable to visit Tappiya Water Falls early in the morning as it is so hot crossing the open fields of the terraces. To avoid being dehydrated, it is advisable to carry with you enough water. Anyway, the tour guide can carry your food and water as part of their service. And would you believe that we passed through a water source where it can be safe for drinking. It has been tested to contain very high percentage of alkaline. In fact, I have been getting my drinking water from this source the Day 1 we arrived in Batad.

The terraces taken near the Waterfallside Lodge (Model: Ana Christina Sison)


Batad Rice Terraces can be taken from different angles. And I endlessly experimented which can be the best angle shot that I can get. The photo above was taken at 2:30 P.M. just as we had a long rest after ascending the deep long gorge coming from Tappiya Water Falls. The pictures of Tappiya Water Falls is featured in another post in this blog.

Last glimpse of Batad Rice Terraces


I wish Batad is just one short ride from my residence so that I will always have the opportunity to unwind where just by mere looking on its amazing features, you become refresh and all emotional residues are relieved. By next time that I return, I will scale to its highest point where I can take a total picture of the terraces without any structural barriers.

While Batad has its own charm, I suggest that you also consider Sagada-Banaue-Bontoc-Benguet Tour which will definitely be another vibrant and exciting travel experience.

The following is the summary of my expenses in Philippine Peso. One US Dollar to Peso has an average foreign exchange of P42:

SN Particulars Amount
1. Round Trip Ohayami Airconditioned bus fare from Manila to Banaue at P450 for one-way (Contact Number for Reservation - +639276493055)
900
2. Accommodation for 2 days at Hillside Inn at P250 per day
500
3. Round Trip jeepney fare from Banaue to Batad Saddle at P150 one-way. This is a per head computation since the entire jeepney was chartered by our group with 14 of us
300
4. Environmental Fee - Batad
50
5. Two meals in Banaue at Lunch at Day 1 and Dinner at Day 3 at P85 per meal
170
6. Meals in Batad: Dinner at Day 1, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner at Day 2 and Breakfast at Day 3 for P120 each meal. Extra rice which is organic brown rice is P25 per order. With this, I did not order extra rice anymore
600
7. Hot water for Hot chocolate for Breakfast in Hillside Inn for two at P5 each
10
8. Mobile phone charging fee at Hillside Inn for two times at P25 each
50
9. Buco Fruit at resting stops for two stops for P35 each
70
10. Share for the tour guiding services which availed from Day 1 to Day 3 where we were in a group of 14 though the agreed price was only P1,000 and the excess was given as tip. Guests has the option to ask the guide to render porter services for one backpack at P150 for one way only
100
11. Share in Mang Ramon's Cultural show
100
12. Various grocery items for snacks, mineral water and other necessities
650
13. Comfort room usage fee during bus stops on board for Banaue and going back to Manila for P5 each
10
14. Lunch while at Hapao Trip with extra rice
80
TOTAL
3,590


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

KOTA KELUARGA (PHILIPPINES)

Location: Laiya Ibabao, San Juan, Batangas, Philippines

Kota Keluarga has a pristine beach where beachcombers would love to spend a great weekend or holiday escapade. Guests who wanted to hold their shindig in this resort are assured of exclusivity as this private cove is only available to a select few. That is, for the club members and their friends. However, the non-members can still avail of the resort packages thru its Manila and Batangas Booking Offices. The best of Kota Keluarga is its Klub Keluarga Resort which is on the coastal edge of Costa de Madera - a 380-hectare sprawling estate development that is transforming into a premiere self-contained, high-value leisure community in near-perfect harmony with nature.

The beachfront white sand stretch of Klub Keluarga Resort


Costa de Madera has two beach resorts on its beachfront, namely: the Klub Kelaurga Resort and the Parasol Beach Resort. The former has its cabana-type accommodation while the latter has the container-van type accommodation. Parasol is closer to the massive cliff walls.

A highly-secured estate main gate


Kota Keluarga is a minimum of 2 hours drive from Manila wherein its residential and commercial complex estate development is owned by Costa de Madera Corporation, a holding company jointly owned by the Gualberto family and the Metro Pacific Corporation and it is being developed by Pueblo Niño Development, Inc.

Part of the main entrance facade


Its impressive architectural design of its main gate would reveal much that this residential estate is really for the rich and famous secured in a very serene milieu.

Developed roads and pavements of Costa de Madera


As one enters the Nirmala Grove, roads, lamp posts and pavements can be seen which is evident that millionaire’s rows of elegant villas are soon to rise forming a community on a lap of luxury.

The Naisha 2-storey Model Unit with 90 sq. meter floor area


A model house showcases what it takes to be a real estate owner at Costa de Madera which is partly located in the barangays of Laiya Ibabao and Barualte of San Juan town of the province of Batangas. The Naisha villas have practical features of a Southeast Asian architecture. Naisha is just one of the eight models of villas to choose from that mix aesthetics and function in a seamless elegant style. Other model units as per the estate master plan are: Ananda, Poonam, Amiya, Vamana, Santoso, Kimaya and Sovanna. The villas let in cool ventilation and allow space flexibility that gives in to your tropical paradise whims.At the backdrop of these soon-to-rise luxury houses is a refreshing scenery of a mountain which provides a cool mountain breeze most especially at night.

The air-conditioned cabana accommodation


After passing thru Naisha model unit is another 10-minutes drive cutting through a dusty road where along with it is a coconut plantation. Finally, to reach the beach resort, the car has to trail with a road with a deep drop leading to the cove. After parking, guests are given a welcome drink and they are accompanied to their respective reserved accommodation.

Thick and large sandbags serve as resting pillows and chairs for guests


Cabana is a good choice of accommodation good for three persons but can accommodate a maximum four people. Its location is just a few steps leading to the beach. Aside from sandbags, beach tables are also provided where food and other stuff can be placed. By the time, our group has arrived, it was a searing afternoon and so we decided to stay under the shades of the beach huts.

Early afternoon group socials


After a refreshing swim from the resort's pool, our group started to have the early socials fueled with a slight boozing. I do not drink alcohol but I can get along well with drinkers very much engaged in light conversation. Boozing continued until 6:30 P.M. where we had our dinner.

Scenic sunset conveniently visible from our cabana


Sunsets turned people to be romantic and it did not spare our group where we also patiently wait from where we are from our cabana. In between chatting and boozing, we delightedly waited for the sunset to set on its complete rest. As the sun dramatically sets on its rest, our camera grinds unsparingly just to get the best shot.

The resort's dining hall


Food served thru buffet was great and was really worth for the amount we paid. The staff were quite accommodating and polite giving us the best service. A glass of soft drink or ice tea was served by the attending waiters. Distilled water for drinking was also served to us upon request. Dinner was served starting from 6:00 until 9:00 P.M. and so guests do not crowd at the dining hall.

The Juice and Spirits Bar


After a delightful dinner, we stayed at the Juice and Spirits Bar just along the poolside over a long chat and very casual conversation. The dimly lighted pool was quite inviting for a night swim. This silent invitation is oftentimes irresistible for the guests.

A warm swim in the pool


As the evening grew, the water in the pool retains its warm temperature embracing more guests for a swim. Others would prefer to have a night swimming on the beach while others stay under the beach huts, beach decks and their accommodations for casual chat and boozing for most of the groups who stay in the resort.

An endless evening socials


It was not really the booze that made the socials interesting to our group but rather the great company which made the socials get going unendingly. Exciting card games with truth and consequence punishment, or drinking a sip of liquor as a punishment made every part of the group be highly active and widely awake to avoid ourselves from being punished.

An early morning walk by the beach


An early morning walk by the beach is definitely rewarding. While it is not hot, the sea breeze is refreshing and the sun which is about to shine is therapeutic. I was the earliest to sleep at 11 P.M. while the rest of my group went to bed at 2:00 A.M. and so I was alone to do the morning walk since everybody was still sleeping.

Yoga by the beach


As I approached the massive rock wall at the end of the Parasol Beach Resort, I saw a group of ladies who had their yoga session. Their eyes were closed while they do their yoga session and I was watching them with envy in my heart. I wish I was one of them who can freely do the yoga exercises.

Beyond the massive rock wall


Not contented of what I saw, I trekked beyond the point where I saw the group of ladies having yoga and I saw a green paradise enclosed in massive rock walls and I suppose, this will also be good for a camping site.

Preparation for a beach wedding ceremony


Walking back to our cabana, I passed through resort's personnel of Parasol putting on decorations and designs for a beach wedding ceremony which will be held early afternoon of that day. Indeed, celebrities and other top personalities prefer to have their shindig in this resort for they are assured of privacy.

The reception hall of the beach wedding at Parasol Beach Resort


I suppose, a grand wedding was to be held as evident from the set-up I saw. I identified then a famous interior designer and a florist giving instructions the resort's personnel. As far as I can recall the beach wedding of the celebrity Aiza Seguerra and Liza Dino was held in this same resort.

A morning swim at the pool after a beach swim


A beach swim was very much inviting early in the morning until our group decided to have our buffet breakfast. We were not in a hurry anyway as the usual schedule of the breakfast is from 6:00 to 9:00 A.M. Still wet coming from the beach, we had our breakfast and immediately after, we proceed to the pool for a more refreshing swim.

The tropical-inspired cabanas of Klub Keluarga


Indeed, our group's stay in the resort was quite fairly good and worth coming back. The food was really great. A two thumbs-up for the facilities and amenities of the resort.

The following are the resort's amenities:

Juice and Spirits Bar
10 Beach huts
Shower rooms and toilets
Restaurant
Halo-halo station
Adult and kiddie pools
Grilling stations
Beachfront decks

Guests can have the alternative to enjoy the following activities:

Kayaking
Beach volleyball
Swimming

Other Concerns:

Guests should know that there is no signal from all networks. Secondly, cabanas do not have TV or Video Player. Thus, you can have the option to bring your own laptop with downloaded videos. Anyway, there is electricity and cellphones or any electrical gadget can be charged. Thirdly, guests should equipped themselves with necessary things they need so that they will not buy inside the resort as they are too expensive. However, bringing in wines and liquors have corkage fees as well as bringing food may have its own corresponding fees.

Below are the current rental rates of the resort



For more information, use the following contact details:

KLUB KELUARGA: http://www.pndi.com.ph/klub_keluarga_page.html
PARASOL BEACH: http://www.pndi.com.ph/parasol_page.html

KLUB KELUARGA and PARASOL BEACH RESORTS

MANILA (PHILIPPINES) BOOKING OFFICE:
02-801-9890 / 0918-959-2596/ 0917-885-8887
(Monday-Fridays: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm)

BATANGAS (PHILIPPINES) BOOKING OFFICE:
02-514-2819/09994774239
(Weekends and Holidays)