Three days before our Manila arrival, we tried to book seats for Ohayami Bus which offers a direct trip to Banaue, but unfortunately all tickets were sold out fast—a common issue if you travel on holidays. Our next option was via Baguio.
After an hour of waiting in line for a taxi in NAIA, there was a heavy traffic on the way to Victory Liner Bus Terminal in Pasay and we arrived almost midnight only to find out that there’s another looong waiting line for Baguio-bound buses.
To say it was a total headache would not be an overstatement. It was a Friday and it was a holiday; it looked like everyone wants a breath of fresh air over a long weekend. There was a long queue of chance passengers like us who weren’t able to book ahead for the trip.
What we did?
We took a non-direct trip using this route: Manila > Dau > Baguio > Banaue.
We decided to do this instead of getting bored waiting for a Baguio-bound bus ride which may take until morning judging from the number of passengers present in the bus station that time.
Now that we’re able to reach Baguio, we got unlucky again. We’re not able to catch the 9am Banaue-bound bus trip. So we stayed in Baguio for about 10 hours. And because we didn’t get enough sleep during the earlier bus travel, we took a power nap a short while after our quick and healthy breakfast at a cheap hostel.
Gladly, our energy level was reset after getting some sleep and we did a bit of a walking tour around the summer capital. I won’t share about it here because we were only killing time and just waiting for the evening to come so we can hop on another overnight bus ride stationed near Burnham Park. Again we spent all night getting a disrupted sleep onboard a deluxe bus. It was almost six in the morning when we arrived in Banaue.
Our day in the mountain province went by so fast. It was packed with sightseeing activities via customized tricycle tour. We’re grateful to witness what this countryside can offer within a day.
Ifugao Rice Terraces
Philippine Cordilleras has 5 terraces listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Two are found in Banaue: Bangaan Rice Terraces and Batad Rice Terraces, both require some easy hiking to witness its magnificent paddy fields. Also on the list is Mayoyao Rice Terraces which is accessible and can be squeezed into a day tour because it is not very far from Banaue. The other two gorgeous terraces are Hungduan Rice Terraces and Nagacadan Rice Terraces (in Kiangan) which we weren’t able to visit with our limited time.
With the onset of the planting season, Banaue is looking fabulous with some parts of the terraces sporting golden green. Although the most beautiful to photograph among the terraces, Banaue Rice Terraces is not enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its surrounding modern structures.
The fact that the terraces were hand-built two millennia ago using primitive tools is awe-inspiring. It is truly an irreplaceable cultural and natural treasure in the country, a product of the engineering ingenuity by highland people in far-flung villages without any colonial infiltration.
We’ve all read this in our history text books back in grade school days. This has become a popular tourist destination known for its dramatic landscape of stone-walled terraces and greatly admired for its sustainable use of the natural resources.
Until today modern Ifugaos still practice organic farming which does not only bring food to their family table but also help generate a bulk of the town’s income from its tourism which help fund conservation and farming projects for the terraces. However, research found out that tourism does not directly impact the income of the farmers themselves but rather those who owns inns or homestays and the tour guides.
When to Visit
To fully enjoy the countryside and to find some peace and quiet, we intentionally didn’t visit during the “green season”. We want to avoid the flocking of tourists who all want to marvel at the verdant rice fields when the crops are in the middle of growing. So we came to Batad during the “brown season” —the time of the year the farmers just finished harvesting, they already cleaned the fields and they are about to start planting.
Banaue. It can be visited anytime of the year. However, if you want to catch the terraces during planting season, go here between between February and March or during harvest season between June and July.
Batad. The paddy fields in Batad are verdant green starting March to May when the the rice are growing and also between October to November. Batad is only 21 km away from the Banaue, around 40 minutes ride from the town center.
If you want to avoid the crowd, don’t visit here between late March and early June or between late December and early January. But the tradeoff is that you might not witness the terraces in beautiful lush green during off season.
During our August visit, only a few tourists were present. If Banaue paddy fields are bursting in bright new green, Batad fields are brown this time of the year.
Typically 15°C – 25°C during the day but the weather is mostly unpredictable. It may be cool in early morning and then it starts to warm towards noon. It is chilly when it suddenly rains.
We went here a couple of days when typhoon Ineng stuck Northwest Luzon. The weather was about 15°C early in the morning and got warmer past 9 o’clock when we started our sightseeing tour in Banaue. Contrary to expectation, it is warm here but tolerable. It is all about the fresh air softly blowing that makes a huge difference.
A downpour started after we went down the terraces. The heavy rains created what looked like mini waterfalls – the rainwater streaming downslope. We were advised not to walk or stay near the side of the mountain wall because there might be some falling debris. Landslides are not uncommon here, especially after consecutive days of heavy rains.
Hike to Batad
What I enjoyed most was a short hike to Batad. The construction of the concrete road going to Batad village was almost done. Now it only requires around 40 minutes to an hour of hiking to its view deck from the saddle point where vehicles usually end up parking because of how steep the road gets.
Many years ago, some parts of the mountain slope were shaved off with the use of dynamite to construct a road to Batad village. After the main road, you can start hiking down a narrow paved path. As you get nearer to the village, it will be a dirt path.
Upon arriving in the view deck area, you will pay a heritage fee (~P50++) at the Tourist Information Center. There’s an eatery there and for around ~P150++ you can get a decent set meal. I was a bit disappointed because there are many houses here, and down the middle of the fields, but realized, where will the farmers live? Of course, it’s convenient if they live their farms to guard it, for easy access to the farms they are tending.
After enjoying lunch and the overlooking view from the restaurant area, we resume hiking down to Batad’s paddy fields where we met a couple of tourists on their way back from Tappiya falls. We made stops on small native huts which were built several hundred years ago and were all well-preserved.
While our guide Jeffrey was sharing information, I noticed his mouth with red stains. I knew it was not bleeding gums but something he ate or chewed. Locals here practice moma or betel nut chewing. It has psychoactive compounds making it a natural ‘chewable drug’ generally used as a recreational drug like cigarettes, but is said to be more effective in keeping the body warm when the weather is cool.
There are a couple of houses selling handcrafted souvenirs and we watch the artisan villagers making it. I wanted to take pictures of them and their children’s faces, but they were advised to no longer allow it, which I completely understand given the everyday tourist visits with cameras and phones here and there. They want to keep some privacy especially for children growing up. Tourists usually upload and share their photos on social media sites or personal websites for their travel documentation to this beautiful remote village. These photos can stay for eons over the net and community development professionals fear that this will create some psychological impact to these village children in the future when they get older.
It rained hard in the middle of our return hike. Despite the rain, the terraces didn’t lose its grandeur. The overlooking view of the paddy fields from a restaurant was magnificent. Watching the valley getting covered with fog and combine that with the sound of rainshowers provided a pleased and tranquil mood. It was a melancholic setting but beautiful.
On the way back, we encountered some men carrying black pigs on slender bamboos by at least two men. There’s probably a wedding happening tomorrow because native black pigs are part of their wedding ritual, or could be an engagement ceremony. During the wedding feast, the groom is expected to provide 10 to 12 pigs to celebrate with the entire village.
We ended the day soaked in rain and exhausted from all the activities. It was suddenly evening and we had a “candlelight dinner” —not because it was planned, but there was an electricity outage. Blackouts are expected during the rainy season here.
After enjoying a sumptuous dinner in the dark, we went ahead to the bus station to board Dangwa sleeper bus for a direct trip back to Manila. We didn’t stay for the night and in fact, our travel time is longer than the hours spent in Banaue.
It was a bit concerning when our bus didn’t show up at the bus station on time due to a minor landslide. As mentioned, landslides are likely to happen during consecutive days of heavy rain. Because of the danger it presented, we had to do a transfer ride arranged by the bus operator. We crammed inside a jeepney together with other tourists and locals in order board the bus parked a few meters from the landslide area, about 20 minutes away from the bus station.
I didn’t complain. It was difficult for a big bus to pass through the narrow and steep cliff road that’s half-blocked by landslide debris. I’ve heard news of ill-fated buses that fell down a ravine a couple of years ago. One of those was a bus from Florida Lines, owner of Dangwa Tranco. They are more cautious now after all the tragedies. But it wasn’t that scary. The magnificent terraces are worth the long overnight bus rides. Ours was a short getaway, but it was such a memorable one mainly because of the unexpected non-direct trip to Banaue, a more than 12 hour sleep-deprived travel on bumpy roads just to see this beautiful countryside in Northern Philippines.
Manila to Banaue Transportation
Manila to Banaue Bus – Direct Trip
~10 hours bus trip (350 km from Manila)
Ohayami Trans – via Lagawe. You can make a reseravation thru SMS (+639276493055) or through their online booking site:
Fare is P450. Leaves 9pm daily and arrives around 7AM.
Bus Station: Lacson Ave, Sampaloc, Manila (UST area)
Dangwa Transport Co. (affiliate of G.V. Florida Transport) – a deluxe sleeper bus via Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
Contact Numbers: +639228714934 / +63(2)7312879 / +63 (02)781-5849 / +63(02)743-3809
Fare is P530. Leaves 8:45pm daily and arrives around 6am. Has toilet on board.
Bus Station: Sampaloc, Manila (Intersection of A. H. Lacson, Dimasalang, and Nicanor Roxas St. / close to Ohiyami Bus Station)
Manila to Baguio Bus
Victory Liner – Leaves every hour. Terminal in EDSA, Pasay City / Cubao
Other Buses: Genesis/Dagupan Bus/Philippine Rabbit/Saulog Bus
Van for hire (pick bigger van for a comfortable long ride)
Baguio to Banaue Bus
Ohayami Trans Fare is P400. Leaves every 9pm.
A few steps from Chowking or 7/11 building, Burnham Park, Baguio City.
Contact Number: +63916600933
Coda Lines (formerly KMS Lines) Fare: P415. Leaves every 8:00am and 9:30pm.
Also near Chowking or 7/11 in Burnham Park
Contact Number: +639154501209
Baluy. Ifugao Native Hut.
Other Transportation Options from Manila to Banaue
While waiting, before boarding the bus in Pasay terminal, the next person in line started a conversation with us until our chat went about alternatives going to Baguio. He checked the vans parked just a few minutes walk outside Victory Liner Bus Terminal and said that the available ones were smaller sized, non-SUV vans and thus will be very uncomfortable for long trips.
Other routes (requires a lot of transfers):
Board a bus going to either Nueva Viscaya or Vigan/La Union and stop at the bus stop station in Rosario (first town in La Union), the junction going to either straight north to Laoag or west to Nueva Vizcaya is located. It is where most buses stop near Jollibee so you can board another bus going to Baguio from there. From Baguio, ride another bus to Banaue.
If you ride a bus to Nueva Viscaya / Tuguegarao, you need to stop at Bagabag Junction or Solano where you can take a jeepney ride to Banaue.
You can also do other routes, especially if you plan to include Bontoc, Sagada and even Kalinga all in one trip — which I hope to do in my next travel to the Cordilleras.
Going from Banaue to Batad
Hire a Tricycle Tour Guide, especially if you are traveling solo or with one friend. Our guide was Jeffrey Binyagan (mobile number +639261382501). He offered P2,000 for the tricycle tour (breakdown: P1k for the tricycle + P1K for guide fee) that can include a tour to the viewing decks in Banaue, Batad – Patpat Sitio (sub-village) – Tappiya Falls, Mayoyao Terraces, Banaue Museum, Cambulo etc. as agreed.
Wait for the Banaue to Batad public jeepney in the public market which leaves around 8:30am with the P150 fare.
From Batad to Banaue, the jeepney will leave around 2pm to 3pm.
If are traveling in a group or you are able to meet other tourists willing to share with the transportation costs, you can hire a private jeepney for P2,800 roundtrip.
To get to other terraces and other sites, you can commission a tricycle/van/jeepney and prices may vary based on the number of sites. Other tourists prefer not to get a guide, but I was glad we got one who shared a lot of interesting trivia about their place and their way of living. He readily answered all my questions.
Banaue to Manila Transportation
Banaue – Metro Manila (direct trip)
Ohayami Fare: P450. Leaves every 6pm. Contact number: 09058814361
Address: Banaue Town, Ifugaro (75 meters away from the tourism office)
Dangwa – Fare: P530. Leaves every 7:00pm (more comfortable seats with toilet on board)
Near Tourism office as well. (02)781-5849 / (02)743-3809
Great if you want to tour around Baguio for a day.
Coda Lines (formerly KMS Lines) for Banaue to Baguio then Victory Liner from Baguio to Manila.
From Baguio, you can take another bus going to Banaue: either Ohiyami (8am or 6pm) or Coda Lines, formerly KMS Lines (6am or 9pm). Both their bus stations are located near Burnham Park, next to Chowking or 7/11 store building—a few minutes walk to the right when facing the Police Station/Tourism Information Office.