The scenery wouldn't look out of place of a travel book of North America. If it weren't for the rice terraces stacked on top of each other and defining the contour of mountain after mountain, you can mistake the place for anywhere but the tropics. Even the air connives with the scenery -- clean, crisp, chilly even. The pine trees drip with dewy moisture save for the hotter days where it is still cold, you hardly break a sweat when hiking.
Seeing the terraces from a distance and getting down to the fields are two different experiences, two different highs. Standing on one of the "giant steps" in these stairways to the sky, it's easy to feel small, dwarfed by this immense creation, a collaboration between the Ifugaos who've carved the mountains and Mother Nature who've continually nurtured the harvests.
It's also easy to see that unlike other millenia-old wonders, the terraces are living, thriving with life. There are wild herbs growing on the mud walls, amiable dogs scampering up and down the ledges, children playing in the mud, insects buzzing around. Depending on the time of the year, the mountainsides wear a different shade of green, even gold come harvest time, earth-colored in the dry months, and mirror-like towards the tilling season. Seeing the terraces again and again doesn't dull one's appreciation of their beauty. In my case, each visit deepens my appreciation of these ancient wonders as well as the warm people who live there.
See and shoot the amazing terraces. Join us as we embark on a Banaue photo trip. But it's not the usual Banaue trip as we'll hike to Batad and spend overnight there, in simple accommodations but with an incredible view of the terraces laid-out like an oversized amphitheater. For the afternoon, we'll hike through the terraces to get a glimpse of Tappia falls. Those brave enough to stand the freezing temperature can splash into the waters. The next day, we'll hike to Bangaan and stay the night for a more than cursory look at the terraces.