In February half term 2014 I decided to take a trip to the North of the Philippines to visit the 2,000-year-old rice terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao by ancestors of the indigenous people. At six months pregnant and with my three-year-old daughter in tow I decided to make the most of exploring the Philippines before baby number two arrives.
Luckily three friends (with two children) were also keen to come along and help plan the trip. So with our party of six we set off from Manila to Batad in a people carrier. It was a long drive through the night but with a group and plenty of stops the road trip has a unique charm and sense of excitement.
As we neared towards our destination the mountain roads become windy and in bad condition, so our driver took it very slowly. We arrived mid-morning at the end of the road and stopped off for a breakfast of coffee and noodles, before the one-hour hike to Batad.
Maya and I both loved the hike. After the smog of Manila, the fresh air and stunning views of Batad were awe-inspiring. We stopped off to buy traditional woodcarvings and take pictures of the rice terraces, which are commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
We stayed for one night in Batad in a traditional Ifugao Hut, which delighted the kids. Our neighbours were chickens, pigs and a monkey. At night we sat around the campfire and chatted while the kids roasted marshmallows. Maya became particularly attached to one of the chickens!
The next day we set off for the mountain province of Sagada, which is famous for its hanging coffins and underground caves. After a good five hours in the car we arrived at the lovely St Joseph’s Resthouse. Originally run as a convent the guesthouse has a beautiful garden on two levels, lovely restaurant and charming accommodation. Perfect for the children to run around the grounds safely.
We stayed two nights in Sagada, visiting the caves, hanging coffins, pottery workshop and wandering through the laidback village. The village has a unique relaxed vibe to it and is a great place to retreat to, sample the local food and breathe in the fresh mountain air. The kids loved munching on pancakes at the Strawberry Café and learning how to throw clay in the pottery workshop.
After recharging our batteries in Sagada we headed back to Manila via Baguio. Baguio is a bustling town and famous for its fruit and vegetables. We stopped off for a spot of strawberry picking in the rain and I’m pretty sure that the kids ate more than they picked!
Our Favourite Part
Hiking to Batad and exploring the traditional houses, sculptures and way of life in this remote corner of the world. I was so proud of Maya for managing the hike without a grumble. She was able to revel in the sense of adventure and freedom it offered, while I drank in the gorgeous views.
Three things you should definitely do
1. Stay in a traditional Ifugao House. Maya called it her tree house and found it so exciting to be nestled in a hut on stilts with her little torch and companions to share the room with.
2. Travel with other families. I have now embraced the concept of a road trip, but only if I have others to share the experience with. The company for both adults and children makes the long drive enjoyable
3. Hire a driver who knows the roads really well. The roads can be dangerous as they are on mountain sides and sometimes unsealed, so it is important you hire a competent driver.
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