Experience 'badchang' at the Batad rice terraces

Photo by Filquest Media Concepts Inc
BANAUE, IFUGAO PROVINCE -- Webber Chuccar wants visitors to Batad village to experience something more than just standing in awe of its magnificent rice terraces.

Batad is a quaint yet charming village famous for its postcard-perfect terraces. It is generally acknowledged as the most beautiful among clusters of rice terraces that are declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- the others located in Bangaan (also a village in Banaue) and the municipalities of Hungduan, Kiangan, Mayoyao.

But these two-centuries-old natural wonders are threatened by climate change and other forces of nature. From afar, you can see a brown patch running through upper portion of the terraces in Batad -- the effects of soil erosion aggravated by strong typhoons.

Webber, who hails from Batad and works as a tourism officer for the provincial government, helps organize “badchang” tours in Batad, ideal for groups of 10 or more. 

Badchang, in the local Ifugao dialect, means bayanihan or the Filipino custom of coming together to perform a certain task. 

Badchang, meanwhile, is specific to how generations of Ifugaos have managed to build the rice terraces -- by helping each other tend to their respective rice paddies. Locals in Batad are also applying the badchang to the task of restoring damaged portions of the terraces.

By joining badchang tours, visitors can have a first-hand experience of how the Ifugaos built the rice terraces -- by pounding medium-sized boulders on moistened soil, one on top of the other.  

A slow and tedious task, alright -- by which you can appreciate the effort put by their ancestors in carving these rice terraces out of mountains. A village elder usually supervises and guides visitors during the badchang.

“We can set aside a specific area for visitors who want to do the badchang. Three to four hours is enough. Afterwards, we can set up a picnic right there in the middle of the rice terraces,” Webber tells me as we make our way through the rice terraces, pointing to me the damaged portions. 

Imagine indulging in a meal of pinikpikan (a native Ifugao chicken dish) or adobo while having a great view of the rice terraces underneath your feet. Or making your way down to the rice terraces beyond simply admiring the view from the window at your inn.

Those who have taken part in these badchang tours usually do it on weekends. A Facebook group called the Batad Weekend Warriors also helps mobilize interested groups in coordination with locals like Webber.

More than the breath-taking view, expect to work out a sweat for a worthwhile cause. Webber believes all Filipinos -- not just the Ifugao people -- should take pride in what has been referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

“We are grateful for all the help we can get from people (visiting Batad). Through the badchang, we hope they are able to appreciate even more the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’ More important, it’s our way of sharing with fellow Filipinos our Ifugao heritage.”

How to get to Batad:
From Manila, take the Ohayami Bus (terminal is at Lacson Street near Espana Boulevard) going to Banaue. Buses leave daily from 9pm to 10pm. From Banaue, take the jeepney going to the Batad Saddle every 3pm daily. Or, you can hire a jeepney or tricycle to take you to the Saddle.

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