From Manila, I decided to head up to Banaue and go where I wanted from there.
This leg of the trip was a mix of emotions. I remember that I really enjoyed my first trip to Banaue with my mom in 2007, but this was also my first time back to the region after Julia died (which was about 6 weeks after my initial trip). I really wanted to make the trip back out to Batad, I’ve had her on my mind a bit lately (perhaps because I knew that I wanted to visit the region) and I was hoping that making the trek out there would help give a little more closure- especially since I wasn’t able to make it to the park dedication ceremony.
When the bus pulls into town, it doesn’t really pull into town-town. Like last time, there are a bunch of guys waiting there to “help” you plan your stay in Banaue and take you wherever they think you should go. One guy offered a free shuttle ride to town (I should know that nothing is ever really “free”), and then pretty much took it for granted that those of us who took his ride would be purchasing his services for something. I went and found a room at a nearby guesthouse, dropped my bags and returned to the restaurant where several other backpackers were eating breakfast and trying to figure out what to do. Our general consensus was that we wanted to go to Batad, some wanted to stay overnight and some, like me, wanted to return to town that evening. The jeep driver kept trying to offer alternative plans that involved long day trips around the area and staying overnight in Batad, but eventually we found a plan that worked for everyone.
All together there were seven of us: me, a Canadian guy, a French woman, two German-speaking Italian women, and two German women. The German women had a bus back to Manila that night, so the three of us were definitely planning to ride back to Banaue before dark. The others wanted to go to the waterfall, sleep in the village and maybe go see another terrace area the next day. Much to my chagrin, the jeep drove us all the way from town to the saddle (I wanted the 3km walk up the hill to help train for Mt Kinabalu, but oh well) and we only had to hike down into the valley from there.
When we reached the village, we all had lunch and much to my surprise we saw Eddie, the guy who was my guide on my last trip to Batad- 3 years ago. We hiked around the terraces a bit, without a guide- despite one young gentleman’s insistence that we might want some help- and made our way back up the saddle in good time. On the path, I kept an eye out for any marker or mention of Julia, but I didn’t see anything. Perhaps there is one there and I just didn’t cross that path, or perhaps there isn’t anything at all. I didn’t really want to ask about it because I know that it’s a bit of a sore subject and something that’s quite shameful and upsetting to the generally friendly and helpful people of the area. I was a little surprised, given the Catholic love of putting up crosses to memorialize people- but not too surprised.
Once back in town, I had dinner with the two German women (both named Anke) and gave them some tips for pearl shopping in Manila. During dinner the electricity came back on after a day-long brown out, and I was even able to get a hot shower before bed. My room was pretty quiet, but the couple next door seemed to talk as if they were mostly deaf. Or maybe the walls were just a little thin.
In the morning, I was still a little unsure if I wanted to head out or where I wanted to go. I stopped at the tourist info office and found out that the only jeep going to Bontoc left at 8:30 (this was at 8), so I told the driver I was coming, ran back to my room, threw everything into my backpack and rushed back to the jeep. Sure, I only had Sky Flakes for breakfast, but it was lucky that I was able to get everything together quickly and make the trip. I don’t think that I really would have been up for another day in Banaue.