The waterfall was just beautiful. Majestic. The rush of water makes a thundering noise and misty sprays make the scene magical especially if one has spent the past one hour (or more) trekking down to this wonder.
It is such a wonderful sight: a vertical wall of rock with moss and vegetation clinging to its crevices and surface, encircling a pool. At the center of this vertical cliff, where the lip has its nadir, the gush of volumes upon volumes of water makes its way, 70 meters down. And I was just entranced looking at it while a cold wisp of air blew from the cascade.
Tappiyah Falls, where the gods in the native tribe’s cosmology come and converge is the piece de resistance to any visit to Batad which is world renowned for its amphitheater like rice terraces and where I broke a ritual taboo many years ago. Going there and back can be a challenge.
As with most visitors who spend the night at the ridge where a series of spartan accommodations are located, its a trip down steep, knee busting steps, passing modern houses of wood and concrete or one with walls of corrugated metal sheet roofing.
Walking on top of the rice terrace walls can be unnerving with one side planted with rice or in a muddy pool while the other side can be a steep drop to another rice crop. For one who has acrophobia, each step can be nerve wracking but it also affords one, one of the best experiences in Banaue.
The small village of Batad, at the base of the step like terraces is a collection of modern and native houses that a visitor will have to pass. Narrow crisscrossing alleys can be confusing but a smile and a polite question is enough for the villages to lead you to the right direction, way past men pounding rice, puppies tied to a post or a suckling pig languidly grunting at its favorite spot.
But as one climbs and reaches the other side, especially early in the morning, an Igorot woman can be folding her blanket on a wooden bench with such a beautiful landscape spread behind her. Sheer mountains rising steeply from the riverbed below can be humbling. After catching one’s breath and enjoying the view, its another steep descent on concrete steps and rough terrain.
One thing that makes the trip so worth it is the element of surprise. Up at the ridge overlooking the mountains, there’s no hint of the waterfalls. One knows that its there but hidden from view, the pull to just go down and discover is just too strong that in just a few minutes of reaching the ridge, you would want to go down immediately.
Down the steep steps, following the dirt path, slowly trudging and treading carefully from the cliff side, the sound of the waterfall can bring excitement. But as one reaches the bend, the beautiful sight of Tappiyah Falls unfolds that screams and cries of joy breaks out and reverberates in the valley.
The water is just so cool that a few minutes’s dip is enough. After a tired trek down, a swim is its reward. The makeshift shed with only its wooden poles, a skeleton, remains, become perfect front view seats where one can just sit and gaze and admire and smile and admire and fall in love. That is Tappiyah Falls. It makes you forget the steepness and tiredness. More than the rice terraces, it is what makes Batad such a memorable and beautiful place.
But just wait when you start to climb up and you will cuss and curse…