It wasn’t until the bowl was placed in front of me, its fragrant waft of lightly fried garlic allowing my nostrils to kickstart a hitherto redundant stomach into action, connecting with the view unfurling itself before my eyes, that I understood the significance of the moment: today was the day, the day I finally left a piece of my travel heart in the Philippines. One moment of infinite simplicity borne of eight days of absolute struggle. And relief, eventually, as I find the emotional attachment so vital to my travel experience.

High up in the mountainous region of northern Luzon island, ten cryogenically frozen bus hours from the capital Manila, lie the UNESCO World Heritage listed Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. For 2,000 years, local tribes and communities have been engineering a secret agricultural formula that feeds the local populace using a mastery of lunar cycles, territorial zoning and planning, extensive soil conservation, and irrigation. Individual terraces are privately owned and protected through ancestral rights, tribal laws and traditional practices. Not a single grain of rice cultivated from Batad Valley is sold or consumed outside of the valley.

From terrace to plate

The result of these millennia of back-breaking discipline is a breathtaking three dimensional textured green quilt, smoothly layered all around the hills of these lushly tropical valleys. It is a sight to behold, despite the near vertical ascents and descents on my day long exploration of these fields, and one that has firmly anchored this island nation in my pantheon of life-affirming travel memories. As we move around, down, and up the terraces, each new angle and perspective combines with the changing shadows and orientation of the sun to create another irresistible panorama. I stop every few seconds to take yet another photo, grateful for my phone’s generous 128gb of memory. I can’t get enough of these views, and slow my steps to a crawl as I near the final bend in the path that will also be my final sight of these astonishing rice terraces.

Every individual stem is hand planted and hand picked

In a country famed for its superlative island beauty, white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters, how very me that it was a humble carbohydrate crop that set my aesthetic juices flowing. After the ugly, polluted, and uninspiring sprawl of Manila, and the banal package tourism island attractions of Boracay, the Philippines were in serious danger of being a mere footnote in the diaries of my global exploration. Not any more, as new life is breathed into this archipelago adventure. Instead of morosely dreading the second half of my sojourn here, I now challenge the country to surpass itself once more. Rice and shine, people, rice and shine…

Stairway to heavenly rice bowl

Yummy yummy yummy I got rice in my tummy…

You might also enjoy:


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *