#056: A Guided Tour to Babluy, BatadTak's dispatch released on 5 January 2016

The sitio, or "village", of Babluy in Batad

One bad step from the smooth speck of rock jutting from the terrace wall sends you flailing violently, grasping for balance from a disinterested atmosphere as you hurtle into a large pool of standing water— terminating your adventures, the villages rice crops, the villagers’ rice terrace or all three.

One step at a time, you maintain balance. Your eyes dart below for the next step, your eyes dart ahead at the path, your eyes dart to the periphery to pick up the wide expanse of exhilarating imagery. In short, your senses are under massive duress, happy duress, as you make your way down the mountainside, across the quilt of coloured rice terraces and up the other side.

Looking Down at Babluy in Batad

It isn’t often you get to travel internationally with a dog so when you in turn get adopted while traveling, it is a sign of a good day ahead, provided, of course, that the dog isn’t an angry flea-ridden stray with a scabies issue, which luckily, today, is not the case.

He looks up at you with kind eyes. At first, you think it’s just a random, chance encounter, but as you walk, so does he. You make your way down the acrophobia-inducing rock wedges—that serve as staircases—towards the green rectangles below, and he follows. You keep your balance atop the terrace perimeters and he follows. You stop to take in the scenery and he stops to wait. It is nice having a dog.

The air has a cool sharpness to it, having not yet fully met the sun. Some smoke tickles the air, arising from Babluy, a sitio—or cluster of buildings—located in the center of the rice terraces. The roofs and buildings are nicely textured and coloured, providing diversity in this green wonderland.

As an obvious outsider in a remote area, making your way into this small isolated village in the early morning feels somewhat offensive—one part trespasser, one part voyeur, one part invader. Maybe it is all in your head, always so keen (or unfortunate) to wonder what you look like from the local view. Luckily, your feelings are slightly mitigated thanks to Lester who looks happily at you, tail in full wag. “No traveler has a dog,” you tell yourself, a good argument to help rationalize your appearance as something other than that qualifying for the scorn that might greet gaggles of gawking outsiders probing about each day.

In short, you pretend your newfound dog—or the dog who found you—allows you to blend in, to stealthily observe without attention. It is all a pipe dream broken suddenly.

In one second, the whole area is dead quiet and you are imaging the perfect entrance and exit, where villages don’t notice you at all and go about their private business. Most are still inside their huts and houses, attending to morning needs.

At the next moment, Lester is barking like a lunatic. The barks echo off the stone heavy hillsides in each direction. You whip around to see Lester stopped seven paces behind you barking at green wisps of rice. The barking alternates between crying and then whining and then returns back to barking. Lester has gone mad.

Poisonous Centipede in the Philippines

You take a pace or two back, inquisitive to the sudden cacophony only to find a giant blue centipede crawling up onto the pathway you had just passed. “Come on Lester,” you coax, patting your hand to your leg. “It’s okay,” you announce as the ignorant cheerleader you are. Sometimes it is nice to be ignorant to the realities that these aggressive creatures have, on occasion, killed children with their venomous claws, or in better circumstances, have only caused “non-amplifying localized death of living cells”. It is nice to have a dog.

With your super stealth entrance out of the way, you wander quickly through Babluy drawing several looks of varying degree and out to the other side. Lester again stops suddenly. His ears perk up and he turns to face the mountainside where you awoke.

“What’s up L…?” He warms up into a jog and then a full sprint back towards the village, over the narrow terrace tops, up the rock stairs, around some bends and out of view—not one bad step amongst them.

Rice-Black-White-Philippines
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Tak

New York, NY
Internationally-published photographer with a passion for creative food, fine products, unique cultures and underground music. Twitter / Instagram / Email

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