Call it Batanes Fever. Or Ivatan Addiction. Whatever. But I’ve been home for 2 days now and all I’ve done is review and upload our photos from the smallest, northernmost island province of the Philippines. Wrote the first of my Batanes blog series yesterday but was stumped when I kept “losing” my draft midway through the blog. I’m not one to do a “prelim” — I simply write away and click that tab which says “Publish”. So I gave up after repeating myself 3 times — the temper got in the way, and I knew I just lost the motivation to write.
This very moment, I’m blogging using my iPhone. And using the stored photos taken by this phone which saved my day when my Canon G12 died in Batanes. Between these and those snapshots from my iPad Mini, I’m fine. Sad, but not exactly bothered by my malfunctioning G12. Funny how the Ivatan simplicity, warmth and hospitality along with the natural and rugged beauty of the island can weave magic into our lives. I started writing this to capture how I feel at the moment. If you’re looking for travel tips, directions and suggested itineraries, skip this post and read my other blogs. This one’s written by me. For me.
I used to dream my family has a truffle farm in Périgord. That stopped on my first night in Batanes. The music from the waves rushing to shore lulled me to sleep. I could have written down my sentiments then, but I needed to prep myself for next morning’s falowa boat ride to Sabtang. Pacific Ocean meeting the South China Sea (or should I say West Philippine Sea) sounds threatening but the guide assured us of the Ivatan boating skills. I believed that lock, stock and barrel. There’s something about the Ivatan culture that renders these friendly, hospitable people quite a smart “breed” of Filipinos. I suspect the isolation made them so self-sufficient, self-reliant, respectful of nature, and smart.
I miss the sunsets — which I viewed daily — the ocean views, the verdant rolling hills, the lobsters, the coconut crabs, the Ivatan culture. Many times, some youngster grabbed my hand to touch his forehead. A very Filipino tradition to show respect for elders, now seemingly lost in the chaos of the metropolis. I am touched that an 86 year old Ivatan lady from the oldest stone house called House of Dakay survives on alms and help from neighbors and visitors like us. I am very impressed that an Honesty Cafe exists in Batanes and that many homes remain unlocked throughout the day and night. The Ivatans make us fellow Filipinos proud of this old tradition and culture of honesty, self-reliance, simplicity, industry, dignity as a people.
Many planned visits to Batanes would focus on God’s magnificent creations. Van Gogh-wannabes and photography enthusiasts would delight in Nature’s painting on the sky, find melody in the howling winds and feel enthralled in the rhythmic slapping of the waves against the rocks. In my book, the must-experience lies in the genuine hospitality and dignity of the hardworking Ivatans and their respect for Nature. Their isolation taught them self-reliance and their faith in God made them respect Nature and seek God’s mercy. Everyone with a drop of Filipino blood can learn well from that.
Truly, Paradise does not rest on panoramic vistas alone. It lives in the hearts of the people. Nurtured through the centuries. DIOS MAMAJES! Colloquially, it means “Thank you”. Literally? It means GOD GIVES BACK.