I’ve read too many articles and heard too many stories about the boat ride from Batan to Sabtang Island. After overcoming my apprehensions over riding a small plane from Manila to Batanes….. Now this.
Lying southwest from Batan, the island of Sabtang is visible on this clear day which started at 5am for us. Two consecutive mornings I pulled myself out of bed on this holiday. No, I’m not complaining. And that’s saying a lot coming from moí whose mornings are typically slow and dragging till noon. It must be the fresh air of Batanes. Nothing seems to disturb me here. I’m at peace. Despite the early mornings, the malfunctioning camera, the repeated menu of Ivatan meals (I like them, but 3x replayed can be a bore), the near-absence of fresh fruits and icy desserts, AND NO BREWED COFFEE. No brewed coffee! Imagine that. Ordinarily, I’d be grumpy as can be. But not here. Not now. Not before this falowa ride from Ivana Port to the island of Sabtang.
I must confess I expected the worst, and was a tad “disappointed” the waves weren’t as fierce as I imagined. I even pulled my camera out of ziploc to make a video and snap some photos. All that while we rocked and rolled sailing southwest. No mean feat for the “captain” who steered the boat using his foot! By the time the Sabtang lighthouse was in full view, I couldn’t wait to jump out of the falowa. Excited much.
They say a trip to Batanes is not complete without seeing the Ivatan houses in Sabtang. “Frozen in time” is how a friend described them. I was ready for them. Those pre-Hispanic stone houses which stood against the strong winds and crushing waves from the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea spoke volumes of Ivatan’s past. The scenario where a lone carabao walks past a row of these houses is a scene straight out of some documentary or movie. Hearing roosters crow on top of the thatched roofs as we strolled out of the village is yet another. I’ve seen and imagined those. Many have written about Savidug and Chavayan Villages — so I was kind of prepared for such vistas.
But pictures and postcards cannot mimic the sway, the breeze, the sound of the howling winds passing through the cliffs of Tinian. Our jeepney stopped by Chamantad Viewpoint, the highest point in Sabtang, facing the Pacific Ocean. I completely ignored the waiting buco (young coconuts) and camote cues (sweet potato on skewers) for mid morning snacks. I walked past the huts towards the cliff, mesmerized by the sound of the waves crushing the rocks lining the coast, bothered only by the wind threatening to lift my hat to make a terrible mess of my already bad hair state. This place is sooooo lovely!
After that “Wuthering Heights” episode, we trooped to Morong Beach for lunch. Lobster, coconut crabs, flying fish, red snapper, Ivatan adobo, sautéed veggies for lunch. I’m sure there was more, but my memory was messed up by Chamantad-Tinian Cliffs. Still….. The “romance” with Nature has not ended. Just around the bend from where we enjoyed our seafood lunch is the Nakabuang Arc Formation lining the sandy shore. I tried to imagine a bigger rock here before the waves and wind eroded it to form this rock arch. Sabtang is truly blessed. I readily accepted the place couldn’t possibly have a decent (aka “safe for swimming) beach but here it is. Unbelievable!
We missed a few spots in Sabtang as we had to rush back to port to get on the last falowa boat bound for Batan. Past 2pm, our jeepney “zigzagged” through the narrow winding roads and our falowa rolled over the waves of the Balintang Channel anew, said to be among the fiercest in the world. A little braver now, after that earlier “boring” ride. I found myself laughing nervously as the waves crested and ebbed. I watched the older boatman, who captained our first falowa ride, somehow guiding the 2nd falowa captain. The latter obviously deferred to the older man’s judgment and experience. For sure, there weren’t any more crossings after this. You know what I mean. But all’s well. If asked to do this again, I would. In a heartbeat!