Tag Archive: Batanes



I’ve long left an 8am to 8pm stressful job to do the things I WANT to do. Not that I didn’t enjoy my banking career. But 27 years is enough, with the last 2 years not as exciting nor enjoyable as the first 25. Besides, I have long planned an early retirement. So I worked like a horse, burned myself out, and decided to quit at 47 years old.

 

 

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“Married Man’s Trail” in Ketchikan, Alaska. Allegedly, the path taken by men seeking “pleasure” after a visit to the town’s brothel.

 

 

Two weeks after my self-imposed retirement, there were offers to tempt me to make a 2nd stab either in the same field or in a career completely different from what I used to do. It wasn’t in the plan. Nor in my destiny. It’s been 13 years now. And I’ve since made journals of my travel adventures, musings and ramblings.

 

 

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Batanes. The northernmost island province of the P hilippines!

 

 

I have travelled. Slept and got off the bed way too late. Enjoyed my breakfasts. Met my friends more leisurely and more frequently. Read more books. And blogged. I like blogging if only so I keep “records” of my adventures. For me, it’s no different from my diaries. Reminders of what I’ve enjoyed and the stuff that rendered me nostalgic. Sentimental, even.

 

 

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Bromance? Mai Khao Beach. Phuket. Thailand.

 

 

You can say blogging allowed me to express myself. Or remind me of the trips I made, the food I ate, the new friends I’ve met. They’d be my reminders when I’ve grown tired of walking mindlessly, seeking adventures or just growing weak on the knees to navigate a few meters. BUT IT IS MORE THAN JUST PRESERVING THE MEMORIES. Cliche that it is, you can say it’s the journey more than the destination.

 

 

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Corregidor. Philippines. The rock fortress island packed with history and war memories.

 

 

Let me explain. I have been writing since I knew how to use a pen. The best childhood gifts for me consisted of diaries, books and fancy stationery. My mother found a penpal for me since I grew tired of playing with my dolls. BUT I NEVER EVER HANDLED A CAMERA, NOR OWNED ONE, TILL I WAS IN MY 40’s. My earlier travels went undocumented. Visually, that is. My family cannot understand how I can visit Europe to spend 6 months there on a borrowed camera. Worse, I scrimped on the shots and only had a few to show. Mostly of landscapes without moí.

 

 

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Victoria Falls, sandwiched between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

 

I still don’t take as many shots, especially of myself. Nor do I own any of those humongous DSLRs. But I do enjoy snapping photos now. With pen and camera, I AM NOW MORE APPRECIATIVE OF DETAILS I WOULD HAVE EASILY DISMISSED BEFORE. A rainbow. Children at play. A bubbling brook. An insect. Flower details. I am happy with my amateurish photography skills. Just a bit jealous whenever I find stunning photography especially of places I’ve been to. “Why didn’t i take a shot from that angle?” ….. I ask myself.

 

 

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Don Salvador Benedicto. DSB for short. Negros Occidental.

 

 

I don’t take shots to display any photography skill. My earlier blogs will tell you that. Modesty aside, my more recent blogs have better photos. The “journey” made me pay more attention to details. I enjoy human interest shots best, but I’m too slow to capture many lovely moments. Thank God my iPhone is ever-handy and takes quite decent shots, or I would have missed a lot more. So yeah….. I blog to express myself. To chronicle my “highs”, and to capture those memories too.

 

 

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The Cotton Castle of Pamukkale. Turkey.

Out A Third Of The Year 2013


In 2013, I spent nearly 2 months in Sydney and even slightly longer in Madrid. A good third of 2013. And that excludes those weeklong trips to Mongolia, Phuket and 2 trips to South Korea. I blogged like crazy ….. Just like when I stayed nearly 3 months homebased in Madrid back in 2012. Whenever I get back to Manila, I always long to do a trip to some exotic place. Preferably those sites below the tourist radar. There is a long list. So much to cover and discover in our own backyard. And as always, the local trips draw more hits!

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Trek to Mount Pinatubo.

 

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Batanes

 

 

I struck off Batanes, Sagada, El Nido, MassKara Festival, Transfiguration Monastery in Bukidnon, Divine Mercy Shrine in Misamis Oriental and a trek to Mount Pinatubo off my bucket list which continues to grow longer. That list has its own life! I made a few “insignificant”, impromptu daytrips just outside Manila to entertain friends. And I’m surprised such trips drew much more attention and appreciation. Perhaps because many, like me, thought they were “insignificant” and were later pleasantly surprised. Maybe because they’re very doable and demands less planning and time. Or it could also be because these out-of-town trips were really good finds — a discovery that many (like me) have initially dismissed as “ordinary”.

 

 

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Half-Buried In Lahar. Bacolor, Pampanga.

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MassKara Festival. Bacolod. 2013.

 

 

The travels abroad have acquired a certain “routine”. Sydney and Madrid meant “family time” and homebase for many day and out-of-town trips. Twice doing it in Madrid, yet the 2 experiences can’t be branded or dismissed as “the same”. Because the 2nd time was timed with the Christmas Season, I enjoyed immersing myself in Spanish traditions and culture. In both Sydney and Madrid, my day trips were to such sites below the tourist radar. No crowds. Great sites. Reasonable prices.

 

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Winter in Australia.

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Autumn in Korea

 

 

My Seasons also got me confused, swinging from summer in the beaches of El Nido and Phuket to Philippine winter version in Batanes, to “end of winter-early spring” in Mongolia to “mild winter” in Sydney back to sweltering summer heat in Bacolod’s MassKara Festival to autumn in Korea down to honest-to-goodness winter in Madrid. You can say I’m done with winter last 2013.

 

 

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid

 

 

From Traveller to Storyteller. That’s moí. In groups, out with friends, home with family or ALONE. I do enjoy my travels. I realize some of my friends do wonder why I continue to wander. I wanted to say I have not lost my capacity for joy and discoveries. I wanted to share that I continue to believe and trust and enjoy life’s simple joys, appreciating the kindness of strangers, and discovering how “little” I know of the world around me. Good health, joy in solitude paired with the unceasing thrill of meeting “angels” in my solo travels, these are God’s gifts. I appreciate them, and my gratitude expresses itself in the joy I feel. I remember meeting a Brazilian couple in the lovely town of Chinchon. They said nothing happens by accident. We got on the same bus because we were meant to spend the afternoon enjoying the medieval town and the village folks. I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Three Kings Parade. Madrid. 2014.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.

Football Game at Estadio Bernabeu.

 

 

The year 2013 was marked by many firsts. Too many to list here without running the risk of boring you. It is also the same year I turned 60 so maybe, that calls for a separate blog. Like 60 “firsts” as I turned 60. How about it?


This 2013, my year ends 7 hours later. Madrid has been home since November but in a few weeks, I should be flying back to Manila. When I tried to recall how the year went, I automatically searched through my blog archives to check what has kept me busy. So…… my life has been a blog series of sorts. Nice 😉 And complete with photos too! These are my memory aids, and they work.

 

 

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We “baked” under the sun here in Nacpan/Calitang near El Nido, Palawan.

 

 

Our family commenced the year 2013 with a trip to El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. All of 5 days basking in the sun with sands in between our toes. A pleasant detour was the day spent in the twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang. In this photo, we felt we were the only tourists but for this couple of Caucasians by the beach.

 

 

Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.

Paete Church, one of many around Laguna de Bay.

 

 

Then friends based abroad came a-visiting and we decided to do a roadtrip around Laguna de Bay. From SLEX through Calamba through the coastal towns of Pila, Paete and Pakil, then heading home via the Manila-East Road. We never thought we could do all that in a day.

 

 

We conquered Mount Pinatubo!

We conquered Mount Pinatubo!

 

 

I’ve always wanted to trek to Mount Pinatubo while my knees and legs would allow me. My nieces and a couple of friends joined me. We didn’t trek the whole way, and you may call us cheats, but still, I can’t say it was easy.

 

 

The northernmost island province is a must-destination.  Trust me on this!

The northernmost island province is a must-destination. Trust me on this!

 

 

Aaaahhhh….. Batanes. The place is magical. I intend to go back. I’d love for my family to see this enchanting place and meet up with the very kind, welcoming locals. I’ve had some pretty amazing domestic travels early in the year, like striking off from a bucket list! Batanes ranks high up in that list and for good reasons.

 

 

Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi

Speedboating and island-hopping in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi

 

 

And then Phuket happens. We didn’t plan on it, but the idea of speedboating and island-hopping in Thailand was simply too tempting. Images of James Bond sailing away on a speedboat and Leonardo di Carpio’s “The Beach” crossed our minds. We also enjoyed the luxury of a villa with a plunge pool while we were there. And this was just less than 2 weeks from our long- planned trip to Ulaan Bataar. A couple more off the bucket list!

 

 

RAW, unspoilt Mongolia

RAW, unspoilt Mongolia

 

 

By midyear, I felt I’m done traveling until my scheduled holiday by yearend in Madrid. But it’s June, and I joined some of my friends flying to Cagayan de Oro to celebrate a dear friend’s 60th. Sidetrips to Maria Cristina Falls, the Divine Mercy Shrine and the Monastery of Transfiguration in Bukidnon were soon arranged, and voila!

 

 

Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

Monastery of Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

 

 

July-August till the first week of September found me in Sydney, Australia. Absolutely unplanned, but I needed to be there for my eldest sister and only surviving member of my immediate family to deal with her health travails. Thankfully, my sister beat the odds so it was a good celebration after 5 weeks of ordeal. God is truly good and merciful.

 

 

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

Sydney. Not exactly on travel mode.

 

 

Before long, I’m back home. This time, eager to experience a local festival. The MassKara Festival in Bacolod was timely as kin based abroad arrived to join me in celebrating a milestone in my life. Six–oh! Soon after the MassKara frenzy, we were partying on a safari theme, and moved on to Seoul, Korea for an extended celebration. Phew!

 

 

MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

MassKara Festival in Bacolod City

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.

In seoul, we feasted on Korean food like there was no tomorrow.

 

 

And since November, I’ve called Madrid home. Certainly a break from tradition (and the rest of the family) to spend Christmas and New Year’s here in the midst of winter. It’s a great experience for me to hear Misa de Gallo — complete with singing of Christmas carols (in Spanish of course) in a country that christianized us and passed on many of its traditions. I have grown accustomed to lunch at 2pm and dinner at 9pm. No siestas for me. Yet. But Misa de Gallo at exactly midnight, Noche Buena at past 1 am till 3 am is a tad difficult. Many Madrileños celebrated till 5am. No wonder Christmas mornings in Spain are very quiet and peaceful. Everyone is still on bed!

 

 

Christmas In Madrid

Christmas In Madrid

 

 

A couple more things. Christmas here is more about BELENES. There are Nativity Scenes in churches, museums, palaces. The center of attention is the Child Jesus. Not Santa Claus or a Christmas Tree. And gift-giving? NOT on Christmas Day. Rather, it’s on the Feast of 3 Kings who introduced the idea of gift-giving. The kids have to wait. Feliz Navidad!

 

 

El Belen de Salzillo

El Belen de Salzillo

 


What makes a good tour guide? I’ve met quite a few and can easily pick out those who stand out in my list. Them whose credo is to make every traveler or tourist enjoy his trip. Them who treat their job like their religion. With passion. With devotion. In the same vein, I can just as easily weed out the wrong types. Them who spit out names, dates and other historical facts almost mechanically, at times not minding whether or not you caught the trail of the pseudo-history lesson. I’m sure you know the types.

 

 

 

In my experience, I never really found the perfect tour guide. But each experience is rendered unique because of some “connection”. I’ve kept in touch with a few. I’ve even dedicated some blogs to “honor” them. Here’s a short list. 🙂

 

 

Randy, the Butanding Whisperer (Donsol, Sorsogon)

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Randy. The Butanding Whisperer.
Donsol, Sorsogon.

 

 

To this day, Randy still sends me text messages in his “jejemon” style which gives me tremendous headaches! I am still able to refer to Randy some of my friends eager for a Butanding experience. My grandchildren still remember him fondly.

 

 

Rusty, The Last Caretaker of Syquia Mansion (Vigan)

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Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Don’t miss this!

 

 

I wonder how Rusty is. I failed to take a photo of him. Does he have his “apprentice” to train now? Has Rusty retired already?

 

 

Rogers With An “S” (Batanes)

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He punctuates his sentences with “I Love You”. And yes, take that seriously!

 

 

He punctuates his sentences  with “I love you’s” and his face has a perennial smile sure to infect each person he meets. Rogers — yes, with an “S” — is not young, but his energy and passion is forever on overdrive. Where does he get all the energy? Must be the Batanes air!

 

 

Cemetery Guides, anyone? (LA LOMA, NORTH & CHINESE CEMETERIES)

 

 

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La Loma Cemetery. Who would have thought this makes for an outstanding guided tour? In the league of New Orleans and Paris!

 

 

I joined a tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and was only too happy to have the brilliant Architect Manuel Noche and the hilarious, ever-energetic Ivan Man Dy walk us through history as we walked around the mounds and mausoleums, some of which are as high as 3 storeys. I’m telling ya….. this guided tour is certainly worth the buckets of sweat that humid day!

 

 

Juan Luna Shrine: So, Who Shot The Patriot’s Wife? (Badoc, Ilocos Norte)

 

 

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The Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Drop by on your drive from Laoag to Vigan. It’s the last town of Ilocos Norte on your way to Ilocos Sur.

 

 

Bet some of you didn’t know that. Yes, Juan Luna shot his own wife. I’d love to retell the story but that nameless guide in the Luna Shrine can’t be beaten in his craft. It was this man who inspired my grandchildren to always ask for a Tour Guide when we’re traveling. And they do listen….. In a way that makes me real jealous.

 

 

Mount Pinatubo: An Ex-Marine For A Guide and A Native Aeta for a Driver

 

 

Who would have thought I’d do this at my age? I was determined, but it sure was motivating that the trek was made shorter! I came in my old pair of comfy rubber shoes, then left with a pair of slippers. My guide’s daughter needed a pair and so mine — though used — must have made a good present.

 

 

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Our Pinatubo Guides!

 

 

THANKS TO THESE TOUR GUIDES —- my trips to these places are made truly memorable. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) Trips, and there are those where the experience is enhanced by how a local’s perspective is drawn much differently from what the travel books say. Priceless. Much.


Ivatan cuisine is as fresh and healthy as it gets. Most visitors would be eager to feast on freshly-caught lobsters and the coconut crabs (called “tatus”) indigenous to the place, but there’s really more beyond these coveted seafoods.

 

 

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coconut crabs are called “tatus”

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lobster galore1

 

 

Priced at 600 pesos a kilo (US$15/kg), I can eat those lobsters daily! As it turned out though, there were more of the other dishes which were repeatedly served during our stay in Batanes. Not that I don’t like them, but a little variety could have helped. Like I would have welcomed fish sinigang, calamares and fish kilawin while I was there. 😉

 

 

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More LOBSTERS!

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AND FISH. Grilled, fried or sweet and sour? I like mine sinigang!

 

 

But I do miss the lumot (seaweed) soup, pako (fiddlehead fern) salad, “Venes” or dried gabi (like “laing” but not really) and Uvud balls (minced banana pith cooked with fish flakes and minced pork). The last one seems to be the national dish of Batanes 😉 along with the luñis — the Ivatan adobo cooked in salt rather than vinegar and soy sauce — as they were served in nearly all buffet meals we’ve had during our stay.

 

 

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Pako Salad. Made from fiddlehead fern.

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uvud ng sarap!

 

 

When we visited the village of Savidug (named after a tree otherwise called “talisay” elsewhere) in Sabtang Island, our guide pointed out a Kabaya (breadfruit) tree to us. The Kabaya leaves are used as plates and may even be folded to scoop soup! Ingenuity at its best. Makes for a great picnic!

 

 

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Now, that’s a spoon!

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Good for scooping!

 

 

I didn’t see any rice paddies in Batanes. Nor fruit trees other than bananas. For sure, there are sweet potatoes and yam. We were served rice with turmeric, freshly harvested coconuts and the sweetest camote (sweet potato). There aren’t too many dessert choices and while I enjoyed the camote cue and “bukayo”, I’d soon grow tired of it if I had it all too often. For sure, I’d know what to bring the next time I visit Batanes!

 

 

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“Lunis” or ivatan adobo.

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Do we have to make a choice?

(Thank you, Chikie and Pinky for some of the food photos!)

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Love it. Got it! Rogers (yes, with an S) is such an adorable tour guide. We had him for 4 days and there was simply no chance of any mind-numbing boredom with this Ivatan. Before this trip, I only have 2 personal friends who are Ivatans. Rogers makes 3. Dan, his assistant, makes 4.

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Rogers With An “S”. That’s what he’s called!

 

 

Rogers loves punctuating his statements with “Got it?” that we all too soon adopted it as the group’s tag line. When anyone asks anything even vaguely hinting of a complaint (like why can’t we buy coconut crabs to take home?), Rogers is quick to plead to spare him of any misdirected protest (“Please don’t get mad at me…..”) and accordingly ends his statement with “I love you”. Once, there was this Caucasian who approached him and I overheard Rogers bidding him farewell and the perfunctory “I love you, Sir”. I waited for the man’s reaction, but he must have gotten used to Rogers (as we were, after only 24 hours) that the mechanical endearment was accepted without much fanfare.

 

 

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And that’s Rogers’ able assistant……..DAN. No “S”

 

 

His assistant, Dan — that’s Dan in green shirt atop the jeepney! — is just as gracious but not given to the same endearments. I’d give him a few years before saying “I love you’s” without blushing. 😉 Much like Rogers, Dan is quite adept with cameras too. SLRs, P&S, iPhone or iPad cams. I learned they also serve as guides in many Photo Safaris and Photography Workshops conducted in Batanes. Rogers said they learned by listening to the lectures and simply watching the pros. No wonder they know the best angles and photo spots.

 

 

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Welcome to Batanes….. sung by these friendly Ivatan students.

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Choir of the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao singing ” We Welcome You to Batanes”. So heartwarming!

 

 

 

 

 

When we visited the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao, we spotted the Parish Priest standing by the 2nd floor window. He came down to welcome us just as the church choir sang a Welcome to Batanes song for us. Just as beautiful was the song number by Ivatan students who sang for us after our dinner at the Lighthouse overlooking Basco Bay. So heartwarming!

 

 

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The hardworking Ivatans in action. Sabtang Port.

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The Old Man and His Carabao. Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines.

 

 

Being in Batanes and with these hospitable Ivatans is a refreshing experience. From the hardworking men at the Sabtang Port to the old man with his carabao to the old lady by the road. Some of us even borrowed bicycles from smiling children who took our hands to touch their foreheads as a show of respect. It’s nice to be OLD here in Batanes where respect for elders is still fashionable!

 

 

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Buko or Young Coconuts For Sale.

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The Old Ivatan lady by the road. Sabtang Island, Batanes. Philippines.

 

 

Some skeptics think Honesty Cafe is really just all-hype. This untended store allows you to take whatever you like and simply deposit your payment in a box. Nothing can be simpler than that. I would love to retell this story to such skeptics about how one of us lost his room key, cell phone and eyeglasses in Rakuh a Payaman a.k.a. Marlboro Country. We already boarded our jeepney, well on our way to another destination, when my friend missed his stuff. Our Tour Guide Rogers directed his assistant Dan to take over while he mounted a bike to motor back to Marlboro Country. No luck. After all it was near sunset by then, so Rogers summoned some of his friends to continue the search as we were leaving early the next morning. No high hopes they’d be found.

 

 

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You make the Ivatans proud. And so with the rest of the Filipinos. Batanes. Philippines.

 

 

Hey, skeptics. See that photo above? Between Rogers and my friend Tony is this fine young Ivatan lad who found Tony’s cellphone, eyeglasses and room key. He motored all the way from Rakuh a Payaman to the airport where we were getting ready to board for our homeward flight. He was in a hurry to leave after returning Tony’s stuff that Rogers had to hold him for this posterity shot. Makes us all admire this young Ivatan, but truly, we weren’t surprised at all about Ivatan honesty and admirable character. How about you? Were you surprised? Love it? Got it?


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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

 

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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! 🙂

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Waiting for Sunset On a Typical Day in Batanes

 

 

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.

 

 

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The Mahatao Lighthouse. Surely, a Batanes icon.

 

 

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.

 

 

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The Falowa boat ride from Ivana Port in Batan Island to Sabtang Island took 45 minutes. Not a bad ride. But the return trip was something else.

 

 

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.

 

 

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Nakabuang Beach is truly nakaka-buang sa ganda. The rock formations and the monastic rhythm of the rushing waves encourage peeps to take a dip, even if they are NOT dressed (or undressed?) for it.

 

 

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.

 

 

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This sunset shot using my iPhone could have been better. But it’s a good memory catcher. Waiting by the shore for the sun to set is ma’velous! Esp if there’s a good dinner waiting across the street 😉

 

 

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.

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Didn’t I say it’s the northernmost tip of the Philippines? Nearer to Taiwan (less than 200 kms) than Mainland Philippines.


WHAT’S THERE NOT TO LOVE ABOUT BATANES? 

 

We had near-perfect weather when we visited recently, yet we still rocked and rolled on that falowa boat ride to Sabtang. We were up at 2:30am to be at the Domestic Airport by 3:30am for our SkyJet flight at 5:30am. We were a group of 35 chatty, giggling peeps on board 2 long jeepneys driving around Batan Island, one of 3 inhabited islands of the 10 in this smallest and northernmost island province of the Philippines. We were tired, sleep-deprived, and my CANON G12 camera went bust here after being my loyal companion for many past trips. Some of us lost a scarf, missed a cellphone, dropped a hat. YET we have not had a nega-moment during this wonderful trip.

 

 

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Aerial View of Batan Island Before SkyJet Landing

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I may have felt like a zombie the morning we arrived in the lovely airport terminal of Basco, Batanes, but I wasn’t so zonked out to remember this is Batanes and NOT Capetown nor the rolling hills in Yorkshire. Certainly looks like Bronte country that I instantly remembered that most compelling character Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights fame. But I digress.

 

 

BATANES IS BEAUTIFUL. Rustic, serene, utterly divine. A typhoon may spoil a holiday and a ride over the choppy waters where Pacific Ocean meets the West Philippine Sea may give you nightmares —- but in my book, this place has no equal within the country. I want to kick myself why I waited this long. I could have made better jump shots on that hill, stood dangerously by the cliff edge and perhaps even tested the cold ocean waters even if I didn’t know how to swim. The passion is still there, but the energy mimics the state of my G12 cam. 😦

 

 

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Rolling Hills

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Mother and Child. Or Mama Cow and Calf? Near Fundacion Pacita in Batan Island, Batanes.

 

 

Many photo safaris have been conducted here. I can understand why. It’s a chore NOT to take good photographs here in Batanes. Our group included professional photographers and photography enthusiasts. When my Canon G12 conked out, I made do with my iPad mini and iPhone. Saved the day for me. And while my photos pale in comparison with Mon’s (yes, you Mon!), I am happy. After all, Mon (yes, it’s you again) and Chikie (yes, you dear) made sure I have my jump shots souvenirs! Ahem. Ahem. 😉

 

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Poles Lining the Rolling Hills

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Ivana Port.

 

 

(There’s more to write about. But I’m on my 3rd attempt writing this post. For some reason, I lose the draft midway through the blog. Don’t ask me why. It took 3 attempts before I gave up. It’s hard to write in all candor, only to “repeat” the same narrative with fading emotions battling with impatience. My apologies. I need a break. Watch this page. Sequels out soon. )