I have to give credit to Kuya Romy, my dutiful guide, for making sure I don’t miss out on the beautiful sunsets in Batanes. I would’ve been perfectly happy spending late afternoons sleeping or having a beer because I’m lazy like that but he always insists that we go someplace with a great view of the sunset.
Vayang Rolling Hills
I saw a Batanes sunset for the first time in Vayang rolling hills. What I enjoyed more, however, was lying on the grass and taking a nap while waiting for sundown. I got to sleep and take sunset photos; it was a win-win.
When I came back from a week-long trip to Batanes in June, I was so in love with the place I couldn’t stop talking about it. For weeks, this blog was inundated with tons of pictures and long-winding posts about the province. Then other things came up, I went on more out-of-town trips, the writing lost steam and I left part one of the entry about Itbayat hanging. After months of delay, here’s part two. Continue reading →
While in Batanes for a week, I managed to pick up a few Ivatan words and phrases which the tour guides, a fishball vendor, and random people I met or had beer (and Gran Matador) with were kind enough to teach me. I sounded funny while attempting to speak in their language of course, but they seemed pleased that I’m trying at least. Here’s a sampling of Ivatan I can still remember:
It doesn’t have the smooth rolling hills of Batan or the white sand beaches of Sabtang. Steep rocky cliffs comprise the edges of the island and jagged boulders jut out from the greenery of pasture lands. The sea is rougher, the terrain is tougher and life is harder. But that’s how it is when you’re living on a giant coral reef in the northernmost town in the country. Continue reading →
My brain works pretty much like a primeval single-celled organism: in simplistic one-to-one stimulus-response reaction. For example, stimulus: food – response: eat; stimulus: bed – response: sleep. So when I went to Batanes and saw a mountain, what else was there to do? Continue reading →
I’ve been warned about the boat ride to Sabtang, one of the two island municipalities in Batanes. There were stories about giant waves that are bigger than the faluwa and turbulent seas caused by the meeting of currents from the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea (or is it called the West Philippine Sea now?). We probably just got lucky with the weather but the 30-minute trip wasn’t really that bad. Sure, the waves were big, the boat was constantly rocking from side to side, and some of the passengers suffered from seasickness but it wasn’t the serious life-threatening ordeal that the horror stories make it out to be.
The first thing that greets you upon stepping off the boat is the scorching heat. It was so freakin’ hot and we spent a lot of time walking around that by mid-afternoon, I had such severe sunburn I looked like an overcooked Peking duck. Continue reading →
An incontrovertible proof that you went to Batanes would be pictures of Rakuh a Payaman, the communal pastureland also known as Marlboro Country. Jump shots are better to cement the hardcore tourist vibe. For safe measure, also include photos of the Vayang rolling hills, Valugan boulder beach and 50 more ridiculously scenic shots from just about anywhere in the province.
Batan is one of the three inhabited islands in Batanes. It is home to four of the six municipalities including Basco, the provincial capital. The other two are island municipalities, Sabtang and Itbayat, which deserve their own blog entries. Sorry folks, as I said before, this is going to be an epic series of Batanes blather.
Rakuh a Payaman: Each family can have up to 10 cows in the pastureland, my guide said. A limit is imposed to prevent overgrazing. In exchange for use of the land, cattle owners must help out in community activities such as fixing the fences around the land and other maintenance works.
I was barely out of the airport when I had my first taste of Ivatan hospitality. I had no idea where my hostel was so the plan was to just walk and ask around until I find it. I was about to cross the street when an airport employee offered to take me there on his motorcycle. I’ve never hitchhiked before but I figured Batanes would probably be the safest place to try it so I hopped on with no second thoughts. As I correctly assumed, he was not a serial killer and he brought me to the hostel safe and sound.
Later that evening, I had dinner and beer in a nearby canteen and since I was alone, the owner wouldn’t stop fussing over me to make sure that I didn’t feel lonely and bored. I assured her that I was perfectly comfortable being on my own since I travel solo most of the time anyway but that didn’t diminish her resolve to make me feel at home. The other diners who were also her friends joined in on the welcome party and started talking to me as well. One of the guys was a pilot and another turned out to be the vice-governor of Batanes. Continue reading →