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.
They joined me at my table, ordered more beer, brought in plates of steamed lapulapu and coconut crabs and we ended up drinking until 3am. With free beer and delicious seafood, they sure know how to make a stranger feel right at home. More people came in and soon enough, the place was filled with loud chatter in a language I couldn’t understand. I was happily drunk when I learned my first Ivatan phrase: Kapian kapanu dios si cha mavekhas which means “good morning.” At one point they started talking to me in Ivatan and I answered in Bisaya which made for a very fun albeit completely incomprehensible conversation.
While still considerably intoxicated, I was dragged into a walking tour of the town center and the pier in the dead of night so we could stare at the stars, watch the waves and engage in more drunken conversations. I crawled into bed at 5am and was woken up two hours later by the hostel owner for my Batan Island tour. What better way to enjoy the rolling hills and seaside views than while nursing a nasty hangover. But more on that later.