It has got to be the most photogenic place I have ever been to. I put out my camera, click and there it is, a masterpiece. Of course that is for me to say and you to filter.
Batanes has always been a dream destination for me. For business, I did not feel the need or at least the urgency to offer packages in Batanes. For many reasons. There is the weather. Then the cost. Ultimately, is it going to be worth considering?
Climate change helped a little. Cost could now be adjusted (land arrangements). Is it worth considering? MOST DEFINITELY.
Even with the other two factors unsolved, I'd have to add.
Batanes has been preserved and untouched mainly because of the typhoons that beset this land for many years. However, during the summer months, tourists can take full advantage. Then there is that little summer in September as well that may give you a fighting chance towards the end of the year.
For our group, the airfare (being stable costed) also was an advatage. You can book your tour very close to the date, to see weather forecast first, and then make the arrangements. The airfare will not be any different.
However, I cannot force anyone to come. Batanes has quietly gone under my radar too for a long time. Until I made time and budget for it. And it did not disappoint. It is a quiet maiden waiting to be valued and visited. Once you do, it will cuddle you like a mother showing you how wonderful life and love and beauty is. That is how our trip went.
The Ivatan people are the most friendly and for lack of a better word "payak" people I have encountered. The moment we entered the airport, the locals have been smiling at us, no screening here. Just a warm welcome that makes you feel immediately at home.
The dainty facade and structure of the airport also helped a lot. Instead of a conveyor belt, or at least a table, we were escorted out of the reception and waited outside till we were called to get our bags. Our guide and inn keeper also welcomed us and gave us the ride to our accommodation. Once in our inn, we were served hot breakfast of rice and terriyaki-ed flying fish ( which they have a lot in this region) along with coffee and orange juice. Our veranda also immediately invited me to journal away as I am gently kissed by the cool wind that is not punitive but refreshing.
Our tour started after lunch. It is easy to find out how they love their Adobo here. Their cuisine is sweet. My friends asked several of the places we ate in for chili and they had none to offer. For our first lunch we were also served with Nilagang baka. The beef was so tender it melts in your mouth. Our host immediately bragged that everything in Batanes is organic. Livestocks are left to wander and "tend" the grasses around. Which also explains the picturesque landscapes of their hills. Everything is natural.
The usual Northern tour takes you to the Pag-asa weather station, the Fundacion Pacita, the boulder beach the rolling hills and the Basco lighthouse. All a beauty. One experience I could not forget is how we almost could not get out of the van while we were at the rolling hills due to the strong winds. We needed to hide behind a hill to stabilize the van. I don't think I have ever been in that situation with the sun up! We ended our tour at about 5ish with the sunset view by the lighthouse.
Our dinner was catered at the Inn but it was not to come until about 7:30p.m. So we wandered about the "town". Even at about 6p.m. the town is already "empty". You can number the people roaming around with your fingers. No lines tricycle and jeepneys to obstruct the view of the plaza. It is like the town was made just for us to roam around at that specific time. That is how peaceful Basco is. And this is THE town. We lived within a minute from the Municipal hall, hospital, Cathedral and a college. Yet, there was no crowd. Just peace.
On our second day, we went for the Sabtang tour. This requires us to travel 30 minutes by land, another 30 minutes by boat. Our boat was late in coming so we borrowed a local's bike (just like that!) and went around to see people in their houses and gardens. Everyone greets you with a smile (can't say enough of this). I also noticed they do not have public markets. Mang Conrado (from Ivana) told me they till the land. They take care of their own livestock. They share their land so they take turn in the their produce. Everything is given by nature. No one lacks food.
In Sabtang island, we visited Bo. Savidug and Idyang, Chavayan beach and Ahaw arc. In a sudden twist of events, we needed to stay in Sabtang for the night. A blessing in disguise. We had time to chat with locals, be cooked for by locals and be made pasalubongs for especially by locals. Conversations you do not hear elsewhere like " oo naman po, binigay ko lang ang manok ko kasi pag sya naman ang me huling isda binibigyan nya din kami. ganyan dito bigayan lang." Amen.
The highlight of our trip was the morning after. We rented a smaller boat than the one that usually traverse this channel so that we could catch up with our schedule on the other side. Since the regular boatman need to stay in town till after the 8:00 mass, the next boat out of Sabang was at 10ish ( no definite time here) . They call the sea "swallow waters" around this part. For me, it was swallow in two ways. It swells, and it looks like its gonna swallow you. I opted to imagine it as a sea of thick chocolate! We were above water on our boats, no splash, on top of what seems like solid platform that will never sink us. We thought we'd be afraid. We ended up like children in an amusement park. My thoughts wandered to some scenes in the bible, the robinsons crusoe and what have you. Hands down the best part of this trip.
We caught up with our scheduled mass in town, freshened up and went for the Southern tour of Batan. Southern tour compose of the House of Dakay (oldest house in Batanes), Ruins of Songsong, Alapad rock formation, Marlboro country and Tayid light house. But really there is no definitive destination here. Just look over the window and you are as good as THERE.
We capped our trip with a dinner especially arranged for us by our partner at the lighthouse of Basco. A perfect venue for that final night cap.
Who should go to Batanes?
- Those who are willing to shell out a few more pesos to make good a promise to self and finally place a tick mark on that bucket list.
- Those who would like to spend sometime just staring out in a picturesque landscape escaping all else that occupies your usual day.
- Those who wants to feel they have the luxury of time... and is finally rich with it.
- Those who would like to see how life is lived back when our priorities are straight, our lifestyle basic and our trust in others still exist.
I am glad to have met the people in Batanes, to have laid my hands on their houses, to have exchanged ideas with their elders and their young. I am happy that all in life is not yet spoilt. I am glad to know that Batanes is still pure. I am hoping it will stay the same. I wish that it will not change. But I do hope it changes us...their guests.