This is an 8-part blog on my 2007 vacation to Batanes. Hope you stay until the end. 🙂
Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines. It is also a magnet for typhoons- well, it is situated along the path of typhoons entering the Philippine area of responsibility. The wonderful thing about it? It’s my home province.
Well, I wasn’t born there, nor my Mom and siblings, but my Dad was. My grandparents on both sides were also born there. So that makes us true Ivatans, the term used for people from Batanes.
My recent trips there were 1999 and 2001, I think. The only thing I loved doing there was fishing. And eating what I caught- hehehe.
Nessie, my sister, and I were scheduled to go there on 28 April, a Saturday. We will be joined by Jun, a co-worker, and his wife Lisa, Lisa’s officemate Gemma, and her son Jon. I just got back from an unforgettable trip to Banaue and Sagada and did not unpack my toiletries and the like. I just transferred them all to a trolley bag for easier handling.
As with most Filipinos going home to the provinces, we bought pasalubongs for our kin and friends in Batanes. We also packed some clothes to be handed out to them when we eventually leave. My Dad made a list of relatives to visit. He was initially to come with us but a bad waist/back prevented him from doing so.
I left the office on Friday night quite late- had some last-minute things to do before the week long vacation. When I got home, I had dinner then finalized my packing. The flight was at 6am and got to sleep around 3am. I set my alarm at 4am, which gave me roughly an hour of shuteye.
Day 1 – Saturday
I woke before my alarm rang- less than an hour. I think I just dozed off. Am not sure if it was the excitement of going back home or just being my usual self of not sleeping fully before a trip. Or it might be the heat- it was almost 28 degrees C here. Whew! Whatever it was, I just went down to have my coffee, took a bath then dressed up.
My brother Sandy took us to the airport. Of course, Batch, his youngest, tagged along. She was in her PJs and holding a stuffed toy. You’d expect her to sleep during the short trip but no- she was her usual talkative self. In fact, she was talking about food, what to eat for breakfast after they dropped us off. Hmm, I was getting hungry, too.
The airport was really packed when we got there. It turned out that there were a number of flights that morning in a very small airport. There were a lot of trips to Boracay, which explained the almost beach-like attire of most of the passengers. Gone are the days when one has to dress properly for a flight. Tsk, tsk- well.
Now, it was quite obvious which line was for Basco, Batanes. Why? There were a number of roosters in boxes on most of the passengers’ things. And they were crowing like there was no tomorrow! It was a concert, albeit an annoying one, of cock-a-doodle-doos! I could only smile at it.
Jun and Lisa came a bit later, Gemma and Jon a few minutes after. We couldn’t let them in our slot as I didn’t want to get angry looks from the people next in line. The checking in was really slow, only one counter was open. With the noise from the roosters, the number of people in the building and the obvious heat in spite of the air conditioning, I was beginning to feel annoyed. Oh, I also wanted breakfast.
When it was our turn, it was a fast check-in but had to pay for excess baggage. All those pasalubongs, I guess. We gestured to Jun and the others that we’d meet them inside the waiting area. As soon as we got in, I went straight to the restaurant. Ness and I got chicken sandwich and water. We looked for a place to sit and enjoyed the delayed meal. A few minutes later, the others joined us and we waited for boarding.
With no announcement at all that the flight was delayed, we were wondering when they were going to call the Basco flight. It was already 6am and we weren’t even boarding yet. Nessie pointed out that if it were PAL, there would be someone announcing the delay. True.
We finally got our boarding call a bit past 7am. The flight was full and had to endure sitting in the middle seat. Good thing the flight was only an hour and 10 minutes. When we chanced upon Batan Island, everybody was craning their necks to look at the rugged terrain. I couldn’t help being proud of the place.
Batan, the main island, holds four of the main towns: Basco, Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan. The other towns, Sabtang and Itbayat, are on separate islands. The earlier is a 45-min bangka ride while the latter is 3 hours. Depending on current or sea conditions, it might take longer.
Upon landing, I noticed that the airport had improved since last I was there. It was more “friendly” to non-Ivatans. I remember seeing some carabaos when I got off the plane before. Not anymore- the view was blocked by the tiny building, which can be rightfully called the airport- not bad.
When we got to it, I could already see my cousin Linda at the exit area. Technically, she’s my aunt because she’s my Mom’s cousin. However, she’s younger than me and find it awkward to call her Auntie. She also feels “old” when we do say it.
While waiting for our luggage to be unloaded, we chatted outside. I had to take a break to go to the comfort room. I even saw Dick, her husband, while I was in line. After that, we continued chatting. Nessie went to get our luggage. I even saw my Auntie Susan, Dad’s first-degree cousin. We promised to visit her at the Ivana fiesta on 1 May.
After introductions were made with Linda and my other companions, we made our way out. Ness and I rode on motorcycles driven by Linda and Lilia, the earlier’s sister. The others rode on the pick up truck that Dick drove. Boying, another sibling, rode his bike without any passenger.
We rode through the streets of Basco and felt really great on the motorbike. We passed by the main house, where I stayed the last two times I was there. Lorna, the eldest sister, was there and we said our hellos. We moved on until we got to the town of Mahatao, where we will be staying the whole week.
We got to the late Uncle Ted Fagar’s house. Linda said that we were to stay there instead of their beach house at Disvayangan. Apparently there was a water problem there and might not work for us. It was a good thing Uncle Ted’s house was available. I also stayed here the last time.
We hauled our belongings inside. There were only two beds upstairs so we assigned one to Jun and Lisa and the other to Gemma and Jon. Nessie and I will be staying out of the room, where three foam cushions were piled up. The heat was starting to be noticeable at this time.
We had a second round of breakfast of fried daing na dibang (flying fish), chopped tomatoes and onions and garlic rice. Yummy! After that, we practically whiled our time. Ness and I took a nap. Right before lunch, we dressed into lighter clothes to go to Disvayangan.
Jon, due to a torn slipper, rode with Linda on the motorbike while we made the 5-min. walk. We stopped now and then to take some pictures. All I could hear was how beautiful everything was.
When we got to Disvayangan, Linda showed us the cottage she reserved for Jun and the others. We then walked a few steps to their beach house, where Ness and I were to stay. It was heaven to have a place like this. I really wanted to see it ever since Linda told me they got it.
The beach house was rustic but it was true to the sense that it was a beach house. That was its appeal. We had lunch and introduced them to other Ivatan fare: yellow rice and more dibang. We then rested for awhile before we started our tour.
We all climbed into Dick’s jeep and went off to Diura Fishing Village, still in Mahatao. The fishing village primarily catches fish for themselves first before they sell to others. Dick explained that they segregate it amongst themselves then any extras are then sold outside the village. He also said that these are simple and trustworthy people and you would not want to cross or trick them as you will make an enemy for life. Drinking sessions here are quite fun as pulutan (food for drinking) is abundant. Hmm, got to bring the animation people here.
When we got to the start of the trail (the Kiltepan trail in Sagada flashed before my eyes), we were met by a female guide. Linda said she has had 15 children already- okay, that’s trivia. We paid the 50-peso visitor’s fee for the Rakuaydi Springs. Hmm, could not see any around but she said we had to walk up the trail to get there. Right- silly me.
So we went up the trail. I started to miss my walking stick and was trying to look for one to replace it. Everywhere you looked, the rock formations were different, and so was the foliage. I saw an orange something- couldn’t decide if it was a flower or a fruit. It turned out to be wild pandan, a favorite food of the coconut crab.
We also passed by remnants of the early settler’s abode. It was all made of stone. The only thing that was still intact was the corn grinder, which was only one big stone and a smaller one on top for grinding. Simple, eh?
At some point, I could see a pool down below. Was that the springs? It was odd to have it in this place. We were then going down. Again, I was imagining how trying it would be to go up later.
When we finally got to it, I could not help but marvel at it. The springs had a grotto. The water, coming from the mountains and tasting really sweet (yes, you can drink it!), flowed down a small pool then down to a middle and big pools from PVC pipes. To top it off, the pools were overlooking the sea below. How beautiful can that be?
I waded into the middle pool, was not ready to get totally wet. We should have had our swimwear on- tsk. Jun, Lisa, Nessie and Jon swam in the big pool. Jon even had an accident; he slid as he got in the pool, dragging his cell phone with him. The water was cool and loved to stay there the rest of the afternoon because of the heat.
We took a lot of pictures. When the others came out the pool, they suddenly felt cold. It was already late afternoon and it was windy. Good thing Nessie brought a towel and placed it on her back to avoid getting a cold. After resting a minute, we started our ascent back.
At some point, I was the lone contestant in the heavy breathing contest. Or must be I could not hear the others as I was really far ahead. We stopped for more picture taking. We got to the village and thanked our guide. We walked down the beach, which had a very thick layer of sand, and soft that you sink in it. When Dick came by with the jeep, we hauled ourselves in and headed for home.
We went to Disvayangan but the others wanted to take a bath after the springs. I opted to stay as I was fine as I was. Everybody left and was on my own. I tried to take a nap, but could not. I walked by the shore and wished I had my swimwear on and take a dip. I was starting to feel really bored when Linda arrived with dinner. I finally met Mark, Linda and Dick’s son, who also happens to be my godson.
The others came later. Dick and Boying were having drinks and invited us. I joined in, taking a shot of Black Label whisky. Ohh! We had tanigue sashimi (better than tuna), sinigang na dibang, yellow rice, tamidok (fern) and uvud (ground pork, fish and banana root). I had another shot of whisky and would regret it the next day.
Seeing us really tired, we opted to walk home. Nessie, Gemma, Jon and the others got in the jeep while Jun, Lisa and myself started up the road. We were halfway home when Dick met us with the jeep and we got in. It seems there was an ongoing political campaign at the town hall and he wanted us to avoid it. Also, the house keys were with me so they could not get in- hehehe.
I took a shower when I arrived. Being surrounded by the sea, my skin felt really sticky. Top it off with perspiration and you really have an uncomfortable situation. We were asleep a few minutes after- and it was only 9pm! We were hearing mass at 630am tomorrow so better prepare for that. I was really groggy, must be the whisky and the lack of sleep the night before. I set my phone alarm to 5am and went into slumber land.