Reminiscing Batanes

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The first time I became aware of this group of islands called Batanes was when I saw this Filipino film –  “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit” which catapulted to stardom two established actors in my side of the world (and it just dated me too). Since then I became obsessed in stepping foot on this islands of the Ivatans.  In 1997, that obsession came to fruition.  It was my first taste of rugged travels.  I feel privileged to have witnessed the Batanes of before… before its commercialization to a certain degree, that is.  At that time, there was only one jeep going around the island of Batan.  So we walked almost everywhere, even climbed an idjang – a pre-hispanic mountain fortress where the locals sought refuge during tribal conflicts. There were only a few places to lodge; we stayed at Mama Lily’s.  It was clean and comfortable albeit spartan.  And because there were hardly any restaurants then, we’d have home cooked meals courtesy of our host.  Fortunately, she cooks and cooks well.

Getting to Sabtang is an adventure of its own.  The only way to get there is by boat or what they call falowa.  If the sea gets a bit rough, expect your inside to turn topsy turvy as well.  Expect to take the trip with chickens, goats and sometimes a cow… yes a cow!  We’d hike the whole island, spending the night camping in a school gym at Sumnanga; halfway around the island, then we’d walk back the next day to catch the falowa back to the main island, Batan.  Those were the days.

batanes-circa-97Credit: Paper – Joyful Hear Designs Plain Jane – Olive; Alpha – PDuncan Carnival Alpha; Element – Hoyfyl Heart Designs – Plain Jane Tape

Nine years after my first Batanes encounter, I found myself back in 2006. There were evident changes – vehicles, more than one and more than one kind were now all over the island.  There were a lot more lodges and inns, some restaurants, even a pizza place but despite all this, it is still the Batanes I reveled in almost a decade ago.  Mama Lily has long migrated to the US and when I passed her house, fond memories (of her food actually) came flashing by.

batanes1Credits:  Alpha – Asman; Papers – KPertiet Cotton Easter – red; KPertiet King Me Paper; KPertiet Graph Note Paper; Overlay – KPertiet Graphic Sun Prints OV; Tag – KPertiet Stick Pon2 Red Tag; Template – JSprage 4 square template; Frame- JSprague Grunge Frame 1

Sabtang, my favorite island of Batanes, has not progressed as much as Basco has.  The only way there is still by falowa (and still taking on both humans and animals).  Sabtang still leaves me breathless.  It makes you feel like you’re in another world.  Although you can now arrange for a vehicle to take you around the island, walking is still the main means especially among the locals.  Truth to tell, you get see more of the island by foot so if you can, take the vehicle up to a certain point (probably Chavayan) and hike the rest of the island.  Still no inns and only a few stores that offer food in the island, our contact in Basco, had someone cook dinner for us.  The food was great but we were so stirred by their warm reception.  Their pride was so evident as they talk about their island and simple cuisine (which consisted of a lot of root crops, turmeric and seafood, particularly lobster, crabs et al). Camping days are likewise over, the School of fisheries in Centro has dormitory rooms, albeit few and basic, indoors nevertheless.  I heard that there now exists a Sabtang Lodge, which I have yet to verify and see for myself.

chavayan_0828

It is now possible to fly to Itbayat when the only way to get there before was by falowa – four hours of rough sea.  Sheer torture, I’m sure.  Itbayat, the farthest northern inhabited island, can be considered the Philippine’s last frontier.  Its rocky island is a great place for trekking.  We barely scratched the surface as we only did an overnight.  We visited a cave that led to a rocky hilltop overlooking the sea.  It was awesome and quite different from islands of Batan and Sabtang.  This needed going back to and we decided that this year would be a good time to go… well we tried.

itbayat-islandCredits: Paper – DJE PP3, Joyful Heart Designs Plain Jane-Seafoam, Scarlet Heels Media Carnival PP1; Frames – JSprague Flurish Frame, KPertiet Snap Frames; Element – Jack n Me Alpha blank

Needless to say, plans didn’t pull through. Why? You ask.  First, we found out that the airport where the planes takes off to Itbayat is currently under construction and there is still no solid plan as to its resumption.  And to my dismay, but to my friend, S‘s delight… you see, she had to back out of this trip because of this thing called work.  But I digress.  So to my dismay, when some (I wasn’t about to cancel) went to cancel their flights with Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit), they found out that flights in February were still up in the air (no pun intended).  They revealed that their entire January flights were canceled due to aircraft shortage.  Unbelievable!  We didn’t have a sure flight to Batanes after all?  And we weren’t informed about it until someone went to cancel?  By that time SeaAir (the other Airline that flies to Batanes) was fully booked.  Hmmph!!  But it’s only February, you may wonder.  Well, we could if we really want to push it and go in March or April but I just love it there during the cool, breezy months.  It’s really the best time to go.  After summer comes typhoon, and you don’t want to be there at that time, believe you me! So perhaps next year and perhaps not with Zest Air.   😉

And that’s “the not so sad” tale of my recent Batanes trip that never was.   😕

This has been my entry to That’s My World Tuesday.  Go visit to see more.

 

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12 thoughts on “Reminiscing Batanes

  1. went to Batanes 2 years ago and it was a dream come true for me. Prior to that, we had a hard time finalizing our booking flights with the airline (we got almost the same experience). Actually, our trip almost didn’t push too and I found another alternative. We took smaller plane from Ilocos (another one is availble from Tuguegarao). The trip was relatively considering it was an 8-seater plane. So, next time Zest Air or AsianSpirit cancels on your Batanes trip, try the ones from Ilocos or Tuguegarao. Be prepared for big airpockets though hehehe!

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  2. Yes, I think it’s Ilocos Air or Chemtrad in Tuguegarao. But we decided to wait for the airport (to Itbayat) to resume operations.

    Isn’t Batanes another world? It has really changed the way I see the Philippines! It’s a beautiful country and I’m proud of it!!! 🙂

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  3. what a wonderful post and enjoyed the history of your visiting it…the pictures were great.
    always enjoy seeing places i have not been to and might want to visit in the future.
    have a great week.
    erin

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