Faustina Cano, Tina or simply “Nanay” is the woman to call when you’re headed to Itbayat. She can arrange almost anything. We needed a boat to take us to the farthest island of Batanes – an idea out of the ordinary that turned to fruition through Nanay’s help. A retired teacher, Nanay is now the tourism officer of the island and is perfect for her role. You’ll soon find out why.
Flying was not always possible for this northernmost inhabited island. When there was still no airport or when it recently went for a refurbishment, one has no choice but to take a grueling 4-hour boat ride.
Because it is a giant uplifted coral reef as research claims, it does not have a shoreline to land on. When the water is rough (which is almost always), getting oneself to the port is a challenge.
One has to time the boat and jump as it levels with the landing. Whew! Glad I never had to do this although it would have been an interesting trip if ever.
Arriving on an 8-seater plane, we landed at the Itbayat Airport only 12 minutes after we took off from Basco. The airport is far from town and when I first came in 2007, a truck picked us up and took us to town on bumpy, unpaved roads. This time, we hitched a ride with the ambulance that was going back after bringing an old woman to the airport.
Road conditions had improved with some roads paved along the way. Classified as a community airport, it provides one pick-up to take passengers to and from the airport.
Needless to say, we booked our rooms at Nanay Cano’s Homestay. Our home for the next few days had 5 beds, one bathroom and several fans to keep us cool although it is rendered useless after midnight when the power goes off till 6 the following morning. On hot summer’s nights in May, we miserably sweltered through the night, truth to tell. How far do I go for adventure, I often ask myself.
Nanay Cano is an excellent host, she knows the history of the place, and she explains it with so much gusto too. As soon as we got settled, she called us together to explain the following day’s agenda, the islands we are visiting and its logistics etc. It is not going to be easy, and again I ask, how far do I go for adventure?
Coconut crabs. A delicacy and found most in this island. Walking around town waiting for lunch to be served at Nanay Cano’s, we came across some fishermen selling these crabs and a delicious dinner it made.
The crab is said to climb coconut trees and husks coconuts with their powerful claws hence the name. It is however not a significant part of their diet.
When cooked, the claws are hard and needs a good bashing to break, the meat sweet and firm. Although I still prefer Alimango (mud crabs) and Alimasag (blue crabs), Coconut crabs is a priced delicacy and is widely hunted, its population dwindling. The IUCN has classified them on the red list of threatened species. This means (as I understand it) that they can only be consumed locally and is not to be sold outside of the island. Or am I just justifying for having a scrumptious meal? 😉
Aside from the coconut crabs, Itbayat produces garlic, a lot of them. Nanay explains that the different varieties are a result of bartering with Taiwan, who has an extensive production of garlic as well.
Between some of us, we brought home a total of 12 kilo worth – Nanay arranged to have it shipped to Basco lest we go over the weight limit. These are good garlic, folks. If you find your way to this corner of the globe, do get yourself some of these. I am loving it and will miss it once I run out.
With that lovely dinner, we were off to bed early… before the fan shuts down. A long, challenging day awaits us tomorrow.