Itbayat: On a Hunt for Halo-Halo

It was the middle of May; the blistering heat was rapidly zapping my energy… I wanted halo-halo.  We knocked on Nanay Laura’s house as her canteen was closed.

A keepsake with Nanay Laura.

Her charming Larez Carinderia beside her house was a favorite back then.  Who can forget her cooking?

A retired municipal treasury officer, Nanay Laura is an exceptional cook.

In my opinion, she makes the best Turmeric (or Yellow) Rice  (a Batanes Specialty) in the whole of Batanes.

She whips up creative dishes with the limited ingredients Itbayat has to offer her.  In 2006 and again last May, we were witness to that.

She was in Raele that day and didn’t have halo-halo.  I asked to see the twins instead. I remembered them from 6 years ago and was curious to see how they have turned out.

Now in their “tweens”, they have become beautiful, confident young girls.  We asked where we might find some halo-halo; Eva Marie offered to bring us there.

Each store we went to would apologetically shake their heads.  Ok, what about some ice cream then?  No success in that area too, although there is a store that actually has a soft serve machine but they weren’t serving any that day.

It is, after all, the farthest inhabited island of the north. Supplies don’t come easily, and often, especially if the falowa from Basco don’t come.

This bell is used to tell the town if the boat from Basco has left or not.

In Mayan Centro, Itbayat’s town center, a few trucks would occasionally ply the streets as townsfolk use these as transport to other towns.

There are those also who would go around in bikes, but these are rare.  People walk everywhere, to other towns even, if trucks aren’t available.  Eva Marie mentioned that she walked all the way to Raele yesterday where there was a fiesta.  She said she walked for hours and was so tired and bored.  I asked her how many hours; she shrugged and replied, “hindi ko alam, basta matagal, I don’t know, all I know is it took a long time”.

School break means that the kids are free to play, if not helping out the family.

Some of us even joined (or shall I say disrupted) their game.

Eva Marie likes hanging out with us.

Walking around town, she provided nuggets of information about her town.  Six degrees of separation definitely apply here.  Everyone is an aunt, uncle or a cousin.

She has ten siblings (eight, six years ago). She has been to Basco but has never left Batanes even if her mother works in Manila.

Along with some of her siblings, she stays with her grandmother, Nanay Laura.

Mayan Centro holds its own appeal, set in a bowl between hills.

The town center from the PAGASA tower.

At the centro, a basketball court and an open field play center-stage.

It is perhaps the only form of leisure in Itbayat; children of all ages are often seen playing in the field.

Across Larez Carinderia is an Old Spanish church, Sta. Maria Immaculada and the school beside it.  On one side is the municipal office

and on the opposite end of the field is its guesthouse, where we previously stayed.

While the town has many traditional Ivatan houses with its cogon roofs, many opted to use galvanized roof.  Cheaper upkeep and it’s less prone to fire, says Nanay Cano.

But the Itbayats love their gardens.

An Arius Tree, indigenous to Batanes. 

No matter the type of house they may have, their gardens are always verdant, some are even quite creative.

We practically roamed the entire town center in search of something cold and alas, we found a heat-quenching treat in some ice candy.


12 thoughts on “Itbayat: On a Hunt for Halo-Halo

  1. I’m one of the grandson of nanay laura my name is manes trainee here in manila… next time you visit us hope to see you and i will cook for you.. thanks for the photos..


    1. Hi Manes. Thank you for your comment. Glad to meet you and hope to see and taste your cooking in Itbayat someday. If you cook like you lola, I am sure it will be awesome. 🙂


  2. OMG! 😂 Thank you Tita Jen for these photos ❤️ (correction, Ave Marie po yung sumama sainyo 🤣) that was me🤣😂❤️❤️❤️ I hope to see u guys soon 😊


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