Best of 2012

Forgive the silence… would you believe that I ushered in the New Year with colds and fever?  But that didn’t stop me from having friends over for the count down. No.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.


Credits:  Quickpage from JSprague’s 4ever kit, created by Brenda Neuberger

2012 has been good to me.  Even with much less travels this year, I’ve managed a few unforgettable firsts.  Here they are; some I have not even posted but will pre-empt:

1.  The Bus Ride to Vang Vieng


A 4-hour bus ride from Vientaine on a sleeper bus made for petite Laotians.  Worst was the bunks were meant for (yes) 2 petite Laotians.  We’re definitely far from petite.  So imagine the trip.

2.  First time on a Hot Air Balloon


Soaring high in Vang Vieng, watching the town wake up.  You get the best view in town, if you ask me.

3.  The Boat Ride to Y’ami


An idea that came to fruition had us journeying to the northernmost island of the Philippines on a grueling 3-hour boat ride off Itbayat Island in Batanes.  Why?  I ask the same question many times over.  An experience hard to topple.

4.  A Night in Siayan


We had to break the grueling boat ride and stay overnight in an island about 1 hour away from Itbayat (the farthest inhabited island of Batanes) because the waters along the Bashi Channel can be treacherous particularly in the late afternoon.  Getting to the island, beautiful as it is, is an adventure in its self.

5.  Hiking Up to Cape Engaño


Beautiful sight, up there.  That’s all I will say for now.  Watch out for my post – coming soon.

6.  Enjoying an Onsen Bath


While it snowed too.  A totally exhilarating and liberating experience, I dipped in those pools two nights in a row.  Awesomeness.

As for 2013, I’ve got some exciting plans already in the pipeline. I’ve been working hard to get that to fruition over the holidays, truth to tell.  It is going to be an exciting year.  I feel it in the air.  How is your 2013 looking so far?

A Trip to Y’ami: Philippine’s Northernmost Tip

A truck waits for us at the corner of Nanay Cano’s house.

It will be taking us to Paganaman Port where we will embark on a trip to Y’ami Island.   The northernmost island of Batanes, it is closer to Taiwan than it is to Aparri.  An idea I never really took seriously until an email came my way one day in March.  “He wasn’t joking”, I thought.

We had to trek down to the port with our drinking water and overnight kits.  It was a long way down.

There it was waiting for us at the landing.  The boat, also called a falowa that Nanay Cano arranged for us was unbelievably small.

Could it really bring us safely to Y’ami on treacherous waters?  The sea was calmest in May, which was why this expedition happened then.  So along with treacherous waters is scorching sun.  That boat has no cover whatsoever.  So I ask myself for the nth time, how far do I go really?  Is this so-called adventure worth the trouble?

No one spoke a word when we reached the landing.  One by one, we got on the boat with much effort.  The water was rough, making it difficult to mount.  It was the biggest fishing boat on the island, we were told, costing us a mere P6,000 for the 2-day journey.

Looking back at Itbayat.

Composed of 3 major inhabited islands, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat, Batanes also has smaller uninhatbited islands.  These are Siayan, Di-nem, Dequey, North, Mavudis, and Y’ami (also called Mavulis by locals).  Y’ami being the farthest, we will pass all these islands on the way.

The plan was to drop off our stuff at Siayan, the island closest to Itbayat.  Because Y’ami has no water source, we will stay the night at Siayan before heading back to Itbayat the next day.

The water became quite rough at one point, I wanted to get off with our stuff in Siayan but as fate would have it, the captain (they actually call him piloto) decided that we were light enough to travel the long haul.  Stopping at Siayan would take up time (you’ll soon find out why) and he’d rather be out of the water before late afternoon. If truth be told, the rough sea exhibited how capable our captain was and that there was nothing to fear.  One of us noticed that they only have one engine.  “What happens if the engine breaks”, he asked.  They shrugged, “we will use the sail”.  Simple as that!

Am I glad there was no need for that.  Needless to say, the journey to Y’ami was grueling with me getting perhaps the lousiest seat – the middle seat with nothing to hold on to.  I slip and slide as the boat ride the waves.  The fiberglass boat is slippery when wet, leg room was limited, the sun scorching…

But the scenery along the way somewhat eased the uneasiness.

Three hours after we left Paganaman port, we see Y’ami in the distance. As we approach it, we realized that getting off was a problem.

The water was too rough for a shore entry so we anchored far from shore and waded to the island.

“This better be worth it”, my thought balloon goes.

Under those rocks we found shelter from the scorching heat of mid-day sun.
And there we had lunch.

Trekking to the other side of the hill where there is some sort of landing, albeit on sharp rocks.

The island is beautiful, pure, unspoiled.  Sadly though, we saw a baby shark with its fins cut off from a fishing boat.

Except for some fishermen (including the corrupted ones) taking a break from fishing, hardly anyone sets foot in this uninhabited island.  It is, after all, a long way from home.