Batanes Journal

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edit: The pictures related to this post are already uploaded in my Multiply account. This post has 3 folders of pictures.

My trip to Batanes last 22-25 February 2005 is truly a memorable one. It’s not only filled with photos but with memories as well, also the chance of meeting some of my relatives. Yes, I do have some relatives in Batanes but I don’t specifically know them. Few years ago, I asked my Dad with regards to the family genealogy on his side and it was last year when I got a clear picture of what’s exactly to trace. During my trip to Cagayan De Oro last year, I was able to grab some 1950s pictures and perhaps, it would help me trace the relatives especially those of my grandparents and great grandparents that hailed from Batanes.

Batanes has been known to be a province here in the Philippines that’s always been visited by storms. Personally, I haven’t heard much of the place and that makes the trip more exciting. Fortunately, I already have my leave credits and took a day’s leave for the entire weekend getaway. February 25 was declared as a non-working holiday so it made my trip more enjoyable. Though, even if it’s a working holiday, I can go straight to the office from the airport since I still have ample time for travel to the office since the flight’s ETA in Manila is 0830H.

Pictures related to this journal will be uploaded later in my multiply account. 🙂

Day 1

Out of excitement, I have decided not to sleep on the eve of my flight. I was advised by my travel agent that I should be in the airport as early as 2 hours before the scheduled flight. In my e-ticket, the ETD of the flight is 0530H. I was wondering why the display of the flight schedules in the domestic airport isn’t the same as in our ticket. It was already 0515H and there’s no notification of boarding yet for Asian Spirit and I suppose that the schedule that will be followed would be that of the airport. It was 0525H when I noticed that the crew of our flight arrived and I told to myself that they are late for the flight. We board the airplane few minutes later and in less than 15 minutes after the call the boarding the flight, we are ready to leave for Basco, Batanes. Contrary to other field reports (FR) of Asian Spirit passengers, the flight was smooth if not only of the “bounce” that the airplane made when it landed in Basco. I just told to myself that it was perhaps because of the weather that the plane wasn’t able to land smoothly. The flight was approximately an hour and five minutes similar to the travel time distance going to Cebu from Manila.

I was awed at the place upon stepping down from the plane. Welcoming you is the view of Mt. Iraya, a dormant volcano in Batanes. I had to pull out my camera immediately and take photos of the place. With my recently acquired ultra wide lens (Canon EF-S 10-22mm), I had to test the lens and that moment was the best time to get started shooting at wide angles. Unfortunately, the place was covered with clouds and I had a hard time getting sharp pictures and at times, I have to slow down my shutter speed to get bright pictures but that would be prone to blurred pictures. I took few snapshots of the plane, the airport and the time that we were about to wait for our checked-in bags. The airport isn’t that big (which is quite understandable) and I think it can only accommodate short-haul trips. Aside from Asian Spirit, it caters to Pacific Air and Chemtrad for flights to/from Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley and Itbayat Island, also in Batanes. Sometimes, Asian Spirit uses the Basco Airport for some chartered flights to/from Taiwan. Taiwan is approximately 200 km from Batanes against the approximate of 300km away from Aparri, Cagayan Valley.

I almost got lost in the airport since I don’t know whom I am joining to. Most of my co-passengers in the flight have already boarded their respective rides and I don’t know what group I shall be joining. That could be one of the repercussions of traveling alone and/or being “hooked” to join a different group. I had to send my agent an SMS on who to look and shortly, I found the group and off to our accommodations. The place where we stayed is the Batanes Resort. This place is visible from the plane upon landing to Basco. Their rooms are named after different places/islands in Batanes and a typical room can accommodate 3 people. What I have booked for is a fan room but the room has an aircon! Electricity in our accommodation is 24 hours unlike in other areas of Batanes. Basco is also powered 24 hours so you can be assured of continuous electricity in the area. The main power source of Batanes is by diesel but there are some windmills in the area (not as big as those in Bangui, Ilocos Norte) and these supplies around 20% of the place’s electricity demands. Our tour guides were Roger and Anong (slang for Luciano). Apeng is our driver and I think he’s already used to driving tourists in the island as with my experience, he’s effortless in doing driving maneuvers in the cliffs. Imagine driving a customized oversize jeepney in a narrow road.

Going back to the group, I feel alienated at first since most of my companions came in groups and I was the only one who went there alone. After few chitchats and our welcome breakfast in the resort, I feel already at home with them. Of course, the friendly person I am (ahem!) joined with the rest of the group and later on, I was talking with them. Prior going to our designated rooms, we ate breakfast which is part of our package. We were served with day-old “daing na flying fish”, fried eggs, tomatoes and bananas. At first, I thought the fish was bangus (milk fish) but later on realized that it was flying fish. The first tastes good but quite bony. We rest for few minutes and arranged our things in the room and then we’re off to go our day tour in Batan Island.

Everyone was amazed with scenes added with the thrill of passing through the narrow road beside the cliffs. We had occasional stops at places/beaches to take pictures. The first official stop is the Tahuhura beach where you’ll find the 279 steps going down. There are some benches in the area where you can have yourself a picture pose. I took pictures of myself on the view deck and braved the steps going down the cliff where waves slap the coastline.

Our next stop was Mahatao. We had to pay 50 pesos as ecological fee (or whatever fee that is). We visited the San Carlos Borromeo Church and took some pictures on its façade. The current assigned priest on that Church is a Thomasian and according to him, he was just recently assigned there. Outside the Church’s garden is a small parola which according to our tour guide is an old lighthouse used long ago. Diagonal to that parola is another one and they work in conjunction with one another.

Going to Ivana, we passed by to some beaches and of course we have to stop for some photo opportunities. Ivana is the next town to Mahatao where my grandmother was born. I am suspecting that I could locate some relatives in the area and my tour guide was helpful enough to locate some of them. While locating for my relatives, we dropped off on a certain area along the national road and then walked and took pictures of stone houses in the area. Our guide has pointed us to a 17th century bridge (which I think is no longer used). I saw an old house being taken by other photographers and had myself a picture. Luckily, there’s an old Ivatan that lives in that place. At first, she was shy to pose for me but after my companions approached her, she readily sat at the door and there we went shooting. There are a lot of things that can be shot in the area and I just clicked on my camera. Attached with my camera most of the time is my wide-angle lens. It’s quite difficult to change lenses from time to time so I had to stick with it most of the time. I managed to talk to one of my uncles (following the genealogy information stuck in my mind) and I gave him my number for future reference. Of course, I cannot leave the group and as much as possible, I asked them if they can meet me at the resort, I would be glad to talk to them.

Moving further, we went to the San Jose Church in Ivana whose original altar is in ruins at the back of its current location. I didn’t explored the place that much, just took a picture of the façade and went instead to the dock in front of it. Near the church is the famous “Honesty Coffee Shop” and took some pictures. I took some items from it but with a tight budget, I only got 21 pesos worth of items. Since it was past 12, we went to Jojmoron Cove and ate lunch there. Again, we were served with inihaw na flying fish, chicken adobo, pinakbet and bocayo (coconut sweets). There were some carabaos and horses roaming in the area so we took some pictures after eating. The wind was strong but not enough for us to be pushed away.

Continuing the day tour, we passed by the ruins of Sungsung. According to our guide, the place was once hit by a tsunami and most of the houses there are destroyed. As such, it became a “ghost town” but slowly, people are coming back and start anew. We also passed by the house used by Iza Calzado in her movie “Batanes” and took some pictures of it. The next place that we went to is something I forgot to ask the place. It is where Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gomez shoot their movie “Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit”. It was drizzling then and raindrops start to pollute my filter. I just took some pictures and went back to the jeep. After that place, we proceed to Imnajbu (pronounced imnabu) to visit a wishing well. I was curious at first what that “wishing well” really was and later found out that it was the comfort room. “Wishing well” sounds like the Filipino slang for urinating which is “wiwi” and there goes the thing – no further explanation needed. After that “wishing well” visit, we passed by the Church where the first mass was held. The caretaker of the Church gladly opened the Church for us for viewing and some offered some prayers there. The last stop was the alapad hills better known as “Marlboro” country of Batanes. Inasmuch as I wanted to take pictures, my head ached and I was chilling very badly. I forgot to bring a jacket and too weak to go out in the drizzle and cold. After that place, we headed back to the resort and I immediately slept off. I just woke up for dinner, rest for a while and slept again.

I’ll continue Day 2 on the next post. 🙂

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