Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Wow Philippines! * Batan, Batanes Part 1 of 3 (April 2012)

The sun was barely up in Manila
and we're already taking off
Being that Batan is the main island of Batanes, all flights get in from here.  Basco in Batan Island was our base for our 5-day journey and DDD Habitat was our home.
Batanes Airport
As soon as we landed, we checked in to our rooms and freshened up, then rushed off to catch the boat to nearby Sabtang Island and experience going back in time.  You can read my blog on Sabtang titled Sabtang Brought Me Back in Time

In fact, that was a good introduction to our trip to Batanes.  On our way back from Sabtang, we get a good view of the San Jose de Ivana Church, the newly painted yellow church at the Ivana port.

We also got to visit the Honesty Cafe, a popular cafe made famous for its honesty system.  "This Store is Too Small for Dishonest People" - a sign inside the Honesty Cafe, a small little cafe near the port in Ivana, Batanes.  Joe and Elena own this place and because they were so busy with many other chores elsewhere, they often had to leave their little cafe which eventually turned into a self-service cafe, where even the payment for the food, drinks or souvenir items you want to get are done by dropping them into a box just sitting on the countertop. Thus, the birth of Honesty Coffee Shop where Honesty is the Best Policy.

It seems that we've been here in Batanes for so many days already, but our first day was just ending.  We head out for our first sunset shoot at Vayang Rolling Hills.  As if Tinan Hills in Sabtang Island has not left us out of breath, Vayang Rolling Hills competes for our attention with its beautiful vast open hills as far as the eye can see.

One can see Mahatao Lighthouse from here

And what better way to end a colorful day than to have dinner by the bunkers at the Naidi Lighthouse, overlooking the hills up on the coast.  Dinner itself turned to be an adventure experience as the wind howled and hurled around us, blowing even the chairs down.  Never have I encountered such strong wind even during a storm.  But this is Batanes on a regular night.  We had to move our tables inside one of the bunkers so that we could eat comfortably.

As we headed back to DDD Habitat, we went for our rest knowing that there is a possibility of canceling our trip to Itbayat the next day, given the strong winds.  We were to decide at 4am the next day.  All night, it sounded like strong rain pouring but when I peeked through the window, it was just the wind.  At 4am, we received word that the winds had died down and we were cleared to travel by sea.

Despite the clearer weather, our journey at sea was still an experience of a lifetime. And you can see why when you read my blogs about Itbayat in Itbayat, Batanes: Adventure at Sea and Itbayat, Batanes: Homestay and Beautiful Landscapes

Back from Itbayat, we headed back to DDD in time to visit the church as it was Good Friday.  We went to take part in the festivities at the Basco Cathedral.  The activities were long and very traditional.  Practically, everybody was at the church taking part.  The cathedral was just renovated, after 12 years :-)

On our way back, we wanted to get something to drink, and to our disappointment, most of the stores were closed because of the special holy day.  We found one where we could buy some soda on a bag.  This will appear interesting to foreigners, where a plastic bag is used to put the soda.  Basically, it's so that you don't have to take the bottle and bring it back later on to claim your deposit.

After our rest, we headed out again for a sunset shoot at Chapidan, otherwise known as Boulder Beach.  The view was spectacular as we sit by the boulders watching the waves hit the rocks while the sun sets behind the spires.  Behind us, we were able to catch a glimpse of Mt. Iraya, as the clouds moved out of the way for a few minutes, uncovering a majestic mountain that was kept hidden all this time.

View of Mt. Iraya from Chapidan Boulder Beach

Photo by Ferdz Decena
Another wonderful dinner filled our stomachs as we ended the day at the Pension Ivatan, who served the famous Ivatan Platter which basically gave us a taste of a variety of the local Ivatan food which included the following:

- Tatus (Coconut Crab)
- Flying Fish (I think :-))
- Shrimp
- Turmeric Rice (yellow ginger)
- Uvod (meatballs) - after some research, I learned this is made of pork, flying fish and banana trunk
- Pako (edible wild ferns) - was great with the yummy bagoong that they served, we had to ask for more bagoong :-)
- Tinolang Manok (yellow ginger)

You can also read my other trip reports on Batanes

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