I’m sorry for not updating this blog for weeks. I was swamped with work then headed to far-flung Batanes for almost a week to rejuvenate.
Batanes is found in the northernmost part of the Philippines, and is the country’s smallest province in terms of population and land area. It is a beautiful place that has been on my must-visit destinations list since I saw it featured in a magazine a decade ago. Though I’ve long wanted to go there, I was hampered by the fact that it’s quite inaccessible (only one airline travels there as of this writing) and the fare is quite expensive that no one among my friends was willing to accompany me there. As many of them would say, it’s cheaper to go to our neighboring Asian countries than visit Batanes.
Last January, I got lucky and finally found a friend who was willing to splurge on a trip to Batanes. Turned out it too has been her dream destination for years.
Being in Batanes is like journeying to another world, another time. The place is stunningly picturesque and unspoiled.
With its hills and mountains and vast expanse of water, Batanes looks nothing like many of the islands of the Philippines – and I’ve been to many.
And unlike other Philippine beaches, most of Batanes’ beaches are rocky. It was amazing to see the waves crash against the huge multi-colored boulders that according to our guide came from Mt. Iraya.
The rolling hills and massive cliffs were also a sight to behold. As another friend who was there last year said, these looked straight out of that Sound of Music scene of Maria singing, “The hills are alive…”
Their lighthouses scattered in the province’s islands were also very picturesque.
The native stone houses also charmed me, especially since it’s so unlike the usual cement or wood houses of Filipinos.
The people of Batanes are called Ivatans and they are the kindest and most accommodating people I’ve ever met. In the Philippines, especially in the provinces, it’s common to see people smiling at you. In Batanes, they go the extra mile by smiling then greeting us. I even noticed some Ivatans putting their palm to their chest and nodding while saying their greeting. In one island, two children did the pagmamano (the now rare Filipino tradition of raising an elder’s hand to one’s forehead as a sign of respect) on us, which was quite a pleasant surprise.
All these and more (to be discussed in future posts) made the trip a most memorable one. As I now keep telling my friends, traveling to Batanes should be on everyone’s bucket list. Trust me, it’s something you shouldn’t miss.