Thursday, March 20, 2014
I usually don’t go back to the places that I’ve already visited before because my goal is to see as many places as possible. That it would be wiser to travel to a new destination rather than go to the same old beach or city that I’ve already set foot on. Another factor that I put into consideration is my budget which I believe is much better spent on wandering to a place that I haven’t explored yet unless I can score cheap flights or get an all-expense paid trip. But Batanes was different. It’s as if this place was calling me to visit her once again but with a different mission this time.
One of the reasons why I hesitated going back is that the timing just wasn’t right. If it wasn't for the cheap flight from Manila to Basco that I got then I could have just chosen a different destination. It was the winter season and to make the matters worse, precipitation is most likely to occur during our stay plus the fact that I hate the cold weather. Being a shutterbug, it was hard for me to appreciate a place when the sky is cloudy or worse, raining. I always prefer a sunny day in order to take good photos. When pictures don’t turn out quite good because of the poor lighting conditions, I usually get disappointed and always get that feeling of regret that I have wasted my time and effort. But this changed because of Batanes. Of all the 5 days that we spent in this province, the sun only showed up for 2 days. At first I was frustrated but then I realized that taking photos is not the main reason why I travel. I realized that I was so focused on capturing an experience rather than actually enjoying the experience.
On the first day, Wilma and I were able to have a good talk with one of the locals who happened to be a radio broadcaster of DWPT Radyo ng Bayan. She was very polite and courteous and our conversation lasted for nearly an hour talking about the Ivatan culture and how they were able to preserve it through the years. The whole staff of the radio station was also kind enough to provide us shelter from the rain and even volunteered to take us back to the city for free. Hospitality indeed is a unique and common trait among these people and I prefer to capture these moments not with a camera but with my mind.
Food in Batanes is also quite unique and healthier in comparison to the usual food that we have in the metro. Why is it so? It’s because their cows are free to graze around the vast grasslands where these animals eat purely organic food. They have the most delicious beef which is ideal for dishes like tapa, bulalo or sinigang. What’s surprising is that these local dishes are not pricey at all. In fact, I only paid 60 pesos for a bowl of sinigang that I ordered at a canteen in Mahatao and that includes 2 cups of rice already! It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had, really.
Another memorable experience that I certainly won’t forget is the 6-hour roundtrip walk that we did from Basco to Mahatao. That’s a total of 28 kilometers by foot but what’s amazing is that we never experienced exhaustion or tiredness at all. It made me realize that traveling with people who have the same passion as you do would really make the experience more enjoyable and fun. That no matter where you go or how long it is to get to your destination, the person beside you will make the journey truly worthwhile.
5 days was not enough for me to see all the cultural and historical sites that this wonderful place has to offer but it was more than enough to change my outlook on life for the better.
Batanes is indeed one of the most amazing places in the Philippines, a piece of heaven on earth. But it's not just because of the extensive rolling hills, the century-old stone houses or the fact that it’s at the northernmost part of the country. What makes this place different and unique is that it was able to bring me back to life's simple pleasures. That beauty can be appreciated at any season or time of day. That travel experiences are more important than pictures. That long walks can be fun as long as you’re with a friend. That the most delicious meal you’ll ever have doesn't have to be an expensive one. That happiness can be found in the most unexpected places and circumstances. And isn't that what heaven is all about?
Dios Mamajes to the people of Batanes and the new friends that we’ve met along the way.