Before coming here to Batanes---- I had no inkling at all that such a paradise existed in the Philippines. I was not prepared for what I would experienced. The beauty, ambience and the totally refreshing atmosphere of the place matched the amazing and breathtaking scenery I saw when I toured the island.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the overpopulated cities in the Philippines, Batanes is the perfect place. Its distance from Luzon is an indication of what to expect. Being in Batanes is like being in another country in the sense that the sights are not the typical sunny, white sand beaches you usually see in the archipelago. Being there also feels like you are intruding in a secret place where majority of the towns have been untouched by the changing times.
Being a town of 2,000 inhabitants was surprisingly too quiet....I thought the people of Mahatao went off for a vacation somewhere... I learned that the children were attending school, the menfolk were tending to their farms and the ladies of the house were either doing their laundry or tending to their household chores.
Batanes is famous for the old women's headgear called VAKUL. It is ordinarily made large and waist lenght to cover the old women from the heat of the sun and the rain. Made of abaca fiber of the palm found only in Batanes that locals call vuyavuy. It takes 3 weeks to make one vakul headgear, but it lasts a lifetime. Most of the people in Sabtang wear this kind of headgear. I was lucky to see this old lady in Mahatao wearing one and she gamely posed for souvenir photos. While women wear vakul, old men wear a traditional vest made from dried banana leaves called tadidi. The men wear salakot with this headgear to cover themselves the same way the vakul serves the women. I was not fortunate to find anyone wearing this.
We stopped right across the Mahatao Church that looks rather imposing as it is the biggest structure in the whole area. It was built in 1873 and its facade was modeled after that of the Basco Cathedral.
The Vayang rolling hills is another place that you would not want to miss in Batanes.
As you stand on top of the hill you will see a world of green grass, blue sky and feel the rushing of the wind against your face.
EERIE TOWN of ITBUD.... the ruins of SONGSONG
The road descends to a place called ITBUD where we were shown the ruins of Songsong... They call this place " No-Man's-Land"....It is actually the remnants of what seemed to have been a cluster of houses--- probably it was a cluster of houses or even a town before...
But the story of this little town of Songsong is so dear to the people of Batanes and here is what was told to me by our guide... Sometime in the 50's --- this part of the town was hit by a tsunami ---all the houses, people and everything there was wiped out .... then a year after it was hit again by an earthquake.
The afternoon sun illuminating the seas while the hills are covering us from its heat makes the scene more dramatic!!
All that is left now are just the remnants of stone walls left to the elements. I noticed our driver do the sign of the cross as we slowed down to stop at this place. He told me that the people of Batanes never forget the memory in this place----- much less build a house and live there since the waves could come again.
ALAPAD ROCK FORMATION
This rock formation also amazed me as it is formed and sculpted by the winds in Batanes. You can take magnificent shots here. This is also a must see point when you are in Batanes. I heard from our guides that this is where they shot a filipino film...
This is the last village from Basco. It was were the first mass in Basco was held. The chapel was named after San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first canonized saint. Only a few families live here today.
A project of the Abad family for Tukon's residents. Its architecture is similar to the Ivatan stone houses. Most of the time this chapel is closed. But today we were lucky to see the inside of the chapel..
there were murals of saints painted on the ceiling which were hand-painted by Ivatan artists.
Perhpas Batanes is not for everyone... But if you desire for adventure in your heart go... If you seek the authenticity of the land ... go.... If you are in no rush... Go!!! If you long to set your spirit free, GO!!!
I absolutely fell in love with Batanes and want to go back! It was so peaceful and relaxing to be there and the people were very helpful and nice. I really wish that it does not lose itself despite the influx of travelers who are now discovering their tiny group of islands. DEFINTELY A TRAVEL MUST when you are in the PHILIPPINES.