Summery Of The Book The Old Man And The Sea Travelogue – Batanes, the Secret Places in the Philippines

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Travelogue – Batanes, the Secret Places in the Philippines

The angry sea is beating the island of Batanes like I am the King.

The waves hit the rocks with the freedom to admire. His stuttering power does not sympathize.

The island does not go back, it does not bend or break. It takes a proud beat and ‘Hah’, I’m Batanes.

Batanes should really be proud of its reserves. It offers an amazing environment that is as complex as Roger Dean’s artwork. The rolling hills surround miles and miles of green pastures. On top of its many cliffs one can see the front seat of the combined waters of the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

There is also something very interesting about the unique stone houses on the island. About 3 meters thick, these ancestral stone shelters stood up against heavy rains and strong winds. The roofs are made of cogon to provide shade that is not enough for water. From a distance these buildings create an amazing landscape of colors and patterns that are bucolic and unlike anything I’ve been in the regions I’ve been to.

Despite the amazing beauty of the island, the biggest strength of the island is its people – the Ivatans. Stormtroopers by birth retain a calm, friendly demeanor and an incredible sense of reliability. Crime is said to be non-existent in Batanes and people have no reason to lock their doors. There is also a sign posted in the city treasury that says “LOST AND FOUND – MONEY. Please inquire inside”.

As most travelers know Batanes is the northernmost province of the Philippines and its smallest island in terms of area and population. Among its ten small islands, only three people – Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. This district is closer to Taipei than Manila and Babuyan Island. In fact, an urban legend says that on a clear day one can see Taiwan and hear Chinese roosters crowing.

The growth of Batanes tourism has been boosted by airlines such as Asian Spirit which operates weekly flights (at P10,000 for round-trip tickets). Surprisingly posh, the main airport is in Basco, the capital of the province (located on the island of Batan). Although the flight was rough, I arrived safely in Batanes and checked my flight.

DAY 1 – Around Basco

In a refreshing contrast to other towns, Basco doesn’t have a supermarket or a Starbucks coffee shop – yet. The pseudo shopping center is a small alley full of small food stalls, grocery stores and ukay-ukay shops. Three Zero bikes describe the quiet streets and there are several jeeps and cars here.

2:00 p.m

Shanedel’s, a family run guesthouse is a great place to stay. The property has a killer view of Batan Bay and is close to the busy port of Basco. The old lighthouse on top of the hill can also be seen. Angry cows eat pasture. The cows stood so erect that I almost doubted that they were real.

5:10 p.m

Conveniently, the lighthouse is only a 20-minute walk from where I live. The sky was turning crimson as the sun was getting ready to rest when the moon decided to pass. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see the sun set and the moon come out at the same time.

8:45 p.m

Fried flying fish, it was my first Batanes meal. The meat was good. No one is happy.

DAY TWO Sightseeing of Batan Island

Batan, is the second largest island in Batanes that serves as a commercial center and is the seat of the provincial government. Travelers can arrange sightseeing tours that visit the municipalities of Batan which include Basco, Ivana, Uyugan and Mahatao.

10 a.m

‘Jeepney topload’ is the best seat you can take while seeing the scenery of Batan. The tour goes through the slopes of the island. Above me are majestic mountains that look like twisted giants. The white sand beach below me has clear water pouring over large rocks.

Sometimes the driver stops his car and allows my group to get down to see the place. There is nothing more beautiful than sitting on the edge of a cliff to gaze at the horizon. No distant land, no boats, not a single living person who just lost my mind, clear blue sky. I wonder if this is the edge of the world.

12:30 pm – Honesty Store in Ivana town

Lunch is held in a small empty canteen with good things (mami, chips, sodas, biscuits). The owners put their faith in customer loyalty…hence the store’s moniker.

2:10 pm – Marlboro Country

After lunch I went to Payaman town called Marlboro Country. The tour guide boasts that ‘Makikita mo parang wala ka sa Pilipinas’. The town has mixed feelings with them. The pasture, from a distance, is a mixture of green and purple. The guide explained that the brown color is actually thin bamboo wood that separates the Ivantan family’s property from its neighbor. This village is the Batanes of the Tagaytay Highlands but instead of a golf course it is actually a cattle ranch. Amazing!

DAY 3- Sabtang Island

Sabtang is considered one of the 12 best places by the Department of Tourism in 1994. Compared to Batan, this island is much smaller but it is very beautiful (in my opinion). What Batan is doing today is changing its old stone buildings to concrete walls and thatched roofs. Currently Sabtang still has their cobbled streets and stone houses. Even Sabtang has started to deteriorate as people there start to rebuild their houses. The severity of the damage to Batanes is a matter that the government should be aware of, but that is another matter altogether.

The location of Sabtang is also more impressive than that of Batan. The steep mountains, the deep canyons and the seemingly endless line of white beaches are amazing. A ledge of limestone that plunges into the cerulean water below makes it even more spectacular. I was able to swim in the waters of Batanes!

PS Oh that’s how I saw an independent movie shooting on the island (the guys made an indie movie called Donsol). I heard Angel Aquino was a star. Interesting…

8pm – Time for Dinner

A birthday party thrown by a fellow pleasure seeker spiced up the night. The belly feast includes tuna sashimi, lobster and lechon. We washed it down with the ubiquitous Pinoy drink – Tanduay. Yum.

Some of the most memorable meals I had in Batanes were fresh blue marlin tuna steak, green pepper stuffed lapu-lapu fillet, beef (tell me they have a lot of beef here), cuttlefish and pizza. Yes pizza…there is a pizza maker in Basco named Ivan, my favorite is pepperoni, garlic and cheese and anchovies pizza. You have to order in advance to enjoy its yumminess.

DAY 4 – Homecoming

Flights from Batanes to Manila depart regularly around 10 am. There was a certain feeling that came over me as I left the familiar island. Maybe because I will be returning to the sport that I call my life. I guess one thing I have in common with Batanes is that like its islands I always try to deal with the strong currents of life.

THE PLAN

Batanes will see me again. There are still many things I could not do.

Here is my list:

1. Escape to Itbaya which is the third island of Batanes. I was supposed to go but unfortunately the only light plane that flies to the island broke down. For those who want to go to Batanes I recommend that you explore Itbaya first before doing another island because it is very difficult to find.

2. Climb Mount Iraya

3. Go to Mavudis Island which is located in the northernmost part of Batanes Island. Coconut crabs destroy an island full of marine life.

4. See Nakabuwang Cave in Sabtang and Chawa Cave which is said to be haunted. It has a natural salt bed and a mouth that opens into the South China Sea.

Finally I want to surf, wouldn’t it be bad to say to Batanes shouting water ‘HAH I am the Queen’?

Bring a digital camera! See http://www.camera.co.uk

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