Sunday, July 12, 2015

BATANES: Celebrating The Joy of Life

There are no words to describe Batanes and its beauty. More than the breathtaking scenery, I was even more impressed and amazed by its people, the Ivatans. They have shown me how easy it is to find joy in life: the simpler, the better.

Ivatans value Honesty and Integrity more than the material stuff. They value education. They value hard work and perseverance. Did you know that there are no out-of-school youth in Batanes? I commend the local government and the teachers in Batanes. There are no beggars and no street children. Everyone gets to eat and live in a comfortable way. They live an honorable life.

As of the moment, there are only a few places in Batanes that have an internet connection, and I hope it remains this way to preserve what they have. I believe in the power of social media and its ability to influence people and at times, its tendency to make people crave for more “wants” in life. For now, let us treasure the peace and serenity of Batanes – because with the contentment of a simple life, they have found the joy of life.

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When In Batanes, make sure to book BISUMI TOURS and ask for Sir Arthemus Castillejos for an unforgettable trip. He’s REALLY good with cameras, especially panoramic shots!


Perfect venue for a church wedding with a fantastic view: West Philippine Sea on one side and Pacific Ocean on the other.
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There’s a shed outside PAG-ASA station and it’s the perfect place to sit, unwind and have a picnic (with a nice view of Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge)

Japanese hideout during the WWII. It has about 5 exits but the walk is fairly short to the tour exit. If you have back problems, I suggest for you to stay in the car or meet them at the exit instead because you will have to go out through a small opening of the tunnel. (FYI: Unaccredited tour guides are not allowed to enter the tunnel)
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these are the vents of the tunnel that’s why it feels cold inside
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Learn the Zen Art of “stone-stacking” at boulder beach.
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Best to come here late afternoon for photos, especially at sunset.
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Another perfect place to watch the sun set.
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FYI: Roads in Batanes are narrow but they are very courteous and considerate in driving. If you need to back up 100 meters, they will do that without any hesitation. (And with a SMILE!) I just looooove Ivatans!

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A normal street in Basco, Batanes (narrow road, peaceful and clean)


Bring your towel and extra set of clothes if you wish to enjoy the beach.
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This is the oldest surviving stone house in Batan Island. You are allowed to enter the house because they are also selling souvenir shirts. (just leave your footwear outside)
“The House of Dakay was built by Luisa Estrella in 1887. On September 13, 1918, a strong earthquake hit the island. Most of the town of Ivana was leveled to the ground. The House of Dakay was one of the few houses that remained standing and one of the 5 that have survived to this day. Estrella eventually bequeathed the house to her favorite nephew, Jose Dakay Estrella, from whom the name of the house is taken. The house is now the residence of Florestida Estrella, known as Lola Ida, who is the only living descendant of the family.
Most of the original parts of the house have been retained and kept in good condition, including the shutters and the floors. The thatched cogon roof of the house, however, has been replaced completely every 30 years since 1917.” – Wikipedia
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There are no staffs manning the store. If you want something, pay the exact amount and drop it in the money box. Trust and honesty are something that Ivatans have that I truly look up to and respect. It’s lovely to know that even tourists do not take advantage of an Ivatan’s trust and they regard Ivatans with respect that they deserve.
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This is where the famous “i-Dawn-Zulueta mo ako” happened in the movie, “Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit.”
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The place has been more known as Marlboro Hills after a photographer claimed that it looked like the place in a Marlboro commercial :)
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Even before text messaging was invented, Batanes has already been using these signs on the roads to stress the importance of “YOU” and your responsibility in being a safe driver (especially since there are plenty of blind curves on their roads).

It is best to ride the boat going to Sabtang early morning, around 5:30 – 6:00 am to make the most out of your Sabtang adventure. (Usually, it’s either a half-day tour or an overnight trip if you have time).

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If you are the type that easily gets dizzy, especially since the ride will not be as smooth sailing as you wish (this is Batanes, after all – imagine WAVES), you should take an anti-emetic like Bonamine (medication that prevents nausea and vomiting). While on the boat (a mini version of Noah’s ark – you may see vehicles and animals on board sometimes), be watchful: enjoy the scenery and check the ocean because you will spot flying fishes and (sometimes) dolphins swimming along with the boat.

Sabtang is the place where you can see stone house villages that are still occupied by Ivatans. Take time to appreciate the simplicity of life. Stop and talk to the locals and hear their stories.
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These stone houses are made of limestones and dried corals. The house is designed to protect against the hostile climate, basically it is "all-weather-proof," able to withstand the strongest typhoons and earthquakes.

This is Sir Art’s favorite because it’s comparable to New Zealand’s LOTR scenery, or maybe even a better version of it. Just a warning though, make sure to prepare yourselves for the long hike and for climbing the hill.
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This biker even brought his bike all the way from Manila to Batanes!
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Can you spot my friend in the picture?

AHAW ARC (Natural Limestone Arc Formation)
Perfect place to sunbathe! Oh, and there’s a restaurant a few steps away that serves really good seafood and Lunyes.
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A usual tricycle scene in Sabtang Island, Batanes

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VUNONG: Traditional meal in Batanes that consists of rice and meat wrapped in a breadfruit leaf. This is their own version of “binalot.” The yellow rice is mixed with turmeric, giving it a tastier flavor.
UVOD: Batanes meatballs that are made of banana heart or banana stalks mixed with ground meat. (I think I haven’t tried a really good one yet)

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FLYING FISH / DIBANG: Dried flying fish marinated in salt and vinegar. You have got to try this! Perfect with a cup of garlic rice and fried egg. SOOOO GOOOD!


VENES: Batanes’s version of Laing (dried gabi leaves)
LUNYES: Pork adobo Batanes style (these are preserved in their owned fat mixed with salt)
LOBSTERS: Batanes is abundant in fresh seafood so it’s a must that you have lobsters at least once in your trip.

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UBE CHIPS: Batanes has white ube and they make them into chips, mashed delicacies, and other food items. We loved the chips as it is healthy and crunchy :)

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DORADO FISH: This is a very special fish in Batanes. Ivatans from Diura Village have a fishing ritual done before going to the sea. All the dorado fishes caught during the season are collected, cut, salted and dried. Once these are ready, the dorados are shared evenly among the fishermen who participated during the fishing season. They don’t care who caught the most or who caught the least. It’s the friendship, camaraderie  and benevolence that matters the most.

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COCONUT CRAB / TATUS: What I liked most about this sweet and meaty crab is the CRAB FAT (aligue). Oh my goodness! The whole tail is filled with it! Sadly, cooked or not, it’s illegal to bring home a tatus (I have to go back to Batanes to have another serving of those aligue)

*** I forgot what they call it, we had this Ivatan dessert that looks like turon but instead of using banana, they used a sweet root crop similar to camote (sweet potato) – it was intoxicating in every bite.

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We stayed at the house of the most hospitable and thoughtful Ivatans – Mr. Richard Argonza and Mrs. Leonor Argonza. Their second floor is now converted to a home stay where guests can rent the two rooms, complete with aircon, comfortable beds, cabinet, pillows, fresh linens and towels.

Aside from their kindness, what I like most with staying at the Argonza’s is their home-cooking. It’s like having an in-house chef 24/7. You name it, they can cook it! (if cassava is available, you have to request for Leonor’s cassave cake. I heard it’s one of the most requested dessert in Batanes)
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Mr. and Mrs. Argonza (second and third from right)

My (sweetest and best) husband connived with the group and I can’t thank them enough for the surprise birthday dinner that they prepared. (Yes, Leonor baked the moist chocolate cake). It was one of the BEST and most memorable birthday I’ve ever had. Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Argonza for making it possible.

Richard/Leonor Argonza Batanes Homestay contact number: 0939-919-3620

Other affordable option: Octagon Bed and Dine (this bed and breakfast place has a view of the beach, and is also walking distance to sari-sari stores)

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SKYJET, of course! They're flying a jet aircraft! I would always choose a turbo jet plane over a propeller plane.
I believe that their 4-engine jet aircraft is what sets them apart from the other airline that flies to Basco, Batanes. I feel that it is built for safety and speed. I learned that SKYJET aircrafts are specifically designed for “Short Take-Off/Landing,” which makes them perfect and ideal for our country's small island airports with short runways. I felt safer riding their plane than riding a propeller plane especially since you will have to go through strong winds to reach Basco airport. It’s always wiser to choose SAFETY :) Also, you don't want to hear the pilot announcing that due to strong winds, the plane cannot land and has to go back to Manila, right? :p 
Book your trip to Batanes now:

TIP: Perfect time of the year to travel to Batanes would be around December to March, when the weather is cold.

What made our trip to Batanes extra special is the chance to have worked with the passionate and loving women behind PINK WOMEN ON FIRE. They do not just do outreach programs but they go out there to teach, motivate and encourage children to help themselves, to tell them to never lose hope, and to never stop dreaming. They want to let the children believe that as long as you’re breathing, there is hope. PINK WOMEN ON FIRE is on a mission to help inspire and celebrate the lives of these children. Every outreach program is a “party” for kids to enjoy and have fun!
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While talking to the students and asking about their dreams, one innocent SPED student (pictured above, hugging Jean of PWOF) went up and told everyone that he wanted to be a doctor. When asked why, he simply said: “Because I am sick and I want to treat myself.” He was referring to him being a child with special needs. It was heartbreaking and at the same time it was touching to know how happy and confident he is, and that he trusts that there is HOPE.

If you want to be a SPONSOR and help in spreading LOVE and HOPE to children, especially to unreachable areas, please contact PINK WOMEN ON FIRE:

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Smile every chance you get.  Not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have and all the problems you know you don’t have.” – Author Unknown

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About the Author

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JoTan is a Foodie, Travel Enthusiast & she lives her everyday life as if it was the last.

 "IT'S FOR THE EXPERIENCE" -- this is what she always tell people when she wants to do something FUN like Mountain Climbing, Rappelling on a Hanging Bridge (which was not determined if it was in good condition since it was a really old PNR Bridge), Eating Beef Liver SASHIMI (yes, the raw one) and even Jumping off the Plane at 15,000 feet.

She also loves to share the new things she learned, her adventures and other personal encounters through this blog :) 

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