Let’s get this out of the way: a trip to Batanes will cost you money especially if you don’t know how to snatch airline promo fares. Most commodities there are also quite pricey, but that should be understandable since it costs a lot to get goods shipped over there. But you know what? That will hardly matter once you set foot in this archipelagic province.
The lighthouse of Basco stands atop Naidi Hill, with a view of Mt. Iraya and the entire municipality.
The Ivatans (the indigenous people of Batanes) know how much it costs for tourists to visit their beloved home, so the least they could do is, according to our tour guide Mang Rene, for them to take really good care of their guests. They are so serious about this that if they receive complaints from guests about tour guides, the local government would immediately put the person being accused under suspension until an investigation has been fully made.
Mt. Iraya as seen from the rolling hills of Vayang.
Let me share with you some of the important things I learned during my recent trip to Batanes I think we, city folks, should learn from.
5. Zero crime is achievable.
The place where we stayed is so peaceful that residents don’t find the need to lock their doors. Apparently, this is true throughout the province. During our entire stay in Basco, I wanted to try doing that. But then I decided not to–not because I don’t trust them, but rather I don’t trust the other guests (can you really blame me?).
One of my companions forgot her small bag somewhere by Naidi Hill where the Basco lighthouse is located. She was really concerned because it contained all her travel money and IDs. Minutes after we left–you guessed it–she got the bag with all its contents intact from another tour guide who found it.
Mt. Iraya spewed rocks and boulders that now cover the sands of Valugan Beach.
4. A “corruption-free” governance is possible.
I put quotation marks there because while Mang Rene was confident about this brave claim, he was also honest enough to admit that he’s not sure if there are “little things” that happen here and there. According to him, local officials are very transparent in their governance. He spoke fondly of their governor who was said to not being able to go home for days until she has finished visiting every municipality. That, folks, is public service!
Vayang Hills do not just roll—they breathe.
3. Honesty is not just the best policy–it’s a way of life.
You have probably heard or read about the Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana where customers can just get what they want, list the items down in a log book, and put their payment in a box within the store. The story behind this unique store is this: As Teacher Elena would pass by the port of Ivana every morning on her way to school, she would leave cups and a thermos of coffee on a small table for the fishermen and other port workers to partake for free. After school, she would take the thermos and the cups home to clean them and come back the next morning for the same routine.
The recipients of this act of kindness realized that Mam Elena would someday need help in covering the cost of coffee, so they started leaving coins each time they would get their coffee fix every morning. Today, we visiting tourists, are now part of this honesty system too that the Ivatans are propagating.
It is said that this blue lagoon used to be reserved exclusively for Spanish friars during the Spanish era.
2. Man must nurture Mother Nature.
The entire province is declared as a “Protected Landscape and Seascape”. It’s the only place in the entire Philippines to be declared by the national government as a protected area. This means you cannot just take or defile any natural resource like stones, seashells, marine creature, or any form of flora and fauna unless permitted by law. No wonder Batanes remains as pristine as it is until today.
If you’re looking for “greener pastures”, Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country to tourists) is your destination.
1. Farming without chemicals is better.
The Ivatan famers don’t use chemicals, so any food crop or vegetable that you buy and eat from their homegrown supply is absolutely organic. It’s safer and healthier.
Centuries of storms and earthquakes have passed, yet the House of Dakay has remained standing until today.
Vestiges from the past, like this old Spanish bridge, remind Ivatans of their rich history.
Ivatans were made to carve this winding tunnel by Japanese soldiers trying to hide from American troops.
Batanes is a truly marvelous place, and its people are some of the best ones I’ve met in all my travels from different parts of the country. Do visit the province and see if it doesn’t make a believer out of you–of God’s gift of nature, and of humanity.
Have you been to Batanes, too? Tell us about your experience in the comments.