i'm not that much of a fan of guided tours and tour guides. it's almost always expensive and i find it too limiting. and i find tour guides too noisy, too madaldal. at most times, i just want to breathe in a new place and savor the novelty of the surroundings. i like it better when it is silent than in having someone who would talk endlessly about histories and trivia and more side stories. minsan nga pati kwentong buhay nila nasasama na din eh lalo na pag nauubusan na ng kwento. i guess sometimes they just don't realize that it's actually okay to not talk anymore. siguro naiisip nila na binabayaran natin bawat salita, bawat kwentong maibabahagi nila. yikes!
having said that we chose not to get a tour guide on our first time in Batanes, hindi din namin afford ang 350 per hour na charge nila, that includes the vehicle and the guide na. at unang pagtagpo pa lang namin nung guide ng sinundo nila kami sa airport, ang dami na niyang na kwento tungkol sa buhay niya. imagine, my only question was:
"manong, buti naman po at magaling na din kayong mag Tagalog?"
"ah, ang totoo kasi nyan, nung mga estudyante pa lang kami nung 1950s, bawal talaga kami magsalita ng wikang Ivatan. kailangan English, kaya palaliman kami ng English noon kasi nga may multa ang bawat Ivatan na salita na masasabi mo. May contest kaming mga boys laban sa girls noon, ang matatalo sila yung maglilinis ng classroom. eh ang pangunahing kabuhayan noong unang panahon eh pagsasaka kaya dapat para mas madami kang masaka maaga kang makaalis ng eskwela, kaya iniiwasan talaga namin na matalo. ang ginagawa nga namin noon ay ginugulat namin lagi ang mga babae kaya nakakapagsalita sila ng Ivatan bigla.
noong nagkaroon na ng mas madaming paraan para makaluwas nga Maynila, may mga natuto na ng tagalog. Yung nga lang pag nagtatagalog ka noon tatawagin kang mayabang kasi nga ibig sabihin nakapunta ka na ng Maynila. may iba kasi na ilang araw lang nakatuntong ng Maynila nakalimutan ng mag Ivatan. eh ngayon may cable tv na kaya may mga palabas na, may mga pelikula kaya ayun andami ng marunong mag tagalog."
(phew! hindi verbatim iyan at walang dagdag jan, baka nga may na miss out pa akong nasabi nya hehe)
lalo akong inantok sa kwento niya, to think that was just about 8am, kakaiba na ang pagka hyper nya haha!
we were in batanes for 4 days and it was just alright for us to get to see enough places on our own.
on our first day, we just explored the city proper on foot after having met our contact persons. the weather is wonderfully cool that walking around is such a nice activity.
on our second day, we had work to do which was quite a leisure at the same time. our main business was to interview and take video footage of a model farm family and lo and behold, one of their farms was in a rolling hill in Tukon just near Naidi Hills and the lighthouse.
i admire how these farmers would get up early even in dead cold and plant rows and rows of corn on a slope. parang konti na lang gugulong ka na eh. i couldn't help but exclaim over and over again at how 3-4 of them farmers got to plant corn on those vast expanses. eh 60s to 70s na sina lolo at lola eh.
after visiting their farms, we took them to the lighthouse to take more videos. ang ganda ganda ng view, wow!
after wrapping up the interviews, we went back to the hills on our own on foot. yup, it's pretty walkable from the town proper. we stayed there and took pics till the sunset.
when we asked the tour guide about Sabtang, he said that we should take the earliest trip at about 6am but we have to hire a boat back at PhP1500 as there are no boats anymore coming back from Sabtang. i didn't want to believe it because i did my quick research about the place already. i asked a local to validate such info, ang sabi lang niya eh huwag daw kami maniwala doon. there are always trips coming back just that we had to make it to the port by 12 or 1pm because there might not have anymore trips later than that.
early the following morning we headed to San Vicente port to wait for our boat which would take us to Sabtang. the trike ride cost us P160 one way. another option was to ride a jeep but it was still pretty dark so we just opted to hire a tricycle instead. the trip to the port was just about 30 minutes.
it was still quite dark when we got there, we were too early! the boat finally arrived at past 7, we were there just before 6am hehehe...excited!
a local helped us to contact someone from the tourism office in Sabtang, a tour guide was assigned to us and even offered us a ride. yun nga lang ambulansya ang service namin. oh well, that's better than nothing right?
Manong Boy, our guide is actually very nice. and he was patient enough when we'd choose to just take pics and look around instead of listening to all his stories.
our route was just the Savidug-Chavayan-Nakabuang areas as we were pressed for time. the boat which took us from San Vicente is set to go back at 1pm so we had to make it back to the port by then.
we saw the old vernacular houses, the ruins and the idjang fortress).
here's the story for this idjang:
up there is where a tribe lived and their land is much coveted because of their steady supply of water. pag may mga nagpupumilit na aagaw ng lugar nila binabato lang nila to which i commented:
"wow, may batuhan na palang nangyayari noong unang panahon. yun nga lang, ga kilong bato, aray!"
sabi naman ng officemate ko,
"mas madali siguro kong may text na noon, sasabihan lang nila ang mga kasama nila ng,
"d2 na sila, redi na u?"
"yes, redi na me!"
ayun batuhan portion na hehehe.
pasensya na, pampawala lang ng umay ba haha!
we passed by the bukana (i forgot the Ivatan term) just before we entered Chavayan town and it was truly breathtaking. sabi nga nila, comparable na ito sa mga European views. you'll see vast grasslands sloping off to some rugged cliff and dropping to wild waves down below. nakakatakot tingnan pero sobrang ganda!
Chavayan town is a UNESCO nominated site. you'll see more traditional Ivatan houses and makers of the vakul or headdress.
from Chavayan, we went back to town and stopping by at some beach (argh, nakalimutan ko din ang pangalan!). compared to our next stop which is Nakabuang Beach, the sand here is softer and finer and the beach more calm. nag swim ang kasama ko while i just walked around and took pics. malay ko ba naman na may chance pala magswim, akala ko sobrang malamig eh.
from there our final destination was the Nakabuang Beach, true enough there were more corals than fine sand. masakit sa paa at malalaki ang alon. medyo nakakatakot nga mag swim. okay lang mamulot ng corals though o kaya mag picnic.
we got back to the port by 12 and had lunch prepared at the canteen. we had coconut crabs for the first time. ang sarap at sulit! for 250 per head, the meal already consisted of the crab, some sweet and sour white snapper fish, sauteed cray fish in oyster sauce and some mixed veggies plus mineral water and banana for dessert. yum!
our tour guide only asked P200 for the registration including his services and the vehicle. bisita daw kasi kami ng bayan, yey!
the boat trip back to San Vicente was another P50 each.
on our way back we have aready contracted our trike driver to come back for us and take us this time to the southern part of Batanes.
he was already waiting as soon as our boat arrived on the port. our first stop was Ivana town which had the famous Honesty Coffee Shop. we had coffee and rested and freshened up a bit after the quite wild boat ride.
then we went on to Uyugan town and the Songsong Ruins. Songsong is now more like a ghost town which was destroyed in the 50s by a tsunami. most of the locals were relocated to a town in Bukidnon called Frankfurt. they were transported there by a US ship which was called as the LST. this is the same ship which supplied them with basic food and other basic commercial goods to alleviate the scarcity of food back then.
from there we passed by the Loran Station Ruins in Alapad, the Itbud community and the other breathtaking views of the Marlboro Country. I was expecting for wild horses kaso wala pala. madami lang cows. shy daw kasi ang mga kabayo, so most likely totoo yung rare sightings of the wild horses in Nights of Rodanthe hihi.
masaya magpagulong gulong doon at feel ko na ako si Catherine at hinihintay ko lang ang aking Heathcliff.
pwede ding Dawn Zulueta na hinahanap pa lang si Richard Gomez.
on the way back to Basco we passed by the Mahatao town, checked out the church, more old houses and the white beach area.
we then stayed a bit a a view deck just before Basco to wait for the sun to set.
we were brought to Seaside Lodge for our much needed rest. the fee for the tricycle tour was just about P500.
oh, and we had a lobster dinner waiting for us at Doque's Grill. P500 lang for one kilo, wow!
on our 4th and final day, we got to interview their very young mayor (who is only 32) for more testimonies about our model family. off cam, we also discussed their plans for promoting tourism. would you believe it, wala silang tourist center! i was asking for a map or a brochure kasi, wala pa pala talaga. we suggested that they make at least some rough sketches and directions on paper just like what they have in Sagada. kahit hindi colored or they could sell it for a minimal fee sobrang helpful na iyun. and to have more accredited tour guides at standardized fees. pansin ko lang kasi, parang andaming outsiders na gumagawa ng packaged tours kaya ayun, most of the places you'd go eh yung mga nababasa din lang online or sa mga libro. wala gaanong inside info. i asked some local tour guides kung kilala nila itong mga travel groups, hindi daw. eh sobrang mahal pa naman ng travel packages!
i'm not out here to try and kill these booming industry, ayoko lang ng sobrang rip off. sabagay, it does take special talents and skills to research, prepare itineraries and look for contacts in every step of the way for each trip to be succesful. ganun talaga eh, business lang.
what i'd like to impart is that DIY trips are also very feasible, mas mura pa. we met a couple there, a Swedish man with his Filipina wife who just rented a motorcycle and went around the towns on their own. their guide is mainly the Lonely Planet and asking people around. mababait ang mga Ivatans, they are very helpful and very courteous. bihira naman ang mapagsamantala.
we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and walking around. i took pics of the many inns and lodges and food places around the area. dito ko din natanto na masarap pala ang kwek kwek haha! kumain din ako ng sorbetes sa tabi tabi and got to talk to more locals along the way.
theirs is such an easy and simple life and the weather is so favorably cool.
yun nga lang daw, wala pa kasing bagyo. pag bumagyo bawal talagang lumabas unless signal no. 2 pa lang na which they call as a banana typhoon, kasi saging pa lang ang pwedeng patumbahin. pag ganun even the kids could still go out and play, yay!
Batanes is such a gem as it is, sana wag sila masyadong mabigla in the influx of more tourists. at sana makabalik pa ako doon soon. haaay.