Another Year of Traveling — Part Two (On Land: Batanes, Philippines)
On the northernmost tip of the Philippines, not very far away from Taiwan, there is a group of 10 islands—only the largest three are inhabited—called Batanes islands. It’s known to be a weather-swept place, where all the typhoons pass through. The indigenous people are called Ivatan and have their own language and, I would say, their own culture as well.
I have traveled around in the Philippines and been to quite a number of provinces; this place is extremely different from any other I have seen, in terms of its people, landscape, and environment.
It was still dark when we left our apartment in Eastwood, Manila—a property that we bought four years ago, with the goal of eventually renting it out to expats and tourists. Our 2 hours in a small turboprop aircraft roared by and before we knew it, we had landed on what felt like another planet. The place was quiet except for the sound of tricycles, which was the mode of transportation on the island. The rhythm was slow and people greeted each other on the streets. No honking horns, no bustling traffic. If you are looking for a party or go-go girls, then this is not the place for you; you won’t find either here.
We decided to rent a motorbike at the only gas station on the island. And it was just the right way to see the province. The virgin landscape reminded me a little of being in Ireland, just a touch warmer. The beaches and the coasts were undeveloped, a conscious decision taken by the local government in order to preserve the natural resources in the area. No beach resorts were allowed to be built seaside and only the local Ivatan people had the right to own property on the island.
While I normally don’t go diving when I’m on vacation, we wanted to do so in this case, partly because of the clear waters that we could see and in part due to curiosity. We didn’t have enough time, though, and it was more expensive to dive in Batanes compared to other places in the Philippines. Nevertheless, we went to interview the owner of the only “dive center” in Batanes. In typical Ivatan fashion, he just provided us with information without trying to sell us a trip: the reefs are very varied in topography, fish life, and colors. Oh well, next time…
During our four-day stay in Batanes—which was far too short, by the way—I did not see any other foreigners in the province, just some local tourists. It seems that foreign visitors didn’t want to travel this far only to encounter calmness and nature. Or perhaps they were put off by its reputation of being a typhoon-infested area. Whatever their reason, it suits me just fine. Maybe I should not tell people about this undiscovered gem, where everyone treated one another kindly and with mutual respect. No one overcharges, so big-city haggling is akin to an insult. They always had change for any denomination and they would even run after you just to give you back the tip that you tried to leave on the table.
I am definitely going back!> Read Part One