This post by Filomeno St. Ana III on Vicky Abad Kerblat’s book, Jawid sawen nu Vatan!, brings me back to one of my best Philippine holidays ever, in the practically untouched yet progressive province called Batanes. Allow me to share with you this retro post, published exactly a year ago, about the group of islands that I believe every Filipino should visit at least once in their lifetime.
Originally published in Manila Bulletin on January 30, 2011
It was going to be a different year, I told myself. For starters, I would do away with the usual loud and head-cracking New Year revelry and stay where my husband and I could breathe clean air, fall asleep to the sound of crickets and the crashing waves, and have 360-degree views of Mother Nature at her best. We would figuratively and literally unplug ourselves from my gadgets and from the toxicity of a frenetic urban life, and begin 2011 in a place that is pristine and virginal, removed from the excesses of the life that we had gotten accustomed to in chaotic, cacophonic Metro Manila.
For that purpose, there was no other place on our mind but Batanes, that almost-mystical group of islands that has been likened to Scotland or New Zealand but which remains very much in touch with its Ivatan roots. Years ago, people scoffed at the thought of flying to Batanes because of the impression that it was too “backward.” (“We hated flying there,” I had been told by a former flight attendant. “There was nothing to do!”)
Now, however, with sustainability on everyone’s minds, and with a collective call to reimagine the way we live and adopt a back-to-basics approach in our lifestyles, people are training their eyes on Batanes not only as a superb getaway destination where they could (quite literally) throw their cares away, but also—and more importantly—as a model for a sustainable, reimagined Philippines.
Proud of their culture
Imagine this: Even from thousands of feet above the sea, the sights that will greet your eyes will already be enough to declare the majesty of the Batanes Isles deep-green mountainous islands stand proudly against the azure waters of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, their lush mountaintops showing no signs of erosion or human intervention. Only three (Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat) out of the eleven islands comprising Batanes are inhabited by some 17,000 people, leaving plenty of space for vegetation to grow, for cows to graze lazily, and for Mother Nature to unfurl her virtuous best. The rest of the islands remain untouched and unspoiled by human hands.
A tour around the islands shows how the Ivatans take pride in their collective history and culture. Centuries-old churches remain preserved and stand proudly in the middle of the town, their clean exteriors belying the fact that they had borne witness to the wars, disasters, and struggles that have helped to define a people. In Savidug and Chavayan villages in Sabtang Island, even the ruins of the old stone houses bore the marks of quiet dignity and pride. I wondered about the stories behind these walls and the secrets that they kept, observing that even in the chilly winter weather and in the pregnant silence of the tour, the villages were not eerie at all but seemed to exude the quiet elegance of a grand old matriarch.
Imagine if more towns in the Philippines could show this much respect for history and culture: What would Intramuros or Binondo look like today?
Read the rest of the post HERE.