If people just live meekly with no wants and just the basic needs to survive then the world will be peaceful; life will be simple with no complications. These thoughts were running through my head as I gaze upon the picturesque landscape of Batanes. It was calm, serene and just perfect and then I stepped on a poop. Carabao’s poop. And then laughter.
I never dreamt of Batanes honestly. It never crossed my mind that one day I will be standing on top of the hills with a very Sound of Music type of scene. Never. Until my buddy called me up one day asking me about a birthday trip/treat, a trip to Batanes. And then I was speechless.
I never checked out beforehand what’s in store for us in Batanes, I was NOT that excited I guess or maybe I just wanted to have some stress-free holiday with no idea on what to expect on this trip.
We arrived early at the airport and grabbed our banig mat and rested it in the middle of the departure area to rest our tired bodies from the bustle of the holiday season. I easily doze off.
Checking in was stressful. We thought (our fault) that our tickets came with a free baggage check-in. But as the attendant was telling us that promo fares for their airline don’t come with a free baggage allocation nor an online purchase mode of the prepaid baggage allowance I was stunned thinking about our camera tripod. And then she mentioned that we could purchase their 15 kg. baggage for a little more than 500 bucks. Crazy. 500 bucks for a tripod. Well, everything ended well and they let in all of our baggage (free of charge) after I found some loopholes that ended the fuss. Ask me next time.
So there. After an hour and 20 minutes we arrived at Basco. We are in Batanes. I am in Batanes. I wasn’t as thrilled as the other guests but yes, I am in Batanes. And as I stepped outside the plane, a strong gust of wind welcomed me. Apparently, it was winter season there and just so you know, me and cold weather are not the best of friends. But as I gazed upon the whole place, I smiled and sensed that a wonderful adventure was waiting for me there.
First in order was to find a decent place to stay for our 7-day sojourn. We didn’t get to do some prior research so we just went on and asked the locals about a lodging house or inn. And you know what? Every person (emphasis on “every”) we passed by bowed and smiled at us. As if they knew that we were guests on their island. I thought that they’d only do that to newcomers but then I saw them doing the same thing to their fellow natives; such a warm gesture amidst the very cold weather.
So our feet, and the people, led us to our turquoise blue home for the next few days. It was the Troy Lodge (check rates) in Barangay Kayvaluganan. Its location is perfect; a few hundred meters away from the airport, two blocks from the market and 25 tumblings to the plaza and downtown Basco.
|Troy Lodge, our home in Basco|
Contact Number: 0910.773.0240
We met the very gracious Ate Marina from the lodge’s first level (which is a mini grocery). She took us to the second level of the house and showed us the rooms. We were the only guests at that time and upon seeing the balcony I was sold. For 300 pesos per person per night, the lodge was quite a deal.
Food is such a huge problem for budget travelers in Batanes. A regular meal from an eatery would cost you at around 85-100 pesos. That’s quite steep. Good thing though was that Ate Marina allowed us to cook in their kitchen for 50 pesos per day. We abused the kitchen during our stay there. Troy Lodge (book online) truly fits our budget.
On our first day, we opted to dine out and found a panciteria that serves Pancit Batil Patong. It’s the 6 to 8 panciteria along the National Road and in front of the old Ivatan Lodge. We hurriedly went inside and ordered some pancit. Again (and again), we have this thing for Pancit Batil Patong after trying the legit pancit in Tuguegarao and now in constant search for the next best thing.
|bakit kaya 6 to 8?|
We bought some Chicha-Rabao or Carabao Chicharon that’s also famous in Cagayan; it will be later on used as toppings for our pancit. We get to ask the cook of his origins and we guessed it right, he hailed from Tuguegarao and was employed in Basco to cook this regional favorite pancit.
First taste of the pancit was always the crucial one. I took a huge bite and savoured it for some time. I was never a foodie but when it comes to this dish, I certainly deconstruct the flavors to truly taste it. And what’s the verdict on Basco’s version of this pancit? It tasted good. The carabeef’s taste isn’t overpowering the whole dish. The veggies were not that crunchy but not overcooked as well. The soup though was a bummer. It’s too salty and tasted really bad. Overall, it’s quite a contender for the next best thing after Tuguegarao’s version.
After the nice pancit meal, we headed to the plaza and checked out the scene there. We passed by some ruins of what seemed to be left of an old stone house. It would’ve been much nice if all of the houses were still like that.
At around 1 p.m. the place felt like a ghost town. There were no people around and it seemed like everyone’s having their siesta break. I can’t blame them; the cool weather was very perfect for slumbering. A very young girl peddling some native bread (bitso-bitso) was circling around town on her bicycle. We tried a piece and it reminded me of a cuapao. It had monggo bean filling and for 5 pesos it was good.
Schools were empty (holiday break), offices were bare and streets were clear. It was just us and the whole town of Basco. Such a nice and relaxed first day; no worries and everything was peaceful.
|maraming bisikleta, maraming marami|
As we walked around, an art gallery along the National Road got our attention. It’s the Yaku Nu Artes Ivatan. We were greeted by an Ivatan artist Leslie Joy Merina and we chatted for a while.
Ivatan local artists converge to this art space and share their art pieces. Paintings, Sculptures and Mixed Media artworks were sold at the shop. We couldn’t afford these pieces and Leslie told us that she could make a special one for us. And we were ecstatic and told her that we could only pay as much. She agreed and asked for an image or an idea for the artwork; we told her to surprise us.
|Leslie Joy Merina|
Ivatan visual artist
The next day we went back and checked out her artworks for us. She handed us two hand painted postcards with the two famous lighthouses in Batanes; the Mahatao and Basco lighthouses and we couldn’t ask for more. We are privileged to have an Ivatan artwork especially made for us; such a treasured piece.
|we were lucky|
It was getting dark and all we could think of was a place to have some cold beer on a cold night. We were still at the National Road when we saw this souvenir shop and checked out what’s inside. We saw this gracious lady carefully weaving some baskets. I wanted to buy one but it was too costly. We ended up buying a few ref magnets and I got to try the Ivatan’s traditional headdress; the vakul. It would be great to receive a basket from Batanes as a pasalubong though (winks).
Our journey ended at the Octagon Restaurant. It's at the far end of the National Road. We checked out the beer prices and it suited our budget (82 pesos for 1000ml. Red Horse). The place was so cozy and we stayed at the open area fronting the sea and the nice moon as backdrop. It was very relaxing.
With the very chilly weather and me no grumpy with my numerous cover-ups, we headed back to our lodge to call it a day. It was just day 1 and I had this feeling that everything will be great. I never felt so calm and relaxed during the first day of a trip. It’s the warm people, the slow-paced lifestyle, the cheap beers but not the cold weather (haha). I never dreamt of Batanes and the Sound of Music theme. I never liked the mountains (bring me to the beach!). But what I find interesting in this trip was that the revelation of the unknown. The surprises of not expecting anything. That’s it. I'm a convert! Bring me anywhere. Now.