Five Reasons to Fall in Love with Batanes

I have always heard of the beauteous and breath-taking Batanes but kept postponing going there for reasons I can’t remember. But out of the blue, my friends and I decided to visit the place this summer and ended up falling in love with it.

There are a lot of reasons to love Batanes and you can scan the Internet for the myriad of them but I have five personal ones. Not only did they make my trip memorable but I think these are what make Batanes Batanes which you can’t find anywhere else.

1.      BATANES RICE

batanes
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
We, Pinoys, love rice, including those who are on a no-carb diet. As for me, I thought nothing can ever beat the fluffiness and stickiness of Japanese rice and the aroma of Hong Kong rice but Batanes rice has surpassed them both with the same fluffiness and stickiness. It may not be as aromatic as Hong Kong rice but it makes you want to consume more of the rice than its equally sumptuous native dishes like the uvud balls and one-day old flying fish. Add turmeric to it, and you’d go, “Atkins who?” Our tour guide explained that Batanes rice is not irrigated the way other rice is which give it its distinct quality. I didn't completely understand the implications but who cares? Pass the rice, please!

2.      MT. CARMEL

mt carmel church
Copyright Photo: Evangeline Tirona/PFN
When you travel anywhere in the Philippines and in Europe, you just can’t avoid visiting churches that they would all start to look alike with the appeal waning by the day but my jaws dropped when I saw Mt. Carmel. It wasn’t as big and grand as other churches nor was it as historic as it was only built a little over ten years ago but it was the most beautiful country church I have ever seen with trellis and yellow flowers adorning it. It reminded me of those English countryside churches. My heart broke seeing that although it is just a young church, there was already an appeal for funds to help maintain it otherwise it will go the way of other neglected churches.

3.      COWS EVERYWHERE

batanes
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
As a city girl, the only contact I have with cows are through steaks and movies. Okay, that is an exaggeration as I might have seen some every now and then but I have never seen them in such regularity. Wherever I turned, there was a cow or two. I even saw two cows playing like happy dogs! And then one cow galloped up a hill like an excited puppy about to welcome its master. I never even knew cows could run. I just thought all they did was stand and chew grass.

4.      HONESTY COFFEE SHOP

honesty coffee shop
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This I can say with much confidence: You will never find anything like this anywhere in the Philippines---a shop that sells the usual convenience fare but without anyone manning it. It is just you and your conscience alone that will keep this business afloat. The products and their prices are laid out for your reach as well as boxes where to put your no-change payment. I can just imagine this shop to be empty and pillaged if it opens anywhere outside of Batanes.

By the way, not only was the shop free from security, even the owner’s house was open to all. Sure, there was nothing to steal but I cannot imagine leaving my house unlocked.

5.      KIND PEOPLE (THEY STILL EXIST!)

batanes
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
But most of all, what I left Batanes with is the hope that people can still be kind. Filipinos especially in the provinces are generally hospitable and smiling people but the Ivatans take that to a higher and perhaps even more sincere level. All smiles and chitchats that greeted us were warm. We did not experience any rudeness or snappy attitude even when perhaps it could have been called for. Let me explain.

We asked our tricycle driver to wait for us while we go shop at the market. We walked some meters away from the market as we wanted to see what else was available. When we returned, we were surprised to see the tricycle gone even though we had not paid our fare. We deliberately did not pay to make sure the driver will wait for us.

We waited for a few minutes to see if he just drove around as the street was one-way but then it became clear that the driver did leave us. So we texted for another tricycle at the terminal and surprise, it was the same driver. When we asked why he left us even though we had not paid, he just replied with all humility, “Akala ko kasi gusto na ninyong maglakad.” (I thought you decided to walk instead.) Even if that were the case, he decided it was best to leave than to chase after us demanding payment not only for the first ride but perhaps even for the waiting time. I have had drivers elsewhere do exactly that to me including over-charging, berating and cursing---even though I had already paid.

These are just the five main things about Batanes that I love but of course, her beauty is not limited to them. They have the rolling hills that make you want to sing a la Julie Andrews, the cattle-filled Marlboro country minus the cancer-causing cigarettes, the beaches, the World War II Japanese cave, the lighthouse overlooking the town, another lighthouse to watch a spectacular sunset, etc. that all make you proud to be Filipino.

-THE PARANOID TRAVELER

Now that you want to hop on a plane to fly to Batanes, here are some things to help you plan:

Batanes Package Cost: P23,000++ inclusive of air fare, airport transfer, lodging, all meals except snacks, guided tour and travel agent’s service fee (Perhaps some of you might be thinking you'd rather spend it going abroad but you won't see Batanes outside of Batanes!)

Accommodation: Batanes Seaside Lodge & Restaurant with Wi-Fi, hot water, air-conditioning and airport transfer

Mode of Transportation: Tricycle at P30 a ride (You need to text the terminal to get a tricycle. You will then receive a reply indicating the number of the tricycle that will come pick you up. It’s like their very own GrabTricycle. You can get the number from any local.)

Where to Eat: Restaurants can only be found at hotels with prices starting from P120 and up

Wireless Connection: Wi-Fi and mobile signals are available but they tend to be erratic for Globe while my PLDT wireless and my friend’s Smart were working fine.

batanes
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Must-Buy Souvenirs: Batanes rice, one-day old flying fish (dibang), vakul (the straw hat and vest worn mostly by the elderly as a shield from the heat)

Thank-You Gesture: If you want to thank your Batanes host, you might want to bring Manila newspapers as they don’t sell papers there at all. They don’t even have a local community paper as no one was interested---that we were told by a snarling--but kind---market vendor.

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