View at Chavayan village in Sabtang Island
Sidenote: Thank you very much to all those who gave their congratulatory remarks on my blog being a finalist on two categories at this year’s Philippine Blog Awards. Indeed being a finalist is honor enough. I promise I’ll blog more on this next week, but for the meantime, I got my last two segments for the Batanes series. Thank you all dear readers as you inspire me to continue sharing on this blog. Salamat po!
And so we’re back at the port of Ivana, hoping upon hope that there would be a boat to take us to the island of Sabtang. The island that can be clearly seen from the port can be reached in 30 minutes by boat. It’s so near yet we are at the mercy (again) of the waves here. There was another group waiting there with us an a few locals. Shortly, though, luck was on our side (or so I thought), a boat arrived by the name of “Divine Grace” came to take us to the island. The boat is a lot smaller than the ones in Itbayat. With more than a dozen of us we boarded with a large wooden two door closet which was brought by a local as cargo to boot. We rode on the waves.
San Vicente Ferrer Church at the town center
As if the weatherman was playing tricks with us, in the middle of our journey, the sky darkened and it started to rain. The waves were also getting stronger. Most of us would just laugh and enjoy the roller coaster ride as our boat fly off from each wave we crossed, in truth I don’t like traveling in this kind of weather, especially if we don’t have any life vest with us. A comforting thought that we could see the island shores in the horizon, I mean, we could try to swim there if ever this boat sinks. But I could see a lot of underwater currents, which I heard are very dangerous if you get caught. By the time we reached the island port of Savidog, the weather turned bright and sunny as if it hadn’t rained. But all of us were wet.
A small dwarf like ivatan house at Savitug Ilang
The church of San Vicente Ferrer greeted us by the docks. It’s amazing how they strategically place these structures here. You can quickly pray for surviving your recent journey. We decided not to join the other group and looked for our own means of transport to get around the island. Here in Sabtang there are no more than 3 vehicles plying the their semi-cemented roads from end to end. We approached this manong, who was scratching his tummy, for help on the transpo and haggled for a good price. He turned out to be the Mayor of the town Romy Cielo. We got a our own truck and a young driver named Rudy, who later we found out was running for councilor in Chavayan, the village we were heading. We learned that the other group was heading north, so we decided to head down south.
Welcome to Chavayan Village
We first passed by Savitug Ilang Village where we found a line of their native stone houses along with some ruins. Very neat place as the house vary in construction. We even saw a really small stone house that a hobbit could perfectly fit it.
Ivatan Children by their doorstep
Continuing further on, passing by narrow cliff side roads with awesome views of the sea, we reached the southern village of Chavayan. I must admit, this one of the most breath taking village I have ever seen. Cradled perfectly by the mountains and the sea. More stone houses aligned here while the kind inhabitants strolling by. And also the view! To wake up everyday with a view like this? Really impressive place.
The road to Sumnanga
After doing some photo shoot and some snacks, we again boarded our truck and headed back, towards the north this time all the way to the other side of the island to the village of Sumnanga. Sabtang is a small island, if you have time to kill, you could just bike around and tour the whole place in a day. But also make sure to appreciate the view. Sabtang has very impressive roadside sceneries.
We passed by the village of Nakanmuan, which is the jump off point to another island, Vuhus. Which was said to have impressive reefs at it’s marine reserves. Perfect for divers. Continuing on the road, we reached the village of Sumnanga. Their town is referred to as “Little Tokyo“, maybe from the irregular terrain of the houses and lots of dibang (flying fishes) and eels being dried in the sun. Also here we could find Duvek Bay, which is a pleasant scene. We also learned that this is being proposed as a Marine Sanctuary. All in all, Sumnanga is a nice place but not as impressive as Chavayan.
A rocky low tide at Duvek Bay
We went back to the port of Savidog before 3pm to catch our boat back to Basco. Everyone was happy with what they have seen on the island swapping stories and toting their souvenirs. When we were heading out, the waves started to crash in. We noticed the boat was having a hard time getting out of the port. The boatmen were pushing in their sticks under the water but the waves kept pounding. Then we saw two large waves coming in and the boat was completely pounded and water started to fill in. Some people suggested to abandon the boat so one passenger after another jumped off. We were hoping to still be able to salvage the boat by pushing it, but one wave after another,the boat overturned on it’s side. I could see some passengers were in panic. A woman about her middle age was wailing while padding through the water, she had a PADI shirt, I thought she would be a good swimmer. My friend approached her and told her calmly “Ma’am tayo po kayo (Ma’am please stand up)”, she did stand up and learned that the water was only a waist deep.
Stranded yet again
We heard some shouting by the shore saying “Sinabi na kasing wag kayong mag biya-biyahe eh! Mahal na araw at alas tres pa patay pa si Christo! (I told you guys not to travel! It’s a holyweek, 3pm and christ is dead”. We couldn’t argue any further in this land where the winds and religious beliefs reign. The four of us took shelter at the nearby police station and multipurpose hall assessing if we have any damage in our stuff. It was fortunate that my camera was saved but some of my stuff were wet. My friend though had to say goodbye to her SLR camera and some films as well. We were wet, most of our stuffs are in our hotel in Basco. I for one only have an extra sleeveless semi-damp shirt left in my bag and we were without food. It was already getting dark and the wind is getting colder and stronger. They said they wouldn’t set sail until a couple of days. What now?
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.