Batanes’ famous natural arc, found at White Beach, Sabtang
Marooned four. That is what we have become. We didn’t plan on staying on this island since our flight is the day after tomorrow. But that is the reality of traveling, expect the unexpected. You could either react badly when something goes wrong or simply accept what have become. Still, we thought we were fortunate enough to be stranded here in Sabtang as the people of Batanes are known for their kindness and pride themselves for having virtually no crime. Though there were isolated crimes of passion, I doubt it if those who committed these crimes are natives of the region. Other than that, their jail cells have become a stock house since there’s no one inside. It seems hard to believe though that place such as this still exist.
An authentic Ivatan house, our temporary home
Seeing that we have no place to stay for the night we decided to look around. The other group, since having a large number of people were offered to stay at the school grounds, as for the four of us, they said we could stay at the police station if we wanted. We noticed that some of the town folks were outside of their houses wondering what happened to us. A store which was supposed to be close at that time decided to open up seeing we needed some stuff and supplies as well. We were able to buy some basic shirts and dry clothes, even underwear. Anyways, when we got back to the station, a of mine friend who was wondering around told us that there was this nice couple nearby who told us we could stay at their house for the night. Since we’re kind of diffident of the offer, we decided to accept their hospitality thinking it would be alot comfortable to stay inside a home than a police station.
So that night, when were welcomed into their homes, we found out there was dinner already waiting. Wow! They prepared adobo for us and fried flying fish. As modest as we try to be, we were like a pack of wolves devouring our dinner. We didn’t realize how hungry we were. Everything from the table was wiped clean. It was shameful really. We also learned a bit from the nice couple I’ll call Mrs E and Mang N. Mrs E is a very enthusiastic mom so proud of her sons who are studying in the metro. She was so lively with all the stories she was telling us about her son while we were helping her wash the dishes. The couple lived a very simple yet interesting life. Mrs E is a school nurse at the Sabtang School of fisheries. Mang N worked on multiple companies and visits Batanes during his vacation. But now he’s resting due to his diabetic condition. The couple had a lot of hilarious stories, especially of their love life and how they fought and argue. I swear this couple has such a colorful life.
A desolate Sabtang Port with the boat Divine Grace
After the stories, we took a shower at their neighbor and prepared to sleep for the night. We were given cushions so we could sleep at their living room. And again, I was wowed by the thought that we got to experience sleeping in an authentic Ivatan house! Even at their living room. How cool is that!
We were suddenly awakened by Ms E early the next morning while it was still dark. It turns out there was a boat sailing out. We hurriedly packed our things and ran into the port, but darn! The boat already left the port with the other group. We were so close. We waited yet again wondering if another boat will come back. Time passed but none came. Mang E told us that we should go back and eat breakfast first and they’ll tell us if a boat came back. None came. A mass and a station of the cross procession started.
Stations of the cross procession
Not to dampen our spirits, we decided to explore Sabtang by foot and headed towards the White Beach where the famous natural arc can be seen. Before we left though, we again sorted out our things. A lot of our paper bills were wet so we decided to hang them by the arm chairs at the living room. The living room is open and very close to the street. Still we were confident that no one would steal them.
We walked towards north by the road. We chanced upon a lone traveler with a walking stick who just went down a fenced hill. He pointed a shortcut cutting by the hills and cliffs towards the white beach. So we followed his direction and ended up on a cliff side with an amazing view of the surrounding environs. I decided to go down on the side and found a small cave with a private beach. It was nice. The waves were humongous though, spanning ten feet high.
Fenced hills, Batan island just on the other side
Continuing on, we finally found the white beach and the famous arc. Seeing the arc reminded my how artistic nature can be. This last day, we were really planning on doing things on our own. We planned to go our separate ways and just experience Batanes on our individual selves in Batan Island and by the end of the day swap stories of where we’ve been and what happened, but since we’re not in Basco, we just killed our time here doing our own thing. One sat by the rock and just watched the waves, one slept on a shade, one explored the stretch of the beach and I did some cartwheels.
By noon we headed back to our temporary home. We checked our stuffs and found them untouched except by the wind coming in. We heard more stories from the couple but by this time Mang N was also telling stories and laughing with us. The two are just really amusing. I will surely miss them. That afternoon, I just played chess with my friend at the back of the school grounds, while the others read national geographic magazines (they’ve got quite a collection) and books. I swear I never won a game of chess at that time. I just suck at it. Dinner, we were getting some how tired of eating dibang (flying fish), I think we sampled every variety on how it could be prepared from daing, to adobo to barbecue. But who we are to complain, we’re eating free.
Hanging out by the cliffs. Can you see the three of my companions?
The next morning, Divine Grace was supposed to sail but it seems it couldn’t start since the motor got submerged under water. And just when we were about to loose hope another boat came! We said our goodbyes to Mrs E and Mang N who we already grew fond of. Shortly we boarded the boat and we finally got back to Basco with still enough time to prepare for our flight. A minor setback though, there were only 3 seats left at the plane so one had to stay behind for a day for next day’s flight. My friend who got her camera submerged decided to stay. She just fell in love with Batanes and wanted to experience it a day more. We said good bye to our friend and flew our way back to Laoag.
A mini cave entrance to a private beach
This Batanes trip was one of my most memorable travels ever. The place definitely lived up to my expectations and more. It is truly a place where the adventurous dare go.
PS: My friend who got left behind got back safely the next day. And as for the sweet couple who fostered us during our stay in Sabtang, we are still in contact with them once in a while checking on how they are. They’re still amusing as ever.
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.