Just over the town of Ivana, stands the oldest stone house in Batanes known as the House of Dakay. Built in lime and stone in 1887, it is the only 5 structures that survived the frightful earthquake in September 13, 1918 which literally leveled the the whole town of Ivana to the ground. Most of the structures like the shutters and floors still retains the original materials. Only the thatched cogon roof has been changed every thirty years since 1917. It is a small impressive structure which earned a UNESCO heritage building title.
The house was built by Luisa Estrella who left it to her favorite nephew Jose Dakay Estrella. Now the only living descendant there is Lola Florestida Estrella now 82 years of age. She’s a celebrity on her own right in Batanes as she may have been the most photographed personality there. She jovially welcomes visitors to her house and readily poses to cameras which she seemed to have been accustomed to do. She once narrated that growing up, she didn’t really stayed there in Batanes. They’re family stayed in Visayas for a time and later she went back home.
When I last went here, I also ran an errand for my good friend Oggie who asked me to deliver a copy of an Issue of Reader’s Digest where she had a picture. He promised to give it to her if by any chance he comes back. Since I was going there earlier I volunteered to give it to her personally. When I showed Lola Ida the page where her picture was, I saw a delighted smile on her face. Despite being the most photographed person in Batanes, she sadly admitted that she rarely saw the photos that was taken of her even if it was published or not. It’s a saddening thought that some of her takes have even won awards, some photographers even get paid for their photos of her while she gets nothing.
Though Lola Ida never really expected anything in return from her hospitality and openness to have her picture taken, I wish people could also see her condition. She’s not rich and she’s getting old. In times she also needs medicine and food but money comes in short. Even the simple thing of bringing something as simple as a memorial of a reader’s digest issue can paint a smile on her face.
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.