The view of the Pacific Ocean, the deep jagged cliffs from the island where I’m standing and Dinem Island, cutting through the ocean like a knife’s edge was stupendous. Here at the farthest inhabitable, northern island of Itbayat, I’m just lost for words on how I can describe the beauty I’m seeing from Torongan Hills. If I had my way, I can spend an idle afternoon here just looking at the sea and passing clouds. It was one of those moments that I’m so proud of the Philippines for having places like this.
We took a dump truck to take us to the jump-off point to Torongan Cave which is about an hour away. There was a 1.5 km hike towards the cave entrance. The hike itself was pretty scenic amongst surreal growth of trees and vegetation parallel to a stream. It wasn’t also that difficult along gradual slopes and careful descent on rock boulders. In about an hour, we reached the huge cave entrance. It looks spectacular with dramatic stalactites adorning the mouth of the cave.
We carefully made our way down the ground of the huge cavern and felt the cold draft of air coming from the other side. There were walls of stones there which our guide said were already there when they found them. Probably signs of ancient dwellings believed to be from Austronesians who migrated here about 4000 years ago coming from Taiwan. We reached a high mound inside the cave where we could view a large opening with the view of the sea. It feels like we were inside a whale’s belly looking out from its mouth.
From the cave mouth we had a very short climb to reach the hills on top of the cave and the scene seemed to have been transformed into an epic backdrop of a fantasy movie up rugged mountains where dragons fly and Vikings clash swords. It was amazing up there.
Burial sites from the ancient settlements can also be found here. There were about 7 burial mounds there shaped like a boat pointing to the sea. Some are already hard to distinguish from the regular rocks and the remains were no longer found there. The seafaring Austronesians believed that these boat-shaped graves would lead their departed spirits to the other life safely.
It was already late in the afternoon when we started our way back. Most of us can’t help but look back at the scene that has captured our senses. We could see the hills and the cave mouth from afar. We marched on the dying light, yes that rough boat ride coming here was now a side memory. Seeing this place was worth the daunting sea journey.
Join us on our next 3-Island Hop Backpack Photography Photo Tour in Batanes this August. Check out www.backpackphotography.net
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.