“I’ll climb this mountain as long as I still can” Bing exclaims as she gleefully trod the trail on the pasture lands of Ivana, Batanes, as we head to the summit of Mt Matarem. Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney, or Bing, for short, is a native adventure-loving Ivatan who has learned to be independent from her family early in her life as she studied in Manila during college. Much more when she married her foreign husband who took her around the world and eventually settled in Switzerland. She makes it a point to go home every year in Batanes for family and be rooted to her home. We sure am glad Bing was there to join us for this climb.
The peaks of Mt Matarem was like a silent sentinel overlooking the southern regions of Batan island. It may stand only at 473 meters above sea level but its name is descriptive of its trail. Matarem means “steep” and after many years of visiting Batanes I get to experience its steepness. It’s expected to be a long hike, about 2-3 hours a way since the summit is off-center the island.
Through the Fairy Trail
Our jump-off was at Ivana. We met our local guide in town who’ll be coming along with us. While Bing no longer needs one as this place is like her playground, it’s a safety protocol on our side since me and writer Jona, were first timers here. The trail starts with a steep ascent by a paved road. How the hell can vehicles come up here? I thought.
We reached the open trail rolling pasture land. The town of Ivana, Sabtang islands and the West Philippine seas can be seen from the hills. Shortly, we arrived at the start of what people call the “Fairy Trail”. I doubt real fairies pass through here but this natural tunnel of trees is eerily beautiful and wild. There were fascinating flora and fauna like the captivating shield bug I encountered on the trail, some edible snails and native fruits.
It felt like walking on a knife’s edge but enclosed by trees on both sides of the ridges so it wasn’t as intimidating. But if it was an open trail, I’m sure I would have jelly legs by then. Still, I took my sweet time enjoying the trail. They were too far ahead, so most of the time I was by myself. Making sure I’m not missing any insects I could take photos or trying to get a glimpse of that bird calling. Though I didn’t see any of those birds.
I rejoined the group when I reached the peak. There was only a small space but a good clearing. It’s amazing seeing a different vantage point of Mt Iraya and north Batan. At the same time, the southern region and nearby island of Sabtang. I could see Bing’s smile. It’s only her third time to climb Mt Matarem but i could see her elation. Perhaps rekindling her love for her home island once more after months being far away from home.
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.