Sunday, April 08, 2012

Batanes: From a Wish to Reality

Back in my elementary school days, in Grade 4 to be exact, one of my favorite lessons in Social Studies is Philippine Geography. For the said topic we discussed the different regions that comprise our astonishing archipelago. One of the provinces that caught my attention, at the tender age of 10, is Batanes located in Region II (Cagayan Valley Region which is located at the northeastern part of the Philippines). Our textbook described the province as a small group of islands at the northern most part of our country. It is where the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) merges with the vast Pacific Ocean.  I saw illustrations of the vernacular houses of the Ivatans (the indigenous inhabitants of Batanes), the head gear called vacul, their main produce like garlic and root crops. I can relate to the experience of the Ivatans being visited by Typhoons (I spent early years of my childhood in Bicol where typhoons are familiar acquaintances), I was intrigued on how is the weather there, what does the view of the seascape up north looks like? That lesson in Grade 4 started my curiosity with the province, a wish was formed: that someday I’ll get to go there and see for my self the northern most province described in my text book. 

Years went by and I got to see various photos of the province, read about it in the broadsheets, watched documentaries, got a glimpse of it in one of the local movies, read about more of its geography and the interesting culture of its people in books specially in college. I kept a copy of an article by Dr. Florentino Hornedo, a well known with regards to Ivatan studies (an insular himself), describing in narrative his hometown of Sabtang which is one of the municipalities of Batanes. That article is very detailed even if it is not that long, reading it I felt that I was with the author in his visit to his hometown. Batanes is one of the places on the top of my list when it comes to travel destinations.

An opportunity came during my third year in college. We can choose between doing a summer coursework in Metro Manila or in Batanes up north. I was so happy learning about this opportunity. I silently prayed, hoping that I’ll get to go to the smallest and farthest northern province that summer of 2010. The expenses of joining the trip to Batanes is quite hefty specially the airfare. 

I was in Manila, one cloudy afternoon, when I received a text message that made me so happy. It was a go signal from my mother that I can join the group that was going to Batanes that summer! An answered prayer! Another blessing came when we learned about the Batanes airfare promo of SEAir for the Travel Tour Expo! Our batch got a huge discount (half of the regular all-in fare expenses) with regards to airfare. Excitement goes higher as the days before our departure gets near! I counted the days and read more about the province.

We got a very early morning flight to Basco, Batanes on the 22nd of April, 2010. I ensured that I will be on that flight to one of my dream destinations: I left our home the night before (April 21). I joined some of my also excited classmates in a mini camp out at the Old Domestic Airport that evening. We spent the time waiting eating, playing games, chit chat, a perfect bonding moment before the most awaited trip that summer.
At last the time came for us to board the plane after waiting for nearly 8 hours (because of our excitement). The morning was perfect and we all hoped for good weather up north in Basco. This flight is also special for me because for another reason: it’s my first air travel much more I am on my way to one of the places in my wish list way back in elementary!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Travel Nostalgia: From Bulacan to Manila then on to Batanes (Part 1)

In traveling we experience a lot of new things, most of which are very memorable. come and join me as I travel back in time and with the help of words retell a memorable journey from historical Bulacan to the northern crown jewel of the Philippines - Batanes.

It was a fine April evening in 2010 when I stepped out of our front door. A warm breeze was at play brought by the mighty river that passes by our backyard. Nervous and excited, a prayer uttered before I heaved a blue sports bag and a sturdy back back down the steps of our porch and across our yard. Nearly at the entrance of our compound I looked back and savored the familiar view of home. It will be nearly three weeks before I see this sight in my beloved province of Bulacan. 

A tricycle stopped a few minutes after I reached the asphalted community road. the ride was fast and a bargain at Php 13 at one way. I reached the national road with ease, checking my old wristwatch showed that I am on time. I do have a rendezvous at Manila at 9 o'clock in the evening. I waited for a while, luckily a unit of Victory Liner came. The evening is young, with lights illuminating various structures by the road, choosing a seat by the window is a sure treat.

The bus made its way southward. I got a glimpse of the Provincial Capitol of Bulacan which looks more stunning at night and the tree-covered park adjacent to it located at Malolos City. I wish i also got to see a night view of the historic Barasoain Church that evening but its not along the way. A couple of minutes the bus made a stop and  hawkers came in selling various ready to eat treats, some of which you can only sample while in Bulacan. The most famous example is the Malolos Ensaymada, a sumptuous snack aboard a bus for only Php 20 each!

The bus entered the North Luzon Express way (NLEX) nearly half an hour after I boarded the bus. Travel alon the NLEX is fast and smooth, it is said that it is comparable to the ones in abroad. In the blur caused by speed I got to see various model of cars, provincial  buses that I tried to guess to where they are going, colorful lighted billboards, and large gleaming stop overs along the way.

The NLEX is connected smoothly with EDSA. Before I knew it the bus was circling its way around the rotunda graced by the mighty scuplture depicting Andres Bonifacio. From the bus window I saw the said monument made by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, flood lights bathing it with a dramatic glow. When you see that mighty landmark you are 100% sure that you are now in "Monumento" in Caloocan City.

To be continued....