Sagada: Exploring Middle Earth

Lunch at Yoghurt House was awesome, after having our fill we proceeded to the SaGGAs office or the Sagada Genuine Guides Association. It was like order fast food on how ask for a guide, it was just awesome that they had guides ready waiting for deployment. We walked in ask for a guide and off we go!

 

Our guide was Sebastian, we were kind of confused at first since it he was kind of a snob not replying to some of our queries about the attractions; later on we discovered that Sebastian actually was hard of hearing. It was inspiring to know that SaGGas actually gives chance to people with sorts of disabilities like Sebastian and let me just mention he was really careful and made sure that we are all safe during the trip.

Walking from the SaGGAs office to the cave Sebastian pointed out some of the natural wonders of Sagada. The town is just a dreamland full of natural wonders that you wont get tired of watching. At the mouth of the cave our guide gave us a brief orientation then started a quick lecture about the cave and how sacred it is for Sagada’s people explaining to us why they keep their deceased in the caves or may be hanging on cliffs.

Mixed with excitement and nervousness we commenced our cave connection activity. We will be entering through the mouth of Lumiang Cave of which is know for it’s adventure filled and challenging maneuvers to get through. True enough the first hole that we had to get through made us think and ask our guides “are you serious?” it was as if entering a dark cave wasn’t terrifying enough but entering a small hole not knowing where it leads to was paralyzing.

sagada cave connection

I didn’t want to show my friends that I was terrified of what we are doing so I kept cool proceeded and voila! it was just that easy. Modesty aside Lumiang Cave at the time that we explored it was quite an easy one for me having experienced the technical mountains of Rizal so it was quite -forgive me for the lack of word or the shallowness of my vocabulary- entertaining to watch my friends try to manage those crevices, while I was thinking silently with my mouth shut that it was just like a walk in the park. Well maybe because the cave for most part was dry since it is summer, I bet it would be a lot difficult if water was running -that I really want to see.

We had several stops for rest but it still felt like we were moving fast, they say that it takes about three to five hours to complete the cave connection yet it feels that it only had been so short since we started and we were almost half of the cave connection activity.

sagada cave connection

At the other end is Sumaguing Cave the more relaxed part of the adventure where you get to see different rock formations that have taken millions of years to form. It just leaves you in amazement of how beautiful nature is.

At the end of the activity where the Sumaguing Cave starts, we all just sat and pondered on what had just happened, most if not all of my companion are first time adventurers but I can tell you that their determination is just beyond what I have.

sagada cave connection

sagada cave connection

sagada cave connection

sagada cave connection

Less than three hours later we are back from middle earth, yeah I guess I’ll call it middle earth. A place where beauty and adventure never seem to end as long as you are within the boundaries. Ugh enough of this poetry, I can never give justice to the beauty of Sagada with my words.

I think I am just hungry. Let’s eat!

Sagada: Getting To Sagada

It was the first time for me to actually organize a trip for people, well it didn’t really started that way. Having several vacation credits expiring soon, I had no choice but to use it up -can I just say what a beautiful problem I had ;). So I planned a grand Cordillera circuit trip for me, a good seven days for me being on the road.

I guess I just have a big mouth so when I meet up with friends over coffee or just plain catching up I often times tell them about my plan. Hey, who wouldn’t be excited to travel and be on the road, away from work for that long? So when some of them learned about my plans they too got excited and wanted to tag along with me turning me into an adhoc tour operator of some sort.

But there were road blocks in making it happen the most challenging of them is everyone’s availability. My initial plan was to go Banaue and spend a night in Batad then proceed to Bontoc. From Bontoc I was to go to Sagada where I will be staying for about two days before going to Baguio then finally end my trip by the beach in La Union.

After several itineraries prepared I finally came up with something that I think would work! But then, I had to scrap my grand Cordillera circuit and just stay in Sagada. I thought it was better to do the trip sharing it with friends.

Started our journey by taking a Coda Bus near St. Lukes in Quezon City going straight to Sagada (Fare: Php720) . Yep! Getting there is as easy as that! The bus departed the terminal by 9PM, good thing we reserved our seats prior going to the terminal as the bus was really packed. You can just call them to reserve and they’ll be confirming if you are pushing through the day of your trip.

view of Bontoc Town from my bus window seat

Upon arriving in Sagada we registered at the tourism office and paid the Environmental Fee of 35 pesos. They’ll be giving you a map that you can use to plan your activities. It also has information about accommodations where you can stay in the town. As for us, we’ve made reservations at George Guest House located along the South Sagada Road which was good because this is where most of the restaurants and shops are located. We opted to stay at their annex building away from the road but we were actually relocated to Lodge Labanet, a hotel of the same owner. It wasn’t bad at all since the location was better than George Guest House and our room was facing the back of the building so noise coming from the road was to a minimal.

We settled in our three-bed-room and had our first decent meal at Yoghurt House. This welcome meal made us feel rewarded after traveling for 12 hours on a bus something one must endure when getting to Sagada. After a good heavy meal we’re ready to embark on our first adventure!

 

This post is part of my Exploring Sagada Series

Mountains: Mt. Batulao Solo Day Hike

I was seeking for Solitude, some Me time. Being an introvert isn’t really that easy in this day and age of social media, yes it does take out the energy from me when I browse these “highly interactive sites”. But honestly, what triggered me the most to find solitude on top of a mountain was my recent heartache. It was something big for me, having just recovered from one after five years and finally allowing someone to break into it again with big risks was was quite a venture for me. It was painful.

I thought God would hear me better up there closer to him, that he would hear the pain of my bleeding heart that took a chance again. I was hopeful that someone would care for me even just for a little while, the same way that I care for this person. It was true for a while, but then everything suddenly changed. There were no more I miss yous, I love yous and I can’t wait to see you. There was just coldness that bit the air.

And so with a breath I decided, tomorrow I’ll climb a mountain. By my self. It was a good day to hike, a weekday when most of the trails are void from the traffic of people trying to get to the same spot where you want to be. A perfect time for solitude.

It was a little past three in the morning when I left my house. Got my self on bus, bound south of the island that I live in, yes this island boy with a broken heart is traveling alone. From Buendia I got off at Evercrest in Nasugbu, Batangas the jump off point. I could have taken a tricycle but I was there to do some healing and it felt like walking is good for healing. It was a good 2.5 Km walk.

At the entry point to the trail, there was this table setup with people manning it asking for hikers to take guides, but I’ve done my research and what they’re doing isn’t really sanctioned by the authorities. So as they tried to convince me to take a guide, I pretended to dial my phone talking to someone and walked around. When I came back they hastily told me to pass through and that I didn’t need a guide. Well I guess my drama worked.

They say that Batulao is great for beginners like me, the trail is easy to read and that the mountain is not that hard to scale. I thought that walking alone in a trail would give me the time and space to think about what had just happened to me again. Tanga nga eh (I’m an idiot, I know).

I started tracing the trail and true enough it was easy, I came across a few hiker saying hellos and good mornings to each other. I wasn’t really in the mood to be friendly, I just wanted to walk with my earphones stuck on my ears pumping music that just wrests my heart and the pain it feels. Then again I was in the mountains, I didn’t want to be rude so I obliged – I gave a little smile and greet them back.

There were resting stations –where you have to pay a fee- where groups of hikers spend time while some camp. The feeling of loneliness was reminded to me as I observe. I paused, breathe and moved on to my journey.

I took the old trail going up which was a bit more challenging compared to the new one. It was a welcomed challenge, to feel the pain physically hoping that when that pain is gone the pain in my heart would be taken away with it. Assaults, ravines and cliffs stood before me, but with faith in my heart that I can survive I walked pass through them.

On my way to the summit I got acquainted with hikers taking the same trail. Two girls and a guy with a girl who’s of best of friends. They invited me to join them, they were a fun group and for a moment I forgot about my heartache as we traverse this seemingly infinite trail to the heavens.

The summit. My goal, the sanctuary that I am longing for is now here. I see the sea of green below me reminding me of how powerful My God is. I am silenced by its beauty and magnificence, so I just sat stare at his creation. I whispered a prayer talking to my God asking him to enlighten me and grant me a strong heart to get through this. The wind was blowing a gentle cool breeze as the sun was shining mightily making it bearable. It was a good hour of contemplation, reminiscing and thinking of what had been, could have been and should have been. It seemed like an hour was not enough, I wanted to stay longer but if I do I might put my self trekking in the dark.

batulao

The trek going down back was more scenic than the ascent, the peaks of the mountain bade us good bye as we take a step at a time. It was just beautiful to meditate and talk to God ask for strength and enlightenment on top of a mountain. It does make you feel closer to God not because you are closer to the heavens, it is because from there you’ll see the power and magnificence of God through his creations; A hug to my heart and a kiss on my head.

As I reach the foot of the mountain back to where I started, God has blessed me with new friends. My heart may not have healed instantaneously but I sure felt that Someone is there looking at me, making sure that each challenge that my heart faces is something that I can over come.

As I write this monologue my heart still has pain, still has a pinch that reminds me that I am alive. I know it may be long before I forget about the risks that I have taken, the sacrifice that I willingly gave but surely every time that I go up the mountains I will be embraced by His undying love for me.

 Mt. Batulao
Nasugbu, Batangas
811+ MASL
Jump-off point: Evercrest Golf Course, Nasugbu
LLA: 14.0408 N 120.8011 E 811 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3 with 60-70 degrees assault
Features: Open trails, rolling slopes, scenic views of Batangas

Information sourced from pinoymountaineer.com

 

Seoul Searching: Japanes Green House

There’s this somewhat, shall I use the word “hostility” that you will feel from South Koreans against the Japanese -at least on some of the online contents that I have seen about Korean culture. Some videos and articles gives a cold shoulder over Japanese products, well that is somehow understandable. After what the Koreans experienced during the Japanese occupation (much like here in the Philippines), we Filipinos are just either too forgiving or our memories are just too short for us to forget their atrocities. For me I feel that we have just moved on already.

But we cannot discount that there are good things that the Japanese have left to us such as politeness to our elders, food and a little bit of culture.

As for South Korea one of the things that Japan left can be found in the Royal Gardens of Seoul’s 5 palaces, The Royal Green House.Where used to be an agricultural garden of edible and medicinal plants is where the Japanese introduced Korea’s first green house. 

The green house is part of a the Japanese’ project to “violate” the Royal Palace’s grounds that included a zoo and botanical garden which was later transferred after the Japanes occupation.

The Daeonsi (large green house) can be found insde the Changgyeonggung Palace and is included in the free tour of the palace complex.

Tinipak River: Daraitan’s Enchanted Waters

The original plan was to climb Mount Daraitan in Rizal. But because of time constraints we ended up doing the river trek instead.

The Tinipak River is located at the foot of Mt. Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal. To get there is quite a trip, coming from Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong, you can take a jeep going to Tanay, Rizal getting off at the Tanay Market. From the market, you need to take a 1-1.5 hour tricycle ride through alternating but mostly rough road. We initially bargained for 300 pesos for a one way ride from the market to the jump off point but after going through the roads, we thought that the 400 peso price was just and right. Believe me. It was also kinda nice that our tricycle driver gave us a mini tour of Tanay, stopping at some of the vantage points where you can see the metro, the wind mills of Pililia and Monte Maria.

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The tricylce dropped us off the barangay hall where you will be registering and be assigned with a guide. The guides cost about 500 pesos who will assist you in any or all of the activities that there is in the area which includes but may not be limited to hiking up Mt. Daraitan, caving and river trekking. Before embarking for your adventure, your guide will be orienting you on the do’s and don’ts and some safety reminders.

I just have to mention that the Daraitan area, though fairly new because it just opened last year, has a really good system and their guides are well trained and knowledgeable. They are amazingly organized!

Anyways, after the orientation we decided no to take the mountain anymore due to lack of time. We started trekking and right from the start we were mesmerized by the beauty of the river. We crossed little streams and man made improvised bridges that just compliment the surroundings.

I felt like I was taken into another world, where you’d believe that fairies do exist, it isn’t that hard to believe in Daraitan actually.

After our short trek, or guide stopped for a moment on and asked us to say a short prayer.  We were about to enter the cave. I like the fact that our guide actually stopped and prayed with us, not all guides does this. As soon as we finished our prayer, he gave us few instructions  and we started descending to this small hole. It was quite cool and refreshing inside the cave with a cold breeze coming from the end, The trek.

As we got at the end (not actually the end of the cave) we were greeted by a cool pool of spring water that comes from a farther part of the cave system. We spent some time there enjoying the pool -which was very safe since it was just shallow.

We decided to to move on and continue trekking the river. The trek going to the cave was just beautiful so I couldn’t think of anything that could surprise me anymore. I was wrong. The river showed it’s  more of it’s beauty with bigger boulders and more enchanting rock formations as we continue with our trek.

I could just imagine bringing one of my brides here for a photoshoot, dressed in elegant gowns with their groom. I tell you you’ll just fall in love with the river.

Eventually, we reached a part of the river that is calm enough for the water to pool. The water was mixed warm and cold, I couldn’t distinguish where the warm water was coming from but I really enjoyed it. It was difficult to move on, from one spot to another, it was just beautiful! But we had too.

The river alone was an experience, even if we failed in our agenda to climb mount daraitan, we did not feel short changed. I’d love to comeback and stay overnight climbing trekking the river once again then climbing the mountain early in the morning the following day.

I’ll post a guide on how you can get to the Barangay Daraitan so don’t forget  to visit our site from time to time.

Mt. Hapunang Banoi: Adventure Awaits You East of Manila

You are a adrenaline junkie and it’s another weekend that you keep on struggling just what to do with it. Well that’s very similar to how my situation was, only that I am not really an adrenaline junkie!

My rest days was just a day away and I have nothing on my calendar to spend it with. Then somebody sent a message asking if I was free on those days. Hell yeah! I’d go anywhere I can afford! Hahaha!

And she got a barrage of questions from me.

pm

 

Call me kaladkarin, hahaha but it was a no brainier for me if I was to go or not.

Call Time: 4:30 AM

Location: Cubao

I arrived about thirty minutes early in Cubao, but it was almost 4:30 and I haven’t heard anything from my companions. So I hit them up with a message and found out that they left late trying to contact one of our friends. Unfortunately she never responded (turns out that she over slept – too tired from the traffic she battled with the night before)

At about 6 AM we took an FX with a Montalban (Rodriguez) – Eastwood route. Fare is about 50 pesos. Travel time was just about less than an hour. From the town junction we rode a tricycle going to the jump-off point.

We registered at the DENR office payed 20 pesos for the environmental fee, proceed to the barangay post where they collect another fee -I don’t what was that for.

With everything prepped up our guide Wowie, lead us to a trek that I’d never forget.

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The hike started by crossing a hanging bridge leading to a residential area where a steep flight of stairs welcomes you going to the real start of the trail. It was quite a warm up for us -which is good. My heart started pumping up as I started sweating.

The trail’s start was mostly an assault until your reach the resting part where you’ll see a great wall of rock. Wowie, our guide, told us that there are many rock climbers scale the wall while showing us some obscure rock formations.

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The trail is mostly covered with forest so hiking up the mountain with the Sun shining up and bright was not an issue for us. There were several resting points including the one where the junction between Mt. Hapunang Banoi and Pimintinan.

IMG_20150911_093553 copy z
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On our trek up the mountain, I was thinking if the rocks that we were encountering were the reason why the guides ask us to bring gloves, I was like these are kinda sharp but I think I can live without the gloves.

The way up was a lot of assault, but easy ones. The first and second peaks require a bit of courage and some balancing skills. I think anyone who has some amount of courage can do it… not that technical

The highest peak of them all will be the one to test your courage and skills. Soil would disappear and the trail becomes pure lime stone rocks, nothing flat that you can walk on.

Technical? a bit, yes! Scary? quite. It takes more courage to get to the best parts. But I tell you conquer your fear and you’ll see the best views you ever see.

We finished the climb for about seven hours. Yes, blame it on my two girls. Hahaha! Peace to the two of you! But how can I blame them, we went up the mountain to experience and how can we immortalize such experience if not with photos? So hell yeah, more photos for every climb! HAHAHA!

Mt. Hapunang Banoi so far has been my most adventurous climb, I truly enjoyed it and I’d say that anyone daring enough should experience it! I know that I am not the best writer when it comes to describing mountains but trust me on this one.

Breakdown

FX Cubao-Montalban-Cubao 100

Tricycle Junction-Jump off point-Junction 90

DENR Fee 20 Pesos

Gloves – 50 (mas maganda magdala ng sariling gloves na makapal)

Guide 400 (divided by 3 )

PS I am having trouble uploading photos to my photo host, so pls just check the photos on my fb page which can be found here:

Silence: My 2015 In Review

Silence can be deafening, but with heart so silent it can hear love.

This year, I and my blog had been at it’s most silent times. Though I have announced last year that I will not travel come 2015, I did made a few short trips to take a break from my monotonous work life.

Traveling need not to be too far from home, it can be as close as a jeepney or a bus ride. What matters is that it frees up your soul from the chaos of your daily life and regain control.

With this, let me share with you the year that I have been silent with.

Tinipak River

Initial plan was to climb Mt. Daraitan but due to time constraints we opted to just do the river trek adventure. The river was enchanting with its beautiful white boulders and pristine water where you could swim. An overnight stay would have been perfect but three urbanites with so little time just doesn’t fit the puzzle.

Krysh at Tinipak River

Tinipak River

Cabangan, Zambales

My first and last team building with my FA family from San Lazaro. It was one crazy party and the beach was just the perfect place to settle after the chaos of the night that had been.

 

Pundaquit, Zambales

My aunt, uncle, cousin and her son visited on July from the states, of course we love going out so going to the beach was a no brainer. The weekend we initially planned to go out was stormy, unfortunately the following weekend was just the same, but that didn’t hinder us from having lots of fun. The waves were awesome and was just as fun to ride as it rushes to the shore.

Mt. Hapunang Banoi

Reuniting with my travel buddy Princess, we ventured to the months old trail of the newly opened mountain. It was one of the most technical climbs that I have ever done so far, but it was also the funnest and most memorable of all.

Manila Photowalk

Working on an 8 to 5 job in the concrete jungle, contained in a four walled office ain’t to fun, specially for someone who loves being nomadic at times. I needed an escape and the streets of Manila provided just the right out of the box experience for me even just for a day.

Mt. Batulao

My traveler-inside-the-office anxiety attack was at it again, bored as I am I decided to do a solo climb. Packed with two litters of water, bread, a service of street bought spaghetti and some candies. I went up the mountain alone and gone down with a bunch of friends.

Photo courtesy of Louie Cutamora

Boracay

Probably the last one this year. Hey, I am not closing my doors to any adventure till the year actually closes.. hahaha…

Anyways, The trip was on the end of November originally meant to celebrate my dad’s birthday but he bailed out for some reason (I don’t know). Nevertheless it was fun and I was glad to see the kids happy taking their first plane ride and enjoy the beach.

This year had not been the awesomest compared to the past, but this year is the reason why my 2016 will be one epic travel year.

This year had been full of triumphs, failures and heartache; but travel had been so kind to provide me a temporary escapes and moments to process things over to make sense of the things that had just happened.

The mountains gave me new friends, renewed friendships and a sanctuary for my troubled heart -yeah that’s you Batulao, thank you. The sea taught me that like waves life will always be a challenge, to make it better, farther like how it tries to reach the shores. While the city, my love, Manila reminded me of romance and beauty can be tucked in a shabby street like a person that we judge too quickly.

So thank you 2015 for keeping me sane.

Cheers to more adventures in 2016

Batanes: My Last Days

How do you face death? How do you face the day that you know would be your last? To some effect I ask these questions to my self when I am on the last day of my trip. If I were to die today what would I do. My answer? I always say I’d  like to go slow.Savor the moment, the place and try to feel and remember the feeling, the things that matter to me most and those that I would cherish when I get back to the urban jungle.

I started the day just lazying around my hostel, ate breakfast, spark a smoke and just chill and breath the fresh air.  I try to collect memories of the things that happened over the past couple of days, how I somewhat fulfilled my dreams of going to the northern most point (y’ami island) and the southern most point of my country.

The hot choco that I made from the honesty store at the gazebo of my hostel was just awesome as I sip it through the crisp morning air. It was something that I’ve always pictured my self of doing. sans the awesome view because I was beside the airport.

I did nothing special this day, wait everything was special, this is Batanes.

After having breakfast I took my rented bike and pedaled my way to Vulugan Boulder Beach. Again the terrain was very challenging but crossing with locals pedaling up hill with loads and passengers on their bike made me a bit embarrassed to get down and push my bike uphill. But I gave up, it was just too difficult.

I thought that I got lost at some point but there was just one road leader to the sea. I left my bike at the shed and walked doen the beach.

It seemed like I was an insect on a small pebble as I sat down on the huge rocks lining the beach at no particular rhythm. I felt peace as I try to feel the wind .

I stopped by the Airport for some photos but ultimately the bike ride around the town and chavayan may be the best part of this trip. To see the locals live their lives in harmony and contentment gave lessons I may not learn from books and the internet, that simplicity and contentment play an important part of our lives.

The following morning I took my bag with a heavy heart and walked to the airport the experience is about to end but the lessons are forever in my heart.

Batanes is a place for pilgrimage, a place where you commune with God, Nature and Humanity. A place where you can see the paradise that God created for humans. It is a place to be respected, left unchanged like the mountains we climb as they say Leave No Trace Behind.

When you come to Batanes, do not be the tourist that you usually are. Try to learn and respect the ways of the locals, trust me, they have more breeding than most of us urbanites.

Again respect.

Hong Kong: Avenue Of stars

Growing up, I’ve learned to love Chinese shows as well. We often watch Chinese folklore shows version of Havoc In Heaven, a book that tells a story of how a Monkey hero with some pig and other half animal save the world from evil entities, and that’s all in Mandarin -yep not dubbed in English or Filipino.

Because of this I’ve been a fan of Cynthia Luster, Chow Yun Fat, Bruce Lee, lately of Jet Li and of course my childhood hero Jacky Chan. Having a childhood of such action packed memories a Visit to the Avenue of Stars is something like a trip to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Seriously.

There’s nothing really there is to do here but to walk and see the signatures and imprints of the Chinese stars that you idolize -if you have any. Well actually let me take that back, if you don’t have any this is also the best place to see the other side of Hong Kong from Victoria Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Avenue of stars is worth the visit whether you are a Chinese movie fan or not, it is something not to be missed. But just a word of caution, a lot of people come here in flocks so be ready, like as in physically ready, I almost had to elbow my way in just to get a photo of me and my dad with Bruce Lee’s statue.

 

How To Get To The Avenue of Stars

Get on the MTR and get off at East TST or East Tsim Sha Tsui Station then follow the signs. There’s going to be a lot of walking so be ready. Let me just reiterate, its East Tsim Sha Tsui and not just Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll have to walk farther if you get off at the latter.

 

Cabangan: A Short Love Story

It wasn’t we planned. Not at all to be in that place and time, but destiny pushed it self way into us.

 

We journeyed, time passed by. It seemed never ending.



We came.

 

I did not expect what I have yet to see. It was magic.

 

Night came and the moon lit the shore as the water shines like a thousand diamonds.

 

We drank and laughed like we wouldn’t have a chance to do it all over again.It was epic.

Your waves are made me dance to the peace it whispers, the simplicity it preaches and the love it exudes.

I will be back, to dance again into your arms of never ending waves. The waves of peace and joy.

 

Cabangan is a fourth class municipality in Zambales, located in northern Luzon. It can be reached through Victory Liner buses. No resort was found by the writer as of the time that he went but just a public beach unless he had not search far and wide enough.

Batanes: A Dream Come True (Day 2)

Today typhoon Ruby is passing through central Philippines and the weather has dropped on the 20’s reminding me of my Ivatan winter. I woke up on my early on my second day, just right before sunrise and the weather was just freezing. I need to catch the jeep that takes passengers to Ivana port, the gateway to Sabtang Island.

I walked down the pier and on corner where jeep usually passes as it exits the town. i was getting nervous, its almost 6:30 am and the jeep is no where in sight. I was beginning to think that I had missed the trip already. I asked a local passing by if I did missed the trip already, I was assured that I hadn’t yet.

After a few minutes more I saw the jeep. I took the front seat so I can get a good view of the route. Travel time is just about 30 – 45 minutes fare is about 50 – 75 pesos (can’t remember the exact amount). To get to Ivana Port, you’ll be passing through the route to Mahatao and go further a few kilometers north more.

The router is scenic, as expected. Expect nothing less from Batanes.

Before we reached the port, the driver handed out a manifesto. It turned out that the driver also acts as an agent for the Falowa that would take us to Sabtang. It is actually great because it would make it impossble for his passenger to miss the trip to the island! hahaha.

I was early to arrive at the port and the Falowa was not yet there. But there were things to do just near the port. Across the port the San Jose de Ivana Church stands. The front doors were open, so I stepped in and explored the church. Inside was dark, but the light from the doors illuminate the interiors just enough for your eyes to adjust to and let you see.

Most if not all of the churches in Batanes dates back from the spanish era, I may be wrong but I didn’t see any new churches while I was there. Anyway, after checking out the church I crossed back to the port side of the street and got some snacks from the famous honesty store just right beside the port.

The famous honesty store is a small shack off the road that you can just walk in to take some stuff and leave your money in a jar. If you are honest it feels just okay nothing biggie, but if you are like me -a city guy that trusts almost no one from the urban jungle- it’s actually amazing to a certain point that some would be baffled why would someone leave their store like that! Well, it’a an honesty store something that is not special for Ivatans because it is the way they live but it is something that makes them special.

My falowa arrived and everybody started boarding. Unlike in other parts of the Philippines people here follow laws. Despite the excellent track record of the falowa of having zero casualty, the boat crew and the coast guard still makes sure that everyone is accounted for in the manifesto and are wearing life jackets.

The falowa docked on the port and I was on my own again. I walked around the area to check out what are there to see, it was the island’s center. You can stay for the night in this area by sleeping at the dorm type accommodation at the tourism office. I stepped inside and asked for directions going to the “Barrio” where some of my friends are staying.

They asked me to pay for Php 200 for the tourism fee which I don’t which or what the tourism fee materializes into but just thought of it that I gave it out of goodwill, I mean it is a sleepy town not much economy goes around the island (and for me it is it’s charm, its provincial atmosphere) so I guess it’s fine for me to pay the cost.

They offered me a ride for 300 pesos from the port to the barrio, which is popularly known as the Chavayan Village, it is where the movie Batanes is said to be shot. I didn’t think twice cause it felt that it was reasonable. The road to chavayan is rough along the way you’ll be passing by spots where you can stop and enjoy for your self. That is what I  like about not being in group tours, if I go around on my own I can stop where I want to and leave when I want to, it is a bit more expensive but I say it is worth it. The driver of the habal-habal told me that the 300 pesos that I paid for is good for a return trip to the center but I asked him to leave as I was joining my friends who were staying in the barrio. After the trip going to the barrio, considering the road condition and the length of the road, I’d say 300 pesos is a bargain.

Tinglayan View Point Sabtang Island, Batanes

I spent most of the afternoon roaming around the barrio. Chavayan I must say is a must visit, there are other old barrios along the way going to Chavayan but it is not as nostalgic and amazing as this barrio by the sea. It is something like out of a storybook that you’d never thought could ever exist, a place for hopeless romantics.

Entry to the village/barrio
Hanging out with my travel blogging idols and the Mango Bandits hahaha
 (left to right Kaiz of  missbackpacker.info Owen and Nikka of Two2Travel.com, My mentor Doi of  TheTravellingFeet.com and dynamic mango bandits duo.. hahaha)

It’s a small village, people know each other -literally. I walked through the main street till I reached end where the village meets the shore.

I savored every moment that I had at the village, the simple life that they live, the fresh air and that feeling you actually feel alive. It was priceless.

It was time to go back to the Poblacion (the town center)so I rode with my friends going back on a tricycle Ivatan style. halfway of the trip, I noticed that my tripod was missing! The driver immediately stopped and went back the path we went through. We hopped off the tricycle as he goes back so that he can drive faster.

We walked along the deserted road to keep our selves warm, the wind was blowing and it doesn’t help that it was winter that time. It was like Taiwan all over again. Untouched beaches planks the road on its side, I kept on thinking if I only had enough time to stay in the island I would soak my self under the sun, errrrr maybe not it was terribly cold! hahahaha! But why not during the summer ey?

The driver got back and found my tripod, thank God! I mean that is a good tripod that I use.

We reached the port and there were no falowas just yet to transport us back to Batan. I decided to go up north of the Island and check out two spots real quick, I took a tricycle rushed all the way to Morong beach, a secluded paradise where most of the organized tours take their lunch. After exploring the beach, we quickly went to the light house that I saw as we approach the port when we were arriving to the island.

 

I didn’t want to miss my ride back home so I rushed back to the port.

On the Falowa it is advisable to take the back seat as it feels a lot less shaky than the middle or front part and you get to stay drier! Unfortunately I was seated on the middle part of the Falowa, I got splashed on and got dizzy half way of the trip at the middle of the open ocean. But I survived, nope didn’t puke, but some of my friends did and you’d never blame or make fun of them if they do because of how big the waves are!

My feet are back on dry land, I feel stable 🙂

Going back to Basco posed to be a challenge. There were few to no public transport, good thing I was with vet travel bloggers and cowboy! hahaha! They practically stopped the falowa’s owner’s crew’s shuttle truck and asked if we can hitch a ride back to Basco! The guy was awesome he let us ride and didn’t ask even just for gas money! ahhhh how great the Ivatans are! there you I just raped this sentence with exclamation points hahahaha!

It was a tiring day I walked back to my hotel to rest for a couple of hours.

Call it luck but that day was also the town’s feast day. For us Filipinos, what activity do we do when there’s a feast? Eat!!! hahaha… That same day we went house hopping we call in Filipino “Pamimyesta” (Feasting with), we hop from one friend’s house to another just to eat and chat with them – repeat cycle till full… errr not really even if you are full and you still got houses to go to you still need to eat. It’s rude not to eat when you go to someone’s home during a feast.

The first house that we went to actually was my favorite. It is a small house with few food types on the table but what was happening outside was something more. The elders of the household are taking shots, of course we obliged when they as us to take one. I learned that in Batanes gin actually trumps beer when it comes to sales. See, just like how the elders told us, gin or run for that matter, makes our body warmer compared to beer that just intoxicates us. With the cold nights specially during winter it just makes sense how hard drinks takes the throne.

After feast house hopping, we went back to our inns. rested. but restless we are. Everyone wanted to hangout some more. My landlady didn’t knew that I was house hopping for food so she brought us a lot from her house. And I mean a lot!

‘Twas my first time hosting people, Ever! Thank God that they are really nice and friendly. We talked about of course travel and the funny and not so funny things that happen to us when we are out there. It was an awesome night, and food? Hahaha I had them take some home to their rooms so they can have it for breakfast.

It was a great way to end my second day in paradise, a good laugh with friends and a heart full of stories.

time to rest now.

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