Batanes: Home of the Ivatans

Batanes is a chain of small islands in the northernmost point of the Philippines. Of these islands, only three are inhabited: Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. These three (3) islands comprise six (6) municipalities collectively known as BISUMI: Basco (the capital), Itbayat, Sabtang, Uyugan, Mahatao and Ivana. Although described as having no real ports, the island chains of Batanes boast small beaches and coves which serve as anchorage for the locals’ small boats.

Inhabiting Batanes are the Ivatans, their name derived from the language they speak: Chirin nu Ibatan or simply Ivatan, an Austronesian language spoken exclusively in the Batanes Islands which is characterized by the dominant use of the letter “v”, as in valuga, vakul and vanuwa.

Also unique to their culture is their limestone houses patterned after the Spaniards and adapted to stand the onslaughts of the notorious Batanes typhoons. Ivatan stone houses — called vernacular houses — are typically windowless cube structures with walls as thick as one meter with thatched roof made of cogon grass.

Where to go in Batanes

Tour destinations in Batanes are subdivided into four (4) clusters:

  • North Batan Island (Basco)
    • Mt. Carmel Chapel
    • Radar Tukon
    • Idjang Viewpoint
    • Fundacion Pacita
    • Japanese Tunnel
    • Valugan Boulder Beach
    • Vayang Rolling Hills
    • Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills
    • Sto. Domingo Church
  • South Batan Island (Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan)
    • Chawa Viewdeck
    • Mahatao Pier
    • San Jose Borromeo Church
    • Diura (Fishing Village)
    • Fountain of Youth
    • Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)
    • Imnajbu Point
    • Old Naval Base
    • Alapad Rock
    • Song Song Ruins
    • San Jose de Ivana Church
    • Honesty Coffee Shop
    • Famous House of Dakay
  • Sabtang Island
    • San Vicenter Ferer Church
    • Savidug Village and Savidug Idjang Rock Fortress
    • Sabtang Vernacular Houses
    • Sabtang Lighthouse
    • Limestone production
    • Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
    • Chavayan Village
    • Nakabuang (Morong) Beach and Ahao Arch
    • Vuhus Island
  • Itbayat Island
    • Chinapoliran Port
    • Sta. Maria Immaculada (Itbayat) Church
    • Lake Kavaywan
    • Mt. Karoboban Viewpoint
    • Torongan Hills and Cave
    • Paganaman Port and Lagoon
    • Rapang Cliffs and Stone Bell
    • Kaxobcan Beach
    • Mt. Riposed
    • Nahili Votox Burial Site
    • Komayasakas Cave and Water Source
    • Manoyok Sinkhole
    • Sarokan, Pevangan and Do’tboran Caves
    • Agosan Rocks
    • Port Mauyen
    • Island hopping (when weather permits):
      • Siayan
      • Dinem
      • Ditarem
      • Yami (Mavolis)

Optional activities

Mt. Iraya Hike (North Batan)
Duration: 3hrs to 4 hrs
Highlights: At 1,900ft ASL, Mt Iraya offers a stunning view of Basco and a wide array of endemic flora and fauna.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1000/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1500/pax for 2 pax

Mt. Matarem Hike (South Batan)
Duration: 1.5hrs to 2hrs
Highlights: An extinct volcano, Mt. Matarem spans the municipalities of Mahatao, Uyugan and Ivana. At the summit, you’ll have a commanding view of Sabtang.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1300/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1800/pax for 2 pax

Hiking/Walking Tour
Duration: 4hrs to 6hrs
Highlights: Hike along the Basco-Mahatao Trail, stopping by Racuh-a-idi Spring of Youth in Diura Fishing Village for a cold, refreshing dip. Then continue on to the radar station, Fundacion Pacita and the wind turbines
Rates/Fees:
PHP800/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1200/pax for 2 pax

SCUBA Diving
Duration: 2hrs to 3hrs, depending on the dive location and number of dives
Highlights: Explore the rich marine life of Sabtang: Pavona coral fields, Trevallies Lair, Canyons, etc.
Rates/Fees:
PHP3000/pax for a single dive, or
PHP2500/pax for 2 dives or more

Fishing/Boating
Duration: Minimum of 1hr
Highlights: Experience “mataw” fishing with local anglers using nylon line and hook.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax/hr for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1000/pax/hr for 2 pax

ATV Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: Explore Batan at your own pace.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax for halfday, or
PHP1000/pax for whole day

Bicycle (Motorbike) Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: A visit to Batanes is not complete without trying out one of its iconic symbols, the bicycle. Tour Batan Island on two wheels, either self-powered or motorized. Travel from the heart of Basco to the southernmost parts of Batan.
Rates/Fees:
Bicycle: PHP100/pax/hr
Motorbike: PHP250/pax/hr

Contacts:

BISUMI Tours and Services
Ryan Lara Cardona <+63915.803.4582>
bisumitours@gmail.com

MarFel Lodge
<+63908.893.1475>
<+63920.976.4966>
<+63917.857.4493>
<+63917.883.3249>
marfellodge@gmail.com
http://marfellodgebatanes.com

Dive Batanes
Chico Domingo <+63939.935.1950>

Ivatan ATV Rentals
<+63998.551.9656>

Basco TODA
<+63929.703.8404>

Casa Napoli Pizza
<+63999.990.7553>

Rapang (Itbayat) Guide
Jose Valiente <+63949.620.0184>

The Dreamweavers of Lake Sebu

National Artist Boi Lang Dulay

Boi Lang Dulay (August 03, 1924 – April 03, 2015) elevated T’boli weaving into an art form, earning for her the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan in 1998 for her outstanding craft and masterpieces that made the t’nalak – and the T’bolis – famous the world over.

The T’bolis belong to the many indigenous tribes or “lumads” that live in the hinterlands of the southwestern part of Cotabato. The T’bolis of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato are famous for their dream-inspired and spirit-infused weavings, raised to the level of art by the iconic Boi Lang Dulay, the 1998 Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardee. Lang Dulay has designed and woven over 100 T’nalaks. She stopped weaving in 2011 due to advancing age and concentrated on designing. The last design she made was bought by the NCCA after she died.

The T'bolis are also well-known for their ornate and intricate brass and beadworks.

The T’bolis are also well-known for their ornate and intricate brass and beadworks.

The T’nalak is a deep brown cloth made from “krungon” or abaca fiber, tie-dyed with intricate designs and produced mostly by the womenfolk of the tribe. According to T’boli tradition, T’nalak designs have been passed down through generations and are revealed to the best weavers in dreams, brought to them by their ancestors.

The T’nalak is so ingrained with spiritual meanings that its production and use is surrounded by a variety of traditions and beliefs.  It is believed that in order to maintain the purity of their art, T’boli women must abstain from “worldly pleasures” while weaving a T’nalak. During weaving, one should not step over the loom, for doing so is to risk illness. Also, cutting the cloth, unless done according to the prescribed norm, will cause sickness or death; and if a weaving is sold, a brass ring is often attached to appease the spirits.

T’nalak production is labor-intensive, requiring both skills and knowledge, and learned at a very young age by the women of the tribe.

Along with the its world-famous T’nalak, T’boli music and dances are also among the indigenous cultural heritage being showcased in Lake Sebu.

I Miss You… SUN!

It has been raining cats and dogs for more than five (5) days… now, I am longing for the sun.

The stunning sunrise at Kiltepan viewpoint in Sagada, Mt. Province.

The stunning sunrise at Kiltepan viewpoint in Sagada, Mt. Province.

Kiltepan Sunrise

DSC_2811

No words. They won’t do justice to such magnificence only God can create.

DSC_2861

The Phoenix of Palo

Palo Cathedral, or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, was built in 1596 by the Jesuits and served as their home, until 1768, after being ordered to leave the Philippines, as an aftermath of political wranglings in Europe. They were replaced in Leyte by the Augustinians who in 1834 eventually ceded the northeastern parishes to the Franciscans.

Repairs–after it was hit by a fire and typhoon which caused its roof to be ripped off, and its convent to be destroyed–and construction of its two symmetrical towers began in 1850.

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. -- photo from kadetrosada.wordpress.com

The cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American Liberation Forces. — photo from kadetrosada.wordpress.com

The church became a cathedral on March 25, 1938, with Monsignor Manuel Mascariñas serving as its first bishop. During World War II, the cathedral was converted into an evacuation hospital by American Liberation Forces, and was used as refuge of civilians.

-- photo from inquirer.newsinfo

— photo from inquirer.newsinfo

Palo Cathedral was badly damaged by supertyphoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) in November 2013. DSC_0308Hurricane-like winds stripped this beautiful infrastructure of its roofs and windows. Yolanda left it almost wiped out. After Yolanda’s devastation, a memorial service for the typhoon’s casualties was held in the cathedral. Bodies were then buried in the cathedral’s grave site.

But like the mythological Phoenix, the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral rose from the “ashes”, signifying renewal and rebirth. In 17 January 2015, Pope Francis held mass here and met with families of survivors of superyyphoon Yolanda.

Today, through the major efforts of private institutions and the people of Palo, the cathedral has been fully restored and once again stand, in all its glory and grandeur.

Post Script

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug brought Palo to the pages of world history. It is where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation on October 20, 1944.

Red Beach immortalized Palo in the pages of world history. It was where Gen. Douglas McArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation.

The celebrated town of Palo, Leyte has also played vital roles in our country’s history and religiosity.

Red Beach in Brgy. Candahug was where Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise: I shall return, in 20 October 1944. Bringing with him the full might of the Allied forces, the massive landing in Palo signaled the end of Japanese occupation in the country during World War II.

 

A Valentine’s Date to Remember

I brought Abby to a beach camping trip for the first time. I really hadn’t elaborately planned for it, so I joined a group I met online who’s going to Masasa Beach in Tingloy, Batangas.

Masasa Beach

Uhmmm… I’ve seen and been to much better beaches in Batangas, but Masasa’s calm is welcoming. A handful of beachgoers and campers have already been there, yet the rawness of its surroundings shouts out that Masasa Beach is yet to be explored.

There really isn’t much to do in Masasa Beach, ‘cept to swim, relax and just chew in the scenery.

Abby had one corner of the beach all by herself.

Abby had one corner of the beach all by herself.

Abby had a wonderful time swimming that I had to literally pull her out of the water...

Abby had a wonderful time swimming that I had to literally pull her out of the water…

The trek back to Tingloy port was through a narrow winding dirt road in the middle of rice fields and grazing pastures.

On the boat back to Anilao Port: "Dad, is this what you do when you leave home on weekends?" I said, yes. "I can do this with you." It wasn't a question.  It's a promise.

On the boat back to Anilao Port:
“Dad, is this what you do when you leave home on weekends?”
I said, yes.
“I can do this with you.”
It wasn’t a question.
It’s a promise.

————————————–

How to get to Masasa Beach:

Tingloy is the only island municipality in Batangas, nestled on the main island of Maricaban.

From Manila, take a bus to Batangas City Grand Terminal (2-3 hours, P120-P180). Take a jeepney to Anilao Port (P35) and board the passenger boat to Tingloy (P70). To make the most out of your time, make sure you get onboard the first trip at 10:30AM. From the port, take a tricycle to Masasa Beach (P60).

If you’re lucky (like our group), you might be able to catch the boat — M/B Baby Mycel — which sails directly to Masasa Beach. It leaves Anilao Port at 10:30AM.

Alternatively, you may rent a boat for an island-hopping tour at Anilao Port for P5,500 (smaller boats are available from PhP2,500 to PhP3,000). Rate is per boat so it is to be divided by how many you are in the group. Ask your boatman to also make stops at Sombrero Island and Sepoc Point, too!

The Colors of Ati-Atihan

Hala Bira!The Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo is just one of many similar feasts* in the province of Aklan honoring the Santo Niño.

“Ati-Atihan” means “to be like the Atis” — the original settlers of Panay Island — and is characterized by a town-wide merrymaking and revelry, led by various “tribes” in colorful costumes and weapons and dancing to the beat of loud drums.

The Barter of Panay

Participants smear their bodies with soot.

Participants smear their bodies with soot.

Popular lore tells of a group of 10 Malay “datus” or chieftains fleeing from their homeland of Borneo and seeking refuge in the island of Panay. The group’s leader, Datu Puti, appointed Datu Makatunaw to negotiate a trade with the Ati chieftain: a golden salakot or kudong (native hat) for the Ati chief Marikudo, a long pearl necklace for Maniwantiwan, his wife; and brass basins and bales of cloth,in exchange for a parcel of land by the seashore for the 10 datus and their families to settle in.  Thus, the Barter of Panay was struck — a pact that transcended cultures and skin color.

Grateful for the Atis hospitality, the Borneans smeared their bodies with soot and ash from their cooking utensils to mimic the Atis complexion and to show their appreciation for their kindness.

The Infant Jesus and Ati-Atihan

The Ati and the Sto NiñoThe Ati-Atihan was originally a purely pagan festival practiced by the Atis and neighboring tribes.

When the Spaniards came, they began colonizing Panay and converted the natives to Roman Catholicism. The new faith was embraced enthusiastically by the Atis, where thousands came to be baptized — hence the town’s name, “KALIBO”, meaning: isa ka libo or one thousand, referring to the number of Atis baptized.

The event was celebrated with dances and loud banging of drums, with the Sto. Niño as the central figure.

 

The Ati-Atihan Today

Currently celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Ati-atihan has become a very lively and colorful fiesta!
* The towns of Ibajay and Makato also have their own Ati-Atihan Festival.
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