Batanes of My Roots

I’m writing this entry a month after my trip, and the whole experience still feels so vivid.

Dad and I were looking for rejuvenation after the heartache of losing Mom so we decided to spend 2 weeks in Batanes, an island province in the northernmost Philippines. Although my dad’s heritage and roots are from there, I have never been able to visit because of the unpredictable weather and cost of going to such a remote island.  Finally took a chance in February, and still in awe and grateful for the opportunity.

To give you a brief background, Batanes is group of sparsely populated islands that are closer to Taiwan than the Philippines. It’s quite rural, with very few cars and buildings but filled with farmland, cows, jungle and ocean views. It’s often hit with strong typhoons and as a result, their economy is more focused on local sustenance than trade elsewhere. Best of all, it’s a literal paradise that makes you fall in love with the simplicities of life.

I could go on and on, but of course pictures would make it real for you too.

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Mt. Iraya, the volcano that formed the island

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Fields upon fields upon fields…….no flat land but endless hills of fields

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The lighthouses looked somewhat Scandinavian

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I went on a hike and my guide had to bring a bolo (sword-like knife) to cut through the trees to make a path for us.  Below is what our hike was like, we pretty much walked through the jungle.

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Once we made it through the jungle, we were greeted by the most wonderful view at this private cove at the end of the island.

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Our family home in Batanes.  To protect from typhoons, the house is built with stone and walls 3 feet thick. I should also note that Batanes is such a safe and trusting community that most windows and doors are open all day. Security is never a doubt that police are bored and jail cells are unoccupied playgrounds for kids.

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The fresh seafood delivered straight to our door from the fishermen’s boat.

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The chuches built in the 1700s by the Spanish are in pristine condition and very well respected.981

An overview of my family’s hometown of Mahatao, a small town with a population of about 1500 people and hundreds of relatives.

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Since there were only a few cars, most people had motorbikes and gas was sold in Coke liter bottles and convenience stores as shown above.

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Another church built by the Spaniards, filled with real gold details inside712

A painting  of a lady farmer wearing the traditional head gear to protect from the wind and sun775

The town plaza -sports by day, movies at night

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We joined the locals for community farming, where the men would plan and the women would cook in the field.  No money was exchanged, food was considered payment and crops were shared once harvested. They didn’t sell their crops outside of their town, but shared among themselves.

Overall the trip was simultaneously introvert and social, a warm commune with myself and with a welcoming culture and community. I’m glad we were able to go.  It was a beautiful place to fall in love with life and gather hope again.

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