Batanes: Tough and Beautiful
(The Freeman) - August 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines - Among many travelers, the mere mention of the name “Batanes” conjures up awe and wonder. This group of islands towards the northern tip of the archipelago is visited by a  good number of fierce typhoons every year. But it’s this cruelty of nature that shapes the unique natural beauty of the place.

Its wind-swept hills and mountains lure visitors to come and explore further. Once there, something else captivates them – the local culture. The fury of the storms that come frequently and devastate the land is balanced by the gentleness of the local people. 

Batanes has something for any type of adventurous spirit – whether a foodie, history buff or those who want to get mesmerized by the beauty of nature.  It’s a refreshing respite from the busy, stressful city life. There’s not much distraction, if at all, in Batanes – no malls, no fast-food restaurants, not even a cell phone signal most of the time.

One needs to be tough to withstand the isolation. But there’s also so much beauty around to not let one be lonely. In Batanes, one may have all the time and opportunity to commune with nature, with the divine, with oneself.

The travel website enumerates some of the so many things to do and sights to see in Batanes:

Surreal landscapes

Batanes, with its lush rolling hills and lovely blue skies, will summon memories of a young Julie Andrews singing “The Hills Are Alive” in the 1965 musical drama film the “The Sound of Music.” Besides the spectacular seaside panoramas and the wondrous sights of lush fields dotted with livestock, a visit to the province’s hilly mountains also offers the melodious sounds of the wind, and the cool feel of the countryside breeze. A good place to experience this wonderful feeling is in Racuh A Payaman, aptly billed as the “Marlboro Country.” 

Historic attractions

While the province seems cut off from the rest of the country, Batanes was also affected by the Second World War. One can find traces of the brutal war in the concrete remains of the American radio center as well as of the Japanese hideout. Furthermore, there are still a good number of the traditional Ivatan houses and the brightly colored churches that were built as early as the 17th century, like the Mahatao church. There are the beautiful old lighthouses as well, like the Tayid Lighthouse in Mahatao and Naidi Lighthouse in Basco.

Beautiful beaches

The Batanes coastline is simply fabulous, with a never-ending string of beaches. Hidden coves, ridges, rocky coasts, cream-sand beaches, white-sand beaches and boulder beaches – Batanes has it all.

Delectable food

Batanes isn’t a gourmet destination, but it still can delight anyone’s taste buds with its abundant fresh seafood treats, particularly lobsters. For those who have a sweet tooth shall sample the “Uvud” balls, a luscious dessert dish made from coconut meat strips and meat balls.

Cultural treasures

The isolation of Batanes has a good side. It is able to hang on to old traditions and heritage. The local people are distinctly peace-loving and friendly. And they are both trustworthy and trusting. Everywhere people are eager to engage a visitor in a conversation – and even willing to share their skill in crafting a “vakul,’ the traditional headdress worn by Ivatans as protection from the sun and rain when they are working the fields.




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