I actually had a good night’s sleep in the Tourism Office in Sabtang. This was unusual for me because I usually have difficulty sleeping when I spend the night in an unfamiliar place. It’s probably a combination of fatigue from the tour and the excellently filling dinner I had the previous night.
I woke up at around 6 am and walked around Centro. I tried to do my usual exercise regimen but my aching joints seemingly protested even the easiest warm-up routines. From my conversation with Joaquin the night before, we most likely would not be able to catch the first trip going back to Batan so that means I have enough time to walk around Centro before the second trip. I used this time to take pictures of people going about their daily lives, as well as the surroundings.
In hindsight, I should have woken up earlier to catch the sunset by the Sabtang Lighthouse as Erwin had done. As it is, the sun was already up when I woke up and in order to make the most out of my remaining time in Sabtang, I explored the interior of Sabtang Church and later on observed how the people went about their morning routines.
Since Centro is dominated by school buildings (and since Day 3 was a Thursday) I got to observe a typical morning flag ceremony. (One thing I observed about Ivatan schoolgirls is that the color pink is apparently a hot fashion item for them. Go to any classroom and you will see pink sweaters, pink bags, pink hairbands, pink shoelaces, etc. Everything’s dotted with pink!) Anyway, it’s funny that I saw a lot of pupils running late for the flag ceremony. Funny because these children live literally right next to the school buildings, so one would think it’s not possible for them to be late anymore.
While waiting for the second trip, I took the opportunity to talk to the locals. The employees of the municipal office are a fun bunch and certainly know how to make their guests feel at home. I think I’ve already talked about the Elesterios in one of my previous entries, but I just had to take a picture with them before I left. They’re probably the family that most Sabtang visitors would recognize by the sheer fact that everyone must have dined at one time or another in their canteen.
The Falowa finally arrived and after about an hour of unloading and loading – as well as wrangling with the Coast Guard representative (who was concerned about overloading) – we were on our way back to Batan. The seas were a bit more rough than the last time, and as such also took a little longer. I fell asleep a number of times probably due to dizziness brought about by the rocking motion of the Falowa as it went through the waves.
So here was the plan for the afternoon: Joaquin and I would most likely arrive at the San Vicente port at around 11:00 am. Then we’d catch a ride going back to Basco, and I’ll be back at my inn at around 11:15. I’d tell the inn restaurant to prepare lunch while take a shower in my room. At the same time, I’ll be charging my cellphone and camera batteries. Joaquin, for his part, would take my flight booking information to his wife who works at the airport so she can schedule my return date a day later with the SEAir office. He would then go back to my inn where we would have lunch prior to touring the southern half of Batan Island in the afternoon.
(I was a bit disappointed to discover that nobody texted me the whole time I was in Sabtang, but I guess that goes with one’s Christmas vacation beginning a good 2 weeks before everybody else’s in the office.)
After a quick lunch, Joaquin and I proceeded to our first destination for the afternoon, which is the Diura Fishing Village in Mahatao. From Basco, which is in the Northwest of of Batan Island, our route will cut through the municipality of Mahatao located around the island’s narrow center and on through the east coast.
The Diura Fishing Village is even smaller than those far-flung villages in Sabtang, but a bit livelier. I even saw some fishermen building a fishing boat. I actually had the option to spend the night here as the local government rents out some fishing huts to tourists at very reasonable rates. However, since I’m down to my third day, spending the night in this place will jeopardize my plans to go biking from Basco to Ivana the next day.
In any case, we were only passing through Diura to be able to reach Rakuh-a-idi, where the so-called “Spring of Youth” is located. Rakuh-a-idi is the oldest part of Mahatao as it contains the site of an ancient Ivatan settlement. The road to Rakuh-a-idi gradually narrows until it becomes a mere footpath so Joaquin and I had to alight from the motorbike and hiked a short but punishing distance to reach the Spring of Youth and the surrounding beach.
When we were about to leave, Joaquin remembered that we had to pass by the local baranggay hall to pay a tourism fee. It was during this momentary stop that I met up with Eunice and Lorraine who were on board a tricycle on the way to Rakuh-a-Idi. Eunice was actually my seatmate on the flight from Manila to Basco, while Lorraine (who’s French) was on the same flight. They were both staying at Shanedel’s Inn and Restaurant and decided to tour together to cut costs.
We “compared notes” on the places we’ve gone to so far, and Joaquin even gave them the telephone number of the Tourism Office in Sabtang because they planned on going there the next day. For this day apparently, their route took them from Basco going by the National Road towards the southern municipalities of Ivana and Uyugan, then back northwards on the eastern coast of Batan. For Joaquin and myself, our direction is the exact opposite, as we would go from eastern coast to western coast. After saying our goodbyes, we then drove towards our next destination, which is Rakuh-a-payaman.
Rakuh-a-Payaman literally means “big pastureland” in Ivatan. (Notice that “Rakuh” is etymologically similar to the equivalent of the word “big” in many Philippine languages.) As the signage above shows, the animals in this pastureland are non-domesticated, so they tend to be wary of any human being that comes nearer than, say, 100 feet. When I was there, it was surreal the way an entire hillside dotted with cattle would just stop what they were doing and all stare at me and Joaquin. It was a scene straight out of the Twilight Zone. These animals are obviously not used to human beings.
This place is also popularly nicknamed “Marlboro Country”. Joaquin explains that a long time ago, horses still roamed this pastureland along with the carabaos, cows and goats. A foreign tourist was the one who gave it this nickname, and it stuck even after the horses are gone.
It’s not the animals that make Rakuh-a-payaman a tourist spot. The place is known for its magnificent views of Batan’s eastern coast. Here you can run up and down the hills and scream to your heart’s delight. This place’s terrain is very similar to the Rolling Hills near Basco, only that its range is much wider. The hills are smooth, not rocky, and the slopes are not very steep. Unfortunately, this being a pastureland, animal dung of varying states of freshness also litter the entire landscape. but this is just a very small drawback.
Rakuh-a-payaman is actually directly above Rakuh-a-idi, and I was able to see the very small figures of Lorraine and Eunice taking a dip at the beach near the Spring of Youth. After staying for a considerable amount of time, we then continued on our way southbound.