The visit to faraway Itbayat did not materialize. It was a bit disappointing considering that it was the single most significant destination I was looking forward to in this return trip to Batanes. But I’m glad that it didn’t take place, and here’s why:
In the morning after my back-breaking Mt. Iraya climb, the weather did not look so good. It was raining and the sea conditions (which I could observe from my room’s window) didn’t look so good either. Added to that, I was full of justified laziness due to my sorely aching leg muscles. Walking at a regular pace was hard enough, but going up and down the stairs was almost impossible at anything faster than a turtle’s pace. (It wasn’t particularly painful. It’s just that these damn legs seemingly refused to move.)
So I made a quick decision to text my guide Romy to inform him that I’m not pushing through with my Itbayat plans. This wasn’t a surprise to him as we were already talking about this possibility as early as the day before when we were still descending Mt. Iraya. We later learned that this turned out to be a good decision because sea conditions deteriorated more throughout the day and that boat trips were canceled going back to Basco. I would have been stuck in Itbayat and missed my flight back home.
(I actually had a back-up plan in case the trip to Itbayat did not push through. Prior to flying to Basco, I was in touch with a guide in Sabtang who offered to take me to the nearby uninhabited island of Vuhus. However, I felt far too lazy for even the much-nearer Sabtang, and there was still the matter of the ongoing rain. So I reluctantly also texted my intended guide in Sabtang that I will not be pushing through.)
So with 2 more full days to go, I’m stuck in the main island of Batan. After much thought, (and after the weather sort of cleared up) I decided that I’d tour the island with a particular emphasis on prioritizing those spots that I’ve never been to before, but also visiting some old favorites. And so I once again texted Romy to pick me up at 9am.
The first stop was Rakuh-a-Idi in the Municipality of Mahatao. This is on the eastern coast of Batan and is reputedly the site of the oldest settlement in Batanes. (I will create a separate blog on the pre-Spanish settlements soon.) One has to pass through the Diura Fishing Village to get here and there is a point where one has to alight one’s vehicles and hike uphill and then downhill to get to the site. The local government developed part of it where a natural spring exists and promoted it as the “Spring of Youth”.
During our visit, it just so happened that the Mayor of Mahatao was there and he had a visitor with him. After exchanging some pleasantries, I went ahead to take pictures and Romy stayed to chat with the Mayor.
I just spent a few minutes here and we went ahead to the Sumhao Wind Turbines.
SUMHAO WIND TURBINES
This was one site I’ve never heard of before. Apparently, Mahatao has three electricity-generating windmills built at a high point and which has the best vantage point for a sweeping 360-degree view of the entire island of Batan. The windmills are currently out of commission and I was surprised to see the premises used as a place to raise cows, chickens and turkeys. This was just unfortunate because at the time I was there, Batanes had a power crisis (14-hour brown-outs) and they could have used the extra power that the windmills could have generated.
In any case, people really don’t visit the place for the windmills but the aforementioned view. From here, one can see the both Mt. Iraya in the north and Mt. Matarem in the south, the town proper of Mahatao, and the numerous privately owned farms distinctly divided by hedgerows – something that Batanes is known for.
Hedgerows have the dual purpose of being (1) property delineators; and (2) wind breakers. Since strong winds batter Batanes on a frequent basis, they affect the growth of crops more than any place in the Philippines. Hedgerows made of reeds planted on the borders of the owned land are much taller than the crops and effectively neutralize the effect of the wind.
After having my fill of the sights, we then proceeded to the “nearby” Tayid Lighthouse, which is another spot I wasn’t able to visit in 2009. Its layout and relative size is about the same as the ones in Naidi and Sabtang, with the sole exception that instead of a cylinder, it building is actually hexagonal at the cross-section.
It’s currently unmanned and it’s uncertain whether it’s actually functional. I was able to go inside and inspect the lighting mechanism at the very top. It didn’t seem like there was anything wrong though. Some old blogs have said that the lighthouse wasn’t functional, but the Naidi Lighthouse – which wasn’t working in 2009 – was already working as of this visit. So it maybe that this one in Tayid is already working too.
I created a separate blog on this lighthouse here.
From the Tayid Lighthouse, we proceeded to the Rakuh-a-Payaman, one of the most popular sites in Batanes. The name literally translates into “big pastureland” and appropriate notices are posted in the entrances informing warning visitors of the undomesticated nature of the cows and carabaos there.
The first time I was here, I found the view to be truly magnificent. But somehow, seeing it for the second time, I didn’t find it to be as overwhelming as before. It’s still a great place to be in though. You can either enjoy the peace or run shouting and singing up and down the hills (just don’t get too close to the animal herds.) Speaking of the animal herds, there were none to be seen on this last visit. Later on, we found them to be on the other side.
The acronym LORAN stands for “Long-Range Aid to Navigation“. It was apparently a useful navigational system maintained by a worldwide network of stations back in the day, but has been made largely irrelevant by the advent of GPS.
This station is located in Imnajbu in the Uyugan municipality of southern Batan. It was constructed by Americans and has been in continuous use until it was abandoned in the 1970s.
There’s very little information available as to the history of this station. My former tour guide, Joaquin, said that this station used to house the only cinema in Batanes and it was made open to the public at certain times by the personnel in charge (U.S. government technicians who served 1-year tour of duties.) During my visit, the ruins only hosed a few goats and the still-standing walls had some graffiti on them.
There had been plans to rehabilitate the station for some other use a few years back, but nothing has come of it. In any case, the place does draw tourists in its current state, so there’s clear tourism potential.
IMNAJBU ROCK FORMATION
When traveling from Mahatao to Uyugan, one would certainly encounter this rock formation on the road. Photographs from my previous visit weren’t satisfactory, probably because of a combination the unfavorable position of the sun and my previous insistence of using the widest open aperture. This time around, I arrived at the spot a bit earlier than before and I used a much smaller aperture opening of 14. The result was much more satisfactory and I then proceeded to photograph the surrounding scenery.
By this time it was already past lunchtime and we were beginning to feel hungry and parched. We then drove by the National Road passing through the southern coast of Batan en route to our lunch destination.
VATANG GRILL AND RESTAURANT
This was actually our second visit to Vatang Grill and Restaurant. The night before, we were also here to pig out (two viands and lots of yellow rice and extra cups of plain rice) after a very deathly exhausting Mt. Iraya climb. This time, we only ate a moderately filling lunch at this fine restaurant.
When one looks at it from the outside, the architecture of the restaurant seems inspired by the traditional stone houses of Batanes, but at the inside, it looks fairly modern. There’s a lot of things I like about this place. On the physical aspect, I found it to be well-ventilated due to the very high ceiling and the multiple side doors which allow free movement of the air. Since it’s fairly new, everything looked clean. There was minimal decoration and as such, it didn’t look cluttered.
The very inviting atmosphere was enhanced by the friendly staff who appeared genuinely cheerful and went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable. Finally, the food tasted great. The best eating place that I’ve gone to in Batanes, so far. I was so enamored by the food here that I even called up for delivery the day after even if there was an P80 delivery fee.
On my previous night’s visit, I was able to meet the owner George Peralta, who was a tall and friendly fellow who semingly had fond memories of when my friend Tin got stranded there (actually, they all did, haha). According to the restaurant’s website, the land that the restaurant is standing on used to be fertile farmland, but turned into poor farming ground overnight due to sand and asphalt piled on it by a tsunami/tidal wave that hit the site in the 1980s.
NAKAMAYA BURIAL GROUNDS
After lunch, we drove all the way back to the north past Basco and past Naidi to try to look for the pre-Spanish Nakamaya Burial Grounds. There were no discernible paths because the area was overgrown with very high bushes and brambles. Somehow Romy was able to guide me to the site’s exact location. (I’ll go into a lengthier discussion on the Nakamaya Burial Grounds and other pre-Spanish historical sites in Batanes in a separate blog entry.)
We planned to go next to the Naidi Rolling Hills to catch the sunset, but since Romy’s parents’ farm is on the way, we decided to drop by and have a few snacks and refreshments – i.e. a coconut each. Later on, his parents came in from the farm and we spent some time talking and exchanging stories. It had started to rain at this point and so we had no choice but to stay put and hope that the rains would stop in time for a sunset viewing at the Naidi Rolling Hills.
Well, the rains did stop and we promptly made our way to the Rolling Hills. I remember passing by the Batan dumpsite and not smelling anything pungent at all. Not the faintest smell of garbage whatsoever.
It seems that we made it to the Rolling Hills just in the nick of time because the sunlight was already turning golden and the shadows were getting longer on the hills. I intentionally had this as my last destination of the day because I wanted to see it literally in a new light. The previous time I was here, it was around noontime on a very sunny day when it was bright everywhere one looked. This time, I wanted to see the entire scenery in softer hues and the interplay of shadows.
The Naidi Rolling Hills is my favorite spot in Batan. I find it more awe-inspiring than the Rakuh-a-Payaman and a lot more breezier. It’s a place where one can spend hours just admiring the scenery and forget all one’s worries back in the big city.
= = = = = = = = = =
This entry is part of the Batanes II series dated September 10-14, 2011:
1. Return to Batanes (a prologue)
2. Hiking in Northern Batan
3. Preview: Mt. Iraya
4. The Back-breaking Mt. Iraya Climb
5. Mahatao’s Lighthouses: Setting the Facts Straight
6. Stuck in Batan: New Sites & Sentimental Favorites
7. In search of Batanes’ prehispanic past
8. The 2-lie system of SEAir’s Manila-Basco flights (a warning)
9. Everyone’s kinder in Batanes (even the tourists.)