Journey to Batanes

If you will ask most of the backpackers and photographers here in the Philippines what is on top of their list of travel destination, for sure most will answer, Batanes! As seasoned traveler and photography enthusiast, Batanes is on top of my bucket list among the places I want to see in the Philippines. It’s a dream destination ever since I met a good friend of mine who’s family is from Batanes. I remember us talking a while back, he described the place like you are not in the Philippines but rather in Scotland. He also mentioned that when you’re there, It feels like the time stops and you will realize how majestic and breathtaking Batanes is. Eversince that conversation, I was intrigued and I knew that I have to see the place to experience it myself.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to see Batanes for the first time with bunch of friends and loved ones. It was a long time planning since going to Batanes is not easy because the weather is unpredictable. So booking the flight during summer is the best time to avoid the hassle of getting your flight cancelled.

Batanes is a province located in the northernmost part of the Philippines, composed of three main islands- Batan, Sabtang & Itbayat. On our first day, we headed to Batanes mainland which is Batan. This is where most accommodations, businesses, and restaurants are. We toured South Batan island the entire day. Some of the famous spots you’ll see are Racuh A Payaman a.k.a Marlboro Country, House of Dakay(Oldest Ivatan stone house), Honesty Coffee Shop, Port Of Ivana, Alapad Hill & Rock Formations, Chaw View Deck, Mahatao Boat Shelter and the two Lighthouse from Basco and Mahatao. My favorite among those spots was the Marlboro Country. Walking in the vast greenery landscapes while the strong wind blowing felt like you’re on top of the world! Cows were everywhere, the panoramic view of the sea with Mt. Iraya in the background made it so spectacular!

The following day, we went to Sabtang island. Going there, you have to ride a faluwa(traditional Ivatan boat without beam support designed to withstand big, strong waves). The faluwa ride was unforgettable! It wasn’t the typical boat ride you usually experience when you do island tours. The boat trip from Batan to Sabtang lasted for about 2hrs because of the huge waves. One will think and question why go through the hassle just to go to Sabtang?

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Well, After spending two days in Sabtang Island, I have to say it has its own unique charm compared to Batan. The experience in this quiet and unspoiled island will make you appreciate nature and simple living. It is where you will see better Ivatan heritage because of the stone houses and traditional villages.

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Ivatans are known to be friendly, hospitable and honest. No wonder Batanes have 0% crime rate. It was in Sabtang where I was able to eat interesting local food such as uvud, dibang or flying fish,lun-yis (Ivatan adobo), tamiduk(pako), turmeric rice and coconut crab.

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Some of the spots you’ll see there are the Sabtang Lighthouse, Savidug and Chavayan Village where most stone houses are, Chamantad Cove and Tinyan Viewpoint, Nakabuang Arc Rock formation in Morong beach, and fishing village in Sumnanga.

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Sabtang Lighthouse

Part of our travel in Batanes was to provide school supplies and bags to Ivatan kids. It was simple gesture that made out trip even more meaningful in the beautiful Batanes.

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Ivatan kids with their school supplies and bags.

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Photography is a way of Life

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Las Casas, Bataan, 2016

Lately, I have been contemplating with my life. Trying to recall how my 2016 went and what 2017 has in store for me.

Last year was a roller coaster ride for me in terms of life in general and my photography but thought I should focus on photography since this post is about my photographic journey. There was a time last year when I almost gave up on my love for photography. Since having a family two years ago, I seldom travel and use my dslr camera. The thought of giving up my camera and focus on what matters most in life came to my mind after not having been able to produce worthy images I can share with. But I realized it was not only through travels and using dslr should my photography will depend on.

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Eastwood, Quezon City, 2016

“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” – Chase Jarvis

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Pampanga, 2015

For the past 2 yrs, I’ve been shooting mostly using iPhone. At first, I thought I can never make images using mobile camera but since it’s the one I always have and carry, I eventually learned how to maximize its camera and focus on composition and the story in my images. The camera then became just secondary or a tool. Using my iPhone to capture images of my daily life and travels, it made me appreciate the importance of always having a camera that is portable yet decent enough to capture precious moments. They may just be a simple snaps, what matters is the photo you make have personal resonance.

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Batanes Pines-Arius, Batanes, 2016

I did have a few travel last year and from time to time, I tried to find and capture beauty in the mundane. I have learned to be creative despite the limitations of the iPhone camera, used natural light when shooting, and understood the importance of subject in photograph.  So the notion of giving up on photography really didn’t happen. I guess the quote “Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.” is true.

But really my realization was that Photography is a way of life. You photograph base on how you feel and the way you see things.

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Sabtang, Batanes, 2016

 

Basco, Batanes

While waiting for the luggages at the arrival in Basco airport, I noticed these colorful yet broken chairs. No one bothered to sit on them despite our bags wouldn’t arrive anytime soon because of the rain. As an observer, I find these chairs interesting that I had to capture to remind myself that there is beauty in imperfection.

En route to Ivuhus

Riding a faluwa boat going Sabtang is something to experience when traveling to Batanes. Our group woke up before sunrise to avoid the big waves going to the island. But before going to Sabtang, we decided to check first this small inhabited island called Ivuhus. The 1.5hrs boat ride made me nauseous. I decided to stand and get some air. I saw this two boat men on top of faluwa trying to navigate the boat because it was too heavy to get to the shore due to low tide. Our boatmen couldn’t really explain why the island was inhabited and they warned us not to go beyond the shore! Creepy as it looks, the island will always remain a mystery.

Burnt Tree

I always pass this street and I have been wanting to shoot this tree that seemed burnt but has an interesting shape. One morning on the way to work, it was traffic and happened to be stuck near this tree. I thought I should take the chance to capture it. I waited few seconds before I took this shot because of the guy riding a bike. Having human element on street shot like this add a bit of story to the image.

 

Limasawa

I was browsing some of my travel photographs from Samar-Leyte 2012 trip and found a folder of Limasawa. Confused why it was within the same folder and if it was really part of that travel. Upon checking the images, I remember going on an island trip during our stay at Kuting Reef in Southern Leyte.

Limasawa Island is rich in history particularly the religion of the most Filipinos. It was in this small and quiet island where the First Catholic Mass was held on a Easter Sunday of March 31st, 1521. On that same day, the very First Cross Monument was planted at the highest hill of the island.

Having been to this island, I realized how significant it is especially for us Filipinos. Knowing how the Catholic Religion started in my country and seeing the place where it all started made this trip meaningful.