"It looks just like any other province in the Philippines." I observe while we were walking around the town center of Basco.
We just arrived in the provincial capital of Batanes after spending two delightful days in the remote island of Sabtang. Aah beautiful Sabtang, where most of the houses were still made of stone and thatch, where the locals mostly walk or cycle from one town to the next(we only saw 4 vehicles while we were there), and where only one cafeteria(you have to book in advance) exists in the entire island. We didn't encounter any tourists during our stay except for a father-and-son team, both wearing their military uniform, who were camping in the mountains. How isolated can you get, right? The place we stayed in was not even a proper guesthouse, they just converted 3 classrooms in the School of Fisheries into dormitory rooms.
So far, Batan Island(where Basco is) doesn't look as promising as its neighbor Sabtang. But then I notice how the streets that are lined with the provincial tree aryus are decorated with recycled mineral water bottles, air fresheners, and deodorants to serve as christmas decorations. And how clean the streets are, and how everybody seems to know everyone else. We have been roaming around the town to get some food but most of the restaurants and market stalls are closed. We are definitely still in Batanes. We even saw a cow slaughter schedule posted near the market.
"What about that Shanedel's Inn and Cafe?" Jao suggests. We find the innkeeper in the bar but she is hesitant to serve us dinner because we did not book in advance and it is now just 2 hours away from dinnertime. She says she still has to go to the market so she can cook something for us.
coffee break at Shanedel's Inn
Two hours later, we are eating a feast that can feed a dozen people. And the food is good as well. There is a lot of leftover and we joke about making sure we do not eat here again the following morning. We had a game back in sabtang where we try to guess how the cafeteria will recycle our leftovers into another dish - like steamed fish for dinner will become fish nuggets for breakfast. Not that we had any complaints, we actually felt like we were part of the family - they were generous to share to us whatever they have.
Before heading back to our inn, we hang out at a nearby sari-sari store where they sell San Mig Light for 20 pesos. There i bump into a young man i met during our first day in Batanes - we barely left the Basco Airport when i stepped on a dog's poo and this fellow let me use his bathroom to clean up. I say hello and we chat for a bit. I tell him the name of our guesthouse and offer him my beer. He is also drinking with his buddies in front of the gasoline station where I washed my foot before, I think his family owns the place. I say goodbye for now and hope to see his friendly face again, which is very possible since the town is not that big anyway.
locals hanging out/fishing next to the giant jackstones at the Basco pier (our view from Shanedel's)