Friday, February 20, 2009

day 3 in batanes: cycling around batan island

The intention was to have 4 days and 4 nights in Batanes. Annoyingly though, on the day before we flew Seair cancelled our flight due to "technical problems", and then bumped us all on what should have been our 2nd day of the trip.

Not a good start really, but we just tried to make do with the time we had, and we did have 2 marvelous days on Sabtang Island. For our third day, our goal was to cycle around Batan, so we hired a guide to make sure we wouldn't get lost around the island. We met our guide, Mang Roger, at our resort where he helped us rent 6 bikes and agreed to cycle with us.

He had no problems getting us girls our bikes (vintage-looking bikes from China with only one speed), but he said Simon needed a mountain bike because he's such a big guy. After getting a bike without brakes, then a mountain bike that was so small it looked like a bmx, Mang Roger finally found a bike for the big guy, but by then it was already 10 o'clock when we finally started.

I thought Batan could not compete with Sabtang's beauty but I soon found out how wrong I was. Batan was lovely, we passed by coastal towns made up of thatched stonehouses and old white stone churches. We stopped several times to take photos of very green rolling hills next to the shore with grazing horses, goats and cows. Simon told us that Batanes looked a lot like the moors in England - the grasslands and even the thatched houses.

It was a 37 km bike ride from Basco through, Mahatao – Ivana – Uyugan – Song song – Itbud – Imnajbu and all the way back to Mahatao - Basco, it took us 9 hours to cycle all way round.

Stunning view in Mahatao

Jeepney ahead

Our bike trail hehe

Inside a church in Mahatao. The unique roof was made up of reeds(?) according to Mang Roger

Thatched stonehouses in Ivana

Ivana church

The famous Honesty Coffee Shop. Simon got himself a miniature stonehouse for 125 pesos. He just wrote down on a notebook what he bought, and dropped the money on a box.

Uyugan town

Anet, Jao, Sym, Simon and grazing horses in Uyugan

Ruins of Song-song. The village was hit by a tsunami a few decades ago, and the locals did not return to live here again

The "gate" after Itbud town

It was almost dark when we arrived in Marlboro country. It was breathtakingly beautiful and we wished we could have had more time to explore it

The next day, our flight was delayed for a few hours and from the airport we walked(for maybe 15 minutes) to see the Basco lighthouse

It rained for a few minutes and a rainbow appeared to say goodbye to us. What a way to end our trip :)

Van rental from San Vicente pier to Batanes Seaside Lodge - P200

Bike rental - P250 per day

Guide fee - P600

A room in Batanes Seaside Lodge - P1300 for an airconditioned room with attached bathroom. we had Tapsilog(P100) for breakfast and we liked it.

Lunch in Ivana - P35 per order. The best meal we had in Batanes, they served us Nilagang Baka(Beef soup with vegetables) and Lechon baboy(roasted suckling pig).

DENR fee for taking with us Arius plants(provincial plant of Batanes). Thanks to Mang Roger for giving us these plants. - P65

More Batan Island photos here

Friday, February 06, 2009

day 2 in batanes: walking around basco

"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)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

a night with ski

Anet just moved in to my neighborhood here in the East Coast part of Singapore and to welcome her, I've invited her for some late night cycling in East Coast Park followed by a nightcap. Well first, she wanted to get some stuff for her room like shower curtain and rugs so I gave her a tour to the nearby Parkway Parade where we shopped and dined for a while. I thought I'd do my own shopping as well so I bought a bunch of happy happy yellow daisies and something that I've always wanted but couldn't be bothered to buy - a bike basket. A basket doesn't really go well with my mountain bike but I like it! Now I can bring my SLR while cycling or even bring some food or books and just dump 'em in my basket.

We started cycling around 11pm and the park was still alive with runners, skaters and campers. I showed her the route up to the Safra golf course and then we headed to my place for the promised nightcap. It was quite romantic, we lighted some candles, placed my daisies in an old wine bottle while we drank our white wine and talk about the past, now and our plans. It was sad talking about the present economy and how many of our friends lost their jobs because of it. We've decided not to plan so far ahead and just think about tomorrow where we agreed to see our friend Joey and his family.

She went home after we finished our wine. I got a text from her a bit later though that she forgot her wallet with me. See you tomorrow then, my friend. :)

Before, my friday nights were usually spent with Anet and Cath. Cath moved to windy Chicago last month though. We surely miss you girl!

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