Thursday, February 07, 2008

Philippines Yearbook 2008: Batanes

This is an intro to the article I did for the Philippines Yearbook 2008 whose theme for the year is Travel and Adventure. Filled with informative activities throughout this awesome archipelago, supported by excellent photography from some of the country's best, the book as a whole is an excellent addition to any bookshelf. It makes a great gift as well.

BATANES: Bring your own adventure
Text: Kage Gozun
Photos: Erik Liongoren

The ten islands that make up the province of Batanes are at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. Geographically, Batanes is closer to Taiwan than it is to the northernmost tip of Luzon. The distance also explains the difference in ethnicity of the locals of Batanes, known collectively as Ivatan. Unlike most of the country whose people claim similar ethnic backgrounds to the Malays, Ivatans are closer to the Tao people of Orchid Island, Taiwan.

Nearly half of the province is made up of hills and mountains. Lush greenery tapers off to give way to stretches of sandy beaches and rocky shorelines. This topography coupled with its constant rainfall and strong winds has created a destination that is truly one-of-a-kind in the country.

Off shore, the China Sea hugs one side of the Batanes islands while the Pacific borders the other. There is a point where both oceans meet, creating a strong current that makes sea voyages in this area particularly dangerous.

This is a land where nearly every angle is a photo-op and the scenery is unlike any other Philippine destination. It is part Ireland, part Hawaii but essentially all Ivatan. The long stretches of time with near constant wind have created a people who have learned to live with the elements of nature. Ivatan houses, created originally from thick stone blocks, cogon roofing and limestone, are still used on the island of Sabtang. The islands are living museums – testaments to the rich culture and history of a province that for many decades was left to develop on its own.

Of the ten islands, only three are inhabited. The capital of the province is Basco, located on Batan island. Sabtang is a short boat ride away. The last of the inhabited islands is Itbayat.

One of the most notable facts about Batanes is their claim to a zero crime rate. Violent crime is unheard of on the islands and even petty theft is a rare occurrence. Visitors who misplace or lose personal items are told to visit the local radion station in Batan so that an island-wide bulletin can be aired. Locals who have found items are also likely to drop them off at the station. To underscore this claim, while we were visiting the town of San Vicente , Sabtang I noticed a sign posted in front of the municipal hall. It said, quite clearly, "Lost and Found: Money."

For the rest of this... you'll have to buy the book. Support your local travel writers and photographers!

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