Part 1 of 3. The Gem that is Batanes
Hands down, I think Batanes is a gem still waiting to be discovered by the multitude of backpackers and nature-lovers out there.
There are a number of factors preventing hordes of tourists from descending to this idyllic destination, chief of which is the prohibitive cost of the roundtrip ticket. This is perhaps due to the monopoly that the Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) enjoys at present (read: it is the only airline servicing the Manila-Basco-Manila route). A roundtrip plane fare to this province will set you back P14K, a tidy sum that might be already enough to buy you a 3 Day/2 Night package tour of Bangkok, Thailand, for instance. So yeah, perhaps mostly the elite (the snotty type who scoffs at zero and piso fares) would dare go and visit these islands. The Dornier 328 aircraft which can seat 32 passengers only, further gives this destination an air of exclusivity. And oh, they serve bottled water on this flight too! (And I guess we must be thankful to the SEAIR Management for this itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie favor that will surely hurt their bottom line.)
That said, my heart still does not weep for those who are, by virtue of these market forces, still dreaming to set foot on Batanes. I do not wish for promo fares to these islands either.
If you get to visit Batan or Sabtang Islands, you will understand my sentiments.
Batanes is largely unspoilt, its alluring Scottish landscape and seductive seascapes still seemingly waiting to be explored.
The overall flavor of the island’s culture is relaxed and peaceful. Take this door of an Ivatan house for instance which uses stones to keep the wind, not the thieves, out.
And if a child approaches you with an outstretched hand, do not reach out automatically for that purse. S/he is not begging for alms. S/he is most likely going to perform that gesture of taking the hand of an elder (in this case, you) and bringing it towards his/her forehead. Yes folks! Good old fashioned mano po is still practiced around these parts.
I would rather things remain this way.
You might also like my other stories on my Breathtaking Batanes series: