Wednesday, December 15, 2010

quaint, time-warped little village of Chavayan, Batanes!

[this blog is a part of the ongoing 2nd edition of Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival]


The back of the village is delicately cradled in the bosom of the mountains, its front plays intimate with the dark blue ocean. The only road to the village is through a snaking one-lane drive on top a hill cutting through volcanic boulders. It snakes through treacherous bend after bend the height of a 20-storey building then it gradually goes down, gracefully so, until it ends near where Pacific Ocean begins.

The houses here withstood the test of time and the unforgiving, albeit unpredictable weather. The afternoon I set foot in the village it was hot and muggy but a few heartbeats later, the sky darkened and soon the heavens opened and cleansed the whole village with the unforgiving rain. The ocean was a mist. The mountains, all gray.

The downpour was gone quickly in the same manner it arrived and the sun with its honeyed light bathe the village that late afternoon in Chavayan. As soon as the sky was clear and with the sun shining, it became clear to me that indeed, ugly is banned here. Each nook and cranny is bursting with stories to tell. The walls, if only they could talk, could pour-out its sadness ravished by a thousand storms or share interesting anecdotes on how the Spaniards conquistadores and then later on, Taiwanese fisherman came to its shore.
There are two main roads in the village. One cuts through the center and ends at the elementary school. Then, it bends toward the abandoned Abad Ecolodge then toward the ocean passing by the stone church with grass roofing--the last of its style in the whole of Batanes. The road now follows the shore where it divides the shacks in the shoreline and the stone houses on the other side. It continues until it connects to the gateway of the village. Between these two main roads, alleyways are made so walking from block to block becomes easy.
In my estimate, it's a village the size of four bastketball courts. About forty households. At daytime, it's quiet since the men go fishing or farming. Those left in the village get involved in the cottage industry of manning a sari-sari store.
Living in a village cradled by unpredictable weather conditions and strong ocean current is no joke. Food doesn't come easy here. The rice, the Ivatans get them from the mainland. They have fish and vegetables as staple and between ordinary days, they have meat.
The village prides itself to have Lolo Marcelo who is regarded as the oldest man alive in the entire province. At 102 years old, he still has that energy to laugh with me during our casual conversation. The widower lolo laughed so hard when I asked him if there is still a fat chance for him to remarry! And by now, most of you are most interested about his secret to last a century (and never hospitalized. ever). Without skipping a beat, he said "A healthy lifestyle. No meat. I only eat vegetables and get enough exercise." Now, it is a no-brainer after all. That's a first-person account about the real fountain of youth! It doesn't really come in a fountain squirting the elixir and what-not but it comes in a plate of veggies coupled with exercise.
I went out of the hut where I took shelter from the rain and came looking for the native footwear and vacul-makers of the village. The ladies were busy going about the business of living and earning a little cash for their family. To earn a little more, they charge a minimal fee if you take pictures of them.

Value for Money: Chavayan home-stay for Php150.00/pax/day. Contact the Village Captain.

Chavayan has a little guesthouse. It's a traditional Ivatan stone house. The one room affair faces the ocean. The kitchen is housed in another building which appeared to me like a panic room. If you want to have the authentic experience, coordinate with the barangay captain.

Getting there (is an adventure all its own!):
Earlier that day, W and I had to wake up at 4:00am to catch the first jeepney from Basco to Ivana Port. The first trip didn't arrive until half past five. The whole town was still asleep (save for a bike-riding pandesal boy) when the jeepney pulled over in the corner. It looked like it was a special trip since there was no one else inside.

In less than ten minutes, the jeepney began its climb. The one-lane road this part of town seemed to be carved on the boulders with no room for another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. So, the driver had to blow the horn in every bend and turn of the road while I tried to catch my breath each quick maneuver he made on the steering wheel. There was no room for error in as much there was nothing between the road and the cliff (that dropped straight to the raging waves).

But from my vantage point, everything was calm and quiet including the sea that separates Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang Islands.

Past the town of Mahatao, the drive was still scenic with Sabtang Island showing up once too often. We got to Ivana Port and paid Php25.00 per person to the driver.

The first falowa (20-pax capacity boat in Batanes first created by their ancestors to withstand the rough sea and strong currents) didn't arrive until 6:00am. With a lot of time to burn, we got to tambay at Honesty Cafe for the second time that week. I got coffee, crackers and checked-out the liter of Royal True Orange I left a day earlier. And yes, it was still there. Intact.

By seven, the falowa arrived. I dropped my payment, with a few extra, inside the box.

We had to wait for the boat to be cleared of the cargoes which include motorcycles, drums of diesel and guess what? Carabaos!

It was sailing time! Soon, the falowa cut the flat waters of the bay like how a knife cuts a dough. But once it got to the middle of the channel, the sea was undeniably raging underneath. The current seemed to ditch the boat on one side, then to the other. There was not a surf seen, but the sea was rising and falling more than what I considered as normal. My panic attack button sounded off already!

For the next twenty minutes (which seemed to be forever), I held on, held on so tightly to W's arms. But the calm spirits of the locals consoled me. The boatman was even eager enough to throw a bait and in no time, he caught one hell of a big fish! Big enough to feed three families for a day!

The falowa (fare: Php50.00 per person) docked at the port of Malakdang in Sabtang Island. After paying the tourist fee of Php100.00 per person at the Municipal Guesthouse, and negotiating the rather overpriced rental of motorcycle with a driver (they don't have a self-driven one here; paid Php700.00 for each vehicle), we set off to explore the secret villages and coves of the island--including Nakabuang Beach, Little Hongkong, Idjang Fortress, Savidug Village (where the movie Batanes was shot), and my most favorite of all, the time-warped Chavayan Village!

Like many travelers who came before me, I should say that a visit to Batanes is never complete without visiting Chavayan Village in Sabtang Island! It's one time-machine that will bring you to what Batanes was like decades ago. The warmth of its people, the smiles, the laid-back verve rubbed on me minutes after I set foot in the what many called as the Scotland of The Philippines.

It ain't Scotland or Ireland!
It's uniquely Batanes.
It's uniquely Philippines, baby!

Time to tuck myself in bed. Power supply here stops at 10PM and won't be back until 6:00AM. That would mean during the no-power hours, I'll listen to the clashing of the waves (colossal!) and ahem, gaze at the stars, dot-to-dot.


  1. It's very interesting that a lot of the posts in the blog carnival are about Batanes. From your pics it's easy to see why though! Hope to go there someday.

  2. thanks naman.

    i've heard that Cebu Pacific Air will start the Manila-Batanes route early next year! that should bring down the airfare by as much as 50 per cent! kasi for now, it's dominated by seair! happy travels to Batanes, Aleah!

  3. Finally if God allows I will be able to visit this very beautiful place.

  4. God is present in all things. In Chavayan, "that" experience will be heightened. Happy travels~

  5. time-warped indeed! hopefully, I can visit the place soon, if the budget permits :)

    1. with another airline to ply the route soon, expect the fare to be affordable na


What's your two-cents about this travel adventure and/or misadventure? Do leave a comment here. Thank you.