Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More on Batanes: Sabtang This Time

Last Friday, I managed to overcome my decelerating inertia, packed up my bags, and took the long-delayed trip to the Southern island of Sabtang. Sabtang is the smallest among the 3 inhabited islands of Batanes. It lies only 3 miles southwest from the seaport of Ivana. It can be reached by the falowa, a smaller version of the tataya to Itbayat. Despite the deceptively short distance between Ivana and Sabtang, the Lonely Planet warns travelers that “it’s a very rough crossing and poor weather could strand you for a couple of days”.

So geared up for another thrilling boat ride and the possibility of getting stranded for a few days, I packed enough provisions to last me the entire weekend, all secured in plastic bags because everything I read about the trip gave warnings such as “it’s a splashy ride” and “prepare to get wet”.

The falowa, arriving Sabtang on an uncharacteristically calm and glorious sunshiny day. The crew, by force of habit, went fishing on board. Splashes were minimal. The Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea were kind to ocean- phobic travelers like me.

The falowa driver, expertly using his legs. Legend has it that once he starts using his hands, you’re in for a lot of trouble. The sea plays an essential role in an Ivatan’s life, so much that ancient Ivatans place miniature boats on their graves. Ivatan seafarers are experts even without formal education: they study the moon and are able to predict the tide and current, they can even read the clouds, the shape of sand dunes, the movement of the waves, and understand the behavior of animals and know when it is safe to sail.

The beautiful Sabtang lighthouse welcomes every visitor as the falowa docks in San Vicente Port in Sinakan, Sabtang's main barangay.

The Lonely Planet mentions that traveling to Sabtang “increases even further the feeling that you have somehow left the rest of the world behind”. Most of the houses around Sabtang are still made out of the traditional limestone and cogon. This is one of those houses, right in the middle of town, fronting the immaculate accommodations of Sabtang School of Fisheries where I stayed. The very colorful doors and elaborately designed shutters seem to make up for the plain, functional structure of these houses.

The falowa, leaving the port on a normal day. Winds are hard, the waves are rough and you will really get wet. It’s 40 minutes of floating on waves that tower over the boat, you’d be amazed how the boat remains afloat without turning over. On my ride home, the driver was using his hands. But I noticed he wasn’t the real driver – just someone being trained while the real driver was fishing. So I heaved a sigh of relief.

More on Sabtang in the next entries...


Reena said...

wow. i like the photos of the lighthouse and their version of bahay na bato...hindi ba scary yung boat ride?

Walking on Water said...

@reena, scary can sometimes be fun. no wonder people enjoy roller coaster rides. hehehe.