Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More on Sabtang: Exploring the Villages

Batanes is so outlandish that when you roam around its villages, you won’t be surprised if you find a druid mixing his brew, or a hobbit smoking his pipe, or Gandalf and Saruman sharing a laugh. Whereas in Basco only a very few stone houses remained and in Itbayat, houses are usually far apart, the old arrangement of the villages are still very much preserved in Sabtang.

Old man walking home in Malakdang, Sabtang. Being around the villages makes you feel that you’re trapped in another world. Sometimes it’s so quiet that you’d wonder where everyone is. The population of Sabtang and Itbayat has remained the same since the early 1900s. For instance, accounts from the friars in the 1800s show that Itbayat has a population of 1,500 in the 1860s. Today, its population has been pegged at 2,600. While every other town in the country is growing in numbers, population growth in these parts has stalled, which could only mean one thing: the young people are leaving.

While the oldest documented Ivatan house is the House of Dakay in Ivana (built 1887), the houses in the villages of Savidug and Chavayan in Sabtang seem to be a lot older. This is a typical structure.

A familiar fixture on the houses. A large number of Ivatans grow onion and garlic on their farms. Dracula will find Batanes deadly.


The typical village streets are narrow, good enough for people, or a bicycle, or a motorcycle to go through. This is one of the streets where the traditional cobblestones are still preserved. Chavayan, Sabtang.

A dog guarding one of the houses in Malakdang, Sabtang. Canines are still man’s best friend. While trekking along the National Highway everywhere in Batanes, it’s not an unfamiliar sight that you see an old man or woman, in a vakul (the traditional head protection gear made of grass), sporting a yuvok (a type of basket strapped from the head), leading a carabao, with a dog or several dogs trailing behind.

Some of the houses have whitewashed walls (still made of limestone) giving it an immaculate look, adorned with colorful flowers. The structure somewhat reminds me of houses in the Italian or French coastal towns I see in the movies.

That’s me, sitting in front of a window of one of the houses in Savidug, searching for that elusive epiphany. Somehow being at the edge of civilization has an uncanny, unsettling, even terrifying way of bringing us home. This photo seems to illustrate how everything just seems to be out of place…

Up next… Portraits, Sights, and Insights. I still need to organize these photos and my thoughts. Two more days and it’s back to real life.=) Perhaps I’m ready. “Perhaps” – I love this word!

3 comments:

aggie said...

ang ganda/drama nu'ng picture mo in sepia. parang ang haba ng hair mo!

Reena said...

naku, if batanes is outlandish as you say it is, and has "elves" who look like Legolas then i'm migrating asap!...ganda naman ng last pic...:)

Walking on Water said...

geeez, thanks! i really appreciate your reading them. told these people kasi that i'll tell the world about them.=)