Saturday, July 3, 2010

Back to Batanes for Backpack Photography and a little bit of exploration plus a little more introspection

BP Batanes Basco Pantalan MV Legaspi
Shipwreck at Basco port
The green rolling hills of Sabtang were the first things that greeted my eyes as the plane banked and made a sharp turn towards Batan.  On this day blessed with good weather, there were white dots moving amongst the green expanse which were cows and goats grazing while vigorous waves formed white caps that untiringly dashed toward the foot of the sheer, rugged cliffs.  It's a sight I've seen a number of times before but the scene never grows old on me.

BP Batanes Viang Hills Cow Sunset
Cow sunset in Viang
My freelance writing work has grown more hectic over the past months -- a blessing really, though it leaves me with little time to travel so this break was a welcome respite.  This was still work as the trip was our second Backpack Photography workshop which I co-facilitate along with my best buddy, Ironwulf, though it was work literally out there in the green fields, not within the confines of an office.  We wanted the workshop to be a good mix of fun and learning, theories and field applications, action and interaction and from the get-go, it looked like our participants had fun, even if we came during the week of Batanes day celebration and the Basco town fiesta when power outages seem to be the norm.

Sure, the inconveniences were aplenty -- the long and frequent power cuts; the water supply that gets promptly shut off at midnight and would only resume come 5.30AM; the closing of shops at 7 or 8 at night (a bane for those who lack supplies for the next day's early trip); and the fact that in the balmy weather, a welcome sip of ice cold Coke or bottled water is a rarity. But looking at the land and seascape, one is quickly reminded that he/she came here for the sights as well as a chance to escape the usual and mundane.
BP Batanes Mahatao Fields of Gradients & Lighthouse
Mahatao Gradients of Green with a view of the Mahatao lighthouse in the distance
Going around Batan.  We had the benefit of having a jeep at our disposal to go around the main island of Batan on our first and third days.  Even so, there are sites that begged for more than a casual stroll to be appreciated like the Marlboro Hills.  Or enjoying the distant vantage points of Viang at sunset.  Or negotiating the rocky/boulder-filled Valugan shore before sunrise.  There are easier walks too like surveying Mahatao from Radar Tukon and visiting the Mahatao lighthouse.  And for a comedic turn, how about being chased by an ardent cow on the slopes of Naidi hills?
BP Batanes Marlboro Hills On the Hike Back
Hiking Marlboro hills
Oh, there were surprises here and there, some pleasant and others rather unpleasant -- like why did anyone ever painted the stone seating on the Chanarian viewdeck?  Or installed a hut-like structure on Imnajbu with no roof (guess no roof can ever last long with this kind of windy conditions) that made it look like a surreal four-poster bed overlooking the cliff?  How about the missing marker of the Songsong ruins that tell visitors of the story behind the ghost town?  It was a relief though to find a good lodging and eating place in the fishing village of Diura.
BP Batanes Group Shot on the Edge
Strolling down the slopes of Tiñan and having a blast
Escaping to Sabtang. Day two was spent going over to Sabtang.  The sea was calm and the crossing uneventful.  Going to Savidug, the group marvelled at the incredible vista of deep gullies, green forest cover and towering cliffs.  On the way to Chavayan, the group really had a blast strolling down the steep slopes of Tiñan and shooting away.  We found ourselves in Nakabuang Beach at mid-day, a bit sleepy from the power outage the night before and dazed by the food feast being served to us at mealtimes.  Tired, maybe.  But not from the sights, the experience, and certainly not from the good company.

Many thanks to our travel partners for helping make the workshop a success:
Seair for being our comfy travel airline to Batanes and back

Olympus Cameras for our blue caps which came very handy as it was very sunny;  
• DDD Habitat for being our home in Basco;  
Canon Selphy Printers which made printing our favorite pictures on-the-go possible;  
Sony Philippines for the Bloggie HD camera we used to document parts of the trip; 
• and of course, Primer Group and Eagle Creek which gave away those drool-worthy foldable backpacks to some of our lucky participants.  

Watch out for my field-test reviews on Canon Selphy, Sony Bloggie and Eagle Creek convertible backpack/trolley bag soon.
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