Friday, May 4, 2012

Backpack Photography Batanes: Breaking fast in a fishing village, lightening up in Mahatao

Batanes - Diura Rocky Shoreline
Diura rocks
Ah, another day of waking up really early on this, our penultimate day before leaving .  Perchance so as not to waste another sunrise in paradise; perchance to have coffee in a quaint fishing community.  The sky was already lightening up when we set out for Diura, on the eastern coast of Batan.  It was overcast when we got to the rocky shore, the wind bringing chills as it ripped through my jacket.

Morning symphony.  The sun was in a laconic mood as we walked by the shoreline and surveyed the incredible scenery.  the grey clouds danced across the sky while the surf dashed to the rocky shore.  The repeated coming and going of the waves through the smaller, vari-colored rocks made a beautiful symphony that calmed my narcoleptic, still sleepy mind.  At this hour, we were the only ones around to enjoy the moment -- truly a luxury accorded to those willing to wake up and venture out early enough.  If it were only possible to permanently put all these experiences in a bottle so every time I get stressed out, I can just summon the moment in an instant, I would.  At this rate, all I can do is absorb these instances and store them in my head.
Batanes - Diura Rock and Rocks II
The landmark boulder of Diura in the early hours of the morning
Coffee with a perky view.  When I first visited Diura many years ago, the community didn't have places to stay for visitors.  The dirt road leads to grass huts.  But boy, the scenery was something else.  Things have changed for the better now.  Monica, one of DDD Habitat's key personnel, had the initiative to come up with lodging that retained the quaint, fishing town vibe but took advantage of the wonderful seaside view.  Over a hearty breakfast she told us the Batan locals who received limited schooling were once given incentives by the local government to relocate here with fishing as a primary source of livelihood.

Any kind of coffee will do, nay even the food, when you're up three floors to the open dining area.  There's a wide-screen view of the shore and farther down the road, there's a cabana that invited us to come and just steep in the moment.  I had to give in to the urge to lie down, enjoy the breeze, and befriend the neighborhood dogs who had the same bright idea to stay there.  Maybe I keep repeating myself but out here in Batanes, I find a lot of places where I can stay all-day long, perhaps doing a lot of nothing.  No phones, no internet, just me and the sea and the people that live on its riches.
Batanes - Mahatao Cows
A fine morning to just laze the day away
Mahatao calling.  The morning continued to be overcast when we boarded our jeepney and clambered up to the Mahatao lighthouse.   The vantage point gave us a sweeping view of the eastern coast from the rocky shores of Diura to the north, right up to the rolling greens of the Racuh a Payaman, more popularly known as the Marlboro Hills.  By this time, we were joined by a lot of visitors, some more boisterous than the others

I was surprised that the area around the lighthouse is now being farmed, though that didn't detract from the charm.  There were cows foraging around that prompted some kids (perhaps from the city) to pester a calf into attention, unmindful of its mother eyeing them suspiciously.   They sometimes say ignorance can be blissful but hmmm, let's not wait until a disgruntled cow give chase because some of them do.

Muscle spasm afternoon.  Coming down the hill from the lighthouse, a strange twitching in my back made it very painful to move my upper body (must be from perpetually lugging  my camera bag which I sometimes think is heavier than my check-in luggage).  I had to miss out on revisiting Marlboro Hills with our participants as I had to go back to Basco and see a doctor.   As it was Good Friday, most of the stores including the pharmacy was closed so getting my medication had to wait until 3pm.  But I heard our group had a really wonderful time admiring the hills.  I share their enthusiasm -- I've seen Racuh a Payaman five times but never did I ever got tired of revisiting it.  Come evening, during our culmination socials, we had our fill of stories and images as much as we had our fill of food.   Honestly, it feels good to spread a contagion of admiration for Batanes.  I guess for most of our participants, they wouldn't mind coming back -- same thing I keep thinking everytime I leave this place.

Info: Backpack Photography takes shooters of all ages and persuasions to places like Batanes with photo trips tailored to capturing the places in good light as well as immersing the participants in the local culture as well as the backpacking philosophy.  Currently, we are planning a second Batanes 3-Island Hop this year, scheduled for October and also, a walk through the Banaue rice terraces this June.  For more information, please visit or email

 Related Links: Read the other installments of this series on our Backpack Photography 3-Island Hop chronicles:
• Part 1 - Back to Batanes for a 3-Island Hop
• Part 2 - Return to the Coral Island and Choco Popcorn Bliss
• Part 3 - Waking up in Itbayat, Sunsetting in Batan


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