Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mandy's Posing Safari in Batanes

employees at the top of the hill
That's what we did all weekend - pose!  My officemates were more inclined to be the subject with the breathtaking view of Batanes as the background than the other way around. I'm now calling the trip last weekend - Mandy Navasero's Posing Safari.

It was the first time for the 30 employees [and family] plus the four guests [German couple Klaus and Silke,  Tess and Nenette from Pampanga]  to visit Batanes and also their first time to join Mandy's photo safari.

They absolutely had fun posing of course. Those who were not accustomed to walking or running, enjoyed trekking the hills, even dared enter the Japanese tunnel, attempted jumpology and some wanted to do a Dawn Zulueta "lift" in the scene of the movie Hihintayin ktia sa langit.

inside the japanese tunnel
Yiessa posing for Mandy outside the Japanese tunnel
trekking the hills

Mahatao lighthouse taken from the plane
Batanes, located at the northermost tip of the Philippines, is comprised of ten islands, three of which are inhabited. It is by far,  the purest destination that I've ever visited. The  distance from Manila (659 km) and being surrounded by rough seas - South China Sea and Philipine Sea- has pretty much isolated it from the rest of the country. The people called Ivatans are generally peace-loving and friendly having only a population of 16,000 distributed in six municipalities. There's hardly any pollution, no blaring karaoke noise and zero crime rate.

Mandy teaching 13-year old Joachim how to take jumpology shots in Marlboro Hills
Honesty Cafe, proof of zero-crime rate in Batanes
I've actually teased Mandy that it's her doing  for making Batanes popular. She was the first to bring a herd of  tourists every summer with her photo safaris. She coined most of the tourist spots like the 'Dawn Zuleta Hills' (original name is Lorrance), Marlboro Hills (Payuman), the Fountain of Youth, etc..  I was one of the first 21 students who joined her initial foray to Batanes on April 13, 2006. Back then, there were only three flights a week and there were no others tourists. The weather was so unpredictable that Batanes gained notoriety for its frequent flight cancellations.

Fundacion Pacita Abad
A lot has changed since my last visit  in 2008 which by the way included a trip to Itbayat. There are now more hotels with Fundacion Pacita's bed and breakfast being the most posh; our lunch in Marlboro Hills is no longer a picnic but inside a hut; and our lunch in Sabtang beach is also inside a hut.  Batanes though still continues to amaze me with its  picturesque terrain, charming stone cottages, lighthouses, white sand beach with giant boulders and golden sunsets. I still manage to come home taking more than a hundred photos! In fact, some people mistake my photos for Scottland, Ireland or even New Zealand except that when they take a closer look, they see carabaos grazing in the background.

Carla waves onboard the faluwa

A must visit is Sabtang Island,  declared by the Department of Tourism as one of the 12 Best Destinations in the country. Typical Ivatan homes line up the streets, people walk around wearing uvuds (traditional raincoats). To get there is a bit tricky because the sea is usually rough. It is a 30-min faluwa boat ride from Basco. The window to travel is from 5am to 8am from the Port of Ivana and out of Sabtang at least by 2pm.  We definitely experienced a roller coaster ride heading back to the island.

Coconut crab

And lastly, while in Batanes, don't forget to enjoy its culinary delights!!!  My favorite must-eats are coconut crabs (order a day in advance though), my favorite lumpiang dibang (flying fish),  dibang-silog for breakfast which is dried flying fish with sunny side up egg on rice, giant squid calamares, lobster (order a day in advance) and kamote!!

To join Mandy's Photo Safari, email Mandy at luzamandolina@yahoo.com or call (+63-2) 896-3208.

Jumpology shot

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