Travel: My Goodness, BATANES!! (Part I)


I am one very lucky girl.

I may not be rich in the traditional sense of the word but God (has) most certainly blessed me in many other ways. I don’t drive around in fancy cars or fly business class, but I have traveled to some of the most remarkable places here and abroad. With the exception of my occasional leisure trips with my dear friends and boyfriend, most of my international travels are work-related. It’s quite rare to have a career that enriches you professionally and at the same time, gives you ample leg room for you to be able to explore activities that will, in turn, enrich you both physically and spiritually.

Until very recently, it never occurred to me to make my own bucket list – maybe because I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of setting a deadline on anything that has got nothing to do with my work deliverables. I guess I have gotten so used to be being on my own that the only pace I know how to walk or run is my own. I slow down when I want to; I go on full sprint when I want to. In retrospect, it all started with running.  Tried it once and got hooked for a while. From my first 5k, I found myself running a full marathon in less than a year. I didn’t stop there. Shortly after my first and only full-mary, I dared to do an ultramarathon and got even more hooked. Since then, I have tried my hand on so many other outdoor activities that I never thought I would have access to – let alone be genuinely interested in. Fishing, Trail running, Scuba diving, Surfing, Mountain Trail Biking — these are some of the things that I have now X-marked on my list.  Though most of them I have done only once – bringing to fore that I am indeed ‘Little Miss Will Try Anything Once’ – I wouldn’t mind giving them another go sometime in the near future. Surfing, especially. But first, I seriously need to learn how to swim already. Not just for that, but for my general knowledge and survival. You know, just in case someone tries to push me into the water and make it look like an accident. Hah!

And now it seems that my list had just gotten longer with the addition of rock climbing, scrambling and rappelling which I may be doing soon as I get back from my trip. I want to tell you about so many other MORE EXCITING projects we’re working on with some very good friends but I don’t want to jump the gun too soon. For now, let’s just say that we are going to conquer the world one step at a time. Right, Kas, B, and Marga? *insert smiley here*

Now, on to the main reason for this blogpost which I accidentally turned into a novela again because of my penchant for digression: BATANES.

What else can I say about Batanes except that the island is TOO BEAUTIFUL for words? My senses are still somewhat overwhelmed that I cannot even come up with adjectives good enough to describe the whole Batanes experience (that) my friends and I had just recently.

So, just like what Eric did in FB, I will let some of the photos we took do the talking. And maybe add some unintelligible description here and there if only to delude myself into thinking that I’m still some sort of a writer.

But first, I want to thank Emperor Eric Cabahug for planning the whole thing and booking our flights as early as March when Seair announced its promo fare for Batanes. Normal flights to and from Batanes would cost you around Php16,000 including taxes and that is quite steep for a local flight. But let me tell you now that it’s all worth every centavo – and MORE. If it weren’t for the locals that look and talk just like us, you wouldn’t think you’re still in the Philippines. The island is so multifaceted you would think you’re in Hawaii or Scotland or New Zealand — three places I have never been to, by the way, but the natural land and seascapes of Batanes may very well rival the vistas of these three countries on Google images.

Sleep-deprived and in my case, still under duress from work (very normal for me), we – Eric, Cris B., Cris C., Uly, Romy and I – took the 5:15am flight from Manila to Basco, Batanes on July 1. The flight was one and a half hours long but quite comfortable. Our airhostess, Frances, had the best natural voice I have ever heard come out of a woman’s mouth. It had a sultry ring to it and she enunciated every word to near-perfection!

The Batanesians.:)

Batanes Airport is small but you instantly feel the warmth and beauty of the island the minute you step out of the plane. At the airport, we were welcomed by Kuya Jun, our designated tour guide slash driver for the whole of five days. After snapping our touchdown Batanes photo, Kuya Jun drove us to DDD Habitat, our home during our stay.

Ate Monica, cook extraordinaire slash manager of DDD Habitat, treated us to a scrumptious breakfast of fish lumpia, veggies, and rice. Not wanting to waste a single minute of our Batanes time, we changed into shorts and tanktops and set off to explore the island – except for Eric who opted to sleep the first half of the day. That morning, Romy, Cris B., Cris C., Uly and I went to the lighthouse nearby.

One of the MANY jumpshots we will be doing in Batanes.

United Colors of Batanes.

San Marino advert gone dark. haha.

Paging mobile providers, you might want to use this in your marketing collateral. LOL.

When we came back just in time for lunch, we were all twice as dark as when we first arrived in Batanes. We did not really anticipate the heat to be that intense so we scrimped on sunblock. Lunch was fantastic and we all fell in love with the fern salad Ate Monica prepared. Thus began the Batanes BUSOG EDITION. Let me explain. The minute we arrived in Batanes, all we did was eat, walk, take photos, eat, eat, EAT! Hence the ‘busog’ look in all of my swimsuit photos. So much for ripped abs. The all went back into hiding beneath the layers of fat – many thanks to the sinfully delicious meals we would have five times a day! Such was the case for me, at least. Because Cris B.’s perpetually ripped! he ate as much, if not more than, I did but the abs stayed right where they are. I asked how it’s even possible for those pandesals to stay unfazed despite the amount of food ingested whereas mine looked, well, bloated, he said, ‘it’s all muscles, Vicky.’ So I guess I have to work harder than ever before to scrape the fat layers, eh? When did it get sooo hard to be a woman?!?

Living on the edge is good...sometimes.:)

At the viewing deck of one of the smaller lighthouses.

For Cris' Mom.:D

Binibining Yellow bell.

Inside one of the rooms at 'Fundacion Pacita'

According to the caretaker, Fundacion Pacita can be rented for around P7,500 per day. They are currently renovating the place but it should be open for business again soon. In the meantime, you can have lunch or coffee at this beautiful place with the stunning view of the rolling hills of Batanes and the great pieces of art on display inside the house.

And that concludes Day One.

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Travel: GLAMPING, Anyone?


 

The happy campers!

 

Back in April 2008 when Anawangin Island were not yet as popular as it is today, my friends and I decided to go on a two-night camping trip in the island. It took us nearly 4 hours and three different modes of public transportation, including a short boat ride, to get us to Anawangin. There was no electricity in the whole island and no indigenous huts or cottages either, so we had to pitch tents for our sleeping arrangements.

There was only one toilet enclosed in a roughly assembled box enclosure made of nipa leaves and tree branches and all of us campers had to form a queue to be able to use it. The only water source for rinsing after a day of swimming in the azure waters or trekking in the low mountain or for washing dishes and preparing food to cook over wood fire is the water pump. That was the closest I have ever come to roughing it and I totally enjoyed every single moment of it because I rarely get a chance to commune with Mother Nature in that way, given that my life is pretty much entrenched deep in the urban jungle.

 

By the swamp.

 

And then I learned recently that there is another type of roughing it, and this one is done in style. They call it glamor camping or glamping. Said to have been first introduced in Europe in 2007, this luxury camping has long since became popular in the United States and other famous glamping destinations in other countries. In glamping, the last thing that you will have to experience is to live like a villager or an aborigine. In fact, due to the mounting popularity of this glamorous camping expeditions, some outdoors companies and retailers have decided to capitalize on the glampers’ deep pockets by offering products such as air mattresses with built-in alarm clocks or MP3 players and night lights or tents outfitted with integrated lighting systems and auto-roll windows.  There is even internet connection and satellite TV for those who do not want to feel disconnected from the world!

Flying tent!

Although some hardcore roughriders scoff at the idea of ultra-comfortable camping by maintaining that such ostentatious amenities violate the true outdoors spirit, retailers are quick to respond by saying that it is the new reality of the market. They say that these days, people have expectations of a certain level of comfort or they won’t go outdoors. While a clean tent was enough for some, others expect entertainment, comfort and wide array of amenities.

Here are some highly-recommended places to go glamping:

1.        Aman-i-Khas, India. Aman-i-Khás is a luxury tented wilderness camp near Ranthambhore National Park, India. Its name means peace (“aman” in Sanskrit) and special (“khas” in Hindi).  Set in an incredible natural setting, remote and secluded, Aman-i-Khas is a true haven of tranquility, offering its guests exceptional comfort in a pristine wilderness setting. The camp is open between October and April, which is the best time to visit the park.

There are luxurious and comfortable 13 tents, of which10 are for guests. The remaining 3 are a tent each for lounging, spa treatments and dining, which serves Indian and Western cuisine made from ingredients grown in the resort’s organic gardens. Laundry, doctor on call, foreign exchange, and travel desk are some of the other services that are provided by the resor  Aman-i-Khás offers morning and afternoon safaris in open top jeeps within Ranthambhore as well as camel treks and nature walks in the surrounding villages and countryside.

2.    Nduara Liliondo in Tanzania. Nduara Liliondo in Tanzania, a Safari Camp with Mongolian links, an entirely different brand of accommodation and way to enjoy Africa’s wildlife.

It’s an unforgettable sight, the twice-annual ebb and flow of animals—zebras, blue wildebeests and gazelles among them—across the vast, primeval-seemingSerengeti Plain, in northern Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. Visitors head to East Africa from all over to witness this, one of the largest such migrations in the world.

3.  Galapagos Island. Galápagos Island – an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean – is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With wildlife as its most notable feature, the island ranks among the most coveted places in the world to see nature at its best.  Galápagos Safari Camp is a new hotel breed,  boasting of a 55-hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island bordering the national park, 30 minutes from the sea. The farm is rich in birdlife and offers many local species of trees. The camp has 8 luxury safari tents perched on a hill, providing comfort and privacy in the wilderness. All tents have a balcony with views of the park and the ocean — they are spacious, attractively decorated, and each has a private bathroom, with hot shower and toilet. Personally, this will be my choice for my honeymoon trip if I were to get married. If being the operative word.

4.  Longitude 131°, Ayers Rock, Australia. The name Longitude 131° refers to the precise east-west location of Uluru, the rust-colored monolith formerly known as Ayers Rock. Longitude 131° is by far the most luxurious, and offers the best view — each of the tent-like guest cabins looks through full-length windows across six miles of desert at the thousand-foot-high Uluru.

Guest rooms are built on steel stilts, elevated a foot or so above the fragile brush, and guests are asked to keep to the paths, to minimize environmental impact. Inside the décor is a bit British Africa, of all things, each room themed after a different Australian pioneer, featuring a bit of memorabilia, perhaps a letter or some photos from the settlers’ time. Luxury carries the day, with vast plush beds and futuristic bathrooms, featuring views even from the shower and the bathroom mirror.

5.  Paws Up, Montana, USA. The Resort at Paws Up in Montana offers the ultimate glamping experience. Paws Up, provides equal part glamor and equal part camping for a truly unique travel experience. At Paws Up, you will see luxurious tents equipped with king-sized feather bed, fine linens, spacious deck, electricity, private bath with heated floor and plush towels, gourmet cuisine and wine, housekeeping, and butler service.

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism (DoT) is looking at developing the Cordillera Region in the Northern Luzon highlands to attract glampers who are constantly on the look out  for luxurious adventures. The Cordillera, as you know, hosts the world famous Banaue Rice Terraces and the hanging graves in Sagada. Although glamping has yet to take-off in this country, we can expect it to gain ground in the near future when glamping tourism is given more focus and promoted aggressively to local and foreign tourists.

***Photos by Clyde Manzano.

Disclaimer: I just want to emphasize that above photos were taken back in 2008 when I was 10 to 15lbs heavier. I swear, my waistline is now only 23 inches! Before meals, of course. hahaha.