Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 4 : Of Ivatan Art & Halo-Halo

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Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 4 : Of Ivatan Art & Halo-Halo
Batanes Islands - Day 4 : 17th March 2015
Trio Ride : Boat trip from Itbayat to Batan and then a short cycle around Basco town. 
Distance: Boat Trip- approx 45km.;  Basco Evening Ride - not tracked, just a fun ride.
Time : Boat Trip - 10:35am to 1:35pm.
Time Taken : Boat Trip - 3hrs.

Route Recommendations :
1. The boat trip from Batan to Itbayat takes about three to hours on a calm sea. During rough seas it could take more than that. There is a daily boat between the islands, but the schedule boat trip may be cancelled if whether is bad/stormy. The fare one way is 450PHP
2. The boats (called Faluwas) does not provide much seating and be prepared to sit/lie on the floor mats provided.
3. Take sea-sick tablets if one is prone to sea-sickness.
4. Itbayat Island is the largest of the Batanes islands, the island is very hilly. We did not cycle here but I have included a route map for those keen to cycle there. Much of the roads are gravel or laterite tracks, so be prepared with suitable tires.
5. Points of interest that should not be missed in Itbayat includes:
    - Torongan Caves (some hiking required).
    - Yauran Native Village, see life of the original natives of the Philippines.
    - Karovooban Viewpoint; located at on of the highest point of the island from there is a spectacular 360-degrees view of Itbayat.
    - seaports (view the steep ramp access and the sunsets).
    - Itbayat has the most remnants of Spanish culture & architecture and has many stone houses with thatch roofs for which Batanes is renown for.
    - stopping to interact with the locals, they are really warm and helpful.
6. Electricity supply in Itbayat is cut from midnight to 6:00am.
   
This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

PRELUDE
Sunset at Paggaraman Port.
The previous morning we had taken a motor-bike & hike journey to view the Torongan Caves. It was quite an experience doing hiking for a change from cycling. The caves were spectacular and so was the surroundings.
After lunch, we went visiting the Yauran Native village, it's a village were the natives were still living in as close a way as their ancestors (the Yami) who arrived at and settled the Philippines centuries ago. We also visited a couple of ports after that.
This morning we will be leaving Itbayat for Batan, but before that a quick trip to one of the highest point of the island.


AN ITBAYAT MORNING
Siew Yung with Nanai Cano (Photo by Siew Yung)
In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Nainai Cano; she had made us so warmly welcomed to Cano's Lodge.
We had had a good night's sleep (Light's out at midnight as electricity is cut from midnight to 6:00am) and were now raring to go!


First, a visit to a garlic shop nearby. Garlic was everywhere - in bags just sent by the harvesters, hanging up from the ceiling for more drying.


Itbayat is renown for its garlic (and also shallots). The garlic has a good flavour but does not have that strong tangy bite.


The garlic grows in the wild, there are no farms. Most of them grow in the interior of the island, at the foothills of the mountains. Locals harvest them from these areas, they are then collected onto carts dragged by Carabaos before being sold to the wholesalers.

And now, to the Karovooban View Point.
Bumpy road leading to Karovooban Viewpoint.
Oh-oh.... where did Siew Yung disappear too?
Her back was acting up again; at the start of this road she saw how rough the journey was going to be. Not wanting to subject her back from further agony and she decided to wait for us while we went ahead. So we will take photos to at the top for her to view the scenes from Viewpoint.


From the Karovooban Viewpoint tower there is an excellent 360-degrees view of Itbayat. Apologies, the view is very scenic - my camera was not good enough to capture what the human eye saw.


Visitors are not the only one having a good view of the island; nearby is a statue of Mother Mary overlooking the towns below. She is keeping a watchful eyes on the people, keeping them from harm's way.


Back in town, at the Municipal Hall some children were performing a concert; in the hot sun, the parents just put up shady umbrellas while watching. These people are so simple, not demanding and just adjust to the needs of the moment.

On last visit before we leave the town; the Santa Maria Immaculate Church. Built in 1845, this church will be coming close to it's bicentennial in a few decades.


GOODBYE ITBAYAT
9:45am: We arrived at Chinapoliran Port to take the 10:30am faluwa back to Batan. One needs to come earlier to register and purchase the boat tickets.


Today, the sea was rougher and our journey would take slighty longer.
The strong waves tossed and rocked the boat and splashed water inside.


The deckhands, climbing precociously from edge of the boat, tied and lowered orange shades to cover the window to prevent the roughs waves from spraying water in. With the boat swaying for side to side, I saw them also swaying and stepping gingerly on the edge. Each time the boat tossed more roughly, my heart skipped a beat for them.



Up on the top deck, it was difficult walking from one end to the other end. I went up just to experience it. Two ways to go about this, lean forward a bit and quickly rush forward; OR just crawl over. I was wanting to look MACHO, so I did the rush instead of the crawl.
It was worth it, the risk of almost falling into the sea. Sitting lazily on those tires in front, I basked in the sun, letting the wind blow into my face and listening to the roar of the waves. Every once in a while, a school of dolphins can be seen acrobatically jumping in and out of the blue sea; and flying fish will pop out and glide for a distance before dipping back in.


(Photo courtesy of Ong Kay Swee)
Later inside, we had taken our sea-sickness tablets and getting used to the rough rocking of the boat, slept almost the rest of the way.


A BATAN SOJOURN
Goofy at a thatched roofed stall, Basco.
Back at Marfel's in Basco, after two days away our bicycles were missing us....
well, actually we missed cycling and were eager to stretch our legs again.
After an short afternoon siesta, out we went!
This time Jimmy of Marfel's did not blink an eye when we went out so soon with our bicycles ... he's getting used to these crazy cyclists.


Not having seen Basco enough, we decided to explore it some more, to see the streets that we had missed.
Along the way we saw this old Punjabi man pushing his bicycle along. He seems quite localised, quite entrenched into the society here. Perhaps he had come here years ago, liked the place and it's charm, and decided to stay on and put root here. At the back of my mind, I wished I could have done the same.


Popped in to visit our new friends from the Brompton Club of the Philippines (BCP). They had arrived today and had earlier paid us a surprise visit at Marfel's.
Buying a Brompton is like entering a international fraternity. There are so many Brompton clubs from all over the world, send out a word to any of them that you are coming over and you would be most graciously welcomed. The members of the BCP were not different, one small note to them a few days earlier and we had made so many new friends.


Popped into the Yaru Art Gallery (actually, more than popped in as I stayed a while and took lots of photos. See, I love art and whenever I see beautiful artwork, I go crazy).
This is a gallery/shop founded in February 2007 was set up by a cooperative of young and talented Ivatan artists. It showcases their artwork many of which characterize the life and culture of the Batanes and the Ivatans.


One of my favourite piece of artwork at this place is this golden metallic dog made from motorcycle parts. It seems to be a pet of the artists; one moment it's here, the next moment it's there; who knows next they will be taking it out for walks.
(... see many of their artwork at Philippine Ivatan Art Blog). 

Okay, time to try out more of the local delicacies:
First off a barbecue stall near the Basco Plaza run by this cheerful couple. Among their delicacies are delicious pork slices barbecued on a stick, this were somewhat similar to the Malay/Indonesian satay but not so spicy.


Next off was the 6 to 8 Panciteria opposite the Yaru Gallery. I like these little shops, they are so cheerful in their bright pastel colours.
Here we ran through the menu, looking for something authentically local to eat and ordered their Pancit Special. We liked the name too as pancit is the Malay market language twist of the word puncture, something all cyclists fear.


But what came were nothing exotically Filipino, what came was just some fried noodles. Although we felt a bit let down, we wolfed it down all the same, after all this was dinner and frankly it tasted quite delicious.


After hearing so much about the Halo-Halo, it was only at this fourth day in the Philippines that we did get to try it. It is something akin to Malaysian ais kacang but with it's main ingredients being fruits with coconut water and evaporated milk as a filler and topped up with deep-fried rice and caramel.
It was a small yet good satisfaction to end the day.


Tomorrow will be a big day for Goofy (my Brompton bike). Tomorrow we will have our first major cycling, one of cycling round a loop of south Batan Island.

SEE YOU ALL TOMORROW THEN!

This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

To see more photos for the day, Click here.



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