I’d be too happy to continue with my Baguio posts except that I can no longer mask the reality that we’ve been stranded in the paradise-island of Batanes for almost a week now. We are still lovestruck but now more dumbstruck at the prospect of starring in our own edition of Gilliganâ€™s Island . We have the real world to go back to – Mr. Z already missed his international flight and I should be reporting back to work in less than 48 hours. Same goes for the rest of the passengers who have commitments to meet and families to go home to. Unfortunately, the travel brochures do not say there is “no way out” if ever you get stuck in Batanes. No way out by ship or by bus and you are literally at the mercy of the sole airline that flies from Manila to Basco, Asian Spirit.
I wish I can commend Asian Spirit for serving Philippine tourism by making flights to the country’s northernmost part. It now looks like they did so out of the desire to be a monopoly than serve the public. “Bad weather” seems to be the oft-repeated reason whenever this airline can’t ferry passengers to, and from Basco. There certainly wasn’t bad weather when they started canceling flights Thursday of last week just because management decided to limit their flights from five times a week to MWF, without sufficiently informing passengers they booked for a Th flight.
On Friday, an Asian Spirit aircraft was already hovering over the island before it decided not to land and fly back to Manila because of poor visibility. The weather cleared later during the day but it seems Asian Spirit is committed to flying at only one designated time of the day with their old, limited number of aircraft. If you miss their time frame, good luck to you because they are not going to refund your ticket or shoulder the additional expenses for board and lodging for the extended vacation you didn’t want in the first place (in our case, five days and who knows how many more!.) All in the name of “bad weather.”
This experience has been an eye-opener actually. It is not just transport companies like Asian Spirit but the government or the duly-elected/appointed Batanes representatives which have been remiss in crafting and implementing a clear-cut tourism master plan for what is easily one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines.
Something must be wrong when they say you can only visit Batanes two months of the year, or you get stranded otherwise.
Indeed, something must be blatantly wrong when there are no alternative means of transport to reach and leave the island, especially one that would provide inexpensive means to encourage more tourists to come. For this extended tour, our expenses are now nearing $600 per person which would already have bought us a few nights stay at a luxurious villa in Krabi. Heck, even Luang Prabang seems nearer to civilization (and accessible to decent means of transport.)
Whatever happened to the nautical superhighway or the Batanes train express (my own invention)… whatever happened to all that? Such a pity that the beautiful pictures I have taken of Batanes’ incomparable land mass and its vast seas will never justify the fact that the province suffers from neglect and indifference. And innocent tourists like us now have to bear the burden.