I wonder what other people mean when they say “Batanes makes you feel like you’re in a foreign country.” This is part of our country, the way it should have been before neon lights and rowdy karaoke bars took over.
Mr. Z calls it “the place that time forgot.” I thought so too. Once sybaritic spas and swanky resorts take over, Batanes will never be the same.
There was no Jollibee in Batanes. We were craving for pizza and saw a place that had an Italian-sounding name but it never opened the whole time. Strange! No credit cards are accepted and they only had government-run banks. There was no LBC branch, Mercury Drug or National Bookstore. In the one week we were stranded there, we must have memorized all the shops, particularly the laundry service and the air-conditioned, reliable internet cafe that stayed open (‘Smart Link.’) Basco is such a small town, you can tour it in a day.
On an evening stroll with My Sweet, I got a kick stumbling upon this store named ‘Of This and That.” It was owned by Lily Garcia, a retired radio announcer who spent her time drafting a Filipino-Ivatan dictionary, translating missals and making home-made cards that were gathering dust on her shelves – because the tourists never minded them. I scoop up a few. I can never ignore a writer when I see one, especially one who must have sat up for hours by her window just to compose them, holding in her heart the place that will cradle her for eternity, the Batanes she loves.
Here are a few words reprinted from her “tourist cards” with her permission:
” You know, I feel God so close to earth down here I must admit I’m a bit scared of myself.
Had I known Batanes is this wonderful, I would have arranged for a longer stay or better yet, brought you with me.”
” I now understand people around the world can really be touched by simplicity and the feel of being important. That’s what I’m getting here.
I need to project this feeling to you and who else more.
Till then, know in your heart that indeed to me and to the world – you are important!”
” Away from home maybe but ‘home is where the heart is’.”
I’m in love with this place I almost wish I was born here. Simple place, simple people, simple life – I guess this is the way to be happy and learn how to slow down.
I could stay by the beach and perhaps write but the invitation to walk and go see the corners of this island is irresistible. Anyway, I guess the writing can wait.
Two things you please don’t forget when you decide to come to this place, a camera and your diary. It will make all the difference.”
” Sorry ’bout beating you first to this place. Don’t ever worry – didn’t get much of artifacts …. they are prohibited. Pictures? Yes!
They will do I guess (of course they will! I can’t do anything)
They own this place and I’m a tourist you see, but I admit I am falling in love.
With whom? With what?
With nature so original!”