Friday, March 29, 2013

Batanes: Week Two

Jegs has collected a very good quality tan, perhaps largely because we’ve visited the entire coastline of Batan Island from Basco in the North to Itbud in the South.   We visited the Boulder Beaches of Valugan (east) and Chadpidan (west) in Basco, and travelled to the trekking-start point on the slopes of Mt. Iraya, close to the historical burial grounds in Nakamaya on the western side of the mountain and we have seen much of the towns of Basco, Mahatao, Ivana, and Uyugan. 

Among the places we’ve visited that are related to Jegs’ research are dumpsites and water source systems.  Seepage in all the dumpsites is minimal, and if there is seepage at all it goes to the sea (China Sea or Pacific Ocean).   Dumpsites are at least two kilometers from the towns, and approximately 120-190 plus meters above sea level (except that of Ivana, which is in a remote beach area).  The most advanced of these dumpsites is that of Mahatao, where biodegradables are first ground and used for composting.

Each town generates small amount of garbage, probably not more than a ton per day.  Households, like those in Ivana and Mahatao, are required to segregate their trash.

(Pix of Basco Dumpsite at the foot of Mt. Iraya, facing the China Sea, up at about 170 MASL.)

On both sides of roads in all towns, including the national highway connecting all towns, are lines of arius, votalao (palomaria), and vayo tree species.  In all backyards in all towns are planted significant tree species such as arius, riwas, votalao, mango, breadfruit, jackfruit, and mabolo. 

 An observation that we had was that arius and mabolo are listed as endangered species but these are common backyard plants.  Mabolo in its natural habitat, in the mountains, has become rare.  Both species, including riwas and votalao are used by the Ivatans as ornamental trees, therefore, used for road beautification purposes.  When we asked some individuals if they were aware that arius and mabolo, for example, were endangered species, they were not aware of it.  That these species are used as ornamental plants in the different towns on Batan Island has turned out to be a saving grace for these species.

Road to Ivana, lined with arius and votalao trees, above right.)                                                   


There are two palms, both endogenous to Batanes, are fast becoming rare.  One, the voyavoy, sometimes called Hanceana (Phoenix loureirii var hanceana) is found mainly on the islands of Itbayat and Sabtang, although there are a few found on Batan Island where they have been introduced years ago.  A few years back we had suggested that the provincial government should declare a voyavoy sanctuary in Itbayat.  Today, I’m personally convinced that voyavoy sanctuaries should be established both in Itbayat and Sabtang.  Two, the betel palm tree (Areca catechu).  We saw one in its natural habitat, forest area.  Fortunately, this palm is also being used as ornamental plant and has been planted in certain areas of some towns.  These plants are being propagated in Basco.  For example, we saw one at the Rizal Park and three in the DepEd Compound, both in Basco.

(Ripen nuts of the arica palm [above left], and a small arica palm tree [below right] as found in its natural habitat along a stream path down the mnountaiside in Mahatao.)

 In most cases, the areca palm tree is not commonly propagated because it is a slow-growing palm.  Mature palms normally measure some twenty meters (probably more than 25 years old) and usually used as planks and lumber.  In Itbayat, where these palms used to be plenty, these are used as planks and lumber to build houses in farms, usually called pañisanan houses.  By the way, the fruit of this palm, larger than most, is what’s called nganga elsewhere.  In Batanes, this palm species is called voa.

Talking of endangered species, we have to mention that the popular Batanes delicacy, tattus, is no longer as common today as it used to.  In fact, it has become endangered species.  It is now prohibited to transport this outside of Batanes and it has become much more difficult to catch.  We were in Basco for two weeks and we didn’t taste tattus. 

What Jegs tasted, and liked, was marida, which is known in the rest of Luzon as kuhol.  The difference is that marida lives in the forest, not in water areas like those in Luzon.  How did Jegs find this delicacy?  “The adobong marida is really good.  I liked it better than the ginataang marida,” she says.  I also introduced another delicacy to Jegs, it’s called unot, a sea urchin (Colobocebtrotus atratus).  Locals gather these at low tide and during full moon.  These are usually found on rock surfaces in coastal rocky places.  Jegs says she liked the taste, but probably not for always.  What she enjoys is the tattus (coconut crab).

Coconut crabs on Batan Island are becoming very rare.  Those that are being sold come from Sabtang and Itbayat.  On the average, coconut crabs now cost P600 per kilo.  The two-kilo crabs are now very rare.  Hence, the transport of coconut crabs out of the province is now prohibited.  You can eat coconut crabs today in Batanes, but it’s prohibited to catch those smaller than half-a-kilo each.  Jegs and I were invited to three dinners, but not in one did we see tattus served.  Still we enjoyed the old Batanes cuisine.  Young Ivatans , we were told, no longer eat the old Batanes dishes.  They now go for pizzas, pastas, burgers, and the like.  The traditional Batanes cuisine is served now only on special occasions and for special guests.

Some snapshots in Batanes (Batan Island only)

Jegs arrives in Basco, her second visit, on the Skyjet Service, the only airline servicing Batanes.  This British-made aircraft flies silently and smoothly.  They say it's used by the Royal Family in Britain.  I understand that beginning in May, Air Philippines will begin regular service to Batanes.  Just hope they try to keep their rates down.

National Road looking from the road-curve fronting Brandon"s Lodge, where we were accommodated.  Road (behind the photographer) curves eastward to the airport at the edge of town at the foot of Mt. Iraya.  Basco Bay lies right straight ahead in this picture. 

Appropriately trimmed arius (Podocarpus costalis) trees on the capitol grounds.

Jegs did a good job coaching the lad to pose for a pix at the Basco Wharf.  The kid did enjoy the photo-ops, though.  Clearly, he didn't bathe with fresh water after taking a dip in the sea because there traces of salt (after salt water evaporated) on his forehead.

View of the Rizal Park, fronting the Capitol Bldg.  Note trimmed arius trees, and the vadite trees to the left.  Beyond the tree-line is the Basco Bay.

This is the Basco Municipal Hall.  In front of it is a 60-year old tennis court.

Had that urge to walk the 30-meter sand bar while it was still low tide at a beech in Ivana, where the Batanes High School Golden Jubillarians had a picnic.  Where the surf breaks is the rock-line where the deep portion of the sea begins.

This is a slightly miniaturized rice jar made of nitto vine, a common handifraft in Batanes.  There are numerous variations of this model, coming from Mindoro, and other places in the country.

Well, I had to try the hat made of vayasuvas vine (this species is endemic to Batanes) on sale in one of the roadside handicraft stores in Kaychanarianan.  I would have preferred the hat made of pandan leaves which I used to wear when I was a farmer before attending high school.
Basco cathedral at dusk.  It was Holy Thursday, so there were people inside when this pix was taken.  You see the most common mode of transport, the motor cycle, for both male and female.

In my younger years, there was complete solemnity in the faces of people all over during Holy Thursdays and Good Fridays in Batanes.  It's a bit different now.  For example, before no one would dare wear clothes with bright colors, and people would very rarely smile.  Not anymore.

Jegs posing at the balcony of Shanedel's Inn and Cafe in Kaycha-narianan, right along the National Highway.  At the background is Naydi Hill.

This pix was shot by Jegs on the beach in Diura Fishermen's Village in Mahatao.  This village faces the Pacific Ocean.  These small boats, locally called tataya, have small sails and are used by the matao, the fisherman who goes out to sea alone to catch, through  hook and line, arayo (dorado), using flying fish as bait.

The Tayid Lighthouse atop the mountain high above Diura Fishing Village, facing the Pacific Ocean.

Mahatao Cathedral.  You should see the walls of this church, about 1.5 meters thick, made of rock, lime and sand, the traditional building materials for houses in Batanes.  Today, houses in Batanes are made of concrete, and architecture completely different from that in the past.

Hedgerows in Mahatao.  All farms on Batan Island are distinctively indicated by hedgerows.

This building, housing the offices of the Municipal Development Planning Office and other offices of the LGU in Mahatao, has thick walls.  It is half traditional building, and half modernized building (result of modernization and renovation of old buildings for use by the LGU).  The belt is about 44 inches long, laid across the back window of the building.  Front of the building is made of concrete.

This rock formation is just one of numerous rock formations along the coastline and beeches of Batan Island.

The entry to Ivana (southward direction) from the Basco-Mahatao direction in the north.

One of the oldest traditional stone houses in Batanes, the House of Dakay in Ivana.

An old voyavoy (Phoenix loureirii var. hanceana) plant in the compound of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Ivana.  The voyavoy plants found on Batan Island were previously brought either from Sabtang or Itbayat, which isands are the natural habitat of this very expensive palm tree.

By the way, the difference between the loureirii varieties and hanceana varieties is the size of the trunk.  The loureirii has thinner trunk, similar to the trunk of an areca palm trree, and the hanceana has larger trunk (left pix).  

Couldn't resist this scene.  These days, this scene is very common in all places in the country.  These are laborers paid daily out of PDF  releases during this time of elections.  There really is no need to clean this part of the national road, but people must have money prior to elections (some believe this is a form of vote-buying).  They will not be laborers anymore immediately after elections.

The now-famous Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana.  It has improved as it has become popular among visitors from outside of Batanes.

The marker upon entry into the town of Uyugan in the southern point of Batan Island.  This town faces the Pacific Ocean.

Road on the slopes of the hill toward Ivana from Uyugan.  To the left is the rocky beach facing the Pacific Ocean.

View from Uyugan facing the southern tip of Sabtang Island (located westward).

Back in Basco.  This is an arius tree planted fronting the NFA Warehouse near the Basco Wharf.  It has been trimmed like a cement post.

In Japanese, su desu ka?

This balete tree, locally called vadite is old.  It's still of similar height when I left Basco in 1963, but the arial roots were not there then. 

This is the shingle urchin (Colobocentrotus atratus), also known as the helmet urchin.  It is present in Batanes.  Among the Ivatans, this urchin, called unot, is a delicacy and could only be gathered during low tide at full moon.  It's delicious when eaten raw.  The yellow-orange mass is also called roe, or the egg mass of the edible sea urchin.

Jegs strtolling on the black beech near the Basco Wharf on the day before we left Batanes.  She'll be going back to complete the research she's doing there in connection with her project of helping Batanes develop an Ecotourism Master Plan.

There are still more.  Watch out for them.

Till the next trip to Batanes in May.

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