Tag Archive: Ivatan

Ivatan cuisine is as fresh and healthy as it gets. Most visitors would be eager to feast on freshly-caught lobsters and the coconut crabs (called “tatus”) indigenous to the place, but there’s really more beyond these coveted seafoods.


coconut crabs are called “tatus”


lobster galore1

Priced at 600 pesos a kilo (US$15/kg), I can eat those lobsters daily! As it turned out though, there were more of the other dishes which were repeatedly served during our stay in Batanes. Not that I don’t like them, but a little variety could have helped. Like I would have welcomed fish sinigang, calamares and fish kilawin while I was there. 😉




AND FISH. Grilled, fried or sweet and sour? I like mine sinigang!

But I do miss the lumot (seaweed) soup, pako (fiddlehead fern) salad, “Venes” or dried gabi (like “laing” but not really) and Uvud balls (minced banana pith cooked with fish flakes and minced pork). The last one seems to be the national dish of Batanes 😉 along with the luñis — the Ivatan adobo cooked in salt rather than vinegar and soy sauce — as they were served in nearly all buffet meals we’ve had during our stay.


Pako Salad. Made from fiddlehead fern.


uvud ng sarap!

When we visited the village of Savidug (named after a tree otherwise called “talisay” elsewhere) in Sabtang Island, our guide pointed out a Kabaya (breadfruit) tree to us. The Kabaya leaves are used as plates and may even be folded to scoop soup! Ingenuity at its best. Makes for a great picnic!


Now, that’s a spoon!


Good for scooping!

I didn’t see any rice paddies in Batanes. Nor fruit trees other than bananas. For sure, there are sweet potatoes and yam. We were served rice with turmeric, freshly harvested coconuts and the sweetest camote (sweet potato). There aren’t too many dessert choices and while I enjoyed the camote cue and “bukayo”, I’d soon grow tired of it if I had it all too often. For sure, I’d know what to bring the next time I visit Batanes!


“Lunis” or ivatan adobo.


Do we have to make a choice?

(Thank you, Chikie and Pinky for some of the food photos!)


Love it. Got it! Rogers (yes, with an S) is such an adorable tour guide. We had him for 4 days and there was simply no chance of any mind-numbing boredom with this Ivatan. Before this trip, I only have 2 personal friends who are Ivatans. Rogers makes 3. Dan, his assistant, makes 4.


Rogers With An “S”. That’s what he’s called!



Rogers loves punctuating his statements with “Got it?” that we all too soon adopted it as the group’s tag line. When anyone asks anything even vaguely hinting of a complaint (like why can’t we buy coconut crabs to take home?), Rogers is quick to plead to spare him of any misdirected protest (“Please don’t get mad at me…..”) and accordingly ends his statement with “I love you”. Once, there was this Caucasian who approached him and I overheard Rogers bidding him farewell and the perfunctory “I love you, Sir”. I waited for the man’s reaction, but he must have gotten used to Rogers (as we were, after only 24 hours) that the mechanical endearment was accepted without much fanfare.




And that’s Rogers’ able assistant……..DAN. No “S”



His assistant, Dan — that’s Dan in green shirt atop the jeepney! — is just as gracious but not given to the same endearments. I’d give him a few years before saying “I love you’s” without blushing. 😉 Much like Rogers, Dan is quite adept with cameras too. SLRs, P&S, iPhone or iPad cams. I learned they also serve as guides in many Photo Safaris and Photography Workshops conducted in Batanes. Rogers said they learned by listening to the lectures and simply watching the pros. No wonder they know the best angles and photo spots.




Welcome to Batanes….. sung by these friendly Ivatan students.


Choir of the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao singing ” We Welcome You to Batanes”. So heartwarming!






When we visited the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao, we spotted the Parish Priest standing by the 2nd floor window. He came down to welcome us just as the church choir sang a Welcome to Batanes song for us. Just as beautiful was the song number by Ivatan students who sang for us after our dinner at the Lighthouse overlooking Basco Bay. So heartwarming!




The hardworking Ivatans in action. Sabtang Port.


The Old Man and His Carabao. Sabtang Island, Batanes, Philippines.



Being in Batanes and with these hospitable Ivatans is a refreshing experience. From the hardworking men at the Sabtang Port to the old man with his carabao to the old lady by the road. Some of us even borrowed bicycles from smiling children who took our hands to touch their foreheads as a show of respect. It’s nice to be OLD here in Batanes where respect for elders is still fashionable!




Buko or Young Coconuts For Sale.


The Old Ivatan lady by the road. Sabtang Island, Batanes. Philippines.



Some skeptics think Honesty Cafe is really just all-hype. This untended store allows you to take whatever you like and simply deposit your payment in a box. Nothing can be simpler than that. I would love to retell this story to such skeptics about how one of us lost his room key, cell phone and eyeglasses in Rakuh a Payaman a.k.a. Marlboro Country. We already boarded our jeepney, well on our way to another destination, when my friend missed his stuff. Our Tour Guide Rogers directed his assistant Dan to take over while he mounted a bike to motor back to Marlboro Country. No luck. After all it was near sunset by then, so Rogers summoned some of his friends to continue the search as we were leaving early the next morning. No high hopes they’d be found.




You make the Ivatans proud. And so with the rest of the Filipinos. Batanes. Philippines.



Hey, skeptics. See that photo above? Between Rogers and my friend Tony is this fine young Ivatan lad who found Tony’s cellphone, eyeglasses and room key. He motored all the way from Rakuh a Payaman to the airport where we were getting ready to board for our homeward flight. He was in a hurry to leave after returning Tony’s stuff that Rogers had to hold him for this posterity shot. Makes us all admire this young Ivatan, but truly, we weren’t surprised at all about Ivatan honesty and admirable character. How about you? Were you surprised? Love it? Got it?

Call it Batanes Fever. Or Ivatan Addiction. Whatever. But I’ve been home for 2 days now and all I’ve done is review and upload our photos from the smallest, northernmost island province of the Philippines. Wrote the first of my Batanes blog series yesterday but was stumped when I kept “losing” my draft midway through the blog. I’m not one to do a “prelim” — I simply write away and click that tab which says “Publish”. So I gave up after repeating myself 3 times — the temper got in the way, and I knew I just lost the motivation to write.





Waiting for Sunset On a Typical Day in Batanes



This very moment, I’m blogging using my iPhone. And using the stored photos taken by this phone which saved my day when my Canon G12 died in Batanes. Between these and those snapshots from my iPad Mini, I’m fine. Sad, but not exactly bothered by my malfunctioning G12. Funny how the Ivatan simplicity, warmth and hospitality along with the natural and rugged beauty of the island can weave magic into our lives. I started writing this to capture how I feel at the moment. If you’re looking for travel tips, directions and suggested itineraries, skip this post and read my other blogs. This one’s written by me. For me.




The Mahatao Lighthouse. Surely, a Batanes icon.



I used to dream my family has a truffle farm in Périgord. That stopped on my first night in Batanes. The music from the waves rushing to shore lulled me to sleep. I could have written down my sentiments then, but I needed to prep myself for next morning’s falowa boat ride to Sabtang. Pacific Ocean meeting the South China Sea (or should I say West Philippine Sea) sounds threatening but the guide assured us of the Ivatan boating skills. I believed that lock, stock and barrel. There’s something about the Ivatan culture that renders these friendly, hospitable people quite a smart “breed” of Filipinos. I suspect the isolation made them so self-sufficient, self-reliant, respectful of nature, and smart.




The Falowa boat ride from Ivana Port in Batan Island to Sabtang Island took 45 minutes. Not a bad ride. But the return trip was something else.



I miss the sunsets — which I viewed daily — the ocean views, the verdant rolling hills, the lobsters, the coconut crabs, the Ivatan culture. Many times, some youngster grabbed my hand to touch his forehead. A very Filipino tradition to show respect for elders, now seemingly lost in the chaos of the metropolis. I am touched that an 86 year old Ivatan lady from the oldest stone house called House of Dakay survives on alms and help from neighbors and visitors like us. I am very impressed that an Honesty Cafe exists in Batanes and that many homes remain unlocked throughout the day and night. The Ivatans make us fellow Filipinos proud of this old tradition and culture of honesty, self-reliance, simplicity, industry, dignity as a people.




Nakabuang Beach is truly nakaka-buang sa ganda. The rock formations and the monastic rhythm of the rushing waves encourage peeps to take a dip, even if they are NOT dressed (or undressed?) for it.



Many planned visits to Batanes would focus on God’s magnificent creations. Van Gogh-wannabes and photography enthusiasts would delight in Nature’s painting on the sky, find melody in the howling winds and feel enthralled in the rhythmic slapping of the waves against the rocks. In my book, the must-experience lies in the genuine hospitality and dignity of the hardworking Ivatans and their respect for Nature. Their isolation taught them self-reliance and their faith in God made them respect Nature and seek God’s mercy. Everyone with a drop of Filipino blood can learn well from that.




This sunset shot using my iPhone could have been better. But it’s a good memory catcher. Waiting by the shore for the sun to set is ma’velous! Esp if there’s a good dinner waiting across the street 😉



Truly, Paradise does not rest on panoramic vistas alone. It lives in the hearts of the people. Nurtured through the centuries. DIOS MAMAJES! Colloquially, it means “Thank you”. Literally? It means GOD GIVES BACK.



Didn’t I say it’s the northernmost tip of the Philippines? Nearer to Taiwan (less than 200 kms) than Mainland Philippines.