, DECEMBER 19, 2007  (STAR) There is a place steeped in centuries of lore and magic; where two oceans converge to give travelers an intoxicating rush; where a seasonal phenomenon lets locals experience winter in the tropics; and where the untamed beauty of the landscape is etched by the cycles of time.

The incredible thing is that this place exists right here in our backyard — or more specifically, in our attic.

At the northern tip of the Philippines lies an island beyond anything geographically familiar to Filipinos: Batanes.

Meet the Ivatans

Contrary to popular belief, the island is neither isolated nor remote. And neither is it ravaged by typhoons. In fact, Batanes, just like any other province in the Philippines, has 24-hour electricity, cable TV, a strong cellular signal and sustained Internet connection. Perhaps the only difference lies in the fact that amid all this, the Ivatans (as Batanes locals are called) stay true to their rich culture, allowing them to maintain their heritage in the thick of modernity and commercialism.

Their remarkable way of life is evident in every aspect of the island — from the rustic, stone homes, to the boats that flank their shores, to the warm and hospitable way they welcome tourists. An Honesty Store can even be found in Batanes, where the shop remains unwatched, yet locals still pay for their purchases by leaving the money on the counter.

Simple Food is Good Food

Despite being rich in natural resources, Batanes surprisingly offers easy-to-cook cuisine that is as simple as it is sumptuous. Exotic dishes such as the tatus (coconut crab) and the uvud (steamed fish-and-meat ball wrapped in banana stalk pith) as well as the lunvis (Batanes’ version of the classic adobo) are the province’s premier delicacies. These are best enjoyed with “yellow rice,” which is rice cooked with ginger or turmeric and served on leaves of an indigenous tree called the kabaya. If you happen to pass by the wet market, make sure to take a bundle of the local garlic home, which is the province’s leading export product and sample a unique variety of the white ube (yam).

No Ivatan celebration is complete without the palek or sugar-cane wine, which is produced by having a carabao pull on a giant “grinder” that extracts the juice from sugarcane. Though the process sounds a little old-fashioned, the rich and flavorful wine extract will leave you with a pleasant smile throughout the evening.

Sights to See

The main island where Basco is located offers lush views of Batanes’ impressive landscape. To savor the beauty of the island’s wave-cut cliffs and majestic waters, visit the Chawa Viewdeck. One hundred fifty-five steps lead tourists to a closer glimpse of the cobalt sea, where they can try their hand at fishing, crabbing and fern gathering.

In addition, the island’s rich history shines with attractions that prove to be a big draw for tourists such as the Marlboro Country, the stone houses, the Chavayan Church and the Basco Lighthouse, which has not only withstood the test of time but of nature as well. An hour’s boat ride to the neighboring island of Sabtang will take you to the renowned “Ghost Town” of Sitio Songsong; or you can indulge in the panoramic views offered by the Sabtang Lighthouse.

From Island to Film

The immaculate beauty of Batanes even served as the inspiration for young indie-director Adolf Alix Jr., who shot a short film about the relationship of an Ivatan family to their goat in Kadin.

A few months after the film’s release, Ignite Media Inc.’s Dave Hukom joined Alix to co-direct Batanes, a film written by Arah Badayos. The movie is about a young Filipina (Iza Calzado) and a Taiwanese fisherman (Ken Zhu of Taiwanese boy band F4) and how the waters of Batanes test their relationship.

Recently, the stars of the film were adopted as honorary Ivatans by Batanes locals, alongside Jack Po, the executive vice president of Asian Spirit — a company that contributed largely to the completion of the film by offering its airline service to the stars and crew of the movie that’s immortalizes Batanes onscreen.

Getting There

Today, experiencing a piece of paradise is as easy as booking the next flight to Batanes. As the country’s premier adventure airline, Asian Spirit is the only airline that offers regular flights, five times a week, to Basco Batanes onboard their DASH7 planes or BAE jets. For flight schedules, contact 02-855-3333 or visit

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved