BEDAZZLED BY BATANES
MANILA, FEBRUARY 14, 2009 (STAR) FROM THE HEART By Gina Lopez - Fundacion Pacita was built in the memory of Pacita Abad. Each room has a spectacular view of the sea. Upon arriving at the airport, the effect on me is immediate — physically. Batanes is different: from the stone facade of the airport to the wood in the banyo, to the carless and spotless streets, the rolling hills, the simplicity of its people — the place is different.
Its impact on me goes beyond the physical. It is the energy of the place. Initially I feel its stillness but as I find my own stillness and dive into its depth, the place begins to feel profoundly, magnificently nurturing.
Energy-wise, it is uncluttered and pure. Here, my soul can just be. Here, my spirit is held.
LAND WITHOUT POVERTY
In Batanes, I’m told, there is no hunger. I would go so far as to suggest that the people here experience a quality of life that surpasses the elite subdivisions of Makati. For the air is not only fresh, it is full of life.
I stayed at Fundacion Pacita — a beautiful stone building. Each room has a gorgeous view. Imagine living in isolated splendor and having the comfort of hot showers and people there to serve you. My particular room had originally been used for yoga classes. I was quite pleased when my son Roberto remarked, “Mom, I like your room better. It’s more enlightened.” Hmmmm… so he can feel energy. The place had an immediate effect on him; he wanted to be alone there, which I think is healthy.
There are artistic expressions of Pacita Abad all over the place from the centerpiece in the reception area to the mural in the dining room depicting the repression of the Marcos era, even down to the cups and saucers used for tea.
The place of Butch Abad is spectacular: situated on a hilltop surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, flanked by rolling hills and dotted with peacefully grazing cattle. Butch as congressman? That isn’t half of what he is. Try this on for size: landscaper, gardener, designer of buildings and furniture. I loved hearing stories of his family over dinner. How his father was the first governor, then congressman. And how his mother married at the age of 15 and bore 14 children! How he would swim during his school lunch break. I can well understand how difficult it must have been to adjust to the regimented life in Ateneo and stifling claustrophobia of Manila.
Butch’s story is one for the books: six months in prison during the Marcos years with 120 inmates in each cell. Tasteless food and water that flows for only an hour twice a day!
Reflecting on that, my perception is that his family and the land he was brought up in and the culture of his childhood have something to do with his strength and his depth. The culture is so egalitarian I was very much surprised to find out that one of the people serving us was a vice mayor! Young, and obviously very humble, he impressed me.
The education system here obviously works. Roger, our guide, is a fisherman who speaks flawless English and Ed, our other guide, was educated all his life in Batanes and also spoke English well. I was told the student-teacher ratio is 12 to 1 and oftentimes the school ratio is 20 to 1!
I had a wonderful, wonderful time and what we did was so simple: biking, eating native almonds from seeds on the ground, eating suha to quench our thirst, climbing hills, trying to ride a carabao, eating at the beach, or just chilling out on our last day.
I need to make special mention of the biking here. The unique and refreshing feature of Batanes is that there are hardly any cars. In the four days I was there I saw only two trucks. Some bikes and motorbikes. That was it. But the roads were wonderful and well-maintained, which means we got to bike amid splendid scenery: awesome rock formations, roaring seas, white beaches, agricultural fields, mountains without any pollution at all.
I was born and brought up in Makati and now living in Quezon City, and to see such open roads and scenery was a real treat, many, many times over.
Batanes reminds me a little of Baguio in the ‘60s where I would spend my summer vacations as a child. The Baguio of my childhood, though, is now sadly gone. I fervently hope the same fate does not befall this glorious gift of God to our country. Batanes has much to give us, and to teach us.
Over dinner Butch cited three features which are the foundation stones of the province: environmental integrity, richness of cultural heritage and resilience of social institutions.
“Wow,” I remarked. “Those could very well be the foundation stones of our country!”
More than anything else, what touched me was the effect of Batanes on my inner space. My meditations were deep and nourishing. Even the simple act of walking — feeling the strong gusts of wind, feeling the energy of the place — did something to me.
Batanes could be the Philippines’ haven of the divine.
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For more information and bookings call Myla Pisig, booking coordinator for Batanes, at (0917)7958153. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fundacionpacita.ph
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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