(Note: This is an entry to SEAIR’s Batanes Winter Bloggers’ Tour Contest)
A Trip To Batanes: A Dream Come True
Having been born and lived in Ilocos Norte and stayed for almost three years in Cagayan Province when I was in High School, I have heard already about the northern most province of the Philippine archipelago which is called the Batanes Group of Islands. I would hear stories about the place and its people from my father who was then a Principal in one of the Agricultural Schools in Cagayan and later as a Regional Supervisor of the Department of Education. He would always say nice things about the place and its people. With his stories, I would believe that he had been on those islands of Batanes in connection with his job then.
As I grew older in my primary and secondary school days, Batanes had always been mentioned in my social studies/history classes and in the news and I could still recall some of them—the province is the primary target or place where invaders would land if the country thinks that the Chinese Armed Forces will be the aggressor. Historians would support this scenario as the Japanese had done this kind of strategy as they landed first on the airstrip in Batanes before finally staging their aerial attacks to the US-Philippine Air Force assets at Clark Air Base on the early morning of December 8, 1941; due to its location near the island of Taiwan, I’ve heard in the news about our Filipino fishermen landing and getting lost on their seashores during typhoons; and on the other hand, the news would also the source of reports of “human cargo” and other goods being smuggled to the country through the shores and “airstrips” of the province. Some things about Batanes are good but there are also bad things about the province that would be known through the media which is true in all the provinces.
Batanes has again returned to my consciousness when a friend of mine invited me to join him watch a local movie which was filmed entirely in the province. I was amazed with the scenery of the place as it made a nice background and setting for the story. The local movie was an adaptation of the novel “The Wuthering Heights” and since I knew the plot of the story already, I concentrated and focused my eyes not on the characters or actors/actresses of the movie but more on the background—the mountains, the sea and the waves on the shores, the old stone houses, the green pastures of vast lands on the island, and the simplicity of living in the place. I will never forget those nice places of the island which I always associate with the movie.
Every time there is a tropical depression or typhoon on the weather forecast, Batanes is always mentioned and it is becoming the reference point for typhoons’ direction and route as it approach and pass through the country. My father would always say that the people and their way of living have already adapted to the fury and destruction that typhoons would inflict to the community and its people. It is for this reason that the houses in the islands are made of stones and rocks that are available on the island. Even the crops and plants that are cultivated in the island should be sturdy and avoid the destructions brought about by the typhoons that visit the island. It is not surprising that more roots crops are cultivated and distinct foods and cuisine preparations are very specific and original on the said islands. It would be nice to find out and personally taste the distinct foods and cuisine preparations on the island by visiting the place.
As a retired military officer, I had a chance to exchange conversation and experiences with my Philippine Navy counterparts. In their stories, they always mention their trips and lonely assignments on the islands of Batanes. I have the impression that our Philippine Navy ships, as part of their security measures to guard and secure our sea/naval boundaries, they have the chance to re-supply their naval stations/posts on the islands of Batanes. This means that Batanes is always a place where they could stop and find time to stay briefly and enjoy the place. My Philippine Navy friends and classmates speak positively about the place in terms of economics and financial gains which I think is very legal and honest. It is a part of their trip or enterprising acts of its navy personnel to bring goods to be sold to the people of the island in exchange for the cheap cost of cows in the place. Yes, they told me that there are so many cows in the islands and they are cheap. I hope that is still true up to this time or the Philippine Navy personnel have already consumed all the available cows in the pasture lands of Batanes. Maybe, this is one of the reasons why I have to visit the place and find out if the said practice is still being done up to this time. Or maybe not, it might be the other way around. I think the cows have grown in numbers since we only have a few operational Philippine Navy ships going around the archipelago! Visiting the place and asking the people living in these islands if the Philippine Navy is still visiting their province is the best way to prove if the cows have grown in numbers!
You might ask why this article/post is being published in a blog which is solely about running. Because I want to see Batanes for FREE! If this post will be selected as one of the winners in a writing contest for bloggers by the SEAIR judges, I have a chance to finally visit the place. Since this is sponsored by the only aircraft carrier servicing the island from Manila, I think my article will win one of the slots. Why is it that I am over confident about this? Because my FREE visit to the islands of Batanes is connected to a bigger PLAN!
At present, I am the President of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU), the National Sports Federation on Ultramarathon Running Events in the country. I am the Race Organizer and Race Director of the popular Bataan Death March (BDM) 102K & 160K Ultramarathon Race (a running event/race from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga and to Camp O’Donnell, Tarlac) whose 3rd Annual Staging will be held on March 5-6, 2011. Aside from the BDM 102 Race, I also organize and conduct ultramarathon events held outside the confines of Metro Manila. To name a few of the venues of our ultra road races, we did a 50-Kilometer run in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Tanay, Rizal; 70-Kilometer Run from Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte to Saud Beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte; 50-Kilometer Trail Run from Sta Juliana, Capas, Tarlac to the Crater Lake of Mt Pinatubo and back; and 50-kilometer Run from Tagaytay City to Nasugbu, Batangas. And soon, a 60-kilometer run from Kalibo City to Caticlan, Malay. And I am still searching for more scenic areas where I could conduct my ultra running events.
One of my plans for my next ultra running event to be scheduled next year is a run around the island of Batanes—hopefully, it will be a mixture of road and trail running event. Actually, the plan was suggested by a friend who have visited the island and it reinforced my personal plan to be realized. This writing contest is timely that finally my dream of reaching the place will be realized for FREE and at the same time plan for this ultra run race in the province.
This plan to bring a PAU ultra running event in Batanes will realize the visit and participation of at least 200 runners and with considerable entourage from their family members and friends as their support crew. For sure, this ultra running event will positively contribute the exposure of the island through “Sports Tourism”
The food/cuisine of Batanes; the cows; the scenery; the hospitality of the people; and foremost, the ultramarathon running event, are my reasons to visit and confirm the abovementioned stories and see the beauty of the province.
SEAIR will not fail me to make my dream come true!