April 4, 2018. Clark, Pampanga. “Safe travels and may you find your Ikabud (Kapampangan dialect which means Only You),” Abby Garcia, Branch Moderator of Pampanga Lingkod ng Panginoon and her friend Kat Ching sent us well wishes before our trip to Batanes, northernmost province of the Philippines.
April 5, 2018. Basco, Batanes. Upon arrival at the airport, the tourism staff gave us an orientation and taught us an Ivatan phrase — Dios Mamajes, which means Thank You.
Thrilled, we started exploring North Basco through the “tricy”.
The structures in the typhoon-prone area were mostly built on rocks.
The sceneries from the hills were breathtaking.
At the Basco Lighthouse, we noticed a group of tourists led by Fr. Orbos praying the rosary as they faced the sunset. We joined them as prayers were offered for the dearly departed loved ones, the families left at home, and thanksgiving for blessings received including the present moment. The prayer session ended with a community singing of the song “What a wonderful world.” Then everyone greeted one another with smiles and it felt like we were in a pilgrimage to the holy land.
Next day, we took a 3-hour boat ride to Itbayat, northernmost inhabited part of Batanes.
Nearing the port, the cliff surrounding the island welcomed us.
After a short orientation, we began the trek to the Torongan Cave.
On our way, we passed by this ancient tomb made of black corals.
The view from the Torongan Hill was amazing.
The cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean was a luxury.
Inside the Torongan Cave with its natural shade, the pacific cool breeze refreshed us bountifully.
Thereafter, we went to the viewdeck to meet the sunset. There, three Itbayat women graciously invited us for some peanuts. We joined them in the munching while listening to relaxing country music and relishing the scent of sweet fresh flowers surrounding the place. Oh what a simple joy!
“Dios Mamajes!” We said to them as we bid farewell.
Next day, April 7, Saturday. Planning to continue exploring South Batanes, we packed up for the scheduled boat trip to Basco, but the locals informed us, “Due to the weather condition, all boat rides are cancelled. The next trip to Basco will be on Monday, but, there is a possibility that the Philippine Airforce will drop off the governor today and you can hitch a ride back to Basco. Just pray.”
STRANDED? JUST PRAY.
And pray we did.
Yet inspite of the cloudy skies and windy cold breeze, Nanay Cano, 78 years old Itbayatan, graciously toured us around the village and we found delight in the vernacular houses made of rocks and Cogon grass as well as in the interesting histories she shared.
The locals seemed used to stranded tourists around the place. Upon learning that we were stranded, they told us, “Huwag kayong malungkot. Madali lang to dahil tag-init na. (Don’t be sad. This won’t last long because summer is here.)”
It seemed that their genuine sympathy for stranded tourists came out naturally because of their distinct sense of Community. They help one another progress as they preserve their cultural heritage.
“No plane today. Probably, the Philippine Airforce will come tomorrow. Just continue praying.” Nanay Cano told us. So we decided to cap the day with a karaoke session together with the locals.
Next day, Sunday, we heard the first mass and had the chance to have a photo taken with the parish priest.
After the mass, news came that the Philippine Airforce will be landing soon. Nanay Cano immediately hailed a tricy and we went straight to the airport.
At the airport, Nanay Cano asked the locals if they were waiting for the plane going to Basco, then they responded, “The plane going to Basco already left. The one coming now will go directly to Manila.”
TO LEAVE OR TO STAY
And so we were faced with two options: 1) Leave Itbayat, forgo our plans to explore South Batanes and hitch the flight to Manila, or 2) Stay for tomorrow’s boat ride to Basco and continue exploring South Batanes.
Looking at the cloudy skies, we remembered the uncertainty of the PAG-ASA weather forecast in Itbayat. So upon arrival of the Philippine Airforce, we chose the first option.
In Manila, we rode a bus to Batangas where soul sisters Haidi Mejias and RM Aguado welcomed us and the adventure continued…
So did I find my Ikabud?
Oh I sure did! He was there all along in the presence of: the locals who guided us in our tours and comforted us when we got stranded, the Philippine Airforce which allowed us to hitch a safe flight to Manila, the beautiful sceneries, refreshing cool breeze and the sweet scent of flowers, the tourists praying while relishing the sunset, the hospitality of soul sisters in Pampanga and Batangas which enabled us to share laughter heartily, and the patience, initiative and prayerfulness of my pastoral leader and soul sister, Sarah Khu which made the travel worthwhile.
To my Ikabud Hesu Kristo, Dios Mamajes!
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. For God’s Greater Glory!