It was Day 3 of our Batanes trip and we were scheduled for the South Batan tour. But while having coffee at Fundacion Pacita the previous day, our tour guide, Ryan Cardona (who looked a lot like Luis Manzano, sssh!), told us about a fishing ritual that was going to happen on our last tour day. We were all interested to attend the ritual and immerse ourselves with the local culture but there was one thing we had to consider: the ritual starts at 4 o’clock in the morning. Good thing we were all game. So, with little to no sleep (me), we hauled ourselves out of DDD Habitat at 3:30am and rode into total darkness to the shore where the ritual would take place.
Kapayvanuvanua, or “cleaning of the shore” in English, is the ritual done by fishermen in Diura, Mahatao at the start of the fishing season. They do this in order to avoid fishing accidents and to “invite” more fish to come to the fishing ground. And one of the main features of the ritual was the reading of pig’s liver by a shaman. But before this could be done, the shaman had to say a lot of incantations while slowly bleeding out the pig. And the pig really took its time in dying. It was all very traumatic, with the pig grunting and squealing the whole time while several grown men tried to restrain it. Meanwhile, several other men were passing around some palek, an Ivatan sugarcane wine. I only took a sip when it was passed to me. I couldn’t risk getting hyperacidity that early in the morning. Then suddenly, the shaman and the other men started a fire and used some leaves to scald the pig and later on scraped off its hair. I think the pig finally died at that point.
After some time, we were suddenly alerted that the shaman was already going to do the blessing ritual. He walked along the shore, dragging one of the pig’s legs while still chanting. Then he stopped and raised the leg a few times, all the while still chanting.
After that, we went back to where the rest of the people are. Then the shaman proceeded to read the pig’s liver. Whatever he read, I could not say. I could only hope the pig’s sufferings would give then plenty of catch.
Another part of the ritual was the grand eating party. The pig would be cooked (probably roasted) but it wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone. They also had to kill a calf to supplement the feast. We were all just eager to get away from THAT. I was thinking that if I had to watch a calf being slaughtered, then I just might really go vegetarian and that cannot be. So, we left the village people to find ourselves some breakfast.
After a breakfast of instant coffee and bread at a nearby sari-sari store, we made our way to the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao for Sunday mass. Our group apparently stood out because we were tourists and not in proper church attire. I also have to admit that I fought a losing battle the entire time: I slept through 90% of the mass. Well, for one thing, the mass was said in Ivatan and even if I have the whole ceremony memorized (in English or Tagalog), the vernacular still distracted me. Of course, we were all so very tired and we clearly lacked sleep so I wasn’t the only one who went through this. The priest was considerate enough to say the homily in Tagalog but really, I still nodded off during several parts of the sermon.
After mass, we headed south to start with our tour.
South Batan Tour
On the way back to Vatang Grill for lunch, we passed by the oldest house in the town of Ivana. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Building, being one of the few houses that survived the 1918 earthquake. There, we were able to meet Lola Ida (Florestida Estrella), 86 y.o., possibly the most photographed personality in Batanes.
We didn’t want to bother Lola Ida too much because she wasn’t feeling very well. So, we went on our way to the Vatang Grill for our delicious lunch while watching some Batanes documentaries.
After lunch, we went to the ever-famous Marlboro country where we had a grand time taking photos, particularly those jump shots that warmed us up against the cold and the light rain that started to fall when we arrived.
After Marlboro country, we went to have a peek at the Mahatao lighthouse.
Then en route to the Mahatao Chawa view deck, we took several other photos.
After that, we went to buy some pasalubong (me: six t-shirts for my family). Then we headed to Pension Ivatan for dinner.
Our last day in Batanes consisted of eating fried flying fish for breakfast, then walking to the airport – yes, the airport was a couple of blocks from the DDD Habitat – and doing our last hanging out in Batanes.
My long and tiring, but definitely fun, vacation was almost over and I was just happy that I experienced a lot during the trip. My new friends taught me some Arabic phrases, how to count in Arabic and how to say “I don’t know how to speak Arabic, let’s speak in English”. I got to ride a charter plane for the first time and go to one of the most coveted travel destinations of the country. I wish everyone could go there and experience everything that I experienced (yes, including the Amihan on top of the hills!).
But I don’t want everyone to go there at the same time. So, I am a bit worried that with Airphil’s cheaper direct-from-Manila flights, Batanes will transform into another commercial destination. I definitely wouldn’t want to go back there someday and see all the greenery replaced by houses of rich people who indiscriminately buy property and destroy nature. Plus, the psyche of the Ivatan people might change as well. Would the Mayor still give out his personal phone number? Would everyone still know everyone else? Would there still be zero crime rate? Would the Honesty Coffee Shop remain in business? A lot of changes are bound to happen and I’m sure some of them would also be for the better. But I wish the integrity of the Ivatan would be as tenacious as the traditional houses that they live in.
March 1-4, 2013
Summary of Expenses:
- P1200 van rental
- P1800 tour guide (P800 daily rate + P250/hr OT)
- P50/pax registration for the fishing ritual
- P230 breakfast (bread, instant coffee and hot chocolate )
- P30 some candy and cookies
- P1840 lunch
- P1100 pasalubong (mine only)
- P500 breakfast (rice, flying fish, coffee)
- P20/pax terminal fee