I went to Batanes for a three-day business engagement and was blown away - much more than my five senses could take. In those three days I logged so many first-time experiences. But what struck me the most is the Ivatan ethos: honest, spiritual, and very, very resilient. A testament to how honest they are is the unmanned sari-sari store near Ivana port. Their spirituality on the other hand is evidenced in the way they greet - typically invoking God, speaking of blessings towards another. An example is the way they say hello: "Kapian ka pa nu dius," which is "May God be good to you." If you want to say thanks, the Ivatan way is "Dius mamajes," meaning " God will repay your kindness." Even the Ivatan version of the quintessential Filipino "Tao po," excudes spirituality. They call out, "Dius?" instead of "tao."
I first heard of the Ivatan resilience in my climatology class back in college where my professor discussed how they have managed to survive countless typhoons through adaptive mechanisms. In the evening of March 9 under a cloudless sky while snacking on kamote fries, I first heard their stories. Good thing we didn't have any lights, else my hosts would have seen my not-too-pleasant expressions: dropped jaw from shock, teary eyed from inspiring events, and at one point furrowed eyebrows and clenched teeth at what they go through when tourists arrive. The Ivatans have years and years of experience when it comes to withstanding typhoons and surviving food shortages, especially when ships bearing supplies fail to dock. They built stone houses to protect them from storms; planted dukay, wakay, and mais to combat hunger; brought their kin in idjang (natural fortress) when unfriendly forces attacked.
I woke up early in the morning to observe how they go about their day until the time the camera-toting bunch left. I felt sad for the Ivatans, more so for the visitors, who in my opinion, were shortchanged. In an hour, they could have learned more about the Ivatans' strength of character, and of their stone houses. They could have experienced more of the village's unique and culturally rich life. They could have gained more insights while being immersed in Ivatan language and music.
On a final note: Batanes indeed inspires. Even this self-confessed non-writer may have inherited my parents' writing genes after all.
For a more rich and enhancing experience in Batanes, check out the Spirit of Batanes Disovery tour offered by Ecotourism Philippines.