Olsim: Breathtaking Batanes

I RENTED a bike and roamed around the beautiful island of Batan – Batanes Province’s largest island. At 6 p.m., I climbed my way up to the Naidi Hill Lighthouse to view the sunset – it was remarkable, reminiscent of the European coasts I see only in magazines and TV shows. There is only one word to describe the experience: “Breathtaking.”

Before Batanes became part of many travelers’ bucket lists, the province was mostly portrayed by Manila-centric educational books as just some poor typhoon-battered group of islands north of Luzon.

After pictures of its beautiful landscapes and seascapes made their way to the social media, hundreds of visitors became thousands, and the two flights a day became seven. The Ivatans, or the people of Batanes, resilient to the many challenges and natural forces for centuries, is now confronting the most threatening of them all: Mass tourism.

Since our current administration’s thrust for tourism is simply “not to become the next Boracay.” The tourism department’s deep-rooted perspective on promoting tourist sites based on their arrivals should be re-examined.

Anticipating the double-edged impact of tourism, the local governments of Batanes advocate for the “Low Volume, High Value Concept” in tourism. Meaning they will rather have 100 tourists who are willing to spend 10,000 each than to have 1,000 who will only spend 100. The concept addresses the ill-effects of uncontrolled tourism – since more people translates to more wastes, and more competition to the community’s limited resources.

In my opinion, the people of Batanes have the most progressive outlook about development in the country. Unlike leaders who understand development as GDPs, high-rise buildings and more businesses, the Ivatans, see development as the overall advancement of its people as they put more premiums on social relationships and cultural heritage rather than in money-centered progress. In the words of a resident “Oo, marami kang pera, pero wala ka namang kaibigan...ano yun?”

For the Ivatans, their cultural heritage is a delicate and valuable asset that requires careful attention and protection. Such perspective is evident in their environmental management and in the application of their rights, not only as members of the community, but more importantly as indigenous peoples who are also part of their natural environment.

With what I’ve learned from their leaders and advocates, Batanes will definitely make a firm stand to protect what they have, so that their children can have something to inherit.

As to my short visit to the country’s treasure islands, I will miss chasing the lighthouses, visiting the stone houses that sing histories, dipping in the clear and playful waters of mystic coves, and simply being with their brilliant and hardworking people.

As I walk barefoot to feel the earth around the sleepy peaceful main town which appears to be guarded by Mt. Iraya, I yearn for Itvayat and Sabtang, of course, Batan.

I pray that if there is such a thing as a second life, I will be an Ivatan who spends afternoons in the islands’ rolling hills and proud cliffs to catch the breathtaking sunsets.


I’m truly fortunate to have been part of the training on Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism by the Local Governance and Community Development Initiatives (LGCDI) an organization which equips advocates and public managers/leaders in the different skills and areas needed for efficient public administration and community development.

We also wish to thank Batanes’ bright and generous leaders; Governor Marilou Cayco and Basco Mayor Anastacia Viola, together with their active officials and implementing officers.

We wish to express our gratitude for enlightening us about the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism, and of course, for reminding us about the value of cultural heritage in the over-all quality of the community’s lives. Dios Mamajes!


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