Who is the Tarlaqueno Traveler?

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I'm just one ordinary Tarlaqueno who loves to travel and travel and travel and revel in God's wonderful creation. Through this blog, I get to share my travel experiences with everyone.

Fulfilling Childhood Dreams of Honesty and All Other Good Things

The author at Honesty Coffee Shop

          Once in our childhood we all dreamed of a few distinctive things that we wanted to achieve when we grow up. I dreamed of studying in Manila (I was born and raised in Tarlac); I dreamed of seeing tourist spots that I only saw in my elementary textbooks; I dreamed of driving my own car. Fortunately, all of these things unfolded into reality… one dream at a time. But there was one simple childhood dream I had when I was fourteen – fourteen years ago – that I could visibly remember: to be able to visit the famous Honesty Store in Batanes. Back then I really didn’t care what Batanes looked like, all I was interested in was that little shop that I had learned about from a local TV program. I was intrigued at how honesty could still be upheld strictly and wanted to witness that myself.

Batanes - a tranquil paradise

          After more than a decade, I found myself engaged in backpacking, and still, that dream visit to Honesty Store was still in my mind. The only thing that hindered me from going to Batanes, like what most backpackers worry about, was the budget. The usual Php15,000-25,000 cost for a three-to-four-day travel (based on research) was too steep for someone like me who travels on a meager four-digit budget, so I had to pass for a couple of years. But on the summer of 2013, I finally decided to book a trip to Basco, armed with the desire of making my trip to Batanes my grandest local trip ever. And boy did I have to sacrifice a lot just to make it happen, having to cancel five already-booked trips just to be able to save money for this most coveted escapade. And even before I could proceed, I had an argument with my mom, who didn’t want me to push through with my travel. So on the 26th of July 2013, I was torn between pursuing my childhood dream and obeying my mom – but I guess you can tell which one prevailed.

Racuh a Payaman, or the so-called Marlboro Country of Batanes

          With a heavy heart and quite a guilty spirit, I left home and headed to the airport. Upon arriving in Basco, I met my housemates-cum-travel companions for the next 4 days: a heartbroken Cebuana, a globe-trotting foodie, a selfie queen, and an articulate tour guide. Along the way, I also made friends with a retired policewoman from Tondo and an accomplished businessman. I must say that these people were the best travel buddies I had in my entire travel life.

Goofing around with a traveler I just met :)

Clockwise from top left: All smiles with Ivatan kids; A grandson of the owner of the House of Dakay, the oldest surviving stone house in Batanes; Newfound friends in my short journey

          With wonderful new acquaintances, exploring Batanes was a delight. Together, we got to enjoy a traditional Ivatan feast – for free, attend a traditional wedding ceremony, lounge at the cheapest infinity pool in the planet while overlooking the cerulean sea, stroll and cycle along vast rolling hills along with free-roaming cattle, see double rainbows beside the lovely Mt. Iraya, eat a pound of lobsters – for the price of fastfood chicken, try a kanayi (a native vest) on, and walk along the narrow roads with old stone houses lined up on both sides.

Clockwise from left: Lovely infinity pool at Racuh a Idi in Mahatao; riding a bike and chasing the sunset at Vayang Rolling Hills; Old stone houses in Chavayan
Clockwise from top left: Feasting on Ivatan cuisine; a local passing by an art gallery in Basco; the winding coastal road in Mahatao

          Out of all the good things I have experienced in Batanes, seeing Honesty Store, which I discovered is officially named “Honesty Coffee Shop,” face to face was the one that gave me so much joy. “At last”, I said to myself, “another dream was realized”. As I stood in front of that famous landmark, it dawned on me that it was all but a simple, dusty, traditional sari-sari (variety) store – there was nothing remarkable about its appearance. It only had few items to offer: an assortment of snacks and several souvenir items. However, the fact that no one was manning the shop was a marvel in itself. I entered, bought a bottle of distilled water, and got out satisfied because I knew I had again fulfilled another dream. As I walked away towards the nearby Ivana port, I realized it was not just about seeing the store that brought a certain joy in my heart, but what it clearly says about the locals, the Ivatans. That store is a depiction of the values of the local people of Batanes, and this never fails to warm my heart every time I remember it.

Clockwise from left: Wearing a kanayi, a native vest; participating in a wedding dance; food bonding with the locals and visitors

          More than the breathtaking sights that the province has to offer, Batanes’ asset is its people—genuine people who are very honest, generous, polite and hospitable. They are people who do not take advantage of visitors to earn double. I saw how a lot of households apply the honesty concept in their home-based stores, never worrying about incurring losses. I saw how disciplined motorists were despite the narrowness of what they consider “national roads.” I am amazed that people are very productive despite the lack of advances in technology. I am in awe of how locals never failed to greet visitors “good morning” whenever they encountered one. Even in my profession as a teacher for five years now, I don’t remember being greeted  “good morning” by my students more than I was greeted by the locals there. I am simply amazed to know that a lot of the locals do not think about living someplace else than in this tranquil paradise.

If you want to know how beautiful Ivatans are inside and out,  just look around.

          Indeed, my Batanes trip was unlike any other. I used to travel with the main goal of photographing and featuring sights. But this trip was different; it made me appreciate people more. This trip allowed me to come to know of a place where one can feel safe any time of day, away from the worries and dangers of our present time. I have found a place where the goodness of its people outweighs the goodness of any of its tourist attractions. This trip made me believe again that there still exists a place where there is genuine happiness despite living in simplicity, where honesty is apparently not a lonely word at all, and where all good things don’t really come to an end. 


The famous Ahau Arch in Nakabuang Beach, Sabtang Island

Stunning sunset in Basco
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This article is my entry to Wego Philippines' Blogging Contest with the theme "Your Life-Changing Travel Story." If this post inspired you or made you happy in any way, please check out Wego's Facebook Page, like their page then like or share my entry. To view my entry, click here. Thanks! :) 

15 comments:

  1. That's what I noticed, too, the Ivatans always greet friends and neighbors :)

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    1. Really warms the heart, right? You will forget that you are actually just a visitor. :)

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    2. Friends, neighbors, strangers! :)

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  2. This great Post!! ganda ng saturation ng photos

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sir Jonathan! I've read your entry and you've got some great realizations out of your travels. It's good that we get opportunities to share about our experiences (and occasionally stand a chance at winning prizes, too! haha). God bless!

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  3. *sigh* i wish i could see the honesty store too...

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  4. *books flight to Batanes*

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  5. So beautiful!.....truly, Batanes is a paradise worth visiting....

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    Replies
    1. Sobrang worth visiting po. Bring your entire family and it'll surely be your perfect family getaway. :)

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  6. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.

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  7. Awesome place here...Nice to take some time and visit these places...

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    ReplyDelete

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