“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.” Henry David Thoreau
To my dear daughters,
It is Mother’s day today and as you might know, I celebrate it everyday with you even if you are all grown up. Today, I just want to write about the rewards of the simple life.
I could not help but prance around the sloping hills of Racuh-a-Payaman , twirling around and singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. Remember how we used to sing that song in the car as we travelled the long and winding road towards Baguio?
Yes, Baguio has a special place in our hearts because it is home to your dad. I could not help singing with the wind as it kept throwing my sun hat away to protect me. I felt the wind was telling me to let go of my fear of the sun’s heat and just feel the cool breeze. I did listen to the sound of the wind as it cools my face during lunch. Want to hear the pounding of the wind that afternoon?
My friends who were with me say it reminded them of the Irish landscape. One felt like crying with the majestic beauty. Another thought “I see God before me”. I was speechless. I thought the picture pretty hills was reminiscent of the English countryside without the Friesian cows and the sheeps grazing the pastures.
I sat down on the grass to get my bearings and just be awed. But your dad wouldn’t allow me to just sit down. You know how I fear heights …but your dad held my hand and said “you are going to regret this”. He dragged me literally to see more than just rolling green hills.
He led me to the tip of the hill where the blueness of the sea kissed the sky. Ever since he learned to use the camera , he kept taking photos of Batanes.
I cannot begin to describe Batanes . Your dad in our article of Batanes “Enhancing the ecological and cultural tourism in Batanes” says:
Despite our preconceptions about the allure of the place, we were still floored by the actual experience of being there. A clear light seems to suffuse the entire province , real life in HD. The drama of the juxtaposition of the landscape and seascape left us gushing and groping for words. We have literally never seen any place like it, although we have done a fair amount of traveling here and abroad
I am not as eloquent as your dad so let me just show you some of the photos he took of me. You know how I am when it comes to photos.
Let me take you to the rugged terrain of Chawa cliffs.
The hedgerows which serves as source of reeds for roofing, protection from soil erosion and firewood. Hedge rows are also proof of the centuries-old practice of Ivatans on appropriate farming technology.
The fishing port in Diura.
The rolling hills in Vayang.
I took this of your dad as he stood beside the Mt. Carmel Chapel that sits in between two bodies of water, the West Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
The sound of the roaring waves of the West Philippine sea from Batanes Resort where we were billeted
This is the video I took of the resort:
Rock formations in Alapad Hills, the scene of the movie of Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (I Will Wait for You in Heaven) with Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta
I took a video while waiting for your dad as he ventured to the steeper side of Alapad.
The super moon that peeked out just before sunset at the Basco Lighthouse
The Ivatan art inspired by the beauty of Batanes.
But more than the majestic beauty of Batanes are the people themselves. You might find beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains, hills and hedgerows in other countries but Batanes is more than a pretty scene.
What makes Batanes endearing to me is the attitude and culture of the Ivatans, the natives of Batanes.
Ivatans are hardy and resilient, attuned to the vagaries of a temperamental climate. They have a strong sense of community. Neighbors look out for each other and every person is either an auntie, uncle or cousin. Bartering is still prevalent. The often-idealized concept of ““bayanihan” is actually alive and well in Batanes.
The pervading culture of Batanes “dictates that it is a privilege to help and be helped, and almost an insult to receive payment.” Isn’t that something to emulate and pass on to our children?
This Honesty Cafe store was started by Aling Elena Gabilo, a retired Math teacher for 40 years. She wanted to provide refreshments to the locals and travelers in the area. Anybody who enters the cafe can get food and drinks and drop whatever payment they feel like in a basket.
Aling Elena does not mind if the customers don’t pay or not. Her ultimate profit is the chance “to awaken her customers’ consciousness to honesty and responsibility and to teach them to live these lessons in the other areas of their lives.”
There is much to learn from the day-to-day experiences and resiliency of the people of Batanes. Life is about helping others and sharing their lives with one another. Rose Belmonte says it best about life in Batanes.
“Life that is lived fully will lead us to knowing who we are and becoming what we are made to be. Giving starts with one person. It starts with one home. One woman prepares food with love. One man takes pride in his labor. One traveler pays the right amount. One child learns to share. A neighbor gives unconditional assistance. Everybody does the same. And we get blessed with a community called Batan in an island simply known as Batanes.”
As your dad and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary in Batanes, I am convinced there is a certain majesty in simplicity. I realized that it is much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.
As Richard Holloway says. ““Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art. They seem to be the purpose of God for his whole creation.”
I hope we can travel together to Batanes and explore it more. Most of all, I hope you can see how simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.
Mom (and dad)