“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.

Let me tell you that about finding ” the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter” to be thrilled by the stars at nights… some of the rewards of the simple life.” Let me tell you about our trip to Batanes.

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)


View my Batanes photo gallery.

Each wedding anniversary that my husband and I face every year deserves to be celebrated in any memorable way.

Every celebration symbolizes our annual renewal of our vows to each other —

“to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part”

windswept hair atop one of the rolling hills in Racuh A Payaman also known as Marlboro country

So when Andrea invited me to a media tour of the chartered flights from Batanes Cultural Travel Agency (BCTA) I couldn’t say no. When SEAIR invited me in 2008, I kept putting Batanes on hold for some reason. This time , I had a reason to say “YES Batanes, I want to celebrate our love there”… but asked Andres if I could pay for my husband’s fare just so we could celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary in Batanes. Good thing she allowed me to bring Butch along.

Mount Carmel Chapel in Tukon modeled after the traditional Ivatan stone houses.

Spending our 27th wedding anniversary in romantic Batanes is one gift we gave to ourselves. Being close to such a beautiful and peaceful place gave us the time to reflect and be thankful for all the blessings in our life. If you know us personally, you will know that our married life was filled with drama for most of our 27 years. It is only recently (perhaps 2005) that we reaffirmed our commitment to each other. Like many marriages perhaps, it was a rough journey.. but then as my friend , Bernie reminds me “marriage is always a work in progress and that is what keeps it going.”

I can’t begin to describe Batanes. You will have to discover the beauty yourself. I will write more about Batanes in separate articles. Enjoy just some photos that show the happiness in our faces as we discovered the landscape of Batanes which is unique from other Philippine provinces due to the steep cliffs, rolling hills, deep canyons and boulder-lined shores.

The photo before this was taken by our tour guide so it doesn’t show the beauty of the chapel.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” Les Miserables

On the ceilings are different municipal saints of Batanes painted by Ivatan artists trained at the Pacita Abad Center for the Arts.

“Our anniversary is a time to look back at the good times and a time to look ahead to live our dreams together.”

hedgerows “liveng” serve as boundaries of plantation / agricultural crops and boundary of ownership.

The difficulty with married life is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character.

home studio of artist Pacita Abad is now a boutique hotel is the most luxurious accommodation on Batanes Island

“There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to your loved one.”

Vayang Rolling Hills

Side by side – Year by year.

The boulder beach with lots of large stones came from a volcanic eruption from Mt. Iraya in 400 AD.

“A marriage anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.”

Basco Lighthouse alomg the lush green hills and the open sea provide a beautiful backdrop for the lighthouse.

““A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” Paul Sweeney

Butch taking a photo of me

Close up view though pixelated

“Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century. : – Mark Twain

Chawa View Deck, Mahatao

“For you wake one day, look around and say, somebody wonderful married me”. Fred Ebb

Enjoying the view at Chawa Cliffs

“Married couples who love each other tell each other a thousand things without talking.”- Chinese Proverb

Still at Cliffs of Chawa

“The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret”. Henry Youngman

“Love is not blind – It sees more and not less, but because it sees more it is willing to see less.” Will Moss

View of Racuh A Payaman is spectacular. Watch the video below for the sound of the wind

“Marriage is a partnership in which each inspire the other, and brings fruition to both of you.” Millicent Carey McIntosh

Mahatao Church which is a National Cultural Treasure.

“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage”. Martin Luther

writing the story of our love in Book 505. “MayWang A Libro Du Vatan” (Batanes Blank Book archive) a grant from the Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowship, The Nippon Foundation

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years”. Simone Signoret

Book 505 from the Batanes Blank book archive. When we return to Batanes, we continue our love story and write it down in Book 505.

Are we not like two volumes of single book ?

“The goal of our life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world.”

– Leo Tolstoy

For more photos, view my Batanes photo gallery.

I will write more about Batanes.

If you have not been there..trust me when I say everywhere in Batanes is picture-perfect. From the lighthouse in Naidi Hills, to the beautiful communal grazing area of Racuh a’ Payaman (or Marlboro country), and the rocky beach in Valuga.

You can fly to Batanes via BCTA chartered flights (Manila-Basco-Manila) at promotional price of 6,200 pesos one way using a British-made aircraft BAE-146. They have started accepting bookings on March 01. Flights will be Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays starting on March 15. The flight is only one hour and ten minutes, in the comfort of a 94-seater jet. For reservations please call the following hotlines: (02) 635-4810 / 546-1197 / 998-4303 / 475-5267 / 475-5260 / 0917-8112282 / 0999-8894106 / 0908-2309419 / 0922-8213717. or visit batanestravel.com for more details