Category Archives: Traveling Sneakers

Sagada, Batad, Coron, Pearl Farm and Bais… thus began the journey

Today I write about the beginnings of the traveling sneakers. My passion for exploring nature’s wonders began after college. Budget constraints limited my destinations back then, but that did not prevent my imagination from capturing those moments and storing them in the gigabyte of happy memories. Let the traveling sneakers walk down memory lane…

Zamboanga Sibugay, 2005

The Mountains of Sagada and Banaue

There is a humbling feeling that mountains give you once you’ve hiked their peaks. Up there, the air is so clear its like breathing in pure tranquility. The skies become bluer and the sun’s rays dazzle you with optical images as if the Sun god sprinkled tiny daylights on the verdant forests. And the foliage! Here and there you see trees humongous as urban skyscrapers. The forest floor will always have an endless supply of dried leaves that crackle under your feet. Ah, nothing like the sound of dried leaves crunching crisply under my bare feet. But the best feeling one could experience is that inner calmness as if you are communing with the Creator. There’s really that humbling aura up there that makes you look up and say,”Truly this is majestic!” The clouds seem so near you can almost touch the cottony fibers, yet your feet remains anchored on the mountain ground like the deep roots of the sequoia tree, a reminder that despite our lofty achievements, we remain as earth dwellers, stewards of a time that is really not ours. The hike up there may be  grueling but the weariness dissipates once you reach the zenith and watch in awe the 360-degree view of this masterpiece called creation.

Valencia, Negros Oriental (2004)

Sagada (2008)

Batad-home of the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces (2008)

Pearl Farm, Bais and Coron: of Kayaks and Sea Creatures

The 360-degree cinerama turns even better as you go sea-borne. The sea breeze playfully ruffles your hair as the pump boat cuts through the aquamarine waters. And the sand! Never has the sea become more illuminated by the stark-white shoreline.

Imagine this: A salty-soft wind blows while the half-orb sun peeks on the horizon splashing splendid hues on the palette of the skies of dawn. The pump boat glides through and you look down the ramp and see orange-striped fishes, wiggling blue fries and glowing corals stretching from end to end. Splash! you dive and bathe in the cool waters while the sea creatures dance in a beautiful soiree around you. Later on you will be paddling the kayak oars and once again feel the soft wind kissing your skin. Then, two dolphins glide beside your vessel and swiftly jump into the air. Like a choreography for a gala show, they would build your excitement culminating in what could be compared to the acrobatic displays of Poseidon’s fantastic water chariot gliders. Dolphins, they’re wonderful creatures. They bring out the child in you. They excite you. They make you laugh.  They thrill you. They remind you of those days when playing was all we do all day, when innocence was such a bliss you could have sworn mammary glands were not erotic (oops, pardon me).

Coron cruising (2006)

Bais sandbar, Negros Oriental (2004)

Gleeful dolphins, Bais (2004)

And the journey goes on…

Put on a smile and revel in the fact that indeed, life has become a beautiful journey. This pair of traveling sneakers has now reached the other side of the world and boy there are stories to tell. In the middle of the journey, it actually found another pair of traveling sneakers and the destinations became more colorful and more wonderful. Today, my wife and I have worn out our traveling sneakers from wearing them to many destinations (and counting more). There is still so much out there to be explored. One thing remains clear to us: We view the world from the top, but we stay grounded. Life gets even better when you see it 360 degrees.

The feet that became traveling sneakers’ co-explorer and partner in life.



My Marvelous Manchester Experience

As soon as I stepped outside my flat, that all too familiar autumn chill sprang on my face bringing back memories of the day I first arrived in Manchester. Trees were just starting to turn orange, yellow and brown. The crisp autumnal beginnings cast a perfect hue to the city’s surroundings. All around me I hear people speaking in that unmistakable Mancunian accent. To my ear they sounded Scottish but not quite. That bohemian Britannic mood was palpable in the air and I can almost feel the metallic vibe of Manchester’s historical importance – the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

Manchester’s Indelible Mark

The transformation from a market town to a major city began in the late 1700s when the Duke of Bridgewater constructed the canal that brought in cheap coal. With the advent of the steam engine, the spinning jenny and the water frame, textile became easier to manufacture shaping Manchester as the ‘cottonopolis’ of the world.  Imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful tumult – new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, new world order.  The Industrial Revolution’s greatest inventors and thinkers were either born here or had notable years spent here in pursuit of greater things.

    At the height of Queen Victoria’s reign, Manchester’s massive warehouses and mills   rivaled the towers and cathedrals of London. Commerce and trade bustled more vigorously in Manchester than in any part of England. The world’s first railway system operated from Manchester to Liverpool creating an even busier trade route. The Manchester Bee in the city crest depicts this spirit of industry and may have originated the expression “busy as a bee.” New ways of thinking were fostered in its educational institutions while political reforms were espoused as the Parliament and the Labour movements began. Karl Marx debated with Friedrich Engels on a table beside the window in Chetham Library. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters led England’s suffragettes in the streets of St. Peter. In the laboratories of the University of Manchester, John Dalton developed the first atomic theory while Ernest Rutherford split the atom. Later on Alan Turing would configure the world’s first true computer. Artists flocked to the Art Treasures Exhibition that showcased various displays and performances. Manchester was an unstoppable juggernaut that attracted capitalists, freethinkers, scientists and artists. The newspaper The Guardian once wrote. “What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow.” Indeed, Manchester was the epicenter that rocked the world.

The Red Brick University

 Booth Street West has been my second home here in Manchester. It houses the Manchester Business School (MBS) where I attend classes. MBS is the only school in the world to offer a masters degree in the field of reputation management. The business school is part of the university’s largest faculty, the Faculty of Humanities. The University of Manchester (UoM) itself is the UK’s most popular university with enrolment totaling almost 60,000 from all over the world. The university is actually the result of the 2004 merger of two education giants, the Victoria University of Manchester and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).

Today, UoM enjoys remarkable international reputation. Its Doctor of Business Administration program is ranked by Financial Times as the best all over the world. In terms of research prowess, UoM ranked third behind Oxford and Cambridge.  In October 2010, UoM Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of the graphene, the thinnest but strongest material known to man. The University now has 25 Nobel laureates under its belt. Other Nobel Prize winners teaching in the university are former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and Sir John Sulston who sequenced the DNA of the nematode.

Through various forums, the students were able to interact with the CEOs and executives of important companies like Shell, HSBC, Tesco, and of course, the popular Manchester United FC. The John Rylands Library, housing UK’s most extensive academic collection, is a treasure trove of reading materials from original manuscripts to electronic journals and e-books. Whenever I scan the shelves of the John Rylands and Sackville libraries or walk through the corridors of Whitworth Hall, I can’t help but imagine that Rutherford, Turing or Engels also touched the same bookshelf or walked in the same halls. Student facility is state-of-the-art. The entire campus is connected to the internet wirelessly. According to IT Services, the university has also one of the fastest broadbands in all of Europe.

Coming to this red brick city made a lasting impression on me. Far from the maddening crowd of London, Manchester offers the amenities of a modern city with the ambience of bohemian culture. The city is like a perfumisto’s fragrance notes done right. The top notes would be a metallic opening reminiscent of its vibrant industrial past. The heart notes whip up a spritz of multicultural experience reflected in the international student composition. In my class, the Brits are the minorities and we Asians are the majority. The base notes give a distinct vibe distilled by the Mancunian way of life that is cosmopolitan and traditional all at once. Student life is both exhilarating and overwhelming. The parade of faces in the morning excites me to no end. The cold weather chills my bones but gives me a sense of wonder.

Mancunian Architecture and Sustainable Buildings

One of the things I love to do in my free time is walk around the city center and get inspiration from its unique architecture. The urban blight and pollution that was inflicted by the factories were wiped out. Old warehouses still survive today but they have undergone an amazing transformation finding their newfound utility as chic shopping malls, edgy residential buildings or restored attractions. Elsewhere, forward-looking architecture punctuates the skyline with environmentally designed buildings that are made even more stunning with their almost bizarre structure.

A few meters from my flat is a very noticeable yellow and orange brick building. The Victoria Baths is fashioned after the famous Bath Spa in the South. This Edwardian building houses three swimming pools with ornate tiles on its cubicles. Sunny Lowry was the first English woman to swim the Channel and she trained for the crossing by swimming at the Victoria Baths.

Along Whitworth Street approaching the university district, the Bridgewater House looms with its all-white Portland façade. This beautiful Grade II listed building is now home to the Manchester Office of the British Council. Further down the street as you turn to Oxford Street, another gargantuan Baroque building emerges. The St. James Building was used as an office-warehouse by a company that employed 620,000 people in its 2,000 mills in Northwest England.

Going green. The Metroshuttle is a hybrid public transport vehicle that uses 30 per cent less fuel and reduce emissions by an estimated 140 tons of carbon per year across the full service.

The 40-year old CIS Tower once held the record as Manchester’s tallest building and Europe’s third tallest. But it now holds an even impressive record – the largest solar façade and solar power system in Europe. The Cooperative Bank, the building owner, installed weatherproof cladding using photovoltaic panels. According to the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the CIS Tower used 7,244 Sharp 80-watt modules to clad the entire building.  You can make 6.8 million pieces of toast or 9.9 million cups of tea every year using the tower’s solar generated power.

In the business district of Spinningfield, an impeccable structure rises. The Civil Justice Centre is a complex web of ductwork that allows air to circulate through the building providing as a natural ventilation system. On its east façade, it uses the ‘environmental veil’ to control solar heating while maximizing natural daylight.

The Beetham Tower dominates the city center skyline. At 169 meters, it is the tallest building in Manchester by a considerable margin. The first 23 floors of the building belong to Hilton Hotels with their signature restaurant, Cloud 23. Floors 24 to 48 provide residential apartments.

Sitting on an island of land between Chepstow Street and Bridgewater Street is a happy yellow sanctuary of a Victorian pub. The building dates back to the early 19th Century commemorating a horse-drawn stagecoach that ran between Manchester and London. Peveril of the Peak is a popular pub frequented by local celebrities.


My Four Seasons, My Manchester

Like the changing of the seasons, Manchester is a continuing transformation. It reached its zenith during the Industrial Revolution. It slumbered after World War II until the 1980’s. But today, it is stirring anew in the springtime of its re-birth. It has rediscovered its new role in the global order of things as it transforms yet again. It may no longer be the workhouse of the world but it certainly influenced modern-day capitalism, political reform and social awareness.  Breathtakingly ambitious, this was the place where people came to make their names – and did, with no small measure of success. While Manchester is a city that has a past, it has its eyes set on the future. The joy of living in Manchester today is that, without too much effort, you get to experience a slice of both. But first, I need to wrap this snood around my neck. It’s autumn once again and the streets are just as lovely as a summer day.


This article also comes out in the 3rd quarter edition of Pulse of Firstgen Magazine.

Greenwich: Birthplace of Time and the Tudors

When London overwhelms you and you prefer to escape to a quiet, easy, breezy spot, put on those sneakers and head towards Greenwich. It is after all, the birthplace of olden royals from another era, the Tudors from which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were descended. But its most interesting offer is none other than the amazing Royal Observatory, the sole witness to the birthplace of time as we know it.

The Magnificent centerpiece painting of the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College

Getting There

The fastest way to get to Greenwich is to take the Tube, London’s underground rail network. A bus ride will take about an hour from Central London.  Or you could take the ferry and cruise the 6.5-kilometer River Thames en route to Greenwich just like what King Henry VIII used to do. In fact, getting there via river cruise is more enjoyable because you get to see British landmarks such as the Tower of London, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Tate Modern, Albert Hall and the HH Belfast moored on the embankment.

Some iconic London landmarks - Tower Bridge

The HMS Belfast

Greenwhich Royalties

Greenwich played a key role in Britain’s rise as a seafaring superpower. It was from its shipyards that the English naval fleet was built and sent off to countless expeditions and explorations. It was the Tudors that capitalized on this maritime blueprint and Greenwich was the center of it all.

Three of England’s monarchs were born here. Henry V built the Greenwich royal manor in the early 1500s. The manor was improved and became the Palace Placentia or Pleasant Palace, where Henry VIII was born in 1491. When he became king, he built a new chapel and a sprawling park where the Greenwhich Park now stands. It was here that Henry VIII, a young prince then, married the older Catherine of Aragon. His daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, were born here.  Each went on to rule England as Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Today, Greenwich continues to host to the British monarchy. The Queen’s House built beside the park is one of the summer residences of Queen Elizabeth II. On her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the queen herself will bestow upon Greenwhich a Royal Borough award. It will join London’s three existing royal boroughs – Kensington & Chelsea, Windsor & Maidenhead and Kingston. The award recognizes the close links forged between Greenwich and the royal family from the Middle Ages to the present day. It also recognizes Greenwich’s global significance as the home of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich Mean Time and its status as a World Heritage Site.

View of the London skyline from the Greenwich Observatory; on the foreground is the Queen's House

The Tulip Staircase - a cantilevered architectural design that highlights the Queen's House as one of England's finest legacies

Greenwich and the Creation of Standard Time

The Greenwich Mean Time or GMT is the basis of standard time throughout most of the world, and the zero point used in reckoning geographical longitudes since 1884. The naval countries at that time have agreed to hold a maritime conference that will determine the standard time to be used.  Forty-one delegates from 25 nations met in Washington DC for the International Meridian Conference. By the end of the conference, Greenwich had won the prize of Longitude 0º by a vote of 22 to 1 against San Domingo, with 2 abstentions from France and Brazil.

Straddle the Prime Meridian and you will "exist" in two sides of the world at the same time.

Why Greenwich? By the late 19th century, 72 percent of the world’s commerce depended on sea charts, which used Greenwich as the Prime Meridian. The decision, essentially, was based on the argument that by naming Greenwich as Longitude 0º, it would be advantageous to the largest number of people. Therefore the Prime Meridian at Greenwich became the centre of world time, and will be the official starting point for the new Millennium.

Now there is an amazing thing you need to do in Greenwich. Follow that steel line drawn on the ground across the observatory. Walk along with it until you reach the globular sculpture at the end. Turn around to face toward the digital clock and place your feet on either side of the steel line. Congratulate yourself for you can now say that you were able to exist in two different places at the same time. That line is the demarcation of the Prime Meridian that divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth, just as the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres.

A World Heritage Site

In 1997, the UNESCO declared Greenwich as a world heritage site. The Old Royal Observatory itself is England’s first purpose-designed facility.  It houses a 28-inch refracting telescope, the largest of its kind in the UK and the seventh largest in the world. Completed in 1893, it was designed to keep the Royal Observatory at the forefront of contemporary astronomy.

The Dome of the Old Royal Observatory which covers the 28-inch refracting telescope

Outside the Observatory, the tranquility of Greenwich Park perfectly complements the Italianate beauty of the Queen’s House. Built in 1616 and designed by Inigo Jones, the Queen’s House is a fine architectural structure that boasts of its cantilevered tulip staircase. The Palladian design is one of the unique royal treasures of England. Adjacent to the Queen’s House is the Royal Naval College, yet another architectural wonder built in the Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The four blocks that comprise the compound is actually the site of the old Greenwich Palace. The soft glow of the twilight sky added more character to silhouettes of the St. Peter and St. Paul Chapels, constructed in the Georgian style. But there was more to behold from the drama that the Painted Hall offers. It felt like entering a smaller Sistine Chapel with all the renaissance-like ceiling paintings greeting the visual senses with tableau-like imageries. Paintings made in the trompe l’oeil style, can be found on the columns, windowsills and in the Vestibule and each has its own story to tell.

A Timeless Experience

As we head back to the hustle and bustle of the city, I took one last snapshot of the pier to remind me of this one fine day spent in the outskirts. The majesty of its environs remained as timeless as the setting of the sun, as noble as the proud marble statues of kings past. “Time and space are relative,” Einstein said in his famous theory. For me, Greenwich captures the essence of that idea. It is massive yet subdued, grand but composed, both Baroque and modern at the same time. Indeed, a timeless, classic piece of wonder in this part of the world.

The Prime Meridian

The Georgian-styled chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul

Inside the Tube en route back to Waterloo

This article also comes out in the latest issue of Pulse Magazine, the official publication of First Gen Corporation and subsidiaries.

Philippines’ Palawan Underground River Vies for 7 New Wonders

The search for the 7 New Wonders of the World is on and the Philippines’ Palawan Underground River makes it to the 28 finalists. In the final round of voting, only seven will be chosen. For interested voters, click here.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has urged Filipinos in the Philippines and in other parts of the world to strongly and aggressively campaign for the subterranean river park. He is encouraging everyone to use multi-media channels in voting the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in the online contest of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Embassies, consular offices, and labour offices of the Philippine government abroad are also being asked to encourage overseas Filipinos to vote for Puerto Princesa’s underground river.

Mobile phones are also one of the best ways to vote since majority of Filipinos own this communications gadget. Filipinos can use text messages by typing Text PPUR and sending it to 2861.  Also, voters can log on to The last day of voting will be on November 10.

I had the opportunity to go there myself when we scouted for location sites for our company calendar. The entire site is a haven of geological and ecotourism delights. The underground river is divided in the centre by a limestone outcrop known as the St. Paul mountain range. It rises 1,028 meters at the highest, 11 km long, between 3-5 km wide and covers an area of around 35 sq. /km. Scientists believe it is between 16 – 20 million years old.

It was formerly known as the St. Paul Subterranean National Park when it was established as a protected park in 1971. In 1999, the national park was expanded to 22,202 hectares and was renamed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. On December 11, 2003, the National committee on Geological Sciences declared it as a National Geological Monument.

To vote, click here.

Batanes: Sojourn to the Land of the Great Northern Winds

There is only one place in the Philippine archipelago where you can witness the majestic meeting of the mountains, the seas and the sky in one breathtaking view. And so, there I went, with the wind under my heel, to sojourn to the land of the winds – Batanes.

I go back to blogging with this fitting travelogue of Batanes. Join me and my traveling sneakers (and yes, my wife who is also my travel buddy)  as we embark on the soul-nourishing joys of traveling.

Batanes is one of the most fascinating destinations I have ever visited. Because of its location, it is advisable to plan your trip as soon as the summer season starts. This allows you to explore its evergreen landscapes and calming seascapes without worrying about typhoons or heavy rains.

Thanks to alternative airlines, flying in and out to far-flung destinations like Batanes is now possible. We boarded a 24-seater plane from Manila and flew for an hour and a half, landing smoothly in the airport of Basco, the capital of Batanes. While descending Basco, one cannot but be awed by the pristine islets dotting the cerulean waters of the Pacific and the South China Sea. Upon arrival, we were greeted with the warm smile of our tour guide. A minimal environmental fee was charged. Please be advised that Batanes is a protected area and that any destructive practice is punishable by law. The Ivatans (collective name of the Batanes people) expect tourists to respect the natural habitat while appreciating its tourist spots. Folks, that is the basic principle of ecoutourism – take nothing but pictures and leave the spots as you have found them.

We stayed in one of the seaside resorts and the rate is quite affordable. The one we got cost only PhP4,000 (around USD100-130) per person for 3 nights and 4 days inclusive of meals. Or you can opt to stay at the house of the locales – a traditional Ivatan stone house. The homes usually consist of the main house with its living room and bedroom/s and the outhouse and kitchen, which is also a storage room of sorts. Limestone walls and hardwood floors of the house ensure that it is cool during the day. The amenities may be far from that of a hotel but this makes for a more exciting experience.

A Master’s Grand Opus

Batanes is the smallest province of the Philippines, measuring 230 square kilometers only. It is composed of 10 tiny islands and islets located about 162 kilometers north of the Luzon mainland. Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang are the three main islands. Itbayat is the largest but Basco, the capital, is located in Batan. Sabtang is a nature trekker’s haven as it offers ruggedly beautiful terrains to be explored, not to mention the cool, white-sand beaches to be conquered. Farther up north are the five islets of Siayan, Mayudis, Diogo, North Island and Y’ami. The locales say that on a clear day, the southernmost tip of Taiwan is visible from Y’ami. Y’ami is actually nearer to Taiwan than to the mainland Luzon.

With wind-swept hills and brazenly blue sky towering over rolling hills, one conjures the image of the mighty Thor, the Norse God of Thunder fashioning hill after hill with his thunderbolts to create a masterpiece of grand proportions. It seemed as if I was transported to a land before time. I was communing with the Almighty as I stood still upon a hill one night, the midnight blue sky lit by a thousand stars. They looked so near that caught myself reaching towards them as if to scoop each twinkling diamond with my bare hands. I felt at peace and just let the soft breeze coming from the nearby beach caress my cheeks blowing away the heat of the day from the pores of my skin.  And I uttered a small prayer thanking God for letting me see one of His, if not the best, creations on Earth.

At the heart of Batan Island is the 1,008-meter Mt. Iraya – the ever-vigilant landmark that has spawned great stories about how the islands were formed. It is a dormant volcano that last erupted some 400 years ago. The sides are heavily forested and it is another great attraction for photo enthusiasts on the way up to the peak.

Batanes has been referred to as the Land of the Great Wind. Most time of the year, this island group is frequented by strong typhoons. Yet the occurrence of something violent leaves behind something that is naturally enthralling and awe-inspiring. And the winds, oh the great power of the mighty winds! Because of its wind path, Batanes is a potential site for bigger wind farms. The Philippines’, and probably Asia’s, first wind power was constructed in Basco to serve the power needs of PAGASA’s radar station back in 1981. In 2004, a 180-kW power turbine was commissioned making Batanes a pioneer in renewable energy production.

Rolling Highlands and Lighthouses

Isolated from the rest of the Philippines, Batanes brought the romantic and the adventurous in me. Trekking kilometers of of pasturelands was never tiring. The sun-drenched foliage and landscaped shrubberies will surely catch your fancy. Pleasant surprises would spring from every corner bend like the rainbow that waved its iridescent colors upon limestone cliffs. And then there are the lighthouses – the sentinels that stand witness to the docking and sailing of sea vessels. Lighthouses play a very important role in seaside regions like Batanes’ as they provide beacon and safe haven for fishermen and sailors on stormy nights.

The Rolling Hills and Rakuh-A-Payaman, touted as the Marlboro Country of the Philippines, offer an invigorating experience as well as a visual feast of green expanse coupled with azure skies at sunset. Both have similar topographies and provide the perfect backdrop for an outdoor adventure. The Marlboro is actually a pastureland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From the viewdeck, we saw the Mahatao Lighthouse and Mt. Iraya. If you are adventurous enough, you may ride a motorcycle up and down the rolling terrain to pump that sporty energy up your bloodstream. There is only one word to describe that experience: FANTASTIC!

The Bounty of the Sea Beckons

There is that dirt road in Sabtang that leads to an untouched beach paradise. It was so rustic that one could almost feel the primal atmosphere around it – rocks and crevasses jutting from geological formations complemented by the patches of coral reefs along the seashore. The shoreline is dotted with stretches of semi-fine white sand, a prelude to the Boracay-like white sands created by the minerals of dead sea corals. This natural process takes about thousands of years and in a hundred years or so, these sands will be as fine as that of Boracay’s. This undiscovered paradise is called Nakabuang Beach by the locales. The main attraction of the beach is the Nakabuang Arch, a rock naturally sculptured by the winds and waters. The astounding panorama provides a perfect area for picnic or a lunch by the beach.

You cannot go to Batanes without sampling their cuisine. Sea food is easy to come by here and we had the gastronomic delight of our time when the cook served us lobsters, coconut crabs, lapu-lapu and flying fish – cooked to perfection, some steamed and some flavored with coconut milk. Our fare was complemented with yellow rice, the Ivatan’s version of Java rice. The Ivatans cook their rice with turmeric or yellow ginger. Then instead of plates, we were served on leaves of local bread fruit tree called kabaya.

We were told that lobsters are ordinary fares in the dining tables in Batanes. But tourists are not allowed to bring more than 250 grams (or more than four pieces) of lobsters out of Batanes. This regulation is part of the conditions set forth in the law that designated Batanes as a protected area. Sea foods are augmented by sweet potatoes, yams and other root crops.

The Most Honest Place in the Country

The warmth of the Ivatan culture and their non-condescending attitude made our visit an unforgettable experience. Rarely do you get this kind of reception from our kababayans in other regions, at least from what I have experienced in my previous travels (except perhaps in Sagada, but let’s save that for the next travelogue). Oh, and did you know that Batanes enjoys zero crime rate? You could say that this is the safest place in the country. Aside from being the safest place, Batanes also boasts as being the most honest place in the country, greatly popularized by the Honesty Café in Radiaw. The café earned its name because it’s usually not staffed, so everyone is expected to leave money for whatever they take. This Batanes Restaurant’s honesty system has made it a sort of novelty among both tourists and locals alike. There’s a clear plastic jar at the left of the counter for customers to pay and get their own change.

If you lost something (such as wallet, bag or other personal belongings) you can go to the radio station to announce it. Likewise, local people who have found something usually bring it to the radio station so that they could be returned to the owners.  It is not unusual that lost wallet or even large amount of cash can be safely returned to the rightful owner. Now, if only the rest of the country will rise up to the occasion and imbibe the culture of honesty, then we would have done away with problems of corruption.

Five Star Rating

For a nature lover like me, I will rate Batanes a perfect 5. You get to experience the nature at its best. The luxury of hotels and electricity may be scarce, but what you get is a full recharge of the soul, a well-rested mind and swathes of fresh air. A little trade-off cannot be that bad. After all, we need to commune with nature every once in a while to tune in with events that  matter more, a clarifying effect if you like. And in this bright and pure surroundings, you might just gain that clarity of mind you badly need. So much has been said and so much has been written about Batanes but this is my very own experience and I am proud to share my sojourn with you.