Sunday, March 30, 2014

Babuyan Island as Stuff of Legends

I was ecstatic when my driver pointed a hazy patch of land mass rising above the eastern sea. This was in Batanes during a day tour. Was it just another partially inhabited island?

Lo and behold, it was the main Babuyan Island, a “concept” that has always intrigued me. This goes to show how mundane things can make people happy, it’s silly! As a child, I’ve always been fascinated with Babuyan Island (Isle of Pigs) – Social Studies, History, Philippine Geography; they all kept mentioning this archipelagic smattering of islands. But no one seemed interested to show how it looked, or how people lived there, if there were any. Today it had a “face”.

Babuyan Island is triangular in shape and is filled with volcanoes – 4 or 5 in its small size measuring 13 by 10 kilometers. My driver mentioned that it was a part of Aparri, and subsequently, Cagayan. Tita, my guide, also mentioned that people from Babuyan have absolutely no means of livelihood, except fishing. The island is supposedly heavily forested, but vegetables and crops don’t favor the volcanic soil. Most of the island is “steep all around” so it’s like visiting an extra-terrestrial terrain. In its southern tip is an islet called “Pan de Azucar”. Bread of Sugar? For an island's name? No kidding. How does one get there from Batanes? Try an 8 hour ride in a small, rickety fishing boat. You have to have steel-belted resolve to brave the Balintang Channel. No electricity, no signal, no “life”? But hold your breath, the 2010 census records a population of 1,423. Imagine that!

Photo is an aerial shot showing Smith Volcano (Mount Babuyan) courtesy of wikipedia and flickr's Bing Ramos. 

This is the Eye in the Sky!


Stanislava said...

Very useful information! About Babuyan Island too less interesting information in Internet (special in russian sources). I didnt know that there so bad solutions for life! But what about tourists, excursions? I suppose its not popular for that Island?!

eye in the sky said...

Hi, Stanislava,

Babuyan Island has always been a mysterious island even for us Filipinos. It isn't a place where tourists go. This probably is one reason why people (like you - or me) are so enamored and intrigued with it. It's like envisioning a trip to the "moon", i.e. very out-there, rough, and not exactly easy.

Calayan is the most developed among the islands of Babuyan. Other islands in this channel include Fuga and Dalupiri, said to have beautiful white sand beaches and nothing in terms of accommodations, execpt probably for homestays with local residents living there.

It is possible to get there from Aparri or Santa Ana, talk to willing fishermen to take you there - 6 hours for PhP600 to Calayan. A tour company for such extreme tours also exists - "Unchartered Philippines" - where an 8-day tour would set you back with a costly $700-1,000 bill. Try this number just in case you're interested - 632 - 6215399 or google them up for their website. :)