Into the Limelight: Historical Towns of Mahatao and Ivana

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Not as famous as Basco, Sabtang and Itbayat, the limitless nature spots and the historical attractions of the municipalities of Mahatao and Ivana are known to everyone visiting Batanes but the story of these municipalities were mostly left behind. Geographically situated in Batan Island and are flanked by Basco and Uyugan on the north and south respectively, the towns have an interesting, rich history and culture to find out.

The hills of Racuh-a-Payaman.

HISTORICAL SITES AND UNMANNED STORE IN IVANA

Starving from our falowa ride back to Batan Island, we were easily pulled by the renowned Honesty Coffee Shop which is a stone throw away from Ivana Port. Dizzy from the rough ride, I tried to familiarize the items in-store for us at the same time searching for that packet of 3-in-1 coffee to boost me for another day of exploring the province. The store/coffee shop has no standby seller and the owner solely relies and trusts her customers.

Unmanned coffee shop in Radiwan, Ivana.

It was painted with light blue, yellow and green, has some shelves where items, with their price, are placed. A table that can accommodate at most 6 people is in the middle upon entry. A smaller table is located near the counter where condiments and utensils are available for your needs. Vakuls of different sizes are swaying when a breeze traces the doors and windows of the shop. To purchase an item, all you need to do is to precede to the counter, log the item you’ll be buying and dropping your payment on a box that says “Please Pay Here”.

San Jose de Obrero Church.

Just across the street on top of a hill is the San Jose de Obrero Church. The bell tower of the church was added separately 30 years after the main hall was built. The main altar of the church is simple yet neat, as well as its ceiling. It is facing the sea making you observe the activities happening on the port which is the gateway to the island-municipality of Sabtang.

Old Spanish Bridge.

The unfamiliar Spanish Bridge was the next attraction we tried to look for. We were advised that it is also located near the House of Dakay. From the church, we immediately rode a jeepney anticipating that the attractions that we were looking for are still miles away. Minute after, almost all passengers were laughing at us when they found out what we were looking for. Result was the jeepney driver not taking our fare due to the short distance we had.

House of Estrella or popularly called as House of Dakay.

The House of Estrella, popularly known as House of Dakay is considered as a treasure by the people of Ivana because it represents their remarkable culture and tradition. Aside from the house, the attraction is being visited by tourists because of Lola Ida, the most photographed Ivatan. But it was sad to know that the lady already passed away last January 2014.

SCENERIES AND CULTURAL SITES OF MAHATAO

We can’t sustain the tiring walk (we plan to walk from Ivana to Mahatao) so waylaying the next jeepney to pass by was the best thing we have thought. The very white façade of San Carlos Borromeo Church of Mahatao was the sign to get down the vehicle. Overheard from a guide, the church is one of the 26 churches in the Philippines declared by the National Museum as a cultural icon because of its beauty and excellent state of preservation and maintenance by the parishioners. Few meters from the church is the Spanish lighthouse that was built during the Spanish Colonial Period to lead boats on a path with no coral reefs or rocks.

White facade of San Carlos Borromeo Church of Mahatao.

Still determined, we arrived in Mahatao and asked the locals if the sites are “walk-able”. A loud laugh was a common answer. We went to the tricycle terminal and made negotiations with the drivers. Php 400 rate per tricycle was settled and will enable us to visit Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country), Racuh a Idi Spring, Diura Fishing Village and Tayid Lighthouse. The next scene after that was a rewarding feeling of finally seeing the Marlboro Rolling Hills.

The most visited spot in Batanes: Marlboro Hills.

As per the driver/tour guide, visitors only frequent on the first viewing point in Racuh-a-Payaman, overlooking the Tayid Lighthouse, but the next peak is actually the original Marlboro Hills. We stayed on the original. Prior to that, goose bumps were really felt as I get a glimpse of the “wow-ful” destination in Batanes. Grasses were green, perfectly covered the unending hills of Marlboro. A group of cows and carabaos is at hand with them having a peculiar gawk at every dumbfounded individual smiling, enjoying and taking jump shots at the beautiful scenery.

Unfamiliar trail to Racuh-a-Idi youth spring.
Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Racuh-a-Idi spring.

Racuh-a-Idi Spring was the next destination we’ve visited. From a shortcut that was instructed to us by the locals, we found ourselves in a bushy and unfamiliar trail to the youth spring. The place is a manmade poolside having a view of the Pacific Ocean, and on a clear horizon, Mount Iraya. A grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is located beside the spring and every visitor can offer a simple prayer while enjoying the scenery.

Men of Diura Fishing Village preparing for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Short walk from the spring is the Diura Fishing Village. It is a sitio where a group of fishermen called Mataw still practices the traditional fishing and performs a ritual called kapayvanuvanua signifying the start of fishing season that usually falls in March. On the day of our visit, all men were gathered to decorate their main street because they will be celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Tayid Lighthouse is along the way from the village. Similar to the structure of that in Basco, it was built in 2000 and ts location offers a scenic view of Pacific Ocean and some parts of Batan Island. From here, you can see the farms in the hillsides divided by the liveng. It is a pattern that divides the farm lots and protects the crops from wind and wild animals.

Tayid Lighthouse.
Liveng that separates the farm lots.

After we had lunch, we headed to the main road and decided to walk the long and winding road to Chawa View Deck located at the boundary of Mahatao and Basco. We passed by the Mahatao Boat Shelter Port with no chance of sustaining the walk. We found ourselves at the back of a mini-truck hitchhiking to Chawa View Deck. The deck is best during late afternoon for sunset as it faces the South China Sea. A number of stairs will lead you down at the adjacent cliff.

Mahatao Boat Shelter.
Chawa View Deck.

The tour around the towns of Ivana and Mahatao was ended with a light rain making us stay under a temporary shelter near the view deck. During the lag time, I was able to recall the destinations we have visited for the day. Our restless feet mean that the places we’ve been to are worth visiting not just simply for their picturesque view but also for the stories they are willing to share.

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