If I told you the wind spoke to me, would you think I’m insane?
The presence of the wind was too forceful when I was atop the Vayang Rolling Hills. It blew unceasingly stroking my hair in different directions. As it reaches the ground, verdant grasses began dancing melodiously. Not from afar I gazed upon the cows and goats roaming and feeding themselves in the seemingly measureless Pasteur land. Migratory birds were also enjoying their freedom above me. They blended with the blue sky that could turn into gray in a jiffy. Around the hills was the Pacific Ocean, it looked mighty while colliding with the rocky mountain’s foot. And I, a man full of ambitions, was situated in the middle of these imposing sceneries. I abruptly turned into a small grain of sand in this universe— nameless and unknown to this beautiful place.
THERE ARE THINGS THAT CANNOT BE CHANGED AND FIXED
I lay awake on the grassy tilted field wondering how Mother Nature was impeccably carved in Batanes, the smallest province in the Philippines. I could’ve laid all day just enjoying what my eyes could see. I wasn’t sure how I felt that time; my heart melted and burst into bliss at the same time. Still in disbelief, I let myself detached and consumed— detached from worries and stresses of work, personal struggles, pain, and adversities I am bound to confront every day; and consumed by the profuse environment of the place which made me disregard things prodding my sanity. As the wind continuously blows, it was also taking my loads away, making my shoulders lighter. For a time, I thought the wind whispered to me insisting that I have to learn to accept things I cannot change and fix. I heard it loud and clear. And it pierced between my lungs. So I retorted back with a deep sigh.
A familiar voice interrupted my histrionic moment. Our tour guide Jenward told me to get up. “We have to go back to our car because a storm might strike anytime soon,” he screamed. “How did you know that the rain is coming?” I asked. “The direction of the wind is heading towards us. Since I live here for 24 years already, I know when it’s going to rain,” he answered. Delighted like a child, I giggly trotted the paved portion of the hill down to our car. Then Jenward started telling his tale. I came to know that this province, with a total population of almost 18,000 and is frequently visited by typhoons, is nearer to Taiwan than Luzon (Philippines’ largest main island). The words of our guide slowly faded in the air as I acquaint myself to Batanes. I heard many times that weather in Batanes is erratic, so I asked another question. “How do you dwell with the changing weather especially when you’re in the field doing your job as a guide to tourists?” “The weather here in Batanes is something that cannot be changed and fixed, so we just learn to adapt and live with it.” Jenward blurted.
His words floated in my bubble thought. I had to pause and absorb it while reminding myself that I have to learn how to adapt and live with on the things that I cannot change and fix.
TIME HEALS WOUNDS
Our car glided through the narrow road and cliffy shoreline of Basco— province’s capital. Behind the window pane, uprooted trees, broken parts of the road, and debris from fallen houses and infrastructures were visible. They were signs of wreckage left by Typhoon Ferdie that strike Batanes in September this year. Its geographical location makes it susceptible to typhoons— one reason why locals of the community learned to be resilient whenever calamities strike.
However, in spite of it, the beauty of Batanes is still evident. “If you visited Batanes months ago, you could’ve seen it in great shape,” Jenward uttered. “We are slowly recovering from the damage caused by the last typhoon. Right now, trees are starting to grow and people are rebuilding their lives again while Batanes begins to regain its beauty. You are still fortunate you haven’t seen its worst.”
My attention was caught by the admirable seascapes and landscapes— a normal scene for the locals, but more like a rare find to me. “How beautiful could it get if typhoon didn’t visit the province months back?” I asked in silence. I’m sure it would look grander than what I see in the present. Batanes is damaged. It needs healing.
I let myself drifted with the thoughts about healing for a while. We all experienced defeat, heart ache, and tempest. After these, we are left devastated. Although we try hard enough to rise above the pain, our humanness gives us room to grieve because coping up doesn’t happen overnight. Eventually, we outgrow the pain and challenges, making them immaterial and irrelevant to our lives. Healing takes time. Like humans, nature needs healing too. And the most important element for nature and human to heal is time.
IT IS THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION
Time is the most precious for a stranger in a new place. One has to make sure that all spots in his itinerary would be marked. For me, five days passed by so quickly in Batanes. One moment I was traversing the road, then after a while I was sitting, lying, eating, walking and running around the hills. The cycle continued all throughout my stay. And I never got exhausted. I wouldn’t be, for this place is a mine of treasure and surprises. Not a day had passed that I didn’t get awed and mystified.
We were walking around the port going to Sabtang island when it rained very hard. Soaked, we had to skip it and move to another destination, only to be compensated by the magnificent view of the Tayid Lighthouse. Traditional stone houses, various undulating hills, animals that freely move in the massive green field, old churches, lighthouses, strong waves crashing the shoreline— they are my everyday destinations. And every time I get to set my foot in any of these places, I never run out of admiration to utter.
Before, I used to believe that journey is nothing sans the destination. Because reaching a destination is the reason why we sojourn. But when I finally crossed Batanes in the list of places I must visit, everything changed. I realized that destination is the reward but journey is the experience.
Destination makes me a diehard fan, but journey makes me an action star. I admire everything I see in every place I visit in Batanes, making me sound like a broken tape recorder and fans club president of one of the famous celebrities in the Philippines. My journey from one place to another, however, allowed me to showcase my talent as an action star by running on the steep portion of the Marlboro Country while being chased by the rain; and biking from Basco Lighthouse to Vayang rolling hills without getting exhausted.
Destination teaches me to appreciate the place, but journey teaches me to appreciate delays. Chawa Viewdeck and Tinyan Viewing are perfect viewing points to appreciate the seascapes and landscapes of Batanes. When I was standing on top of these, all I had was pure appreciation of all things I see. But when there were delays during my flight from Manila to Basco and faluwa ride from Sabtang Island to Batan Island due to uncooperative weather, I enjoyed my ample time interacting with the Ivatans, learning about their tradition and culture, and taking piles of souvenir photos and selfies too.
The wind started howling again as I was sitting at the edge of the mountain where Tayid Lighthouse is perched. The fresh aroma of the air combined with the cogon grass filled the humid surrounding. I was looking somewhere north, my mind was empty, my heart was full, and my soul was pleased. From where I sat I asked, “Am I in paradise?” Soon, this trip would be over and I’d go back to reality. So I took a last glance of my favorite place in Batanes before I left. Then I heard the wind whispered again, “You don’t have to go back to reality, because you are living in reality, this is reality.”