Batanes and other islands in north

This week’s coverage was one hell of an experience. In just a matter of few days, we traveled by air, by land, and by sea. We sailed along the coast of Cagayan to Batanes and crossed Balintang channel to reach Amianan Island, which is located at the pointed end of Northern Philippines where Pacific Ocean meets China sea through Bashi Channel. To establish government presence in the island, BFAR will be building a monitoring control and surveillance station in Amianan. According to DA undersecretary Asis Perez, no more than a thousand people had walked through this island and most of them are fishers from foreign vessels given its proximity to the international treaty limits, which divides Philippines from neighboring countries like Taiwan.

For more than a week, we were aboard government’s multi-mission vessel, MV DA-BFAR. To spend mornings and nights at a ship like this, which is far from everyone’s idea of a tourist cruise, was not necessarily easy but is definitely once in a lifetime experience. After all, the government does not allow everyone to board this ship.

I spent so many nights with a feeling of being always cradled by the ocean. At first, I just felt dizzy and helpless but as the days goes on, I already got used to it. The sound of the ship’s engine already became familiar and the waves crashing into the walls of my bedroom became music to my ears.

Every time we get off for an island stopover, a small ferry will usually pick us up from the ship and it was challenging every single fucking time.  The waves are just too strong and unbelievably crazy– quite understandable because we’re already at the far end of the archipelago, closer to other countries than we could ever be by sea.

Then we will arrive in an island. Shocks. I’ve never seen islands as virgin and beautiful as what we visited. The water is so blue, the sand so fine, trees so green…. such… damn beautiful islands. To be exact, we visited Calayan Island in Cagayan; Babuyan Island; Basco in Batanes; Sabtang Island; and Amianan Island– most of them were just few of the passing topics in my Araling Panlipunan class in the second grade. Like, hello, Babuyan Island? It was so popular among students because in Filipino language, we call pigpens Babuyan, but no one really knew where the hell in Philippines it is situated.

So yes, the trip was definitely unforgettable. It is really beyond my capacity to reach as far as Amianan, the most less travelled island in the country even by Filipinos I bet. I don’t even think I could ever go back to it. It was really the craziest seven-days boat ride of my life, not to mention that while we were traversing Balintang channel, our vessel caught two Chinese ships illegally sailing within Philippine territories. They carry Philippine flags raised upside down, which either means a call for war or disrespect.