You hold wonders beyond compare. But more than the rolling hills and the raging waves crashing against the boulders, your treasures lie on your people. We felt the warmth of your people even if it was the winter season. Their smiles welcomed us like we were members of their family.
In Ivana, we met Lola Florestida Estrella, who inherited the House of Dakay, the oldest stone house in Batanes built in 1887.
I was humbled when we went inside her home. The old woman was sitting beside her bed, which has no foam but only a blanket.
She welcomed us even if she was not that feeling well. It must be the cold weather that caused her cough and flu. She smiled while telling us stories about her family and her famous abode.
Though a native of Batanes, she was born in Silay, Negros Occidental in 1926, when her parents were still working as farmers in a sugar cane plantation. But in 1935, her family returned to Batanes. Her father Jose Estrella was better known as Dakay. The name was derived from the word parakay, which means glowing under the sun.
Lola Ida shared that she eats kamote (root crop), which makes her strong. She was alone when we arrived, so I asked, “Sino po ang kasama ninyo sa bahay?” (Who’s living with you in this house?)
She replied, “Kasama ko ang kapatid ko pero sa kabila sya nakatira.” (My sister is looking after me but she lives at the other house.) As much as I wanted to ask more questions, I decided to just keep it and let her rest. We had our photo taken with her and bade her goodbye.
If ever you visit her, a little something, would be a big help for her daily needs.
In Chavayan, we met Lolo Mariano, a 71 year-old tukap-maker. He was braiding a bunch of abaca in his home when we arrived.
Tukap sa Dutao is their local slippers, which they use in sea and in land. He has been weaving the abaca to make it a tukap since 1954. We fondly called them Chavayanas (sounded like Havaianas). Lolo Mariano is one of the skilled and talented treasures of Batanes.
While walking in Chavayan, we decided to quench our thirst in a small hut, where we met Matilde Hostallero.
She sells fresh buko juice for Php 15.00. We were handing the money but she did not let us pay and considered us as her guests. Thank you Nay Matilde.
It was in her hut where we found the finished Tukap.
After awhile, Nay Matilde accompanied us to their home, where her father Lolo Marcelo Hostallero lives. Nay Matilde devotes her time to earning a living and looking after her aged father.
Born on January 16, 1907, Lolo Marcelo Hostallero is known to be the oldest man in Batanes at 104 years old. He has 15 children but only 11 are living. I was surprised when I saw him weaving the nylon fishing twine into a fishing net. His daughter, Nay Matilde, said that his father’s eyes can still see clearly.
Intrigued by the old man’s strength, I asked him, “Ano po ang sikreto para humaba ang buhay? Ano po ang kinakain nyo?” (What is the secret to long life? What food do you eat?) He replied, “Kamote, halaya at buko juice.”
Lolo Marcelo showed that old age is not a hindrance to living a full life.
Batanes, you’re blessed with these people. I thank God for letting me meet these inspiring people, whose lives are lived in simplicity and fullness.
***Batanes Diaries are series of posts of my experiences in Batanes. This is my way of encouraging you guys to get to know one of the best places in the Philippines. Special Thanks to South East Asian Airlines for bringing us to Batanes as part of the Batanes Winter Bloggers’ Tour Contest. And for the warm hospitality, my utmost gratitude to Tita Lydia Roberto of Batanes Seaside Lodge & Restaurant and Hiro’s Cafe, and to DOT Region 2 director Bless Diwa for the assistance.