Who are the Ivatans?

Who are the Ivatans?

Batanes is an island of superlatives but its natural wonders are only a portion of what it has to offer for its people called the Ivatans are what make it even more beautiful, and the chance to immerse with them the one to give meaning to your Batanes holiday.

Our featured Ivatans with model Jayanne Aldanese in Uyugan, a village in Batanes that looks like it’s from a fairytale book.

We draw attention to three Ivatans who show us their way of life, their quirks, and why to them Batanes will always be their home. More so, they give us a glimpse of the Ivatan character—respectful and kindhearted, family-drawn, God-loving, holistic, creative. The list goes on. We follow each of them for a day.

Here’s our tale.

The faithful laborer

Tess Vargas Castillejos is a retiree who is now living the life that she’s always dreamed of

When Tess Vargas Castillejos retired from her post as Department of Trade and Industry Batanes provincial caretaker in 2012, she made the big leap, switching into a full organic lifestyle. She’s turned to organic farming and gardening, which makes her feel connected and happy.

Tess has been famous for cultivating clitoria ternatea—a perennial evergreen climber that produces blue flower—and being the first in Batanes to turn this blue flower into tea. She’s also making waves as a farm-to-table entrepreneur, cooking and serving meals right at her
centuries-old home. Her ingredients for cooking are straight from her farm.

Up at the crack of dawn

Tess looks exceptionally energetic for someone who only had 30 minutes of sleep—visiting friends came over for dinner and stayed until past midnight. She wakes up at 3am to prepare for her lector duties at the Sto. Domingo Parish of the Immaculate Conception Church, where daily masses start at 5am.

She gets up pretty early to start her day.

Like many Ivatans, Tess is a devout Catholic and one can tell by the religious items in her home. After the dawn mass, she heads back home for breakfast. Today, it’s chayi (local lychee) salad, lunyis (pork slowly cooked in salt and garlic and fried in its own fat), mashed
sweet potato and a mug of coffee.

Tess’s lack of sleep barely registers as she happily chats about her plants. It brings her joy knowing that whatever she cultivates will benefit the environment and her neighbors for she likes sharing her harvest.

Gather them blue flowers

Tess’s babies

Every day, Tess walks to her 897sqm farm, which she and her two staff tend. It’s where you’ll see rows and rows of bushes peppered with blue flowers. She’d pick the mature ones.

Tess and her flower pickers are able to collect seven to eight kilos of flowers a day, and such amount can be attributed to the growing demand for her tea.

Tess’s love affair with blue flowers started when her late husband, who used to gift her with blue orchids, passed away. In his passing, she found a way to cope with her loss through
gardening, and found the blue flowers most fascinating.

In no time, her organic blue tea became an instant hit especially for tourists, fetching at Php3,000 (USD60) per kilo of the tea-ready dried version.

Hearty noontime meal

Harvesting eight kilos of flowers is tedious so Tess usually finishes at noontime. There are days when she eats packed lunch at her farm when her early morning check requires more farm work like clearing pathways, pruning the shrubs or spreading organic fertilizer.

Today, the task is only to pick blue flowers and produce to cook for lunch.

Back at home, Tess whips up a healthy homemade meal—beef broth with blue flowers, green rice, cucumber sesame salad and the leftover from breakfast. Dessert is boiled cardava topped with mango cream made from scratch. All these are served in beautiful plates—part of her chinaware collection. After the hearty meal, she serves us palek (Ivatan wine), which she concocts too.

Afternoon siesta, and more labor of love

Tess tends to her freshly-picked blue flowers

After lunch, Tess takes out her babies—the newly harvested blue flowers—and spreads them out on an improvised bed. This is her version of curing so that the flowers do not entirely lose their color once she places them under the sun. The process of drying blue flowers includes overnight curing, sun drying until the petals are crisp, and winnowing to remove small dirt and small particles.

In between, customers stop by to pick up their orders. A couple swings by to discuss with her their wedding’s catering arrangement as Tess also caters for intimate events. She opens her home to host private dinners but with three days’ notice.

Finally, Tess gets some shuteye.

At 4pm, she gets up, takes the sundried blue flowers back into the house, and spends the rest of the afternoon packing the winnowed flowers.

Capping the day’s work

She spends most of her afternoons picking flowers

At night, Tess’s routine includes saying a short novena prayer, preparing dinner, and watching TV or meditating in her garden. At dinner, she gives us a taste of her magic by serving us
slow-cooked beef, blue rice, green rice, crispy adobong pata (pork thigh cooked adobo-style then crisp-fried) and squash soup. Dessert is millet pudding topped with cream and orange slices and it’s the yummiest that you’d have.

The well-rooted adventurer

Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney is a well-traveled Ivatan who now lives in Switzerland with her family. She never forgets home

When she was young, Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney, Bing to family and friends, had learned to live independently especially when she went to college in Manila—hundreds of miles away from home. But when she got married, even her adventure-loving self still had to adjust to six years of traveling to different parts of the world due to her husband’s line of work. She met all kinds of people, experienced different cultures, and had a fair share of rough times that came with living from country to country. When they settled down in Switzerland was when she decided it’s time to come home to Batanes every year no matter what. Batanes is home and there’s not a single place quite as special as it.

No two days are alike

Bing loves spontaneity and does not want to confine herself to plans. Whenever she’s home in Batanes, there’s never a routine that she sticks to. There are days she wakes up late because of a previous night out or she’s up really early excited to explore the island.

Close to the summit of Mt. Matarem

Today, she’s off to an early start, waking up at 6am to prepare to hike Mt. Matarem. She boils saba banana, buys hot pandesal (local bun) and brews her coffee. On ordinary days, a steaming mug of coffee is enough for her morning fill but today is an exception for she’s set
to climb the second highest peak in the island albeit not her first time to do so. She’s already summited Mt. Matarem thrice in the past years but the promise of great views from the summit always calls for one more.

Quiet island life

Bing with the love of her life—her mom

On the road, Bing talks about why she would always come back home to Batanes every year. She says it’s the warmth of her fellow Ivatans, the joy of being able to decompress and relax, and the much, much simpler way of life—a stark contrast to her life in Switzerland.

She likes to refer to herself as an island girl who will always be captivated by beautiful sunrises and sunsets, rolling green hills, the crisp mountain air. As a child, she would spend her weekends on the beach with her friends or have picnics in their farm. They would cook
root crops, climb mabolo trees to eat fruits or pick alunot (local plum).

Growing up on an island, which was once isolated with no electric supply, means they rarely got to taste ice cream. She recalls how, as a student, she would travel by foot from one town to another because transportation was almost nonexistent.

Going off grid

When she finally reaches the jump-off point, Bing gleefully walks along the first part of the trail that opens into a pastureland that leads to a section where you’ll think fairies may magically appear. She pauses to take in the view of wild trees. This part is dense with greenery, and flora and fauna. Aside from the surreal views, Mt. Matarem also gives her a chance to switch off from the world and immerse herself in the beauty of nature. As soon as she summits, she marvels at the island’s fragile beauty, making her fall in love with Batanes even more.

Ancient settlement, revisited

Sun’s up at Idjang

After a fulfilling hike, Bing grabs a quick lunch in preparation for her next activity: hiking up her favorite spot in idjang this afternoon. Bing’s grandparents own an idjang—her aunt inherited it later on— in the southeastern side of Basco, an ancient hilltop fortress once used by her ancestors to protect themselves from tribal wars and Japanese invaders. It’s one of the places where she has fond memories of growing up.

From up until where the van can manage, she takes a 10-minute hike on a trail leading to the mountain fortress. She reaches the base of the idjang—the spot they were allowed to go play and have a picnic as kids for the top of it were deemed sacred grounds.

Dinner for keeps

Bing caps her day with a nice dinner with her mother and sisters. Her mother, who is already in her nineties, regales with stories about their life during the Japanese occupation era.

One of Bing’s goals is to write her mother’s memoir thinking that it would be her way of paying tribute to how her mother gave so much to secure her future.

After dinner, Bing gets a text invite for a get-together As expected, she’s not one to pass.

Young at Art

John Lorenz ‘Vorz’ Portez is a quiet presence and one of the youngest in Batanes’ thriving art scene

John Lorenz “Vorz” Portez is a soft-spoken 20-year-old acrylic painter who dreams of following the footsteps of Austrian artist Voka and Ivatan artist Randalf Dilla. He likes exploring colors thoroughly, oftentimes resulting in dynamic, spontaneous and bold strokes
reflecting in his works. He calls his art spontaneous realism and is fond of showing the depth of human emotions through portraits of Ivatan elders.

A young artist’s mornings

Vorz in his element at his home studio

Vorz wakes up towards noon and he has his reasons. After having his morning cup and the light is better is when he picks up his brush and canvas.

The Portez’s family room is Vorz’s makeshift studio. Noontime is quietest so it’s when Vorz starts painting. But his creative energy peaks at night when everything comes to a standstill.
Solitude, to Vorz, is integral in his creative journey.

As a full-time painter, Vorz enjoys doing his artwork at a leisurely pace—one thing that he’s unable to do when he was in school. He went to college for two years and stopped given that the course he took—drafting—lured him away from painting.

His project for today is Mahatao lighthouse. The lighthouses in Batan Island are also among his favorite subjects because he sees them as a metaphor of hope, light and home. In his current collection are 15 paintings of lighthouses in different interpretations.

Pride and little big dreams

The work Vorz is most proud of is his winning piece entitled Abus Pandan A Saray (Walang Katumbas na Tiwala) that shows a young Ivatan taking off the blindfold of his elder in the hope of guiding the latter through the changes that are taking place in the island. This artwork is put on display at Galerie Du Tulaan at Fundacion Pacita.

Drawing inspiration from an old Uyugan house

Vorz dreams of opening his own exhibit one day at the Ayala Museum in Makati, like the other members of Yaru nu Artes Ivatan (Bayanihan of Ivatan Artists), a collective of local artists which he’s a part of.

Daily inspiration

Although a great part of his day is spent painting at their new home in Basco, Vorz still goes out in some afternoons for a breath of fresh air.

The Tayid Lighthouse—the subject of the day’s painting lessons

Back in the days when they were still renting a house in Mahatao, his break from painting would be to hang out with friends. And when he wanted a moment of solitude, he would go to the Mahatao lighthouse, White Beach, or trek Mahuruhon to gather his thoughts and conceptualize for his next piece.

His constant companions were a sketchbook and a pen. He would sketch movements, landscapes, life, ideas, and things that catch his attention in one of his many strolls.

One of his favorite stops for inspiration today is White Beach. His attempt is to capture the tumbling of the waves in his sketchbook.

With his Yaru nu Artes co-artists

His next stop will be the old Ivatan house in Uyugan, which has always fascinated him. He revels in the traditional pattern of the house but points out that the now cemented facade was once made of stone. The house has always been his inspiration whenever he wants to artistically render Batanes’ old stone houses.

When the weather is good, he would go to the Basco lighthouse after feeding their pigs. From the lighthouse’s view deck, he’d watch the interplay of sunset colors, which he would later on translate into acrylic on canvas.

Life outside art

Vorz with his dogs in their Mahatao home

Life outside art means taking care of his eight dogs and tending the backyard pigs his family raises in Chanarian. He would go to their old house in Mahatao daily to feed and play with his dogs because he couldn’t bring them to their new home in Basco. At home, he helps out in chores as any son would. After dinner, as soon as everybody retires to bed, he’d go back to the company of his brush and canvas and paint the night away.

Words: Photos by Ferds Decena

Up close and personal with celebrated Manila bartender David Ong

Up close and personal with celebrated Manila bartender David Ong

David bartends at his very own Oto music bar. Photo by Locale Magazine

We spent some time chatting with the man behind the only Philippine bar to make it in Asia’s 50 Best Bars by William Reed Business Media, and Edsa Beverage Design Studio, this year, on things like stories on his hip Makati music-bar, Manila restaurants and chefs he adores, and his go-to comfort food places.

We wanted a space where we could hang out and listen to good music thus the concept of Oto came up.It’s designed for a great listening experience, complete with turntables, speakers, vinyl records, amplifiers and a curated playlist.

Poblacion in Makati is a young neighborhood, thriving with small businesses, and we wanted to add to its diversity by serving proper coffee, good cocktails and music.

The food and beverage at Oto are intended to be experience-driven and conversation-driven. We try to adjust to what our guests want so they’ll get the best drink possible.

Oto’s menu is made of things that reminded me of my childhood or family. We have this drink called #ReligionBlack named after my sister Tina’s Isntagram handle @religionblack. Our Hey Brian, a Wild Turkey bourbon infused with grapefruit juice and tamarind syrup, is named after a regular customer.

My rule of thumb for cocktails is to make it complex yet simple and relatable enough once you taste it.

I am a very easy drinker although I have my preferences and am open to trying new things. When I drink, I’m open to what the bartenders would want to serve me. I still go for classic cocktails whether it’s an old fashioned, mojito, or a whisky sour. I don’t like eating while drinking.

Resto-bars in Manila that I like:
Toyo Eatery
12/10
Rambla

Wildflour Cafe + Bakery’s Mac and Cheese


My go to restaurants in Manila:
Toyo Eatery
Mecha Uma
Wild our Cafe + Bakery
Cafe Juanita
Sarsa

On regular days, I eat at:
Tokyo Tokyo
Bacolod Chicken Inasal
KFC for their chicken with a full cup of gravy, my comfort food
Hen Lin for siomai
Food Channel for shawarma

Chefs I admire are Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery and Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma. Chef Jordy whips Filipino-inspired cuisine at Toyo Eatery, where his staff of chefs and cooks are Filipino. Chef Bruce is ingredient-focused—I always leave his restaurant mindblown as he always does things out of the box.

I never really liked clubbing but if I’m in that kind of situation, I always end up being the guy with a bottle making people drink, observing everyone, and caring for those who can’t manage.

If I weren’t a barista or entrepreneur, I would probably be a banker or a hotelier.

Who is David Ong?
David Ong is the co-owner of music lounge-cum-bar Oto, e Curator Co ee and Cocktails, the only Philippine bar to make it in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars by William Reed Business Media, and Edsa Beverage Design Studio.

Interview by Jonalyn Fortuno

48 hours in awesome Antipolo

48 hours in awesome Antipolo

Looking for an escape near Manila that’s only minutes’ drive away? We bring you Antipolo, the land that’s put together into one the best of many worlds—breathtaking sceneries, trendy hangouts, creative spaces, and your perfect R&R. Experience the awesome city in only two days with this itinerary.

Day1, 8am


One of Antipolo’s not-so-hidden-gems is Hinulugang Taktak, which literally translates to “where the bell dropped,” and it’s sheer beauty. This beauty is about 21.5m tall and about 25.8m wide, and at its foreground is a landscaped picnic area with a pavilion—great spot for taking snaps.

Day1, 12pm

The crowd favorite: Beef Salpicao

 

A few blocks away from Hinulugang Taktak is Bistro at Le Blanc Hotel where you can enjoy unique Filipino-Asian fusion of dishes, and the restaurant’s star dish, the rib eye salpicao.
Facebook.com/The-Bistro-at-LeBlanc-1458714327516116/

Day 1, 1pm

Pinto Art Museum, a tricycle ride away from the Antipolo Municpal Office Building, has become one of today’s most sought after galleries in the country. Its main lure is the design of the gallery itself, which takes inspiration from the Cycladic Architecture. A lot of contemporary artists have hold exhibits at Pinto, and some of the notable ones like respected painter Bendicto Cabrera. To complete the Pinto experience is its unparalleled location—at the edge of a mountain.
1 Sierra Madre St, Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal

Day 1, 7pm

The pool at the edge of Cafe Lupe makes for a wonderful dip

 

Imagine feasting on sumptuous kare-kare (peanut stew) and nachos while taking in views of the breathtaking cityscape at night with all the city light lit up. Well, you can actually make it happen by booking a stay at Café Lupe, a bed and breakfast with an infinity pool, KTV rooms, table tennis facility, a 70s inspired lobby, and countryside style restaurant.
Facebook.com/cafelupeantipolo

Day 2, 8am

Luljetta has one too many gardens and this is one of the nicer ones

Pops of color are a mainstay at Luljetta’s rooms

 

An overnight stay at Luljuetta’s Place will get you waking up to views of the metropolitan skyline for the resort sits literally on the edge of a mountain. Luljuetta’s main attractions are its pools surrounded by lush greens and flowering plants, and its outdoor spa. If you want to have a most pleasant breakfast, order their daing na bangus (milkfish) and signature garlic rice and have it at their garden.
Sitio Loreland, Barangay San Roque 1930 Antipolo, Rizal

Day2, 12pm

A dance number at 11Circle food park. Why not?

 

If you can’t decide where to have lunch for the last few hours of your stay in Antipolo, might as well head to 11Circle, a food park with a smorgasbord of booths selling dishes from around the world. Here you’ll find a samgyupsal (Korean specialty) stall, a ramen stall, and stalls that offer American and Filipino favorites.
Facebook.com/11circleantipolo/

Day 2pm

Beautiful place of worship, hands down

 

Cap your Antipolo adventure the most peaceful of ways by stopping by the Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary, a solemn place of worship in Antipolo’s more quieter side along the main highway.  Inside it feels like you’re covered by a giant web of white panels and glass that let the trees from the outside meld with the inside and the natural light to seep in. Very unlike your typical heritage churches the Philippines is famous for, but equally impressive.
Daang Bakal Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal

The basics
Book Bienvenido Travel and Tours operates. Contact operator Ramon Marinas at +630977 821 3075, tel +63695 1965, email ramon.marinas@bienvenidotours.com, Bienvenidotours.com.

Get there:
SkyJet flies daily from Batanes, Coron in Palawan, and Siargao to Manila. Book a SkyJet flight now.

From NAIA Terminal 4, take a cab or book a Grab ride to Ayala Avenue in Makati (RCBC building) where there are Antipolo-bound UV commuter vans.

Story and photos by Kat Magsino

3 must-see places in Tangalan, Aklan in one day

3 must-see places in Tangalan, Aklan in one day

A tiered waterfall and an empty beach are what you get from this sleepy Visayan town

Tangalan, Aklan is something that will qualify for of-the-radar. It’s en route to Aklan province’s capital Kalibo and the perfect place for a bit of adventure minus the crowd.

Jawili Falls

Placid pool of Jawili Falls

Jawili Falls is a wonderful waterfall—seven natural pools formed from a series of cascades. It’s got stone steps fringing the pools, and as you climb you get to take in the view of one dark basin after the next.

These natural swimming pools are like actual pools you’d see in hotels except that they’re natural.Their sizes vary with the deepest fetching up to 10 feet deep. Locals would jump of a cliff and plunge into the water.

The apex is a small shallow stream with trees and shrubberies on both sides, feeding the cascade. It looks magical in late afternoons when light filters through still leaves.

Jawili Beach

Coconut tree -fringed Jawili Beach

A calm and empty shore—that’s Jawili Beach. No grand hotels, no restaurants, and absolutely no tourists. Huts and a few small resorts with rooms are available for rent.

The beach’s cream-colored sand isn’t powder-fine but definitely good enough. At late afternoon, walk on its expansive shore and you’ll be rewarded with fiery yellows and oranges tinting the sky at sunset.

St. John Nepomucene Church

Facade of St. John Nepomuceno Church

The St. John Nepumucene Church was built in 1889, its age evident in the tarnishing on its limestone walls built using limestone that came from the nearby Afga Beach. Its façade—arched wooden double doors, circular stone windows on both sides, a central niche with an image of Christ—is perfectly symmetrical if not for the fairly recent addition of a bell tower on its left lank. It’s smaller than most colonial churches in the Philippines but still looked regal and stately even with its diminutive form.

Get there
Fly from from Manila to Caticlan via SkyJet, which starts flights in December. From Caticlan, ride a Ceres Bus from the terminal and alight at the Tangalan Public Market. From there, ride a tricycle to Jawili Falls.

Sleep
Jawili Blue Starfish Resort on Jawili Beach has modern rooms and a swimming pool. Tel +639192791577, jdjawili@yahoo.com

Green Meadows Beach Resort has rustic beachfront bungalows. Tel+ 09087844765

Eat
Tatoy’s Place, a beachfront resto-bar. Tel +639189627713

Adee’s Seafood Grill & Restaurant, a seafood restaurant along the National Highway. Tel +639395154660, Adees011613@yahoo.com

Story and photos by Christian Sangoyo

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