Stone houses of Batanes

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetMany locals in Savidug, the village after Central Sabtang, still live in the original stone houses of their ancestors

At some point before the trip, I may or may not have declared that I only want to see the old stone houses, and nothing else. The rest of the time I’d be happy to just find a spot and catch up on my reading, backdropped by a hill or something.

I’m thoroughly fascinated with old towns. I like feeling to be in the middle of its storied streets  and imagining myself transported to a century or two ago. In Batanes, traces of the old can be seen, felt and smelled through the old stone houses, traditionally made using limestone technology brought by the Spanish.

Several buildings still stand in Basco but most of the well-preserved ones and where locals still live in are in towns outside Basco. The ones that stand next to each other, strung along in an entire street for example, are in Sabtang island, a thirty-minute big faluwa trip not for the weak of hearts.

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThis house, while renovated with concrete, still charms visitors in an old world kind of way

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Processed with VSCO with m5 presetA stroll in the deeper, quieter arteries of town

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetA girl escapes the village-wide siesta to go biking in the narrow streets of Chavayan, the farthest barangay in Sabtang

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThis dog looked up when he saw me walking down on the street, stared for 2 seconds then returned to his very own siesta

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Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThe local chapel of Savidug and the old kumbento

Many of these old houses, in the southern Batan towns of Uyugan, Ivana and Mahatao, and especially in the villages of island municipality of Sabtang, are still functioning houses for the locals. In fact, I stayed in one stone house in Central Sabtang for a night.

It was a crippling curiosity that made me want to peek into the windows and doors to see what is, who is and what is going on inside. These doors and windows have a certain character and texture unique in each of them: wood with faded paint of blue or amber, balusters, stained glass, closed and elusive, open and inviting…

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