I learned that you can circumnavigate the island of Batan in less than a day, using a bike. It sounded like a romantic proposition—pedaling between hills, going in and out of villages, with the wind in your hair and the grass on your feet—until I tried to leave the relatively flat terrain of Basco and came face to face with my first twenty degree uphill slope. It took my legs two minutes to convince me to turn around and go back to town.
Bikes parked near Naidi Hills in Basco (left) and in a house in Chavayan (farthest barangay in Sabtang)
This one’s near the entrance to the town of Ivana
Prices of fuel are doubly expensive on the islands of Batanes, compared to the main land. This makes bicycles a practical—and still, a romantic—option to locals and travelers. There is an unspoken charm with streets dotted with parked bikes, where people go to work, run their errands and go on their daily grind. It reminded me well of the cities of Japan like Osaka and Tokyo. Naturally, the second-hand urban bikes sold all over Basco are instant Japanese reminders.
A bike parked under the shade of one of the arcades of the Ivana convent
An Ivatan biking the street of Savidug in Sabtang island
A biking culture is of course a factor of street safety. Places with developing commercial activity and therefore limited motorized vehicles using its streets will likely imbibe a more pedestrian- and biker-friendly traffic sensibilities. However, I have yet to see another town in the Philippines, no matter how modest, where bikes are as assimilated into its local life and business than in Basco.
This one’s owned by a boy in Savidug who was just collecting a pail of sand from the beach nearby. He arrived shortly after I took the shot.
Another bike from the across Ivana church, under spider webs and Arius trees