The rolling hills of Vayang

My guide led me through a narrow path on top of a hill. The sky was blue and the wind, carried by the ocean, was singing hallelujah. The space to walk on was less than a foot wide and flanked on both sides by knee-high cogon grass.  The vista opened up to the verdant hills, sparkling with gold from the drying cogon, and the violet, wide, open sea. It felt like the whole universe was in front of you and you love it and it’s loving you back. I couldn’t tell if the water on my eyes was from the wind chill or I had reached paradise and those were real tears.

The hills of Vayang is quintessential Batanes, a land that endlessly rolls and ebbs and flows while covered in green and golden grass danced by the Pacific wind. Mount Iraya towering above and watching the harmony of it all.

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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.

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In Basco, slowing down onto siesta

What’s your plan for today, sir, my host, Rowena asked me. Just walk or bike around town siguro, I said. OK, I have a spare bike there in the garage, you can use it.

Without hint of where exactly the town center was, I pedaled my way to the north and hoped to locate a plaza or a church, knowing I would most likely find both next to each other. The Basco morning sky was overcast. Steve Harvey’s voice was blasting from the television set of a house I passed by. Nearing the town center, I caught a glimpse of a lighthouse perched on top of a hill. I followed the road until I noticed the lighthouse was coming closer and closer. I went past the capitol building, a Rizal monument park, a state high school and college campus and the Basco cathedral. When it became too difficult for my chicken legs to bike uphill, I walked the bike all the way up.

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Basco Lighthouse, Naidi Hills

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New years and that bend in the road

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetBasco, Batanes

In November, I quit a career that sustained me pretty well for 15 years. I had a splendid run but I thought I’m ready for the next sprint. I quit it to explore a life of creativity, adventure and pretty much unknown things (or like what others actually said, an irrational and stupid choice).

The clarity and the decision arrived in February while I was descending the northern mountains back to Manila. Completely awake and stirring in the 10-hour bus ride from Sagada and perhaps the afterglow of a trip in the mountains, my mind was traveling faster than a bullet train, feeling so free that I can afford the new life I dreamed and scared at the same time at this rush of courage. The road ahead looked freshly exhilarating.

I didn’t necessarily plan the plot twist at the start of 2017. I began the year with a modest set of goals, with no hint of the rollercoaster year ahead. Inside my former apartment in the quiet neighborhood of Kapitolyo, the last of the few incense sticks from Hanoi burning and scenting the late afternoon light, I set myself up with a new Bullet Journal (a goal in itself of documenting my year with bullet points, a less-daunting journaling format) and planned the then upcoming year. I thought I’d share my review of some of my 2017 goals.

First, the habits and goals with relative success (good enough for me):

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Romblon, queen of unspoilt

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It’s not one of the first places that come to mind when you think of summer destinations. Considered the marble capital, Romblon is the RO in MIMAROPA, which I’m now convinced is the better looking sister of CALABARZON. I mean, who beats Palawan here, right? Our friend Rob invited us to take this trip. Cebu Pacific just opened flights this year to this archipelago. See, that it was an archipelago in itself was a pleasant surprise!

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