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The Stilts, Calatagan


My sentiments and my family’s exactly. We traveled south of Manila by the dozen. To enjoy nature and the company of one another.


Our first shelter once we got to the resort, wasn’t on water. The cabana’s name was Destiny. Apart from a three-bedroom with AC and three-baths, it had a porch with a hammock where one of us slept through the night, two sunbathing chairs, a parking space, another shed for dining. Overlooking the water directly, it had its own bamboo gazebo. But there’s more in that cove, they have mangroves! Natural assumption, they’ve got fresh seafood. And we were treated by mom to some seafood and grilled pork and chicken for her birthday dinner at the dining shed.


We woke up curious about the breakfast buffet. It was a long walk getting there. But worth it if we wanted to beat some of the guests to the pool and the poolside chairs. The long path was full of flowers. And we had a great time discovering that The Stilts woke up like nature on steroids.


Sure it was a long walk, but the entire place has you reading many stuff if you stop and read the writing on the wood (book excerpts by many authors are everywhere). Paulo Coelho as it turns out, actually loves his daily long walks.


While most of us stayed on the garden path, my aunt and I strayed and walked on the beach, inspecting the reddish coral debris and the multi-hued sigay shells. So much shells to look at, so little time. They kept on calling out to us to catch up or I don’t know, miss the breakfast buffet? We just enjoyed the beach walking barefoot, no one was running or playing about yet and it was so tranquil. I didn’t want to miss breakfast, at least not their coffee, which I was satisfied to find out was the Batangas barako brew sort.


While looking at seashells on the shoreline, we found the boat anchored and behind it, the cabanas on stilts. I have to admit to you, because they had AC, initially, they looked kinda stiff up there. Not relaxed as opposed to Destiny which was our cabana for the meantime because an entire troup had most of the stilted cabanas for a wedding event the previous day. The wedding entourage meant there would be a drone above us. Bummer. I hate the sound of drones and their unwelcome intrusion to one’s head space. Also they could knock you out if they fell.


Where was I? Breakfast buffet. It was a fair table spread. But I just wanted to post this photo of their Batangas barako brew and the yummy noodle dish lomi, because while in Batangas, these are basic in Batangas cuisine. I also scolded myself for immediately commenting that the flowers on the dining tables must be fake. Turns out I was so wrong. Anyway, the barako brew is a strong type, so I guess all that coffee energy got me tangled into the morning impromptu free rhumba course from my aunt right beside our table. Because they were playing fast music! Barako coffee or no barako coffee, I always have a hard time keeping up with her impromptu ballroom dance lessons.


The pool was right beside the buffet pavilion. Water’s nice, warm and truly bluer than blue. It made the white flowers beside the pool seem blue as well. This was where most of us spent the day and even when it was raining, we played Word Factory beside the pool, under the shade.


We eventually got our very own cabana on stilts, named Happiness, for the late afternoon till the next day. It also had a hammock, as it turned out. And three bathrooms. The family area was all white, the couch and pillows white as was the dining nook which had a slim couch tucked under a wooden dining table and a long bench on the opposite-where we continued our Word Factory game till close to midnight. The Stilts do not have television. We didn’t die without the TV fare.

P_20170718_183224_1Watching the sunset together was better than hoping for HD TV. It changed hues, all the colors of jewels right there on the stilts. Don’t change that channel!


So, if I had a quote I wanted written on one of those wooden readables, I’d write: “Life is still good whether you’re down or atop the stilts.” – O.V.

P.S. O.V. is my acronym, and it’s also what I watermarked my photos on this blog with.



Laiya, I like ya

Fun brought to you by Burot Beach, Batangas


Photo by Onnah Valera

Stones and sticks tell the stories of Batanes

Batanes is the only place in the Philippines which is protected in its entirety, thus, securing environmental permits and registering at the municipal hall is a must for visitors. As a first-timer to Batanes, I’d prefer to keep its secrets to myself, but I can’t because it’s the most amazing place on earth. The Batanes airport is undergoing structural updates but exemplifies the islands’ aesthetics. The airport represents my first brush with Batanes. 10293546_10205527821329786_946592745335185606_o

Marine Sanctuary. We got a mayor’s permit to enter the area. This is an untapped dive site and its cool brown, grey and cream sand is cool to the touch. The water feels soothingly cool. Had an awesome time splashing on the beach. Photo by Onnah Valera

This was our ride for our entire stay on Basco Batanes, a unique cogon grass-roofed 10-seater. They made our hectic Basco-Sabtang itinerary very enjoyable. If your vehicle for touring is this open, there’re more opportunities to take photos enroute and breathe in the fresh air.

Photo by Onnah Valera

The arch to this view point says Welcome to Basco. Warm welcomes don’t always come with this view.

Photo by Onnah Valera

Mt. Carmel church is new, but built with the ancient Ivatan style. Its ceiling’s got murals of the 6 patron saints of the six Basco barangays. Mt. Carmel church is new, but built with the ancient Ivatan style.

Photo by Onnah Valera

The “boundaries” called liveng (hedgegrows of cogon reeds or sticks and grass) seen on the hills serve as fences, organic farming tools and anti-erosion for stormy weather

. Photo by Onnah Valera

Marlboro Hills, rolling hills with a stunning 360 view

. Photo by Onnah Valera

Valugan Boulder Beach. As the guides say, Batanes was an accident. Mount Iraya erupted and spewed ash and huge rocks.

Photo by Onnah Valera

Vayang Rolling hills. The population of people in Batanes is only a few thousands, with the lot of cows around, I wonder if there are more cows than people here.

Photo by Onnah Valera

Watched the sunset at the foot of the Basco Lighthouse on Naidi hills

Photo by Onnah Valera

Casa Napoli Pizza is the only pizzeria in town. Make that two. It’s got two outlets. They serve the best pizza and the most tasty fried chicken I reckon. But, if you are a die hard gastronomy fanatic, you might want to head off to Pension Ivatan where we were able to taste the unique local gastronomy. For our group of 8 women, their Ivatan Platter was just enough to feed us. The fish is grilled flying fish! You can see a lobster, beef strips, squid, fried pork called lunis, uvud balls made of taro root, lumot, another vegetable dish that kinda reminds me of laing, red eggs, and turmeric rice in there.

Photo by Onnah Valera

Meet the people who visit Batanes and leave their secrets in this visitors’ library in Mahatao. In these pages, any Batanes visitor is welcome to write, as they say, “What happens in Batanes stays in Batanes”. Their diorama also holds interesting colonial Spanish era facts.

Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah Valera

The faluwa (local Batanes motor boat) we boarded at Ivana Port to bring us to the island of Sabtang.

Photo by Onnah Valera

Sabtang Island. There’s a native fashion called “vakul” which is solely to be worn by women of Batanes to protect them from the elements, sort of an all-weather raincoat/umbrella. My photobomber (she’s part of my tour group) is wearing a vakul. Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah Valera

Chavayan District is a functional community of Ivatans or locals who live in these stone houses with walls a meter thick, cogon grass for roofing, or in modern times, steel roofing. It kinda reminds me of the Shire in those Lord of The Rings movies.

Photo by Onnah ValeraPhoto by Onnah ValeraPhoto by Onnah Valera

Songsong District experienced a tsunami three decades ago and yet the walls of the Ivatan ruins still stand.

Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah ValeraView Post

There’s so much for a first-timer to Batanes like me to experience, I only got as far as Basco Island and Sabtang. Itbayat is another Island they recommend to see. Actually, it would’ve been cool to really know the Ivatans by living “homestay” style in their stone houses. I hope to return and do this next time. The stone houses tell quite a marvelous story about Batanes and the Ivatans.

Puerto Princesa Underground River is the Philippines’ new addition to the 7 New Wonders of Nature


Spelunking then superman ziplining in Puerto Princesa Palawan. These were my stunts last week!

Spelunking then superman ziplining in Puerto Princesa Palawan. These were my stunts last week!

A Day in the Life of Fisherfolk in Zambales