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Q&A with Noli, a Batanes Local

Exactly how do you plan an authentic travel experience? You ask those who know the place by heart, of course. On our Living La Vida Locals series, we feature trusted locals and their insider tips and experiences.

For Batanes, we interviewed professional travel photographer Noli Gabilo.

Photo courtesy of Noli Gabilo

What’s the best way to get around Batanes?

This depends on the number of travelers. A big group should travel in four-wheeled vehicles such as vans, Asian utility vehicles, or jeepneys. Couples or single travelers can hire a tricycle or rent a motorcycle. Others may prefer going around on bicycles which are available for rent. If you have the luxury of time, you may go on foot.

What’s a local dish that every traveler needs to try?

As a proud native of Sabtang, I would recommend every visitor to try the tabtab (also known as uved). It is a delicacy from the core of the root of a certain variety of banana. After it is harvested, it is chopped into smaller pieces then grated. Ground meat and fish are added to it and mixed with spices. It is made into small balls and steamed. A newer serving is the fried version.

What’s a big no-no for those traveling there?

Do not be disrespectful to the culture.

What’s the best tip you can give to a first-time traveler to Batanes?

If you want to know about and experience authentic Ivatan culture goes around with a seasoned local guide. He or she can bring you to the relevant sources of information and unique spots on the islands.

What are some of its secret spots or hidden gems?

Our boat-shaped stone-lined graves. Only the Vikings share the same.

What are the best ways to get to know the locals more?

Immersion.

What are the real souvenir(s) that one should bring back from Batanes?

Travelers should bring back souvenir items that are locally crafted. For example, the finely made jewelry vessels called Vuvud or the headgear for women called Suut or Vakul.

What do you love most about Batanes?

There are many things I love about Batanes. Of course, it’s my home and there are many things I took for granted until I left and got to travel.

What I love about Batanes is its people and their unique way of life and resiliency in the face of adversity.

Life in Batanes is dictated by the weather and they have adapted to many circumstances that come their way.

They have devised a method of self-help (payuhuan or yaru) to lighten the workload from simple things as clearing the streets after a typhoon to heavier work in building a house. It made me appreciate how culture evolves as man intervenes with his environment.

If you can describe Batanes in just one word, what would it be?

Unique.

Photo courtesy of Noli Gabilo

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