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SLIDESHOW: Paying it forward for Batanes

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2019 04:38 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2019 01:19 PM

A visit to Batanes will surely make one fall in love. Three young photographers proved that there is more of the Philippines' northernmost province than meets the eye. 

With mesmerizing land and seascapes, Batanes is a haven for landscape photographers, according to Paul Quiambao and Ralph Anthony Valderrama, who visited the province in 2010 and 2017, respectively. Documentary photographer Orange Omengan, on the other hand, went to Batanes as a volunteer for a research project for the National Commission for Culture and Arts. 

Beyond the island's physical beauty, visitors can take comfort in Ivatan hospitality. Among Filipinos, the Ivatans of Batanes are probably the most hospitable, helpful and cooperative, according to these lensmen.

A community known for espousing egalitarianism, locals always treat visitors as part of their own. Discrimination is never a concern. The islands have a “feeling of home,” according to Quiambao. 

"Bayanihan is very much alive in Batanes. Residents would not think twice [in] helping travelers," said Valderrama. 

He recalled a time their team of photographers got back late after shooting the sunset. Shops and eateries were already closed and what was left open was a small grilling place. Hungry from the shoot, they asked the owner if they knew a place where they could buy rice. The owner turned over some cooked rice to the visitors, who found out later that the owner packed the cooked rice meant for his family and offered it to them without hesitation. It was a simple gesture that left a mark on Valderrama. 

Kindness not left unnoticed

When three strong earthquakes hit Itbayat on July 27, Quiambao and Valderrama instinctively thought of selling prints to help raise funds for the relief efforts for the people of Batanes. These separate efforts gave birth to “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”, a Facebook page that encourages other photographers to support efforts for Batanes. The funds raised will be used to buy basic supplies for the locals and support rebuilding efforts. “This is our way of giving back to the loving and resilient Ivatans who welcomed us with warm hospitality,” said Quimbao.

The biggest concern is providing safe shelter for the locals, particularly the elders whose houses were severely damaged by the series of quakes, according to Omengan, who stayed with the locals for months in 2018. “Most of the residents have camped out in the town plaza as they no longer have homes to return to,” she added. Another magnitude 4 earthquake hit Itbayat on Thursday, the weather could make conditions worse.

“Bayanihan para sa Batanes” has so far raised around P200,000, as of this writing. The team plans to personally give the money to affected residents through the help of the local government unit of Itbayat. Priority will be given to those whose houses were severely damaged, according to Quiambao.

At least 50 photographers have collaborated with “Bayanihan para sa Batanes” in selling prints, according to Quiambao. They include photojournalist Luis Liwanag and landscape photographer Raymond Cruz. The page continuously inspires fellow photographers to contribute their works. Photographs need not be about Batanes; organizers accepts works of any photographic genre.

Helping is not limited in selling and buying these photographic prints. The team also accepts cash or in-kind donations like clothing, school supplies, instant food, blankets, jackets, and toys for children who were traumatized by the strong quakes.

These items may be sent to Batanes Congressional Office c/o Atty Rachel Derigay, Chief of Staff, Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato, Jr. or you may call thru 09064129162.

Rapang Cliff during sunrise, located in Itbayat Batanes. Ra Valderrama, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Batanes. Paul Quiambao, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Sabtang Lighthouse during sunset, Located at Sabtang Batanes. Ra Valderrama, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Naidi Lighthouse at night located in Basco, Batanes. Ra Valderrama, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Mayahaw Arc at night, located at Sabtang, Batanes. Ra Valderrama, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Batanes. Paul Quiambao, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Torongan Cave at Night, located in Itbayat Batanes, Philippines. RA Valderrama, , “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Catalina Gonzales (Lola Ninay) still walks to her farm in eastern Itbayat, Batanes on a daily basis. She’s turning 93 this year. March 17, 2018. Orange Omengan, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

In the backdrop of waning light, Lynhna Aquino casts her nanauy in Sabtang, Batanes. July 8, 2017. Orange Omengan, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Strewn across the floors of this rustic abode are the vuyavuy fibers of Rosario Valiente. Dearly called as Lola Yayo, she has been weaving for most of her life here in Sta. Rosa, Itbayat. She turned a century-old in 2018. March 16, 2018. Orange Omengan, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”

Lola Yayo - Oldest Vakul Weaver in Itbayat, Batanes. Orange Omengan, “Bayanihan para sa Batanes”