Things You Should Know about the Ivatans (People of Batanes)

What makes a place beautiful? Is it the bounteous wonders of nature, the culture and history? Is it the prominent landmarks and tourist attractions? For me it’s more than that — it’s the people. Every time I travel, it’s those random encounters and conversations with the locals that leave a lasting impact to me. The photos may be forgotten, the sights may be replaced in a new adventure, but the new friends you’ll meet will only pass in your life once.

It was without question that I was drawn to Batanes’ enchanting charm and beauty. Unexpectedly, I was also inspired to know more about the Ivatans and their way of life. In a short span of time, I’ve known their common personalities and lifestyle. I guess this is very important in visiting a province: you understand their roots and traditions, beliefs and culture so that you’d be careful not to disrespect them or offend them in any way. As a responsible traveler, it is your duty not only to preserve the natural wealth of the province but also to respect its distinct culture.

Here is the list of things you should know about the Ivatans:

They are honest and trustworthy.

The concept of “honesty store” is very popular in Batanes. People can buy goods without rendering the payment to a person, but instead they can leave it either in a small box or canister. With that, the tourists are expected to be honest with their monetary transactions.

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Honesty is one of their core values. There is no reason to fret about your losing your belongings or being cheated on because the Ivatans do not tolerate dishonesty. Theft has no place in Batanes. It’s been said that it is part of their upbringing since childhood.

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Honesty store in Batanes

They are hardworking.

Ivatans are trained to work hard for a living and not depend on others to sustain their needs. One manifestation of this trait is the absence of beggars in the place. The main industries in Batanes are agriculture and fishing, and obviously, tourism. It is not unusual for them to have more than one job. We were surprised that our tour guide was also a part-time truck driver. Having a simple lifestyle, they just get what they need from their agricultural products. Poverty rate is very low in Batanes.

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A farmer in Sabtang walking his way home

They do not resort to crimes.

Batanes is known to be a zero-crime tourist destination. No wonder why this place is among the favorite of solo travellers. Understanding the rationale behind this, we were told that if a person committed a crime, it will be known in the entire province or island. It is considered a disgrace to one’s family or entire community. We also heard that if a person commits a crime, he will be evicted from the place or be forced to move to another island because of shame. Petty incidents of crime are usually done by the tourists themselves or foreigners.

Since crimes are unusual in Batanes, our homestays are often left at night by the caretakers unlocked. The old houses in Sabtang are often left open that we wonder if there is anyone residing there. There is no room to worry about security.

They are gentle and kind.

Ivatans are typically shy at first but once you engage them in the conversations, they can relate with you well. They are gentle and respectful. Our tour guide would often include “po” and “opo” in our conversations.

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With our tour guide in Sabtang

The locals are also kind and hospitable — the tour guides, homestay owners and caretakers and vendor would always greet you with a smiling face and would ask you if you are comfortable or if you need anything. When I dropped my blazer somewhere in Sabtang, our tour guide looked for it even if that meant passing along rugged and steep roads. Fortunately, he was able to find it and he returned it to me. I even told him not to bother looking for it anymore but he insisted.

They have high respect for their culture.

Ivatans exert efforts to uphold their cultural heritage. Old stone houses are preserved until today to showcase the Ivatan tradition of building a sturdy house that can withstand any strong typhoon. Vaculs, or the traditional headdress of women, are still being worn today to protect them from the sun or rain.

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They treat nature as sacred.

Natural wealth is one of their greatest, priceless assets. The natural landscapes of Batanes and the picturesque cliffhanger roads overlooking the seas have paved the way for tourism. This is why Ivatans are very protective of what they have — they are disciplined on garbage disposal and they strictly prohibit the pilfering of any coral or stones from the sea.

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A Tourist’s Responsibilities

Since Batanes is a beautiful place protected and preserved by its ethnic people, the tourists are also expected to be responsible in their actions. Show respect to the locals and elders by greeting them and talking to them. Do not throw your garbage anywhere. Do not take something from the sea. Be polite and show courtesy. Do not keep asking why the prices of commodities are too high because it is already understood how difficult it is to transport these goods.

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With Ate Emi and Crise of Marfel’s Lodge, our kind homestay caretakers

Be friendly and approachable. Treat them equally but with sincerity. If you’ll show them respect and kindness, they will reciprocate it more with love and generosity.

 

 

 

Feel at Home in Marfel’s Lodge, Batanes

In Batanes, homestays are popular because they are cheap, practical, and convenient.  A big house is typically subdivided into small rooms but you share the common amenities such as the kitchen, toilet, and living room with the other guests.

When tourism in Batanes started to boom, Marfel’s Lodge was among the first to open its doors to travelers back in 2013. As one of the pioneer accommodations in Basco, it is one of the most sought-after homestays in Basco.  Started with just a few rooms, it has now expanded to five branches to accommodate more tourists.

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Marfel’s Main is just 5 minutes away from the airport. We were fetched from the arrival area by their staff and rode the van heading to the homestay.

Room

Marfel’s has aircon and fan rooms for solo travelers, groups, and couples. Getting an aircon room is convenient especially when the weather is hot, but fan rooms are also available if you are on a budget.

We booked a fan room with 1 double bed and one single bed. The room is small and simple. Towels and soaps were provided upon check-in. You may check the updated rates here: Marfel’s lodge.

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Photo from Marfel Lodge FB page

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Our stay was inclusive of daily breakfast meals from Day 2 up to the last day. Availing the breakfast turned out to be a wise choice — since we had no time anymore to prepare our food early in the morning. Although Basco is accessible to restaurants and eateries, the choices are not as diverse as that of the other famous tourist spots.

Kitchen

One of the perks I like in Marfel’s is the free use of the kitchen. Food and other basic commodities in Batanes are way too expensive that cooking is always a common option  for budget travelers. We would eat lunch at the restaurants or eateries during our tours, then cook our own dinner at home. Dinner staples consisted mostly of canned goods, egg, or fresh seafood from the market. We cooked our own rice and shared it with the other guests.

Marfel’s kitchen has everything — cooking utensils, ingredients, and even a small honesty store where the guests can buy small grocery items and leave the payment.

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Photo from Marfel’s FB page

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Dinner for Day 1

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Toilet and Bath

Even if we are sharing the common bathroom with the other guests, the cleanliness is always maintained. I was hesitant at first to stay here knowing that our room does not have its own private CR, but I was impressed and relieved that the bathroom is always kept tidy. The toilet is separated from the bathroom. Men and women also have separate comfort rooms.

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Guests can relax and lounge in the living area and watch television. It really reminds me of home. I frequently stayed here to mingle and interact with the other travelers, mostly solo backpackers. This is where I exchanged stories and experiences with fellow travelers.

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You’ll also see this board displayed on the wall with pinned messages and greetings from the guests. Used plane tickets, receipts and photos with printed sweet notes from different travelers show how much they appreciated the hospitality of Marfel’s. Reading them is heart-warming — and you couldn’t agree more. Here’s my message:

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Resting lounge/ Photo from Marfel’s FB page

Friendly and Accommodating Staff

The Ivatans are so kind and hospitable. This is really the main factor that makes my stay in Marfel’s worth remembering. The Ivatans are known to be shy and soft-spoken, but it is so easy to get along well with them. They can be good conversationalists too!

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They treated us like their families, and they always reminded us to treat Marfel’s as our own home. I learned a lot from two of their staff Ate Crise and Ate Emi — about Batanes, Ivatan culture, and life in general. Time seemed too short to wrap up meaty conversations with these two.

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Feel at Home at Marfel’s

Homey and well-organized — that’s how I’d describe Marfel’s Lodge in Basco Batanes. My short vacation in Batanes made me go back to the basics and be contented with the simple things. Marfel’s hospitality and kindness were among the little things I appreciated but surely it touched me the most.

Dios Mamajes, Marfel’s!

Note: Marfel’s Lodge is also affiliated with Chanpan Tours and Services. 

Marfel’s Lodge
Reyes St. Brgy. Kayvaluganan, Basco Batanes
Basco, Batanes :0917 627 2957 / 0908 893 1475
Manila: 0917 704 4071 / 0917 674 0901 /
0918 964 1318
Email:marfellodge@gmail.com
FB page: Marfel’s Lodge
Website: https://marfellodgebatanes.com/

Birthday Staycation at The Linden Suites

My birthday falls on the middle of the peak season at work. So instead of simply celebrating it with my family over lunch or dinner, I thought of either bringing them out of town or staying at a hotel so that it would also serve as a quick getaway and a stress-buster at the same time. If you’ve been an avid reader, then you’d know how our family loves staycations. My sister and I love to travel but since we cannot bring our family out of town as much as we want to, we convert it to staycations either through Airbnb or at local hotels in Manila.

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As I’ve said in my birthday post, we dumped the first plan of spending an overnight at Crosswind Suites Tagaytay primarily due to the weather and transportation. So as a back-up option, I looked for a nice hotel or a serviced apartment in Metro Manila which has big space, enough rooms, affordable cost, and nice amenities for other leisure activities like swimming. It was my cousin who suggested to check out The Linden Suites. Checking the reviews and features online, I instantly liked The Linden Suites.

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Booking and Rates

There are many methods of booking this reservation. You may either reserve via Agoda.com, Booking.com, or directly through their website. However, I did not use any of these. I called Linden Suite’s reservations officer and inquired if I can use the Senior Citizen ID of my grandmother so we can avail the huge discount. We only paid Php 6,400 compared to the website’s published rate of Php 8,000 (inclusive of fees and taxes) for an overnight stay at a Two- Bedroom Suite. When she confirmed, she sent me the reservation slip and hotel policies agreement form. I signed it and attached the copy of my valid ID.

Pro-tip: Constantly check their social media accounts for any ongoing promo or discount. They usually post in their Facebook page and Instagram.

First Impressions

Linden Suites is situated in the busy corporate jungle of Ortigas. Locating it was easy since it is just near SM Megamall. From the outside, it doesn’t look like a hotel. It looks like one of the corporate offices in Ortigas.

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Reception area

The lobby was not as grand or lavish like the other hotels I’ve been to. The reception area was rather small and simple and managed only by two of their reception officers. However, what impressed me is how these ladies accommodated us — they were very professional and had pleasing personalities. They entertained our questions well that I didn’t mind if the reception area looked unflattering. They were not snob or looked irritable even if the customer inquiries were overwhelming.

Two Bedroom Suite Amenities and Features

I booked one two-bedroom suite for my family and guests. The size of the room is 79-113 SQM. based on the website. It has two bedrooms, one with a queen-sized bed, and another with 2 single beds. It has two separate bathrooms — one with a bathtub and one with a shower.

The suite’s receiving area is very spacious that you can hold parties for big groups. There’s a big television set and comfy sofa chairs with a small table at the center. At the back is a working office table with a lamp and a telephone.

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Living area

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Office table

The dining area is good for six people.  We just ordered food outside and ate here.

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There is also a separate door for the kitchen area which has cooking utensils and basic kitchen appliances. There is even complimentary coffee and tea for its guests. We didn’t cook anymore to avoid the hassle of preparing and washing the dishes. Good thing, there is a microwave oven to heat the food we ordered for delivery.

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Small kitchen

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Complimentary coffee and tea and electric pot

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Microwave oven and coffee maker

The rooms had comfy beds and perfectly-working AC. Each room has a wooden cabinet where we can store our personal belongings during our stay.

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Room 1: 2 Single beds

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Room 1: 2 Single beds

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The bathrooms are provided with the basic toiletries. They are not spacious, but are clean. The bathtub, however is too small. I appreciate that the hot and cold shower is also working because you know, I love, long leisurely warm baths. It has all the basic necessities that we need aside from the toiletries such as tissue, towels, blower, toothbrush, cotton, shower cap, and cotton buds.

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Bathroom 1

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Compliments

I enjoyed my bathtub experience. I bought my scented bath bombs from Lush and soaked in the warm water for about an hour. It was truly rejuvenating. Unfortunately, I can’t share my photo here, hehe. *wink*

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Bathroom

Recreational Center

The next day, we used the other facilities of the hotel. Linden has a small swimming pool and jacuzzi which we both enjoyed.  The jacuzzi was warm and good for the body. After dipping in the cold pool, you may go here straight to relax your muscles and be refreshed with the hot water. Our elderly companions definitely had a good time here. Good thing, it was a weekday so we had the jacuzzi all to ourselves. Otherwise, if it was a weekend, it will be jam-packed with guests like what I have heard.

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My mom enjoying the Jacuzzi

The indoor pool is also small. Lucky if you visit here on a day where there are only a few people because you would sharing a small space.

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After swimming, we went to the sauna for some steam. I didn’t went inside the sauna room anymore and proceeded instead to take a bath and change clothes since we were running out of time to prepare for the check-out.

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Tita Belle enjoyed her Sauna

My Feedback

Generally, the facilities and guest services were okay. The facilities were not that flashy or flamboyant, but nevertheless they provided our convenience. Functionality over form, as they would say.

I also observed that they will grant your “extra” requests but they are limited. For example, I requested for extra mugs and two but we were allowed to have only two. I also asked for extra bathrobes, but they can only provide two even if the capacity of the room is good for 4 to five guests. The room is big, but the dining utensils are good for a few people only say for example the plates, spoon and forks and drinking glasses. I guess I just compared it to the other high-end hotels where you can ask for these extra necessities without additional charge or limited count.

Pro-Tips

  1. Inquire about any ongoing promo or discount before booking.
  2. Come on time to maximize your stay. Check-in is at 3 pm for suite rooms and 2 pm for regular rooms.
  3. They allow extension of stay without extra charges, but advice the reception officer in advance. You may check-out 30 minutes to 1 hour after 12 noon, but this depends on your coordination with the hotel.
  4. Bring food supplies and drinking water to avoid the hassle of going out to buy what to you need. Buy bread, biscuits, chips, 1 gallon of water (at least), cup noodles, 3-in-1 coffee in sachets.
  5. Order food through delivery for dinner.
  6. Buy extra paper plates, cups, spoon and fork if you are staying with a big group.
  7. Use the swimming pool the earliest time you can to avoid the crowd.
  8. The nearest mall is Megamall.

A Venue for Memorable Occasions

Our stay at Linden Suites not only made my birthday memorable, it also added precious memories to my family. Their happiness and enjoyment is all that matters to me. Thanks to my sister for being my reliable co-planner for awesome staycations like this!

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The Linden Suites
37 SAN MIGUEL AVENUE, ORTIGAS CENTER,
PASIG CITY 1600, METRO MANILA, PHILIPPINES
TEL: (632) 638 7878
FAX: (632) 638 7877 | (632) 633 7012
SALES@LINDENSUITES.COM
RESERVATIONS@LINDENSUITES.COM
Website: http://lindensuites.com/
Instagram: @thelindensuites
Facebook: The Linden Suites

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