Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Super Storm Usagi Experience, Basco 2013

It started on Friday, we knew there was a storm that was expected to land sometime in the afternoon. We were told it was Category 3-4. Little did we know it would later escalate to a Category 5 superstorm, on par with Katrina.

The skies began to darken in the early morning and there was an eerie feeling - I think the atmospheric pressure (?) was also low so it felt kinda strange, seriously. At some point it felt like ... we were in some kind of vacuum.

Friday lunch time. I still went out for lunch at the college canteen. Because I was hungry.
Schools were already ordered to close on the day. View across a little park in front of the Municipal Building.

It was windy too. Selfie pre-storm on the National Road.

I walked towards the sea near Shanedel. Big white waves already started crashing on the cliffs and seaside.

View from the rooftop of my hostel, after my lunch.

Then the rain came a little later. Heavy. Non stop.

Night fall. No change in stormy weather. No, actually, it got serious.
Really scary, howling wind. HOWLING AND WAILING. ALL NIGHT.

My bed got soaked. Water was puddling as the windows couldn't bear the brunt of the rain.
I could not sleep. I think no one did. It wasn't possible. Room got flooded by midnight and water seeped steadily into the corridors. 

Day break. Still at it.

The storm. Like a wrecking ball x 100.
View from my room window. That palm tree suffered severe whiplash.

Things and stuff were flying around. The wind was howling like nothing I've ever heard.
That roof just got blown off from somewhere.

When the rain got really heavy, all we could see outside was white.
By the second day, my room became the lepak place cos it had an extra bed and this big window looking out. We had snacks and coffee and tea, and our landlady was so kind in preparing delicious meals for us. Very simple, yet so flavourful. Later we taked about this and I realised that the meat, vegetables (pricier here) and fish are all organic! Never have I eaten such flavourful beef. No pictures though, it would be rude.

Sunday morning, after close to 40 hours, the storm finally moved on and left Batanes. We decided to venture outside to see how the town held up. First, to the pier. 

A ship wreck still being thrown about by strong waves.

Crashing waves - still scary post-storm.

This was an unexpectedly strong wave which sent us scrambling to safer levels. Gila.

At the same time, there was something fascinating about such fury which had us transfixed in silence watching the rough sea unleash the remnants of Usagi.

View from the pintu gerbang. Angry angry waves.

Back on the National Road, they've started to clear the debris and trees and branches. Water was still flowing like a river.

Electricity poles snapped in two - just like that. And these things were like 12-15 inches in diameter.
We had no power at all from Friday 7 pm till the day we flew out, which was .... Tuesday?

Mitch, my hostel-mate had local friends so they brought us around on the bike to survey the damage.

I wonder how it sounded like when this treetrunk snapped.

Poor bananas :( we were very sad when we realised this would mean months of no fruits from these trees.

More trees like this everywhere along the roads.

Someone's house :( Many smaller ones just ..crashed.

Like this one, a traditional-style house.

Some streets were not passable yet.

After a while, I had no words to say. While the devastation was  thankfully not on a scale of 10, it still was very painful to see. 

I bought something from this souvenir handicraft shop the day before. Told the lady I'll be back, but this happened :(

Road towards the hills. We wanted to go up to the Fundacion but the road was not passable.

Looking out from my window on Sunday mid-morning. Locals start clearing and cleaning. They don't wait for any assistance or cry for sympathy with the predicaments. 

No livestock was harmed during the storm. Amazingly, no human fatalities too.

Coconut trees, badly damaged.

Airport Control Tower. The glass panels were all shattered.

Arrival Hall.

Departure area :(

The rectory of the cathedral - the roof was badly damaged. They lost vestments and documents, books etc.

I can't think of a caption for this right now.

Documents drying out in the sun, outside the council building.

BASCO on the go trucks were working non-stop to clear fallen trees and debris as soon as it was safe to do so. Much respect for their work ethics and professionalism.

The National Road was cleared of fallen branches and trees by Sunday noon.

Er. This is the inside of the belly of a Hercules C130. 
Hopefully I will write about this dramatic exit from Basco soon.

I whole-heartedly respect and admire the resilience and faith of the Ivatans in such a catastrophe. Not one person had a sad, pitiful face. They immediately went to work cleaning up the mess and fixing things up. I went to look for my guide's house as I wanted to make sure he and his family were okay. His front porch caved in, but by the time I visited it was cleared up already, just needed a bit of rebuilding.

We outsiders had to accept the fact that there is no power supply. No charging, no lights, no TV, no wi-fi, nothing. Most of our phones were dead by the Sunday. We had to use candles and torchlights at night. There was one local telco that was working, you had to buy a local SIM and reload which was also fast running out (already limited in the first place).

All travellers got busy trying to get on to the next flight out. Flights were cancelled again and again. Thank God I had room to wiggle, unlucky for some they had to re-book outgoing international flights with hefty price tags.

I'm thankful everyone was safe after the storm. An experience I will never forget.
Nature won (it will always win).

Monday, January 13, 2014

BATANES : A Picture Started It All. And A Pursuit Ensued

*Today is a slow day so I think I'll blog*


I have never heard of this place before, only stumbled on it while researching Palawan one fine day.

Flying there isn't cheap, so I stalked the airlines for a while before taking advantage of a promotional fare by Phil Express (still not cheap I tell you) and buying it on the spot without even checking if I would be able to get away on those dates.

I slept at NAIA3 for the night, and again for the return trip. Too lazy to get a room for less than a day and I'd rather save the pesos to spend on Batanes.

Pictures of Batanes were unbelievable. Seriously. Try googling them and you'll see what I mean.

My camera and skills are not able to capture the beauty of this island, so go ahead please I beg you to go google for the superb photos taken with fancy cameras by professional bloggers and photographers.

*You're welcome :) *

Okay here are some pictures (random order! again!)

GORGEOUS. I need all the synonyms to that to describe the views. 

At the Boulder Beach. Round boulders, thrown up from some volcanic eruption hundreds of years ago. History lesson from my guide, I have forgotten by now. Sorry!

Tukon Chapel, designed by the Abad family. Very quaint!

Fundacion Pacita. Exclusive and classy place to stay and dine. With a price tag.  They don't open all year through though. Seasonal business.

The Abads. Owners of the place. Artists and local Ivatans.

Benches at the Fundacion Pacita.  I have more pictures of this place somewhere. 

At the Fundacion - it means May God Bless You All in Ivatan language.

At the viewpoint and 'pintu gerbang'.

It was super breezy I could get blown off the roof of this place. It's a PAGASA weather station, the northernmost in the Philippines but no longer in operations after storms blew away some equipment. The views were amazingggggg.

How did I get up there to the roof? I had to climb up and up (excuse my bum shot)
I did feel a bit gayat but was okay. Got a gash (bleeding shit) on my right thigh near the top as you have to maneouver your body in such a way to climb out of the stairwell. Champ. LOL

The Japanese Tunnel. Spooky,damp, cold and dark inside. 

You could exit the other side of the hill. 

The Basco Cathedral. The churches here are lovely. Google for Batanes churches. I went to a few.

Er, I don't remember the name of this church. Will update when I find my notes. 

 Wavebreakers? Wave watching here is a fascinating past-time.

A wharf (looks natural), beautiful from top of the cliff. Apparently some of the boats here are illegal foreign fishing boats seized by the authorities.

 I continued to gasp at every other turn at how beautiful the views are. It just takes your breath away.

It was exciting touring the island on a motorbike. I wish I could drive one, but I had to be content as a pillion rider on my guide's bike. This road goes through a cliff.

"Blow Ur Horn" is uniquely Batanes. No other place has this (legal) traffic sign.
It is everywhere along the winding curvy road and cliffs.

The Ruins at Song Song beach. This village was wiped out in a tsunami hundreds of years ago. I went down to explore closer and found some piglets in one of the ruins. Some one used it as a pig pen :)

Selfie on the bike!

Posing at the entrance to the town of Ivana.

This church in Imnajbu is very special. It is the spot where the first Holy Mass and the first Baptism was performed on Batanes soil in 1682.

Trying to be Wonder Woman. hahah. This was another absolutely gorgeous spot for views.
You see how I got so tanned? I just sat there soaking in the sun for so long, no cares. It's too beautiful. And I get extra Vitamin D.

Entrance gate to Rakuh Panyaman (some call it Marlboro County, but we should respect and use the local name). I made myself useful and went down to open and close the gate.

I sat here. For an hour.
Under the bright sun. Cool strong breeze. Surrounded by green rolling hills and the blue sky above. A view to die for. Is this how Heaven could look like?

Got style or not? Me and my ride.

The Fountain of Youth, at a fishing village called ...Diara? I can't recall right now.
The waters were so cool, and you could bathe here.

More views of rolling green hills.

You don't wanna know how many selfies I took! LOL

One of my favourite pictures which I will never get tired of sharing, hahah!

That's just a bit of Batanes for now. I just wanted to share some the pictures and poison your mind.