Batanes is a paradise not only rich in beautiful sceneries but also in agricultural resources. There are ten (10) islands in total though only three are inhabited namely, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. People living in Batanes are called “Ivatan”, while, travelers or people not coming from the province, are called “Ipula.”
The hospitality of Ivatans are seen from the time you step foot on their land. They have warm welcoming smiles just like the ones you receive when you’ve come home after such a long time. Just from entering the airport, you will notice how much they treasure their culture and tradition.
Being the northernmost part of the country, Ivatans were already equipped to survive disasters brought by natural calamities especially typhoons and storm surges. It’s also known that the durability of the stone houses come from the strength and unity of the Ivatans.
And every time they call for “bayanihan”, they would just have to blow a shell that would make everyone follow the sound and come to lend a helping hand.
However, as families grew and needs multiplied, majority of the Ivatans chose a better opportunity in the mainland affecting the population, and of course, food production.
Even if the main source of income of the Ivatans is agriculture, their food has high cost. There are no rice fields making them buy brought-in rice at Php 68 per kilo. Over the years, wakay (“sweet potato” or “kamote”) has been their staple food since it is the most dependable crop to harvest even if there are typhoons. Still, lesser Ivatans are going into Agriculture, and majority of their rich lands aren’t plowed and nurtured with agricultural produce.
But, more and more tourists come in to experience their simple living and learn their traditions through travel and tours. Farm tourism is thus a big opportunity for the Ivatans, to showcase their lands, to promote farming and agriculture to their youth, to lower the food cost, sustain food production and provide food security, and most importantly, to alleviate the farmers’ lives.
Surprisingly, some farms are already starting to beautify their lands in preparation for DOT Accreditation. One of them is the Basco Agri-tourism Farm which is located at Brgy. San Joaquin, Basco, Batanes. Their farm is less than 500 sqm, but farmers here were able to maximize the space while practicing organic agriculture for their native crops such as Kasusuhad, Hama, Kutsai and also herbs. In one area, recycled bottles were used to make a seedbed. And in one corner, composting is practiced for vermiculture and other farm wastes.
Aside from that, Mamang Tess Blue Pea Farm, a farm at Charatayan, Brgy. Kayvaluganan, Basco planted with edible blue flowers offers picking for guests.
These flowers are called Blue Butterfly Pea Lin. The owner, Mrs. Tess Castillejos, makes them into salads, tea and even polvoron!
Along the national highway at Basco, a local government-owned hotel called Batanes Resort, is also practicing farming.
Their techniques are quite advanced for they have mulching and also net covers for their plots.
Lastly, in Brgy. Chanarian of Basco, Amboy’s Hometel, has started planting crops around their units. They have eggplant, okra, basil and many more!
All of these farms have the opportunity to earn in four ways. One, is through selling their produce to the market or to restaurants nearby. Second, is through farm tourism wherein every guest will pay for entrance fee or a certain package that would include an activity (e.g. pick and pay) as assessed by the Department of Tourism. Third, is by being an ATI Learning Site that will teach co-farmers in the area the technology of Organic Agriculture. And lastly, through value adding to their produce making their herbs into teas, wakay or sweet potato into camote cookies, and sooner or later pigs to tapa, longganisa and tocino, so that guests coming in would be able to buy pasalubongs for their loved ones at home.
Luckily for the Ivatan farmers, the Municipal Tourism Office has already started efforts in the introduction of farm tourism through the Fun Farms Orientation last October 9, 2017.
DOT Accreditation process has been explained and hopefully by 2018, tour packages offered by the travel agencies will include farm tours, farming activities and also, traditions.
For travel go to’s, to do’s and must try’s in Batanes, follow the link on my other blog post: