Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Beaches of Banton

One thing that makes Banton a hidden paradise is its abundance in preserved and pristine natural beauty. Such richness is found not only deep in its mountains or it its attractive culture, it also lies along its various coastlines. Banton has a lot of beautiful beaches, comparable in beauty to those in Boracay and Palawan. A traveller's sojourn into wonderful Banton will not be complete without a visit to its beaches.

POBLACION BEACH. Banton town's waterfront is best characterized for its rocky and pebbled beach. Although not as clean as the other beaches due to its proximity to the port, on weekends and the Feast of San Juan, people still swim in its clear waters. On the day, it provides excellent views of Punta Matagar on the northern tip of the beach. At low tide by the end of the day, the receding waters reveal a treasure trove of marine life -- tayba, brittle stars, coral, kelp, etcetera. People thrive to the port beside the beach or at the seawall at night, enjoying stories and trying to capture the elusive cellular phone signal from Globe and Smart. The seawall area has since been lit by colorful lights erected by the municipal government that makes the area vibrant and attractive.

MACAT-ANG BEACH. Situated in Brgy. Mainit on the western shores of the island, Macat-ang offers a stunning beach panorama to visitors with its white sands complimenting the lush green scenery. It's almost as if you're in some kind of pirate bay or secret lagoon. The barangay government has done a great job developing the area for tourism with huts and picnic umbrellas that can be rented by bakasyonistas for Php100 to Php 500 depending on the size. The beach is very clean, which is an imperative since it is situated directly in front of the Banton Fish Sanctuary and Nature Reserve. Another wonder here is a water pump that is situated just a few yards out in the sea. Apparently, the clean, fresh water comes from under the sea bed. Users can take a bath in the pump which is accessible thru a concrete footbridge erected by the barangay government. Out in the distance is a wonderful view of Gakot or Bantoncillo island. Macat-ang can be reached by motorbike from Poblacion.
TABUNAN BEACH. Tabunan beach is perhaps one of the most preserved beaches in the island due to its inaccessibility. It lies in a part of the island yet to be accessible by concrete roads, and thus, travelers will have to hire a banca to get there. The beach is composed mainly of white grainy sand which looks pink at midday. Out in the water, just a few meters from the beach is Puyo, an uninhabited island. In the treeline meanwhile, are huts which people can use as shelter from the heat or rain; or if you are too shy to ask about them, you can simply sit under one of the many palm trees that dot the shoreline. At night, you can also do a bonfire and watch as the night sky sparkles with numerous stars you seldom see in the city.

TAMBAK BEACH. When it comes to seclusion, Tambak beach is the ultimate destination. Situated in a deep cove near Barangay Banice, Tambak beach offers a view only seen in Survivor or The Blue Lagoon. While accessible by motorcycle thru a newly-built concrete road which runs on the side of the cove, almost no one passes through it. When I went here in 2010, it felt as if being in a deserted island with almost no trace of humans passing nearby. The sand here is perhaps the whitest and purest in all of the island's beaches, comparable to Palau's mud pack white beaches. The sand has the texture of sugar and your feet would definitely sink once you step on it. However, due to its seclusion, water is hard to find in the area. If you want to wash up after a hour or two swimming, you'll have to do that in Poblacion. There are two small huts in the beach which visitors can rent from the barangay government. Just be sure to coordinate with them before using the huts.

BALOGO BEACH. The beach front in Barangay Balogo is not as sandy as Macat-ang or Tambak, being composed mostly of peebles and coral. But the fishing village atmosphere the beach offers sure is nice and comforting, ready soothe your cares away. The water is clean and clear, with no sudden surges in depth, suitable for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. On the right end of the beach is a cliff with concrete huts and tables where picnickers can eat and enjoy the view -- perfect for that family reunion or get-together. The hospitality of people here are unmatched. The first time I passed here, I immediately got offered food in a nearby family reunion. One piece of advice: never pass up on people's generosity here.

All photos were shot and copyrighted property of the owner.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Holy Week in Banton

Banton is thriving in visitors once more. This seasonal influx of balikbayan Bantoanons happen only once a year when the Holy Week nears. Once again, it's time for that family reunion or high school homecoming that you've been looking forward to the whole year. Families stock up on food supplies to cook on these occasions. Venue and equipment reservations are also made. Shipping companies put additional trips to service the increased volume of passengers. Merchants are smiling once more at the thought of customers buying marble trinkets, banig, palm fans and other products. Stevedores at the pier are just happy that their services will be available once more.

Whether you are a tourist or a Bantoanon balikbayan, a visit to Banton will not be complete without going to get togethers, baylihans and homecomings. Here are some of the happenings on the island this Holy Week: 

BNHS ALUMNI HOMECOMING

This annual get-together draws alumni of the Banton National High School to come back to the island every Holy Week. High school classmates, friends and even sweethearts relive their time as students in Banton's premier secondary school. Of course, the event will not be complete without sumptuous food, drinks, dancing, singing and games, sponsored yearly by a graduating batch and managed by the BNHS Alumni Association.

This year's celebration is sponsored by BNHS Batch 2001 and will be held on April 24-26, 2011. There will be a mini-Olympics on the first day, a Barangay Outreach Program on the second, and an Outing and General Assembly on the third. Expect this year's celebration to be a blast!

STATIONS OF THE CROSS

Catholic tradition is very much alive and strong in the island. Just one of the few activities sponsored by the Parish of San Nicolas de Tolentino annually is the Stations of the Cross. Participating families and neighborhoods setup an altar for their assigned station out of tables, palm branches and other decorative items and religious objects. Every morning, the procession starts from the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church which is participated in mostly by the elderly and some devout teens and children. The statue of the Black Nazareno is paraded from the church and stops in every station for prayers. On Good Friday, the procession is graced by 12 men dressed as the 12 apostles of Christ. After the procession, the 12 apostles go house-to-house to pray for the household's prosperity and strength, for just a small donation. The procession happens from Holy Monday to Good Friday.

GOOD FRIDAY PROCESSION

The remembrance of Holy Week in Banton culminates in the procession of the entombed Christ, the dolorous Virgin Mary and his apostles throughout town on the afternoon of Good Friday. The procession begins with a mass at the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church where a re-enactment of the passion and death of Christ is held. The entombed Christ is carried out of the church and paraded in the streets by parishioners carrying candles. The parade goes on beyond sunset as all major streets in town are passed through. The sight candle-lit streets is a majestic spectacle to behold.

Visit Banton this Holy Week. It's not just the perfect place to remember Christ's suffering for our sins, it's also the perfect place to look inside ourselves and retrace our roots.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why I Started This Blog

I've been Bantoanon by virtue of birth. Both my parents are Bantoanons, especially my mom who hails from a prominent Bantoanon family. Though I wasn't raised in the island and not much proficient with my oral and written Asi, I did take up studies there, during my first grade in elementary and third year high school. I made a handful of friends and got to know my roots well. People do know me and I get a pat in the back or wave of the hand everytime I see these people when I go home to Banton during the summer.

I've gotten to know Banton as an island rich not just in physical beauty but as well as culture. The plethora of literature that Bantoanons produce are a bounty, which I have read in the Biniray souvenirs and books published by the Asi Studies Center. I can same the say the same in the music and traditions. This culture, in my view, should always be preserved for the benefit of generations to come and to cement the status of Asi as one of the prominent ethnolinguistic groups in Region IV-B and the Philippines.

What better way to cement it than through writing. Filipinos have started the trend through websites and blogs such as Definitely Filipino and Filipino Voices. Why not a blog that features the Bantoanon perspective on just about anything under the sun for all Bantoanons to read? I guess by doing so, it will help Bantoanons, especially the younger once like me, to trace their roots and appreciate the heritage that they've been gifted with. Literature for me is the key to understanding and identifying ourselves as Bantoanon.

Join me my fellow Bantoanons in this saga. Contribute your essays, stories and articles by emailing it to me at breaking.usin2@gmail.com.

Let's do this for the island!