Sunset at Duvek Bay
Sunset at Duvek Bay

There’s a certain excitement on visiting far-flung locations. Maybe the idea of finding authenticity in a remote location drives us to go further beyond the tourist trail. Often times we discover gems in seclusion but that is not always the case. Sumnanga Village, the farthest of the Sabtang island villages found at the west side probably has the least tourist footprint on the island. It even took me at least eight years to return to this village despite having been to the island several times already. But sadly it’s another case of tainting my good memories of the place but thankfully there’s redemption in its natural beauty.

Ruins of Atanacio Dapilan's house
Ruins of Atanacio Dapilan’s house

Ruins of a Musician’s Home

My journey west of Sabtang Island continued after my visit at Vuhus Island. Nakanmuan Village was alive already that afternoon with people enjoying the milder weather. It only took a few minutes to reach Sumnanga village. Just at the roadside, before entering the main village, it is easy to miss the home of Atanacio Dapilan, an Ivatan farmer and fisherman who is also the first nationally published kalusan singer and composer. Kalusan is a rowing or farming song, sang in chorus by workers or boatmen. Kalusan is already a faint memory to the locals with only the melody faintly remembered. But with the help from the notations of a rowing song recorded by writer and politician, Noberto Romualdez and the teachers of Sumnanga who were able to record the original lyrics, they were able to piece together a kalusan rowing song.


This small piece of musical history on the island is personally highly interesting. Unfortunately, the home of the composer is still in ruins with nothing by overgrowth of plants inside. It would be interesting to restore and make a tourist center out of it where people can appreciate kulasan and other musical arts in Batanes instead of leaving it as it is.

Tiktiks. Crushing old stones and reselling them for use on modern houses
Tiktiks. Crushing old stones and reselling them for use on modern houses

Attack of the Tik-tiks

I remember Sumnanga Village for its many hanging dried fish, particularly dorado, so plenty like the banderitas during a town fiesta. The place also had the moniker of “Little Hongkong” because of the narrow cobblestone streets it has. My last visit, I saw no dorado or dibang fishes hanging. This, I could understand as the fishing season varies. But noticeable are the modern-concrete houses in the area. My driver Mael parked his tryke near the basketball court and we walked around the village.

The town remains slow and laid-back. I passed by a group of men already having rounds of heavy drinks early in the afternoon. There was an adorable site of a generation of ladies, a toddler in a bike basket, a young girl of probably five pushing the bike from behind and most probably the mom manning the handlebar. The school ground looks nice with a carpet of natural green. Mael pointed me to a wash sink which he says used to be an ancient well. Well its gone now.

Crushing old stones to smaller pieces
Crushing old stones to smaller pieces
This outdoor sink replaces what was once an old well
This outdoor sink replaces what was once an old well
A local getting comfortable now in their modern house
A local getting comfortable now in their modern house
A lovely scene of a mother and her daughters in a simple joyride in the village
A lovely scene of a mother and her daughters in a simple joyride in the village
At the village pier
At the village pier

Duvek Bay on the next page…

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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.


2 Responses to “Batanes | The Dying Heritage of Sumnanga Village in Sabtang Island”

  1. It saddens me that what marked the old times in this place is not being secured. Maybe since less people visit, not knowing that still, these old houses can attract tourists in the future. I would love to see the old houses, if there are still remaining. Your photo with the caption “Calm and quiet Duvek Bay with the imposing Mt Aharung” really had me. As awesome as always, great post Ironwulf Enroute. 🙂

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