Batanes’ San Carlos Borromeo Church and Blank Book Archives
I’m both a spontaneous and organised traveller… but experience had taught me that “some of the most thrilling things in life are done on impulse”, if I may quote Syrie James.
And so on a rainy month of August, more out of whim than thrill, I decided to travel in Batanes with a friend.
My plan was to explore the island unplanned and just go with the flow. Enjoy what the moment will bring us. Isn’t that a very cool idea?
On our first day we decided to explore the the municipality of Basco, talk to the locals, eat local delicacies and immerse ourselves on Ivatan culture. Second day we spent the night in Sabtang Island. We came back to Batan on the third day and hired a tricycle to go around South Batan, which we heard is a must go destination for first timers in the island.
Off we went, the tour guide/ tricycle driver asked us what we’d like to see first.. my answer was…”let’s cruise around and stop when something catches my attention or when we pass by a church” 😊
I must say the island is so beautiful and breathtaking. I can’t stop from mumbling ”ohhhs” and “wow” every time we stop to feast on the beauty in front of us.. ok, honestly, another reason is to take Instagrammable photos of the landscapes and some selfies lol..
Unfortunately I will not talk about the lovely views and landscapes that we saw but I’d like to share this photo of Mahatao Boat Shelter Dock to give you an idea.
I was smiling during the trip because our guide followed my instruction to the T !
When we reached Mahatao, he immediately stopped in front of this old yet marvelous church called San Carlos Borromeo Church, popularly known as Mahatao Church. The white Baroque facade is an attention grabber, aside from the very spacious front lawn lined with blooming Santan.
Before entering the church, saw this signage. I was impressed that this church is an NCCA designated National Cultural Heritage Treasure.
And an NHI (National Historical Institute) signage is also visible at the entrance. The church was built in 1787 with Saint Charles Borromeo as its patron saint and protector. It was damaged by a typhoon in 1872 and was rebuilt in 1873 by then Vicar Fr. Crescencio Polo. On September 19, 1898, the Katipunan revolutionaries raised their flag at the belfry.
What I like about this church is that it is well taken care of and the idea of surrounding the lawn with red Santan flowers.
Somehow I noticed that churches in this island are mostly made of stone and lime. The belfry is located on top of the facade and can be seen from afar, on of the bells is dated back in 1874.
Upon entry, if you’re into old churches you will notice that the interior is decorated in Baroque style. Walking towards the altar, thr image of of Saint Charles Borromeo, the patron saint on the center and surrounded by Saint Joseph, Saint Dominic de Guzman and Saint Rose of Lima. There are two minor altars with image of the Our Lady of the Rosary on the right and of the Holy Child on the left,
On the right side of the church is the convent, where the Souvenir Store is… did I say souvenir? I will be lying if I tell you that I am not interested in souvenir shops 🙂 Because I am.. I like to take home something to remind me of my visit in certain places.
Unfortunately the souvenir items were limited, although I didn’t go disappointed. I realized the convent also houses the BATANES BLANK BOOK ARCHIVE.
I was a curious why were the books blank?? Why keep blank books? What for??
I have so many questions and I was looking for my guide to explain this weird idea but I cannot find him, instead I asked one of the caretakers…
I decided to look around and saw these shelves of hardbound books with an image or Virgin Mary at the center of the room. She is smiling and seems like she is inviting all guests to go inside take a look on one of the hardbound books…
It was explained to me that the Blank Book Archives documents the history and experiences of Batanes’ visitors. The hardbound books are numbered and are literally blank. The visitors are encouraged to choose any numbered book with blank pages.
On the blank pages guests can freely write their thoughts and heart’s desire. One may write about his/her experience while visiting Batanes, wishes and even prayers. After writing the book must be returned on the shelves and donations are encouraged to help maintain the place.
While carefully studying the numbered books, I can’t help but feel dismayed because some of the guests aren’t really mindful. They are supposed to write on the blank pages and not on the cover! So I kept looking for that one book that will connect with me…
Found it! Book 487… it connected with me and I decided to write on one of the blank pages…
I looked for a quiet corner, and wrote on the book… the kind lady who’s taking care of the place volunteered to take photos (yep… several shots lol) of me while writing.
I only consumed one page but it meant a lot to me. I asked the lady what will happen after all books were used. She told me that once the books are filled these are kept in the archives and replaced with new numbered blank books. If I decide to go back in the future I can request for the number of the book I wrote something on should I wish to read and see what I have written.
My visit to Mahatao church and the blank book archives I must say is one of my most memorable experience in Batanes. The Blank Book Archives is an ingenious idea and makes this island more special and unique. I was so satisfied and my heart is filled with joy 🙂
That’s me in front of the church and I assure you, I was so happy 🙂 Batanes surpassed my travel expectations and became one of my favorite destination in the country. If you are thinking of visiting this island, I suggest that please do and don’t think twice. You will surely love this place.