Because myth is more powerful than history
Once upon a time there was a mother who went to the fields. She toiled all day long until the sun had burst in deep orange on the horizon and sank slowly into the sea. She gathered her belongings and walked home.
And all day long her children had been playing. The dishes were left unwashed, the chickens not in their coop, the house was a mess and there was no food on the table.
Tired and hungry she sat there in silence. She called out to her children but they never listened. She sat there for a long time, got up and went out of the house. She started to walk, then briskly she went as she listened to her children’s voice calling but as if there is a force pushing her she started to run. And run she did like a mad woman, faster than her feet can carry her while her children too ran after her.
“Inaya, Inaya” they called over and over again but their mother never heard them. Off she ran into the mist and disappeared. Her children ran for hours calling her, their voice now coarse and their breaths coming in gulps.
But run they did until they can’t run no more and fell on the ground – tired and hungry. Then they heard their mothers’ voice, “Go home now because from here on, I’ll watch over you from afar”.
Next morning, a kind stranger found the children and asked them what had happened. They answered softly in their soft voice while pointing at something.
“Iraya, Iraya” he heard them say as he looked upon the huge mountain that appeared from the mist.
From then on the Ivatans called the mountain Mt. Iraya, a mother looking after Batanes from afar. Inaya translates as inay ko or inay naman. It doesn’t have an exact Ivatan-Filipino translation but it generally refers to mom or mother.
Being the highest land mass and a dormant volcano on the island, one can see the mountain as it hovers over Basco with its mist shrouded peak standing at 1009 masl anywhere.
Climbing it, we discovered that there were two peaks and a single trail carved by years of water going down the mountain. It is narrow and steep and allows only one foot after another, which kept us moving. The other side of the mountain is too steep and dangerous for climbers. Also, the area is too sacred that locals go at great lengths to discourage any mountaineer climbing from that side.
Reaching the summit, we were greeted by two crosses, one felled by the winds of a super typhoon and the other still up shooting chills on any hiker’s spine.
There is a small clearing and the rest is covered by talahib that one can not see the crater of the volcano but knew it is still there since its last eruption in 400AD. The local priest had put up the cross maybe in prayer more to the mother and God that both would keep the mountain silent.
The mist teased us and for a sporadic moments, the mountain gave us a view of Basco and its surrounding untouched beaches.
To the Ivatans, Mt. Iraya is a sacred mountain. There is a belief that if a ring of cloud sorrounds it, a prominent figure will die.
And legend has it that when you climb the mountain, like a mother, she’ll listen to your hearts’ desire and makes it come true.
And as I wispher my birthday wish, I knew the mountain is listening because myth is more powerful than history. Hope, dreams and love are more powerful than anyone’s past.
My heartful thanks to BISUMI Travel and Tours (thru Ryan Cardona) and his staff, our guide and Diomar dela Peña.
Disclaimer: the story of Mt. Iraya was as told by a local and translated as understood by the author. Any discrepancy with existing historical records is by the author’s fault alone.