I’ve just watched my first sunset in Batanes, though it’s already my third day in this beautiful island and I’m staying at an inn with unhampered views of the western sea. Somehow spectacular sunsets are a bit of an anticlimax here, where stunning sceneries are the norm during the day and even the roadside grass is dotted with gorgeous fuchsia and pale pink blooms.
Kuya Toto, one of my guides, tried to conceal his amusement earlier when I stooped and semi-contorted to photograph these ubiquitous flowers. Vietnam roses, he says they are, and promises that there are more of them on the road to the lighthouse. We were on our way to Marlboro Country and the nearby Tayid Lighthouse, but I was messing with his timetable by asking him to stop every 5 seconds to document things that are, to Ivatans, commonplace. “Those waves are beautiful!” I gush, and take an eternity to shoot my fill of white foamy waves throwing themselves with suicidal abandon against rough dark rocks. “Those cows are gorgeous!” I exclaim (only to be informed they’re actually carabaos, which I really should have known).
“For us, these views are ordinary,” he explains to me in Tagalog. “When tourists say they’re beautiful, we sometimes wonder, ‘what’s beautiful about that?’ But then we see their photographs on the internet, and that’s when we appreciate what we have here.”
I can’t imagine getting so used to rolling hills and seaside cliffs that I would think them anything other than breathtakingly beautiful. But I guess I can understand where Kuya Toto is coming from. I had, after all, wondered what the appeal was of staying in a hotel in the middle of rice fields, or why a photo of tourists walking through rows of coconut trees would be labeled as “paradise,” or why people rave about beaches that aren’t nearly as beautiful as the ones in my country. And I suppose there are people around the world who think cherry blossoms and northern lights and fjords and fall foliage are ordinary — if I lived where they live, I would probably think so too.
It’s a reminder, not necessarily to force yourself to think of the ordinary as amazing, but to keep in mind that your ordinary can be beautiful as well, and to count them among your blessings.
“The Ordinary” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.