I’ve never imagined going to Batanes. EVER. I usually only hear about the place whenever there’s a storm or a typhoon in the northernmost part of the country. Very seldom do I hear about it being talked about as a vacation or a tourist spot. Which, I now realize, is very puzzling considering how breathtakingly beautiful the place is.
Since I didn’t know anything about Batanes (at that time), my friends were the ones who took care of everything. They booked the flights (which were on sale at that time – half the regular price if I’m not mistaken), the accommodations, and the tours.
We got the round trip tickets (Manila-Basco-Manila) for around 7,000 PHP or 156 USD. The original price at that time’s around 14,000 PHP or 311 USD. PAL Express regularly flies there now for 12,000 or 267 USD (roundtrip).
We were picked up at the airport by our very cool and very kind tour guide – Chris Cataluña. And then headed towards the port going to Sabtang Island.
The falowa (an oval-shaped motorized passenger boat without the outrigger) ride took around 45 minutes. That was probably the craziest and the longest boat ride I’ve ever had (so far). Our group’s the last to arrive at the port so when we boarded the falowa, there weren’t any life vests left and I had to sit near the engine so just try to imagine the smell of gasoline plus the motion of the falowa for 45 minutes. It was nauseating! I’ve worked on a cruise ship before so I’m used to the motion but that experience was just torture. To add to that, I also saw a couple of people puking which didn’t help as I was so close to puking myself. Oh and you should see the waves! They were ginormous! It was like looking at a wall of sea all around you. If you’re not into that kind of adventure, I suggest you just stay in Batan.
PLACES TO GO TO: There are only 3 inhabited islands in Batanes – Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat.
Day 1: Sabtang Island
- Municipal Tourism Information Center
- Lime Beach
- Duchid Hills
- Lolo Marcelo
- Nakabuang Beach
When we arrived at Sabtang, our tour guide brought us to the Municipal Tourism Information Center (MTIC). At first I thought it was already the start of the tour, then they showed us the rooms where we would be sleeping that night. I was, initially, surprised. Then later on, I found out that there aren’t any hotels or inns in Sabtang yet.
This was the view from the balcony next to our rooms. Not bad right? Anyway, after putting our bags down and freshening up, we started our tour.
Sabtang is known for its heritage towns where stone houses (or bahay na bato) with roofs made of layers of dried cogon leaves can still be found.
Our guide, rented a jeep for us so we can explore the island. We went to the stone houses near the MTIC first, then he brought us to Lime Beach (a place where they used to get the lime they use for the stone houses) and then to Duchid Hills which, according to him, has the best view in Sabtang.
When you reach the top, you’ll be able to see the very blue sea.
On our way to Chavayan, we passed by an Idjang (a fortress that served as a look-out point and an evacuation site for ancient Ivatans). I’m actually not sure what it looks like. Our guide was pointing at one of the hills so I guess it’s either inside one of the hills or it’s a camouflaged structure.
We saw more stone houses in Chavayan. However, there were also a lot of modern houses. According to our guide, more and more Ivatans are preferring modern houses over stone houses because it’s cheaper to build and maintain.
Our guide then brought us to a small souvenir shop where we took a short break to drink fresh coconut juice. Inside, we saw vintage glass balls (that according to them, floated from Taiwan), Vakul (Ivatan headgear for women), Talugong (Ivatan outerwear for men), baskets, and woven footwear.
After our (supposedly short) break, we then went to Lolo Marcelo’s place. He’s the oldest Ivatan. He’s now 107 years old (I think). What’s so surprising about him is that at his age, he still has perfect eyesight. He still fixes fishing nets!
We asked him what his secret is and he said he doesn’t drink water. He only drinks fresh coconut juice. Ok, I should start drinking fresh coconut juice more often.
We then headed to our next destination for lunch – Nakabuang Beach.
We were served Luñis (Ivatan Adobo – which is now my favorite type of adobo), Tagalog Adobo, Chopseuy, steamed coconut crabs, fish, rice, and a lot more. It was a feast!
For dessert, we had Biko (a Filipino sweet sticky rice).
After pigging out, we went to the beach to chill out and sunbathe. The beach is not really ideal for swimming because there are a lot of small rocks and corals, but that didn’t stop 3 of my friends from swimming.
After an hour or so, we went back for dinner to where we were staying that night and waited for the Supermoon.
Day 2: Batan Island
- Vahay ni Dakay
- San Jose de Ivana Church
- Rakuh A Payaman (Marlboro Country)
- San Carlos Borromeo Church
- Chawa View Deck
- Basco Lighthouse
The next day, we left Sabtang and went back to Batan Island. Thankfully, the falowa ride wasn’t as crazy as the first one.
We stayed at the Hidalgo’s ancestral house along Catalan Street near the Spanish bridge. And after having breakfast, we started our tour of the island starting with Vahay ni Dakay.
It is the oldest house in San Jose de Ivana which was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage building. After chatting with the current owner, Lola Florestida Estrella, we went to the San Jose de Ivana Church.
The church was built in 1814 with a fortress-like bell tower. If you go inside and look out the door, this is what you’ll see.
We then went to, in my opinion, the place in Batanes with the most breathtaking view – Rakuh a Payaman (big pastureland). Better known as Marlboro Country.
From this vantage point, you’ll be able to see both South China Sea and Pacific Ocean.
We stayed here for a while to marvel at the beauty of the place and to eat lunch.
We had Luñis, Sweet and Sour Fish, Laing, Inihaw na Liempo and Rice.
We then went to San Carlos Borromeo Church which was built by the Dominicans in 1789.
I was already tired when we got to the Chawa View Deck so I didn’t attempt to walk all the way down.
We stayed there for a few minutes to take a break then went to the Basco Lighthouse located in Naidi Hills.
We explored the area and saw a place where they sell fresh produce like garlic and tomatoes.
The Bunker Cafe is in the area as well.
We were on our way back to where we were staying when we saw the sunset so we asked our tour guide, if we can stop for a while so we can watch it.
Good thing he agreed because it was so beautiful.
I’m such a sucker for sunsets.
Day 3: Batan Island
- Tukon Chapel
- PAGASA Radar Station
- Fundacion Pacita
- Vayang Rolling Hills
- Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
- Valugan Boulder Beach
We woke up late the next day and had lunch at Vatang Grill & Restaurant. And after a very filling meal, we went to the Tukon Chapel.
Afterwards, we went to the PAGASA Radar Station nearby.
From there you can see the Batan hedgerows as well as Fundacion Pacita.
If budget is not a problem, you should check-in at Fundacion Pacita. It is located on top of a cliff with a 270-degree view of the sea and the mountains.
We then went to the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel.
The tunnel was built by the Japanese during World War 2 to shelter soldiers. If you plan to go there, bring a flashlight or a headlamp.
Valugan Boulder Beach is near the tunnel so we went there afterwards.
The boulders came for Mt. Iraya, a nearby active volcano.
No, you won’t be able to swim there. Aside from the rocks, the waves are just too strong.
And since we wanted to swim, our tour guide brought us to a place where we could. I just forgot the name of the beach.
WHERE TO EAT:
- Honesty Coffee Shop
What’s unique about this coffee shop is that there aren’t any staff to assist customers. You just get or eat whatever it is that you want and then pay by putting money in a wooden box. We weren’t hungry so we just looked and around took some photos.
- Bunker Cafe
The Sunset Buffet there costs around 600 php or around 14 USD.
- Vatang Grill & Restaurant
We had Teriyaki Chicken, Cuttlefish, Chopsuey, Pancit Canton and Calamari. And spent around 300 PHP or around 7 USD per person.
- Casa Napoli
Casa Napoli is arguably, the best pizza place in Batanes. We ordered two boxes for dinner!
Batanes is such a wonderful, wonderful place. I urge everyone to go there. You won’t regret it.
Chris Cataluña – +63 (999) 553-2804