I guess the real beauty of Batanes is its innate tranquility. The charm of its solitude and the grace of its stillness are worth visiting.
Batanes perfectly encapsulates the beauty of nature and the great heritage and culture of its people. In a word is it simply ‘breathtaking’. Unspoiled, preserved and peaceful, these are the qualities that made this visit really tender to me. I guess the real beauty of Batanes is its innate tranquility. The charm of its solitude and the grace of its stillness are worth visiting. Out of the handful adventures and couple of travels that I had this one proves to be different. Batanes gave me an opportunity to reflect deeper to my soul and to redirect my purpose in travelling.
I spent a few days in Batanes but I will only share my 3 days of experiences in the island since majority of this travel is rather personal and reflective. After all I also felt undeserving to convey the story of the sceneries that I witnessed in a few days time in paradise. I feel that my wordsmith is inadequate and the photographs I took give no justice as to how beautiful this place is. It is remarkably captivating; this little island in the middle of the Pacific deserves your responsible visit!
One thing that sets apart Batanes is its priority to preserve its culture over commercialization. With high demand in terms of tourism the local government fully implements its programs to lessen the impact that it brings. The most amazing part is that the locals wholeheartedly support it. This dance of modernization and cultivating of local customs is playing in harmony in this 10-island archipelago province 280 km north of mainland Luzon. Out of the 10 islands it is only Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang that are inhabited. Batan Island is composed of 4 municipalities; Basco in the north and the south is composed of Mahatao, Uyugan and Ivana. Itbayat and Sabtang have their respective island municipalities.
An Overview of my Batan Island Adventure
Our flight departed from Clark International Airport around noon and reached Basco after an hour. You will always recognize that you already left mainland Luzon if everything you see is the blue ocean and the sky laced with cotton-like balls of clouds. The touchdown itself is euphoric! The Island can be seen from my window and it made the approach more exciting. The bird’s eye view over the limestone cliffs, vast seascape, and luscious green landscapes convey the adventure that awaits me. Soon enough the aircraft landed and as soon as I deplaned Mt. Iraya immediately showed her beauty from the tarmac.
Day 1- North Batan Tour
Visiting the attractions within Basco it is primarily a tour to witness the beauty of the landscapes and seascapes of Batanes. From the panoramic view of Vayang Rolling Hills, the history of Casa Real, and the beautiful small churches that dots the Ivatan community. It can be done within half a day since the attractions are near each other.
Day 2- South Batan Tour
The second day started early since visiting the southern part takes more time. For me the highlight of this tour is the Honesty Shop, the visit to House of Dakay, and the Old Spanish Bridge. On a deeper understanding of their culture it is easy to correlate their values in these sites. The Bridge that always points to the church signifies that the Ivatans practice their religion not just skin-deep. The Honesty Shop will make you realize that in this world full of deceit and dishonesty, the people and the community could still make a choice. Lastly, the House of Dakay to remind us that a strong foundation of integrity can always survive the strongest of tropical typhoons and earthquakes that shook the very ground you stand.
Day 3 onwards- My Personal Time
Supposedly the days onward will be used to explore Sabtang and Itbayat Islands but the weather forbid us to do so. At first I was devastated since I already came this far only to stop on a journey midway. It is so close that I can see Sabtang and Itbayat from a distance which is only a boat-ride away. Then something happened as I roam the streets of Basco I became more sensitive to my surroundings. I came to appreciate more the people around me. The streets are clean; and it is something that I thought I will only witness in Siquijor.
Instead of visiting the islands, I came to appease myself by roaming around the area on a bike. Going to the beach and frolic on the waters is what mostly made me busy. The late night walks to the lighthouse and lying on the grass to witness the Milky Way overhead with shooting stars once in a while is just perfect! Biking or simply walking the streets that lead to the rolling hills and view decks that showcase how wonderful this province is. I am simply struck in awe that a place like this exists in the Philippines.
The shoreline of the Lagoon is rather rocky with waves crashing and spraying sea waters upon impact. During the Spanish Colonization this is the place where the priests used to bathe as from our tour guide’s story.
Majority of the attractions in Batanes is free to visit in a sense because most of the environmental fees are already paid during registration. Beaches are open to the public to enjoy without charge. The beaches of Batanes are mostly white and cream colored and teeming with hermit crabs and shells. It is disheartening however to see tourisms’ impact in the area. After enjoying the view and swimming in the clear waters of the beach I collected plastic bottles and brought a sack full to the town for proper disposal.
Being the provincial capital and the gateway of transport and commerce; Basco is far more developed than the rest of Batanes. One thing that is unique about Batanes is that they don’t have a common market place. Most of the locals acquire their food straight from their farm. Good thing for tourists is that several restaurants exists however they provide set meals rather than ala carte because the demand is low. The Ivatan have closely knitted family ties that they prepare food and eat with their family.
Batanes is truly remarkable! The way the preserve their culture and the continuing effort to protect their tradition is worthy of praise and emulation across the Philippines. It is without a doubt why this archipelago province is known as “Nature’s Playground”. More than the panoramic vista of landscapes and seascapes, Batanes is a physical representation how rich Ivatan Culture is! For many years Batanes remained the remote area and difficult to reach. Nowadays it is just a plane’s reach in just an hour and it is far easier now for curious mind to explore the uniqueness of our northernmost territory. My hope is if ever you set your foot in Batanes be one of the locals and protect what they protect, respect their traditions and feast on their culture.
How to Get There
Batanes can be easily reached by plane from Manila, Clark, and Tuguegarao Airports.
Where to Stay
Time Travel Lodge
Address: Babat Tunga, Basco Batanes
Contact Numbers: +63-939-623-8978 and +63-916-644-7984
The Lodge has a lawn perfect for late night talks, hot and cold shower and the rooms are air conditioned. The rooms are good enough for 4 persons but additional mattresses can also be requested. Moreover, the lodge is just a walking distance from the airport. It is also near to small stores where you can buy your snacks.
What to Eat
In Batanes it is seldom that they slaughter a pig or cattle for consumption. This is mainly because their diet revolves around vegetables from their farms and the freshly caught seafood that is abundant for taking. Luñis is a traditional way of making adobo but instead of using soy sauce and vinegar that most Filipinos are familiar they use rocksalt and let the fat turn to oil. Beehan serves Luñis but be early since it is always on high demand and supply easily runs out. You may also try the Luñis Pasta at Casa Napoli for a fusion of Italian and Ivatan goodness.
Common Expenses and Useful Tips
|Airfare||2500-8000 per way|
|Food||250-400 per meal|
Good for 4 persons
|2900 in an air conditioned room per night|
|Some locals have rooms that they offer for 700-1000 per person|
|Environmental Fee||350 per person|
|Van Rental||3000-4000 per day|
|Tricycle Rental up to 4 persons||1000 per day|
|Boat ride to Sabtang||200 per way|
|Boat ride to Itbayat||200 per way|
Visiting Batanes is better if you are in a group to divide some expenses with. Plan in advance and take advantage of seat sales for you flight. Budget your food wisely as it will take a huge portion of your budget. For Accommodations, ask for reservations beforehand as it is limited during peak seasons. The estimated expenses above is for DIY tour. Another option is to join with other tourist through a travel agency that normally costs 5500 for a 3-day tour in North and South Batan including Sabtang Island. Personally, I prefer DIY since Batanes is best explored on your own pace.
Local Customs That You Need to Know
- The Ivatans are warm and welcoming people which highly expect your respect for their local culture and tradition.
- They often refer to each other as Aunt or Uncle even if they are not related at all and you may call them on those endearments as well.
- Ask permission prior entering private vicinity or having photos taken with them. Inform the local government for filming, conducting research or any projects you wish to do.
- Children may ask for your hand as a sign of respect to elders. It is a tradition in the Philippines called Mano; they will simply place your hands on their forehead.
- When entering churches show reverence by wearing appropriate and conservative clothing. If there is a church service that is taking place, only leave when the priest gives the final blessing.
- Learn to say ‘Dios Mamajes’ or God will pay forward an equivalent of saying ‘Thank You’.
- Lastly, be a responsible traveler. Avoid littering, being loud and obnoxious, and give respect to everyone. Remember that Batanes is a protected area in its entirety and it requires you to be considerate to other travelers and to the local Ivatans. Enjoy every moment that you have during your stay. Dios Mamajes for being here to read my personal experience in the Island of Batan.