Amazing Batanes: Home of the Winds
This post is a little long overdue but I can’t skip putting it up in my BLOG – No!
Anyway – this trip was a little last minute as I literally decided to go along with the Travel Magazine Crew, Travel Ambassadors and Unilever folks, just a week before the said trip. Now what I loved about it was that its “winter” season in Batanes in February and wanted to know how cold it could get at the northern most part of the country.
Just a little trivia, Batanes is the smallest province in the country in terms of population and land area. It is composed of 10 main islands of which 3 are inhabited. These are the islands of Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. The people of Batanes are called the Ivatans.
I’ve always wanted to visit this island out of curiosity as anyone who landed and got back had nothing but praises. I honestly only searched and googled Batanes photos a week before the trip, only to realize that it was a photographer’s heaven, a nature lover’s sanctuary, and the perfect place to relax. Note when I say a photographer’s heaven, I really mean it! In fact there are no ugly photos in this place because you can’t take any bad shot. Majority of the scenic photos I’ll put in my blog are all taken by me (forgive the strobist), and just with an iPhone, otherwise with my Canon G12, or grabbed from our group, so I’ll place photo sources!
Enough of my ramblings, we landed at Basco at the Batan Island where the airport is located, and the weather was beautiful. It was chilly but not too cold. As we were traveling with Media and Travel Ambassadors, our trip was fully planned and we had travel agents with us all throughout.
We stayed at the Amboy Hometel which we solely occupied for that weekend (how cool is that?). It looked like the Pinoy Big Brother house, very homey and relaxed.
We didn’t have to waste any time so right after we lodged our bags at the hometel, we immediately left and started our official “tour”. First stop was the Chawa View Deck where you will go hundreds of steps down a cliff and take a look at the view sitting on top of rock formations as the water hits them.
After that we went to Naidi Hills heading towards the Naidi Hill Lighthouse. It goes up to a mountain edge where it previews the Valugan Boulder Beach. It was another breathtaking view where you’d feel like you’re Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive…”.
After some initial sight seeing we headed straight to the Naidi Hill Lighthouse, where we took so many photos, and jumpshots haha!
Next stop: Valugan Bay Boulder Beach! Probably one of the highlights for me. I really LOVED the view here. Imagine a beach, but instead of sands you’ll see huge rocks? It was amazing. Not to mention the waves were really large — not for surfing though as you won’t make it alive.
Before I head to our last two destinations that day, let me feature our very neat tourist shuttle!
Before we closed for dinner we went underneath the Japanese Tunnel, where the Japanese of course hid during the war. There were rooms underneath, which were typically just open spaces (photo below), and with holes reaching the top that served as their ventilation (see the hole on top of my head?).
On our way home we passed by the Fundacion Pacita – probably the nicest hotel that you can stay at in Batanes. We were told that during this season it ranges from around 7,000 to 18,000php per night depending on room/villa type. Highly recommended! And because it was that expensive, our group just chose to schedule dinner so we can “experience” the place hehe!
Our last stop, the Tukon Church and Tukon Radar Station, where you’ll get an awesome sunset shot of Batanes. Although it was cloudy, the view was still Instagram worthy!
We also came across this very interesting machine called “Sunlight Recorder” that notes how hot it got in one particular day. It was measured due to how burnt the piece of white paper underneath the glass would be. You must not move or touch it though as it will ruin the timing. Unfortunately, someone from our group (whom I chose not to name, but clue is that he’s kalbo) played with it and moved the whole thing! LOL! Laughtrip moment.
On the second day we were scheduled to go to the second island of Batanes, which is Sabtang, and your exit point is by going via the Port of Ivana. This is also where you’ll find the Honesty store.
Before we go to Sabtang, I do have more trivia (yes, inuwi ko yung Batanes Info sheet that was in the airplane haha! and it is for the purpose of this blog post!) – In 1994, Sabtang was declared by the Department of Tourism as one of the 12 Best Destinations in the Philippines. Why? It’s because of its white sand beaches, the very famous rock arch formation and natural coral condition found in the Duvek Bay of this island. You’ll also see traditional houses at the Chavayan Village, trust me something you probably haven’t seen before!
We headed to another set of hills in Sabtang, and you can’t say that you’ve had enough bundok, because each view was just different! The hills in Sabtang were going downhill then uphill before you reach this view of the sea in between mountains!
After that we headed to the Chavayan Village where you’ll see the traditional Ivatan houses. It was facing the see hence all the doors are placed perpendicular to the blow of the wind (smart diba?) and relatively with low headroom so the wind doesn’t blow away their stuff! That was how hard it could be.
After touring the whole morning, we all headed for lunch at the most awaited, most iconic spot of Batanes (I think), the Nakabuang Beach where the arch rock formation can be found. I guess if you search for Batanes, you won’t miss this view, agree? The beach sand is not as fine as Boracay, it’s quite rocky, but we did notice some tourists swimming, so if you really want to, you can.
As it was nearing afternoon we were called to go back to the port to catch the second and last boat ride back to Ivana, Batan. I failed to mention, that the waves going from Batan to Sabtang were really huge, hence you’ll see unusual boats than what you see in Boracay, Palawan, and so on. The boats look like soap floaters, as they just float and go with the wave – it moves a lot hence it wouldn’t be the best ride for sea-sick people. It could really be a “hell” ride (see photo below). I personally am fine with boats, but admittedly I got so dizzy this time! In transit you’ll see lots of flying fish – which was super awesome, I’ve never seen one, and they fly in batches! Parang ibon lang talaga. In the middle of the 45 minute boat ride if they catch a fish, they will stop for it (most nakakahilo moment when the engine is off!). We caught one so I was able to witness real life big fish catching! Loved it!
Do you know how they transfer huge cargo or even vehicles from island to island? Dazz and Erwin just told me this when we were in Sabtang but I didn’t get to see it first hand so I just googled it for you. Tada!
Anyway, to cut my boat story short, we weren’t able to board the second boat ride since there were too many tourists and the boat could only load about 65 people. Good thing they decided to make another trip to accommodate us – hence we’ll be stuck in Sabtang for a night. It actually worked for our advantage as the Sabtang Parish Priest held an anticipated mass for us (it was a Saturday then), to bless us in our late afternoon boat ride where the waves can be more dangerous, LOL! I wish I could post photos but I was too scared my phone will get wet, as the sea water was literally splashing through us on the way. Tony had a video of everyone screaming as our soap boat bounced and splashed (like Anchors Away!) but I don’t know how to show you!
On our last day, we started out our tour in visiting the town of Mahatao, just a few minutes away from Basco. I will make a quick special mention here – the town of Mahatao is actually my good friend Daves Espia’s (a.k.a. Barefoot Daves) home! I have asked around if my tour guides know their family (the Espia’s), only to know na yung middle name pala dapat yung tinanong ko! haha nice one Daves! But seriously its such a peaceful town, and we made history there by doing the Harlem Shake at your plaza! YES we danced in public, gathered random people and local kids around to go loco with us. I think everyone thought we were crazy tourists! Click the photo below to watch the video haha!
Another thing I loved about Mahatao was their Blank Text Book Archive. So basically they are just books arranged in shelves numbered accordingly. You can select any number and write anything you want. I chose my birthdate (as many have done so, ewan ko nga ba!) and wrote a letter to Batanes hehe! Tony joked to have chosen book number 69 and wrote his name and e-mail address — I never checked the book to confirm that though haha!
After that we headed to the Mahatao Lighthouse, where we took more photos, and videos.
We also went to see the Sumhao Windmills, but they were not operational, they seem to be “resting” hehe.
Next stop – Marlboro Country! or locally called Racuh-A-Payaman. I asked why it was called Marlboro and they told me it was because there used to be lots of horses. Apparently when we went there weren’t a lot.
After that we went to the hill where the famous “i-Dawn Zulueta” moment originally happened. Google it if you don’t know what it means, or ask Vice Ganda hehe! It was at the Alapad Hills. It was ironic because there were too little flat areas where you could do it, but I guess they did. What I loved about this place though is not about Richard and Dawn, but the view that you’ll have as you sit at the edge of the hill. Photo below – perhaps I didn’t do much justice to it because it looks so much nicer in person (everything does I guess), not to mention the sound of the waves hitting the rocks. To die for!
Last few stops for that day before we called it a night was the House of Dakkay, which was built in 1887 by the Estrella’s. The only living descendant now is Lola Ida, who still lives in this house, and noted to be the most photographed oldest woman, our tour guide said, but nothing verified of course!
And last before we headed back to the hotel for our last night, we passed by another historical spot.
Finally, also wanted to place the different kinds of food that they served us during this trip. Most of them were new to my taste, which is good! Our bellies sure were happy all 3 days, it really made me gain so much weight! haha!
Not in photo but their BIKO – was super awesome, especially the sauce that apparently was evaporated milk and margarine. We named it the BIKO SAUCE hence the title of our Harlem Shake version – everyone in the trip just loves it and I guess it will always be something for our group to laugh about!
I know this post is too long but I wanted to make sure I wrote everything worth featuring. My friends have been asking me when I came back if it was beautiful, and all I had to say was “see for yourself!”. I’m not really a nature trekker/adventure seeker hence this trip is just laid back, chill lang, no stress. If you have fear of heights maybe it’s a little of a challenge, but as long as you have company you’ll be perfectly fine.
For my friends who love architecture and buildings, expect there are none (haha!). So maybe you should just pick another destination (honest!). Highly recommended for couples and groups, and go during February when it’s cold! 🙂
AND NOW FINALLY I’m publishing this! Took me so long to complete it, YAY!