HEAVEN ON EARTH: The One-Stop Guide to BATANES, Philippines

Posted by Wander Girls on 8:01 PM in , , , , , ,
Words & Photos: Johanna
Video: Ysabel Villaflor
Additional Photos: Pie Abraham, Lisa Quinio, Arnel Poblete, Koke Villaflor

 
 
In the northernmost part of the Philippines, you'll find the emerald isles of Batanes. This unspoiled region boasts of rolling hills, romantic cliffs, pristine beaches, and the stone houses of the Ivatan tribe, an upcoming UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Johanna wearing a vakul in Batanes





I can't help but sound like a travel magazine when describing this place that has come to haunt my dreams since my trip there in 2008. Batanes has captured my soul.

A vakul, traditional Ivatan headgear, that I dutifully carried home still hangs above my bed (and Ysabs' too!).

It's the most beautiful, most serene place I've ever seen. If that's not enough recommendation, I'd say if there was one place a person should see in the Philippines, it would be BATANES!

Who should go


Batanes is for the soulseeker, the backpacker, the one who is looking for respite from the drudgery of daily life in the city. It's also perfect for honeymooners. If you're into party scenes and jampacked vacations, then you're better off going to Boracay. When we went, there were at most 40 tourists in entire Batanes. There is only one bar, found in Batanes Seaside Lodge. Don't get your hopes up, it consists of one disco ball, plastic chairs and early 90's music (eeek)!

How to get there

Batanes can be reached through plane from Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Domestic terminal). We flew from there via Asian Spirit to Basco Airport, but they don't carry Batanes trips anymore. Option:

SEAIR - http://www.flyseair.com/
Small, propeller-type planes
Flights on certain days of the week only
Airfare: P11,000 to P17000 (USD $247 to $382) - one of the most expensive local airfares
Ours was about P11,500 via Asian Spirit

Roads are narrow in Batanes. Transportation - vans and jeepneys - are usually included in packaged tours. Tricycles are also available for a small fee.

MUST DO: Rent a bicycle or a motorcycle to go around Batan Island! Inquire at your lodging.

When to go

We went first week of February and all conditions were perfect. The tour guide told us our boat was the first one in 4 months that was able to cross the wavy channel between Batan Island (mainland Batanes) and Sabtang Island, where the stone houses are found.

Bad weather conditions are also known to get vacationers stranded in Batanes indefinitely. Unlucky us, we left on time. Yeah, I wanted to get stranded in Batanes! Boooo good weather!

BEST: February until May, end of the summer season.

Where to stay
Johanna at Batanes Seaside Lodge beachfront

We stayed at Batanes Seaside Lodge, which I picked because it was... you guessed it, sea-side. It's also only a walking distance from the town center, where not much can be found, to tell you honestly! But it's a charming place, and well-worth the stroll.

Batanes Seaside Lodge is a small inn and basic at best. But the facilities were clean, and the bed and the pillows were fluffy. The service was also satisfactory. I just wish they'd put up lights on the beachl; we couldn't do night swims because of the dark.
Full-body massage services are available at around P450 per hour (as of 2008).

Typical tour food
Our 4 days/3 nights package cost us about P5500 (US$123). That includes lodging, Batan Island and Sabtang Island tours, transportation and boat fees, plus lunch and dinner. They cook delicious lunches fresh at gorgeous locations. A steal at that price! Must recommended! Ask for Kuya Rudy, he was our driver.

OTHER PLACES:

There are no big hotels in Batanes, only lodges and inns.

Shanedel's Inn - Gobsmack in the middle of the town. I didn't see the rooms, but it's not beachfront.
A very tan Ysabs At Fundacion Pacita
Batanes Resort - This was still under construction when we went to Batanes. Guests get their very own stone house-like accommodations. It's also beachfront like Seaside Lodge, but the beach is smaller. A bit farther from the town center.
Pension Ivatan - Found near Basco Airport.
DDD Habitat Lodge
Troy Lodge

Brandon's Lodge

Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodgehttp://www.fundacionpacita.ph/
Luxury in Batanes
 Fundacion Pacita's Bathroom
I would have stayed here if it was already open back in 2008. I've been to its location and the views are amazing! From what I've seen from their website, the accommodations are to die for, despite the higher prices.

Sabtang Island accomodations - I was told that they offer lodging in Sabtang.Great to look into.
Basco boarding houses - I was offered by some locals to stay at their homes with a promise that prices are cheaper than the inns.

BUDGET:
Fan Rooms - P200 to P500 (US$4 to $12) per person per night
Airconditioned rooms - P500 to P1200 per person per night, except for Fundacion Pacita which could cost P2000 to P3500 each.

What to see

Everywhere you look is a postcard waiting to happen.

Chavayan
My favorites:

1. Diura Fishing Village

Rocky hills set beside a beach curved into a crescent shape. It's just an amazing, unique terrain! I could stay there forever (as long as there's internet connection, mind you!).

 2. Chavayan and Savidug Stone Houses

Most people who have heard of Batanes think all houses in Batanes are made of stone. Wrong! Most stone houses are found in the villages of Chavayan and Savidugan in the island of Sabtang. No Batanes trip is complete without seeing them. Plus the villages lie between green hills and a gorgeous beach... again STUNNING!


Ysabs & family at Rakuh a Payaman
3. Rakuh a Payaman or Marlboro Country

Called Marlboro Country because of its resemblance to a certain cigarette commercial.

The views overlooking surrounding hills and beaches are unfathomably beautiful. I got goosebumps!

OTHER ATTRACTIONS:

1. Valugan Boulder Beach
2. Naidi Lighthouse where you can see the town center from above.
3. The Radio Station in Tukon
4. The art studio of Pacita Abad, a noted Filipino painter, at Fundacion Pacita.
Valugan Boulder Beach
5. Beaches in Basco town (in front of Batanes Seaside Lodge) - Great views. The sand is brown but the waters are crystal clear and warm.
6. The rustic Municipal Hall & Police Station
7. Tunnels made during the Japanese Invasion  - You can walk inside if the weather is dry.
8. Song Song Ruins
9. Vayang/Naidi Hills - Rolling hills as far as the eyes can see and jawdropping views of the ocean. I almost took a tumble down a hill, the winds were so strong!
10. Loran Station - Beautiful beach panorama.
11. House featured in Batanes the movie (ew)
Johanna at Naidi Hills
12. Mahatao Viewdeck - Ideal for sunrise and sunset-watching!
13. Mahatao & Ivana Churches
14. The oldest stone house in Batanes, found in Ivana
15. Spring of Youth - Said to have curative powers. Accessible via a 20min curving trek. Senior citizens, beware.
16. Nakamaya Burial Grounds
17. Honesty Coffee Shop - People pay by dropping money into a container. Nobody's watching over the store - now that's a test of honesty for you! Prepare exact payment, getting change could be a problem
Morong Beach
18. Itbayat Island - Said to be made wholly of rocks and cliffs. We were not able to go there - it's far from the mainland. Go via chartered plane or a perilous 3-hour boat ride.
19. Morong Beach in Sabtang Island - 15min trek. Lovely light fine sands. I was surprised to find this beach in the middle of nowhere.
20. And of course, the much-photographed arch found in Morong Beach, Nakabuang, Sabtang Island.

Batanes Arch
Where to eat
 
Fresh seafood abound in Batanes. Buy from the market or order from your inn's crew, and have it cooked anyway you like at a minimal price (starts at P100).

Better get reservations before dining out, as service may be slow or the place may be closed.

MUST HAVE: Delicious coconut crabs - found only in Batanes!


Casa Napoli's Pizza
Pension Ivatan's Buffet
Batanes Seaside Lodge Restaurant - Satisfactory, nothing amazing. In 2008, plastic chairs and horrid decor.
SDC Canteen across the Police Station - Eat here to fill your stomach, nothing more. Cheapest food in Basco. Rundown place.
Casa Napoli - Their homemade thin crust pizza is a must try! (Ysabs)
Shanedel's Inn Cafe - Great seafood and views on its deck. (Ysabs)
Pension Ivatan Buffet - If you like goat dishes, eat here. (Ysabs)
Doque's Grill
Hiro's Cafe


Is the weather always stormy in Batanes?

I always get this question. It may have been true in the past, but according to people there, the weather in Batanes has been steadily changing in the past decade. Less rain but more unpredictable weather. When we were there, it only rained from 12 midnight until sunrise, like clockwork!

Tips

Ivatan Purse
  • PASALUBONG (Souvenirs): The usual t-shirt and key chains are sold at the lodges. Ask your tour guide or ride a tricycle to get to the market or to the souvenir shops. There, you can buy vakuls and Ivatan weaved bamboo backpacks, and their cute miniatures. The best quality vakuls are sold in Savidug village. Also great for souvenirs are the handmade fans, and the traditional Ivatan purses that can be securely closed without need of locks. NOTE: Coconut crabs are endangered, and it is against the law to take them out of Batanes.
  • Length of stay: At least four days are recommended. I plan to stay 2 weeks next time! Only the plane fare is expensive. When you get there, everything is cheap.
  • Travel agency: A friend of mine, Liz, owns a travel agency and she arranged the trip for us. Her contact number is available upon request.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the driver to stop so you can explore the sights. I enjoyed climbing up and down the hills!
  • Batanes is a very safe place, with next to no crime rate. 
  • Bring flip flops. You'll do a lot of beaching and muddy treks.
  • Bring umbrella, fans, water and hankies. Transportation is not airconditioned.
  • Bring bonamine and other anti-nausea medicine for the bumpy boat rides.
  • And lastly, bring an adventurous spirit and leave your worries behind you.
SUGGESTED ITINERARY: By Ysabs


DAY 1 : After checking in at your chosen lodging, start wandering! First start with sites you can see around town from the nearest to the farthest. I also suggest: getting a transport ready via jeep or motorcycle since some of the sites are already in another town.

  • The Simbahan ng Basco, Basco Town proper
  • Naidi Light House, Rolling Hills.  The Lighthouse and Rolling Hills are just walking distance from each other so that's killing 2 birds with one stone.
  • Mahatao View Deck, Mahatao Church  
  • Visit the 100 year old stone house (Bahay ni Dakay)
  • San Jose De Ivana Church and Honesty Cafe. Are near each other.  Get a refreshing drink here before you go to the next destination.
  • Song Song Ruins and re-enact Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gomez in Uyugan Hill, overlooking the Old Loran Station.
  • End the day with watching the sunset in Marlboro Country.
DAY 2: You need to get up really early for this so you can transfer to another island via boat and get back with the tide still manageable. (Warning: drink anti-seasickness medicine before going. The waves are rough in this part of the country since you would be passing by the spot where the Pacific meets the South China Sea.)
  • Leave for Sabtang.
  • Roll along in the Chavayan Hills.
  • Visit the village of Savidug and Chavayan. You will take lots of pictures here. It is a site that sums up all you see in Batanes.
  • Relax, swim and have lunch under the Nakabuang Arch and beach.
  • Go back to Basco.
DAY 3: This could be a very lazy day of going around town proper and buying gifts or pasalubong.
  • Visit Pacita Abad's former art studio and gallery where local artists showcase their works.
DAY 4: 
  • Go to Diura Fishing Village and see the Spring of Youth. Swim and relax on the beach and in the hot spring.
  • Eat lunch at the Diura Village.
  • Take a peek at the Japanese tunnels.
  • Visit Fundacion Pacita Lodge and Inn. 
DAY 5: (an additional day must be spent here ) Leave early in the morning. Travel to Itbayat.

* the suggested itinerary can be switched by day.  Our group was supposed to do the Day 2 first but decided that taking a plane and a boat ride in one day is a little bit too tiring so we decided to do the town first :) As i said, it's just a suggestion and it also depends on the weather and your mood :)

- Good luck! We hope Batanes gives you as much peace and positive energy as it had given us.  This is truly a place every Filipino must visit. It reminds us how great our country is! It's also a must for foreigners!



Are you ready for the wonders of Batanes?


6 Comments


Yes I'm ready. hehe

thanks for this information. we might adopt your itinerary, we're going there on the winter season, this may. hehe

thanks!


you're welcome lakwatserong tsinelas! we wanna hear about your trip too. let us know how it turned out ok? :)


there's only 2 of us who will be going there. do you think it would still be convenient and less costly if we don't get packaged tour (tour around batanes, instead explore the island ourselves) and food? is it difficult to find the spots in your itinerary if we look for them ourselves? is it hard to find food and will they be available even at night? thanks


This comment has been removed by the author.

Dear Anonymous (Jan 5, 2013)

If you are JUST going around Basco town, it's okay not to have a tour guide. The Simbahan ng Basco, the Pacita Abad Studio,are just in town and can visited by walking. If you are not rushing for time, rent a bike and go around :) BUT there are some sights which are in another town or in another island, so I suggest just get a jeep and go around. if you are going to the nearby islands (like Day 2 or Day 4) it is better to have a tour guide since the areas don't usually have the restos and the transport around for you to eat and move around. It is better to arrange it in advance so you won't have to think about it when you get off the long boat ride from Basco port. :) I hope this helps :) -- WG Ysabs


Dear Anonymous,

I live in Batanes. Still kulang pa sa akin ang mga taon pra makita ang entirety ng Batanes. 2 ways to see Batanes:
1. discover it in details or
2 yung pahapyaw lang or visit every place in a brief stay.

maraming mystical na lugar sa Batanes and you can only experience this kung solo ka lang or the most 2 lang kayo.The Valugan boulder beach is a mystical place lalo na yung eastern side.At marami pang ibang lugar sa Batanes na enchanting ang dating.

kung mahilig kayo sa cliffs...4 days is not enough...the tour guides are only showing a brief
introduction about places to visit....kasi nga kulang ang time.

For me and for us people in Batanes, ang Batanes ay binabalik-balikan and no need to rush to see the entirety of Batanes. Everyplace has something to offer at siguradong hindi ito makalimutan.

Mas cheaper kung hindi kayo mag hire ng tour guide, this will work definitely kung kayo yung true blue adventurous type. yung pwedeng matulog in an unexpected places. Pwede kasi sa Batanes ay peaceful and walang kidnapping sa mga tourist.
Almost everybody is trying to accomodate you.

My best experience is yung sleeping in their house and having free meals. Of course yung human interaction sa kanila ay memorable. To undestand and to witness their way of living is very educational.

To travel around Batan island, ang idea is to know exactly yung schedule ng jeep. Simply ask the drivers yung timetable nila at tutulungan ka nila kasi gusto nila sasakay din kayo sa trip nila.About 6-8 trips per day lang. The trip does not go around the Batan island.From Basco lang to Imnagdbu and vice versa.

Kung gusto nyo ng rent vehicle right now is 2k per day, you can visit briefly all the places you probably read about Batanes kung may saskyan kayo.

If you are into photography, even 1 month is not enough to satisfy your artistic side.Marami kasing subject sa Batanes....endless.

I hope somehow this will give you an idea on how to conduct your vacation in Batanes.

In Batanes no need to rush.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2013 Travel with the WANDER GIRLS All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive | Blogger Templates.