Batanes — What’s in?
May 16, 2019
For the past few years, I’ve been trying to see the world and ignoring the wonders of my home country — Philippines. There are only few places in the Philippines that are in my list, and one of those is Batanes.
Welcome to Batanes— the smallest and the northernmost province in the Philippines, making it closer to Taiwan than from the mainland Luzon. The locals in Batanes are called Ivatans.
Batanes is one of the most preserved places in the Philippines, limiting the number of tourists. As of the moment, there are only three airlines that are flying to Basco— capital of Batanes.
All regular airfares ranges from 10,000 up to 20k for roundtrip. You’re lucky if you get it on sale!
- Philippine Airlines
- Sky jet
But believe me, once you see Batanes with your own two eyes…no matter how much you paid for the ticket, you will see that it’s worth all the cent!
We decided to schedule our visit in Batanes on May, as per the locals, it is the best month. However, that is still not guaranteed as the weather in Batanes is still unpredictable. We had few rainy hours during our stay, and the sky normally clears up in the afternoon.
We stayed in the newest hotel built in Chanarian, a luxury service with minimalist and modern interior, not your normal home stay accommodation in Batanes. If you are not in a tight budget and wanted a lot of comfort during your stay, I highly recommend: RESIDENCIA DU BASCO
They just recently opened last March, prices will vary depending on the season but current prices for lean season has not been finalized yet.
- Standard Twin
- Standard King
- Standard Twin w/ balcony
- Standard King w/ Balcony
- Suite Room
- Premium Room
Their standard room rate is 5,990/night, we stayed in a standard twin room with balcony, the rate was 6,190/night good for 2 people including breakfast and roundtrip airport transfer. We were the only one in the airport that were picked up by a van, we suddenly felt like walking on a red carpet.
Premium room was currently occupied when we stayed at the hotel so I wasn’t able to see it. But I had a glimpse of Suite Room, this is good for 5 to 6 people. It has 2 twin beds and a separate room for King bed. The room has enough space for another roll away bed if you want to. Photos below:
Breakfast is open from 5:00 AM until 8:00 AM. Yes you’ve read that right, I am not sure if the typical 7:00 am to 11:00 am breakfast even exist in Batanes. People in Batanes starts their day very early in the morning.
The hotel has 32 rooms in total, with restaurant, rooftop bar (not operating yet), roof deck, and swimming pool. The pool hour is from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. The restaurant served breakfast and dinner, room service is also available in the hotel.
Video of Residencia: Here
IS THERE A WIFI?
I feel you man, instagram is life. Yes, Residencia has a wifi! What’s the catch? Wifi is not included meaning it’s chargeable. Wifi costs 100 php per 100 mb.
How to contact the hotel?
Facebook messenger is the easiest way to contact them as there is no phone signal around the area.
Arrival in Basco @ 8:30 am
Right after we finished taking a nap on our first day, we went straight to Pension Ivatan for some delighted lunch. We had one local dish which is called “uved balls”, this is made from one part of the banana plant. It wasn’t really appealing for my tongue, I’ve tasted so much ginger that I actually thought I am eating a ginger ball. Food prices range from 300 and up per meal. After eating lunch, we went to register for the tourism fee (350 php per person) and an environmental fee (50 php per person). Please keep the receipt and Batanes pamphlet, those are your tickets to enter some tourist spot.
First stop was the signage of Welcome to Basco, we stopped by for few minutes just to take few photos with an amazing view in the background. Next was the Tukon Church that was made out of stone. The church was greatly affected by the typhoon Ferdie in 2016, and still under renovation since then. Other than the chapel, the signal both for wifi and cellphones were also affected by the typhoon. It took them a year to bring back a connection of the phone signal, and two years to provide a better wifi signal. I asked our guide, how did they communicate to their relatives in Sabtang, or if they any, he said they would normally pass the message to the boat crews or if they know someone who’s going to Sabtang. Smart but kind of inconvenient! Good thing signal is back!!
We also visited PAG-ASA, Japanese tunnel where we went inside to check where the Japanese hid during the war. It started drizzling right after we arrived at Valugan Boulder beach or locally known as Chanpan. After taking few photos on the beach we headed to the waiting shed and enjoyed our soft “tupig” ivatan version. The beach has a good quality of waves that surfers would love, the only thing that makes it impossible to surf are the rocks close to it. The sky started clearing up while we are on the way to Vayang Rolling Hills.
The beauty of it is undeniable, you cannot claim that you have been to Batanes without seeing it! There is one spot where everyone goes, and we didn’t take that path. We walked a little more away from the other tourists and went downhill. The next place we went to was the Basco lighthouse, where you can also find the “I love Batanes” signage. Like what everyone does, we rented “vakul” (20 php) for a photo op.
Vakul is the ivatan’s head gear to protect their head from the sun and rain while working, and is made from vuyavuy leaves. It costs 900 php in Sabtang. Our last stop was the Cathedral, and we went back to the hotel. Aljun and Reg picked us up from the hotel at 7pm for dinner in Octagon Bed and Dine.
This is an honest opinion regarding our dinner, the view and the location of the restaurant is pretty good, but food wise it didn’t even reach our expectation. If you are a fan of “di masyadong maasim na paksiw”, “puro harina at matamis na siomai”, and binagoongan (but it arrived as crispy binagoongan with matamis na di lasang bagoong), then this place is for you! Otherwise, I would personally not recommend it. It might be their own version of cooking it, who knows. The staff were nice tho!
We started very early in the morning on the second day, our pick up was scheduled at 6:00 am. We woke up at 4:30 am and started preparing for our Sabtang trip. We arrived in Ivana port at 6:30 am and queued for payments (200 php roundtrip/pax + 10php/pax terminal fee). The boat’s maximum capacity is 150 passengers. Ivatans’ boat are fearless and can conquer even unforgiving waves.
We left the port before 7:30 am and arrived in Sabtang Port at 7:45 am.
Sabtang is one of the inhabited islands in Batanes, known for its old stone houses . As per census, it has a total population of 1,621. Sabtang Island is a small island that is doable for a day trip. However, if you wanted to experience the real stone house experience, I would suggest for you to stay for a night. Sabtang still preserves the stone houses compare to Basco. Our first stop was Chamantad-Tinyan View Point, other than the view, this is a great stop for souvenirs, a sip of fresh coconut, or a quick toilet stop.
After Tinyan, we went straight to the stone house village – Chavayan. The first thing that caught my eyes was the Barangay Hall, that was the most unique Brgy Hall I’ve seen in my life.
Stone houses were made out of lime and stone, while their roofs were made from loads of cogon leaves that could last up to 20 to 25 years. Inside the village, you will also pass by the “Sabtang Weaver’s Association” where you can see how they make vakul (women’s head gear), kanayi (men’s vest), ivok (women’s basket) and kalapay (men’s basket) using the brush and vuyavuy leaves. In case you wanna have your own vakul they are also selling it for 900 php. Third stop was St. Thomas Aquinas Church, beside it was an abandoned stone house where singer Yeng Constantino filmed her music video “Ikaw”. We also visited St. Vincent Ferrer Church, they just recently had a festival last April 26 which is called – Vakulkanay Festival. They celebrate it like Sinulog where locals dance on the street while others are playing their own instruments. Our last stop was Morong Beach, but because it was raining, we chose to stay in the restaurant nearby to relish the food. We didn’t have to choose from the menu because they were only serving set meal. They gave us plain rice and a sticky java rice, they also served few dishes like “sinigang na isda” (tamarind fish soup), sweet and sour tilapia, “ginisang patola” (sauteed luffa ), and luñis (dry pork).
After lunch, we were already out of energy by 11:30 am and decided to go to the port. We had to wait until we boarded at 12:30 back to Ivana. Me and my friend slept the entire hours in the hotel and met up with our driver at around 7:00 pm for our dinner. We were dropped off to Vunong located at Jessica’s Place. The place is quite out of the town but it won’t take you more than 15 minutes to get there. We were seated next to the locals and a pair of tourists. Like the restaurant we had for lunch, Vunong is only serving a set meal, so we just sat there and waited. Jessica served us a “vunong” — food wrapped in big leaves. Vunong is a typical way of serving their food especially during occasions. Vunong is a local word that means “to share”. The leaves that they use to wrap the foods are “kabaya” or in english, breadfruit leaves. Inside our vunong are traditional ivatan dishes such as: uved balls (banana corm), luñis (dry pork), fried dibang (flying fish), and their own version of beef steak. For our dessert, we had maruyang kamote. If you’re keen to try the local dishes, I highly recommend Vunong! I was kind of skeptical to try the uved balls as I didn’t enjoy the first time I tasted it, but in Vunong..everything is perfectly cooked. My personal favorite was the tamidok, or the paco salad.
I can’t believe it’s already the third day, we are almost saying goodbye to Batanes’ beauty. Our initial plan is to wake up early (of course, what’s new?) and head out to Rakwaydi, also known as “Spring of the Youth”. However, we were quite unlucky because our schedule fell on Monday, and they schedule the cleaning of spring every monday. But as what they say, always look on the brighter side of life. As we cancel Rakwaydi, that also means we will get more sleep, hooray for that! After our nap, we head out to Basco to visit Dra. Sharon’s Sparadise because what is holiday without a massage?! The first and only spa experience in Batanes, located in the heart of Basco. We were offered a ginger tea that soothed my throat, we were guided to the sofa and had a quick foot scrub and rinse before the treatment. Sparadise has a lot of different massages that caters your preference. For us, we chose their best seller— hot stone massage. It was totally a unique experience because that was my first time to try the hot stone massage, and I can’t believe I’d be able to try it in Batanes.
Dra. Sharon’s Sparadise provides a mix of international and local touch relaxation experience in an affordable price. Express massages for as low as 299php, picture perfect eyelash extension is also available! Contact them to reserve your slot:
We started our South Batan tour in the afternoon, but before that we were dropped off first at Chawa Viewdeck. This is a former rest house of ivatan fishermen after climbing an endless stairs. After the view deck, we went to Paulvana’s Videoke and Bar located in Mahatao for lunch. Most of the restaurants that are part of your itinerary will provide foods to the tour guide and driver too. We had the typical set meal in Paulvana’s, they served us sautéed bottle gourd, luñis with soup, fried fish, and a chocolate cake for dessert.
After our quick lunch, we passed by the Spanish Bridge. It was built during Spanish period with lime and stone, without steel reinforcement. The bridge was used by the Ivatans who were living on the other side of the stream to go to church.
On the way was the oldest church in Batanes, San Jose de Ivana. The church is existing since 1795, and looks like the biggest I’ve seen in the whole Basco. Few meters away from the church is the famous Honesty Store that was featured a couple of times in different tv programs. The owner used to go to the farm, and at the same time needed to put up a small business. This is when the idea of the store emerged, they have thought about making it a self service store since they couldn’t be there all the time. And because of the honesty of Ivatans, the store attracted so many tourists and became famous since then. Since the popularity of the store, it is still a self service but there are caretakers every now and then— which I think made the experience different. Not that I am planning to take some things, but it felt like an ordinary store that you can find anywhere in the world. But if you need any assistance, please do not hesitate to ask one of the ladies inside the store. We also passed by Uyugan, where Palek wine originated from. “Palek” is a wine that’s made by Ivatans from sugar cane. Next was “Muchong”, or the little Marlboro Hills. It is also one of the rolling hills, but a small version. We were really happy to have it all to ourselves so we stayed for quite a bit. On the way to Marlboro Hills, we passed by SongSong where the ruins are located close to the beach. They started calling it SongSong Ruins after the tsunami hit the town, and they were only left with ruins. You will not see much of them anymore because they have renovated most of the houses.
Another known for its view is Madangay, located in Uyugan. A short stop over will be enough, the place is not really big. I personally didn’t like the grass and stayed in our service, our driver showed us the new museum that was built next to Madangay. They already had their soft opening but still closed for public due to lack of collections as of the moment. And the highlight of every Batanes visit, Marlboro Hill or Rakuh A Payaman.
The stunning view of the rolling hills and the pacific ocean, all in one. Surely it will make you stay and forget the rest of the places in your itinerary. We went downhill to have a closer look of the water buffaloes, and to have our own space. But please know that every decision comes with a consequence, the hardest part was going uphill. If you will ask me, I am willing do it again. Second to the last stop was Tayid Lighthouse,
the most famous lighthouse in Batanes surrounded by greenier grass and field. The lighthouse is currently closed due to an issue between two towns claiming the lighthouse. To cap off our day three, the last stop was the luxurious Fundacion Pacita.
Booking in Fundacion had to be at least a year in advance, I didn’t believe this at first and checked it myself. Abad family, the owner of Fundacion, is also known in supporting some foundation around the area, they have sent some kids to school too. After looking around the are, we went to Cafe de Tukon where we had a reservation.
Please do book your tables in advanced (not a year in advance, don’t worry). They are now becoming strict when it comes to walk in guests or day visitors as they have to prioritize their in house guests especially during peak season. We invited our driver to join us for an early dinner, we ordered “marida” (a snail cooked in coconut milk), alfredo pasta, cornedbeef panini, banana crepe, cheese cake and “tubho iced tea” (tubho leaves). I would hate to leVe Batanes without seeing the sunset, so we head out to Basco Port and were mesmerized by the bright pink sunset, that even locals enjoy.
On our third day, we didn’t have a tour guide with us, it was only our driver Reg who is also knowledgeable enough about South Batan. Archi Sy, who coordinated our tours, was supposed to join us but caught up with different appointment, note that we also came during Election. Reg explained how packed our itinerary was for an afternoon tour, so we decided to skip some places, especially churches.
Saying goodbye to Batanes was one of the most emotional departure I’ve had. My heart was breaking slowly while airport crews were waving their goodbyes. It was a mixture of sadness and surprise, I have never experienced that in the Philippines, there’s no other airport staff who bid goodbye from the runway, no one— only in Batanes! Why no one is talking about this? Isn’t it a very nice gesture of Ivatans? If only I have more time, and I didn’t have another flight to take, I definitely will stay. As much as I would like to be selfish and keep my experience to myself, I also wanted everyone to see and know Batanes. It’s a treasure that everyone should cherish, it’s a gem from the very beginning until now. I would like to commend the efforts of Ivatans, and their love for their province. Other than the Batanes itself, the warm welcome, contagious smile, genuine hospitality of the locals made our experience unforgettable. From the bottom of my heart, I love you Batanes.
Our Batanes tour was coordinated with Archi Sy Valiente. She arranged Regnan as our driver, very patient, and willing to share what he knows. Our tour guide was Aljun who didn’t do anything but to make us laugh the entire time! We felt like we’ve known them for a long time. They made us feel comfortable during our stay, and never ran out of jokes. While kuya Francis was our driver in Sabtang, he was booked separately and know Sabtang very well!
For Batanes tour: Sy Valiente (09989751485)
For Sabtang driver: Kuya Francis (09493177206)
- . SMART carrier has better signal than globe.
- . There’s no need to be in Basco airport 3 or 4 hours before your flight. You will end up opening the airport. It is a small one, your check in and boarding will be very quick and smooth.
- . Food prices ranges from 200+ for a la carte and 300+ for set meals.
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