10 things you shouldn’t miss on your first Batanes trip

By Harry Bayona

BASCO– The northernmost and smallest province in the Philippines, the island of Batanes is also dubbed as the “Nature’s Playground” as it boast rare flora and fauna, undulating terrain, limestone cliffs, stretches of white and cream-colored sandy beaches and clear waters.

PHOTO 3
Ivatan houses are made of thick walls of stone and lime and several layers of cogon serve as the roof. These materials are designed to withstand strong typhoons, earthquakes and other calamities.

Although accessible by scheduled flights from Manila, accessibility is still an issue due to the remoteness and weather patterns in the island. So it’s very important to be very mindful of the 10 tips I have for you. 

  1. Know the weather (whether you like it or not)

I was definitely on cloud nine when I scored a Batanes promo fare this month because the island is known as one of the least discounted destinations in the country. But lo and behold, come June 8-11, Batanes dumped rains during half of my entire trip.

PHOTO 2
The hills are alive! The Vayang Rolling Hills are seemingly endless! A sturdy pair of legs is what you need in order to explore this scenic location. The rolling hills also serve as a great vantage point for a good view of Batanes’ 3 major islands.

But then I gotta stick it out with my promo trip though. So, if you are planning to go to Batanes and enjoy a nice and dry stroll, and calm boat rides, the best time will be during the dry months of March to May.

  1. Book. Stay.

Cheap hotels, hostels, inns and even homestay(s) abound in Batanes. Your P1,500 or $32 could go a long way and give you a home for 3 days (that is if you’re gonna stay at Troy Lodge which I did!) And if you’re planning to come over, choose a place that’s close to the airport.

Proximity to the airport means greater telecommunication reception compared to other areas in the island. Another advantage is it will be easier to coordinate tours and get around from the capital of the province.

  1. Touring the Tricycle Way!

There are a bunch of tour services and tour agencies that can help you explore Batanes. And I highly suggest that you’d rather book the cheaper tricycle tour where the driver himself will serve as your tour guide. North Batan and Sabtang tour will only cost P1,000 or $21 each while your South Batan tour is at P1,500 or $32. A good strategy for this is to befriend another solo traveler so you can split the cost of the tour, like what I did. 

PHOTO 11
Your friendly Ivatan tour guides. Meet Kuya Tom Viola (left) and Kuya Jun Hecha (right), my tour guides in North Batan and Sabtang, respectively. For tours, contact them through these numbers: Tom – 0928 761 1429; Jun – 0909 877 0155.

Touring with the unique tricycle will also enable you to travel at your own pace. As well as the chance to experience things raw and soak in everything Ivatan versus touring with an air-conditioned van.

  1. Bring your baon.

Food is gold in Batanes. A meal will cost you P200-P300 or $6.50. So stuff your bags with bread, biscuits, chips, canned goods, etc. Or if the place you will be staying has a kitchen that you can use, then you can buy your supplies from the market and then cook for yourself.

PHOTO 8
Roads in Batanes are mostly curved so you’ll see this friendly road sign in every turn.

 

  1. Do not skip leg day!

The hills are alive in Batanes! And you will most certainly climb every mountain and hills. But Sound of Music references aside, you must have strong legs. You need a sturdy pair in order to enjoy Naidi Hills, Tinyan Point, Racuh A Payaman, Basco Lighthouse and all other scenic spots. So do not skip leg day. And oh, wear comfortable shoes because there’s gotta be a whole lot of walking too.

PHOTO 6
As green as the eyes can see. Racuh A Payaman, or also known as Marlboro Country, is perhaps one of Batanes’ most iconic tourist spots. Praised for its perfect contour, the endless rolling hills also serve as pasture lands for cows, carabaos and horses.
  1. Go big. Allot 1-2 weeks.

I spent 4 days in Batanes. To most people, it’s satisfying already but for me, it’s bitin. Your 4 days will only let you get around North Batan, South Batan and Sabtang. Batanes has 10 islands so if you want to explore Itbayat, Vuhus Island, Dinem Island and all other islands in the island group, then you must go big and allot 1-2 weeks for your vacation. 

  1. Bring extra cash. Always.

Fatten up your wallet because you’ll need all those cash for your trip. You can’t use credit cards in Batanes and you are expected to pay in cash all the time.

PHOTO 1
Dubbed as the “Nature’s Playground”, Batanes boasts of rare flora and fauna, undulating terrain, limestone cliffs, streches of white and cream-colored sandy beaches and clear waters.

Similarly, your cash is very important especially if you’re planning to go island-hopping. For example, if the waves are rough, you wouldn’t be allowed to sail in the ocean so you would need to stay wherever you are (yes, it happens). And staying means getting an accommodation and eating which is also synonymous to having money.

  1. Philippine History 101.

Everything in Batanes is teeming with history and culture. Taking a selfie in their scenic spots would be nice but I think it would be nicer to put some depth in your trip by learning something about our rich Philippine culture. Ask your tour guide why Racuh A Payaman was named Marlboro Country or why do Ivatans wear vakul and kanayi for example and they would be more than glad to explain things for you.

PHOTO 4
Tranquility emanates from this quaint little barrio. Chavayan, a barrio in Sabtang Island, is considered as the cradle of Ivatan culture and heritage. It’s got ancient written all over it, with old houses lining up the narrow streets.
  1. Be nice like the Ivatans.

Ivatans are one of the nicest people in the country. And one proof is the Honesty Coffee Shop, wherein there’s no standby seller and the customers just pay for their goods by dropping their money in a box. I also had a humbling experience wherein a lady gave me a 20-peso value 2 huge bundles of pako (seaweed) for only P10. They are that nice! Ivatans are warm and welcoming, with a smile ready to greet everyone.  So be nice to them as well and be like the Ivatans.

  1. Respect. Reflect.

In every trip, the general rule is take it all in, indulge and rejuvenate. But for me, I have 2 more rules whenever I travel that I want to share with you – respect and reflect. Alongside admiration, we must also respect Mother Nature. It felt so sad seeing empty water bottles, candy wrappers and chichirya wrappers in the mountains and beaches.

PHOTO 9
Taking it all in. In photo is the Ranum ni Kumalakal or Racuh-a-idi Spring of Youth embedded in the gorgeous view of the Diura Beach and Mt. Iraya. What’s not to love?

For those who would like to bask in the glory of Batanes, see green and think green and clean as you go. Also, my Batanes trip made me reflect about life. In Manila, everything is on a grind, we are so obsessed about titles, fame, money and properties. In Batanes, all they care about is having food, shelter and surviving on a daily basis. They sleep at 9:00 p.m., they go to their neighbors to socialize. Everything is simple and laidback. The fact that it is possible to live an uncomplicated life definitely amazed me. I wish everyone can dig deep in themselves and realize that simplicity is bliss. So that’s what I realized (I still have a lot in my mind but I don’t have enough space to discuss them all here). I’m leaving Batanes with a happy heart knowing know that all these reflections and memories will definitely make me a better person.

SAMPLE ITINERARY FOR BATANES

(4 DAYS, 3 NIGHTS)

Day 1 – North Batan Tour

8:15 Arrival in Basco Airport
9:00 Check in at Hotel
9:30 Breakfast and Rest
11:00 Lunch
12:00 North Batan Tour

 

·         Valugan Boulder Beach

·         Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel

·         Tukon Idjang Viewing

·         Fundacion Pacita

·         PAGASA

·         Mt. Carmel Chapel

·         Basco Provincial Capitol

·         Sto. Domingo Church

·         Basco Lighthouse

·         Naidi Hills

·         Vayang Rolling Hills

5:00 Back to Hotel

Day 2 – Sabtang Tour

5:30 Breakfast
6:00 Travel to San Vicente Port
6:30 Boat Ride to Sabtang
7:15 Sabtang Tour

 

·         San Vicente Ferrer Church

·         Conscience Cafe

·         Morong Beach and Nakabuang Arch

·         Barrio Savidug (Stone Houses)

·         St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel

·         Savidug Idjang

·         Chamantao Cove and Tinyang Viewpoint

·         Barrio Chavayan (Stone Houses)

·         Old Ivatan Lady at Chavayan Kubo

·         Chavayan Theater

·         Sta. Rosa De Lima Chapel

·         Sabtang Lighthouse

12:00 Lunch
1:00 Boat Ride to San Vicente Port
1:45 Tricycle Ride Back to Hotel

Day 3 – South Batan Tour

6:30 Breakfast
7:00 Mahatao Tour

 

·         Chawa Viewdeck

·         Mahatao Pier

·         Old Spanish Lighthouse

·         San Carlos Borromeo Church

·         Tayid Lighthouse

·         Racuh A Payaman (Marlboro Country)

 

Uyugan Tour

 

·         San Lorenzo Ruiz Church

·         Old Naval Base

·         Alapad Rock Formation

·         Barrio Itbud

·         Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church

·         Song Song Ruins

·         San Antonino Parish

·         Uyugan Municipio

 

Ivana Tour

 

·         Honesty Coffee Shop

·         San Jose Church

·         House of Dakay (Oldest House in Batanes)

·         Spanish Bridge/Bridge of San Jose

·         White Beach

·         Blue Lagoon

12:00 Lunch at Paulvanna’s
1:00 Continuation of Mahatao Tour

 

·         Racuh-a-idi Spring of Youth

·         Diura Beach

·         Diura Fishing Village

·         Chapdipan Bay

 

5:00 Back to Hotel

Day 4 – Departure to Manila

5:30 Breakfast
6:15 Tricycle Ride to Airport
6:30 Arrival at Airport
7:30 Plane Back to Manila

SUMMARY OF EXPENSES FOR BATANES

(4 DAYS, 3 NIGHTS)

 

PRE-VACATION
5,991.00 Promo Plane Ticket to Batanes (Roundtrip)
1,500.00 4 Days Accommodation at Troy Lodge
589.90 Groceries (Food itemsand toiletries)
730.00 Shoes, Slippers and Some Clothes
DAY 1
9.00 Tricycle
500.00 Taxi to Domestic Airport
145.00 Breakfast
350.00 Batanes Eco-Tourism Fee
100.00 Pasalubong
225.00 Lunch
235.00 Dinner
DAY 2
200.00 Sabtang Tourism Fee
20.00 Costume Rental (photo ops)
1,000.00 Sabtang Tricycle Tour
200.00 Boat to Sabtang (Roundtrip)
1,500.00 North Batan and Sabtang Tricycle Tour
220.00 Chicken, Bawang, Sibuyas, Kamatis
10.00 Pako
54.00 Bigas, Suka, Toyo
34.00 Chips and Chocs
DAY 3
350.00 Pasalubong
50.00 Water
10.00 Costume Rental (photo ops)
100.00 Lunch
50.00 Registration Fee for Spring of Youth
1,200.00 South Batan Tour
34.00 Chips and Chocs
DAY 4
100.00 Airport Transfer
100.00 Terminal Fee
7.00 Jeep
100.00 Breakfast
30.00 LRT
30.00 FX
9.00 Tricycle
15,782.90 GRAND TOTAL

 *Philippine Airlines and SkyJet have regular flights to Batanes from Manila. 

USD/$= Php46.00 



ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR: Harry Bayona, 28, loves traveling because he likes going to places and immersing in cultures he’s never experienced before. He believes traveling (specifically solo traveling) enables him to dig deep into his soul as he discovers things about himself and the world at large.


ViajeroMNL (Viajero Manila) is a lifestyle blog site that features different pop culture, travel, and food destinations in the Philippines. 

 

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