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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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|
|12:00||North Batan Tour
· Valugan Boulder Beach
· Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel
· Tukon Idjang Viewing
· Fundacion Pacita
· 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
|6:00||Travel to San Vicente Port|
|6:30||Boat Ride to Sabtang|
· 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
|1:00||Boat Ride to San Vicente Port|
|1:45||Tricycle Ride Back to Hotel|
Day 3 – South Batan Tour
· Chawa Viewdeck
· Mahatao Pier
· Old Spanish Lighthouse
· San Carlos Borromeo Church
· Tayid Lighthouse
· Racuh A Payaman (Marlboro Country)
· 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
· 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
|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)
|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|
|500.00||Taxi to Domestic Airport|
|350.00||Batanes Eco-Tourism Fee|
|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|
|54.00||Bigas, Suka, Toyo|
|34.00||Chips and Chocs|
|10.00||Costume Rental (photo ops)|
|50.00||Registration Fee for Spring of Youth|
|1,200.00||South Batan Tour|
|34.00||Chips and Chocs|
*Philippine Airlines and SkyJet have regular flights to Batanes from Manila.
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.