Contributed by: Perzzy Photos by: Chito Vecina, PRI
A trip to Batanes bestows one a feeling timelessness...an experience that will linger long after arriving back home. It makes one appreciate the simple things in life, but in a deeper sense. But be forewarned though, once you've experienced Batanes, it will haunt you to come back...
Things to Do
Batanes is a photographer’s haven. Everywhere you look is a visual feast. From traditional houses to enigmatic landscapes to breathtaking seascapes. In Batanes, it’s a sin not to have fully-charged camera batteries and films. Shoot all you can. All sights are as astounding as the stories they keep. Don’t forget to ask permission when taking picture of a local.
When you go to Batanes, make sure you bring good hiking shoes. It is a big relief from hours of walking. Batanes means a number of routes on different terrain of various difficulty to get to countless spots. Te place is perfect for both recreational and serious trekkers. Batanes is a very safe place. Most trails are established and there’s no insurgency to worry about. Still, it will be a good idea to have a local guide with you.
Do not expect stretches and stretches of fine white sand beaches in Batanes. The coastline throughout the islands is lined by shallow reef with killer waves, something that’s not for the faint-hearted. Some beaches are adorned with white sands, others with boulders.
For those who want a dip, visitors are often taken to White Beach in Maydangeb, Ivana or at the beach in Tamulong Bay, around two kilometers south of Basco just beneath the Batanes Resort area. Avoid Kanyuyan Beach on Baluarte Bay in Basco for swimming. Two creeks drain there. Likewise, it is best to skip swimming at one of the boulder beaches (in Valugan Bay or Chadpidan in Basco). The rough surges make it difficult even for experienced swimmers to maneuver in the rocks.
To enjoy the beach, it is best to just choose from among the hundred secluded beach spots in the island and read a book while getting tanned. Batanes is the best place for introspection.
A Batanes vacation is never complete without braving the channel where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea to visit the island municipality of Sabtang. Enjoy a 40-minute motorized boat ride to Sabtang where you experience Batanes in the early days. If you’re lucky, dolphins escort your trip to the island. If you stay longer, consider visiting the island of Itbayat. This is the northernmost inhabited island of the Philippines. Getting there means completely trusting the local banca to ferry you for four hours to the island. It is worth the trip. Being in Itbayat is like arriving in a different world.
Deep or shallow, near the shore, or far in the middle of the sea, catch different kinds of fish using a rod or a net. Just make sure to bring enough containers for these sea creatures never run out.
Bicycles and motorcycles are the basic means of transportation in Batanes. You can inquire from your hotel about where to rent bikes. They are not strict about having to surrender licenses or ID’s. Biking is the best way to enjoy the 26-kilometer stretch from the main town in Basco to the last village of Imnajbu. Traffic is the last thing you would have to worry about. When you move to the other islands, the motorcylces and bikes still are king of the road. They bring you closer to the breathtaking landscapes. They make roadtrips more meaningful.
Starting in September and October when the Siberian breeze begins to reign, a host of migratory birds fly southwards to escape the severe cold season. These birds come to Batanes first before they move even southwards to Luzon.
It is not as developed yet as in other areas in the Philippines, but surfing at Madiwedved in Mahatao is a promising activity. The towering waves and blazing wind will surely turn your surfing time into a real water adventure.
The same rolling hills and mountains seem to offer a different sight everytime. Wander in the green hills of Vayang in Basco or greet the Pacific Ocean from the vast Payaman in Mahatao. They are best experienced early in the morning or late afternoon --- with your favorite coffee.
PLACES TO SEE
Batan Island. The second largest island in the province of Batanes, this is where the capital town Basco is situated along with three other municipalities. The entire island is blessed with natural the rolling hills of Na-idi and Payaman, the majestic Mt. Iraya, beautiful beaches, old Spanish churches, buildings, fortresses and pre-Hispanic settlements.
Seat of Government and center of economic development and gateway to the rest of the province.
Sto. Domingo Cathedral.
The first (Spanish) Catholic Church ever built in Batanes in the early parts of 18th century. The roofing was originally cogon grass. The first church to have G.I. roofing in the early 1890’s.
Chanpan, Valugan or the Valugan Boulder Beach
From this side of the island, one has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The smooth stone spewed by nearby Mount Iraya in AD 400 is found here. It is also right along the beach where the thriving cultural practice called Kapayvanuvanwa is performed before the yearly start of fishing season.
It is an old Sitio derived from the Ivatan word called “Na” which means past and “Idi” meaning settlement or community. Best spot to take a Basco sunset photo. Site of the American period wireless telegraph facilities that connected Batanes with central government until its collapse from a Japanese Imperial Army bomb attack at the start of World War II. It is also here where the first lighthouse of Batanes was built.
This is where you marvel about God’s creation. When you’re in this spot, a visitor oftentimes silently stands in awe and whisper a prayer. The endless rolling hills, wind-swept communal pasturelands for cattle and horses, . Perfect scenery for nature lovers & photographers. The Sound of Music should have been filmed here.
Vahay ni Dakay (House of Dakay)
Built in the 18th century, it is probably the most photographed house in Batanes. It is one of the last few standing century old houses being used to date.
Honesty Coffee Shop
Unmanned refreshments store famous worldwide for showcasing Ivatan’s ‘honesty.’ There’s no standby seller and instead rely on the honor system when paying for goods taken from the store. It is located in front of the Ivana Church near the Radiwan Port. It has a commanding view of Sabtang island.
A visit to Batanes is never complete without staying in Sabtang. Make sure you move heaven and earth to get to this heaven on earth. Of the three islands in Batanes, this is the smallest.
One of the most pictured beach spot in Batanes. Famous for its stone/rock arch formation in a very private cove. Ideal site for picnic, snorkeling and camping.