You will fall in love with Batanes and it will be very hard to leave. That is a fact. My mom, sister and I went to Batanes way back 2014. And because I’m new to blogging, only now will I be able to share my Batanes experience.
We were lucky to know someone from Basco, Dr. Roel Nicolas, to whom we are very grateful for letting us see Batanes in his perspective. And true enough, we fell in love with the island as he was for more than 50 years. Batanes is a group of 10 islands, only 3 of which is inhabited — namely Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. Each island offering something different and unique. We stayed for 8 days but I sure hoped we stayed a bit longer. Here are some of the best and memorable experiences I had in each Island.
1. Batan Island
We arrived in Basco from a PAL flight around midday and went straight to Doc Roel’s house by the beach. We arrived in a house a few steps away from the beach, along the coast of Batan Beach with pearly white and very fine sand. There was no one by the beach at that time. As a born-and-raised city girl that’s used to crowded areas, having the entire beach to yourself was nothing short of amazing.
In the next morning, we wake up to a breath-taking sunrise and a soothing aroma of local Kapeng Barako. We walked by the beach together with local kids playing around. Unlike other beaches in the country, Batan beach was rocky and at first a little uncomfortable. But once you find a nice spot in the water, it will not disappoint. But after a few minutes (to an hour) of stillness and silence of the island, you start to wonder where the fun things to do are. At some point my sister and I thought that probably by the beach there would be tents that let you rent out gears for water sports or offers island hopping tours. Of course to our surprise, there is none and figured we have to DIY to get around obviously. The easiest way to get around would be in a motorcycle (if you’re not afraid to backride, I realized it was actually fun) or in a tricycle as not all streets in the island is passable by cars. But that’s the thing about Batanes, even without the usual beach activities, it surprises you with its captivating scenery that you just enjoy being at peace and one with nature.
We went to the market to get lunch and we saw a lane of talipapa (small stalls that sells goods) in the street which by the way sells fresh lobsters. And so we had lobster for lunch. Who would have thought that a common delicacy in a remote island is a dish that we would normally get in a fine dining restaurant.
A few of the touristy spots that, of course, we had to check out was the lighthouse, boulder beach, Naidi hills, and Tukon Church. As an atmospheric scientist, I was particularly amazed by a lenticular cloud above a hill and of course very happy to have captured it on camera. I’ve always fancied taking pictures of clouds that you don’t usuall get to see in the city.
2. Sabtang Island
Sabtang is the next island that we decided to check out. To get there, we went on a roughly 45-minute road tour trip. I called it a road tour trip for it was practically a tour travelling to Ivana Port. We passed by the beach area at Alapad Rock Formations in the Municipality of Uyugan where “Hihintayin kita sa langit” movie starred by Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta was filmed. As we cross over each grassy hill, I almost want to ask my self if I was still in the Philippines for the view is just breath-taking.
At Ivana Port, we went on a 30-minute boat ride to Sabtang port. There are no hotels or inns in Sabtang. But there are people who would gladly take you in as a guest. In our case, we stayed in a health office (Thanks to Doc Roel!) where Doctors would normally spend the night as needed. They welcomed us like family, we had meals together with the health officers and even had bon fire at the back of the building where they cooked our dinner. It was very heart-warming, really. Even at the remote islands of the country, you can feel how hospitable and welcoming Filipinos truly are.
In Sabtang, they have preserved a village with mostly traditional stone houses which I found very interesting. As we explore the old village, you can see locals hanging their clothes to dry at the backyard, cooking by the window or even kids playing by the beach.
3. Itbayat Island
My favorite Island. I have to admit that going to Itbayat was the most difficult boat travel that I had to endure in my lifetime. But if you ask me now, I would probably do it again if it means that I can go back to Itbayat. Of course, I’d rather go by a different mode of transportation, or probably sedate myself first before the boat ride. Lol. But seriously, the boat ride is a rough one. It’s true when they say “No pain, no gain.” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. We needed about half a day to get back on our feet after the excruciating boat ride.
But enough about that, there is something very interesting with this island. Itbayat is like an inverted umbrella, it doesn’t have a shore or a fringe of land to dock over to. From the boat, you have to jump to the dock and you have to do this in sync with the waves or else you’ll be in the deep waters in no time. No worries though, boat men and locals will be holding your hand for support and everyone will be cheering for you as you make the jump of your life. All goods are transported this way, a local told us that several items have been dropped there and was never retrieved again including motorcycles, cows, pigs, sack of rice, sack of cement, etc.
In the afternoon, we would play soft ball or basketball with the village kids. It was very timely as the town was preparing for an inter-island sports fest. We would play until it was night and we’re hungry. We didn’t know at first about the electricity cut-off at 12 midnight. We were at the plaza then lying in the grass and joking with the kids, when suddenly it was complete darkness. There as nothing left to see but the stars in the sky. The sky suddenly became so bright as if God intentionally put it there for us to fall in love to. My sister and I were blown away, we couldn’t wrap our minds around how we had such beautiful stars above that we don’t even notice and how a simple electricity cut-off was all we needed to appreciate it.
The trip going back to Batan Island was surprisingly smooth, it felt as if the excruciating boat ride going to Itbayat was a test if we’re worthy of seeing the beauty of the island. And I guess the smooth ride leaving was the island’s approval of our stay and bidding us goodbye.
For 8 days in Batanes, we experienced way more than what we have expected from a week long vacation. It was liberating from our fast-moving lives in the city, and it was a mind-opener to appreciate simple things in life.