Batanes: An Essential Travel Destination In The Philippines
Friday, February 8, 2019
by Charisse Mirabel
Situated in the northernmost part of the Philippines lies Batanes, a small province known for its picture-perfect landscapes, well-preserved culture, and hospitable and honest locals. Batanes is composed of ten islands, but only Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat are the inhabited ones. With its location, Batanes is often hit by several typhoons all throughout the year. Despite its unpredictable weather and limited and expensive airfare, it is still one of the most visited places in the Philippines, both by local and foreign travelers. Being able to personally witness what kind of beauty Batanes truly has, I can never blame them.
Batanes can only be reached by air. Philippine Airlines, Skyjet, and Cebu Pacific have regular flights to Basco, the provincial capital. One-way tickets usually cost around PHP 4,000-8,000. If budget is an issue, be on the lookout for seat sales. After a few months of stalking the mentioned airlines’ websites almost every day, I finally got two round-trip tickets for PHP 3,500 each.
Having read that flights to Batanes are prone to delays or worse, cancellations, I strictly monitored weather updates prior to our flight. On the day of our flight, the sun was shining brightly while we were on our way to the airport. Much to our horror, our flight was canceled due to the bad weather condition in Batanes.
The airport staff told us that we have three options: to get the full refund of our tickets, to rebook the flight until the end of the month, or to become chance passengers on the next day. We could not postpone this travel to another week, month, or year. We did not also want to file for another leave from our jobs. As risky as it may sound, considering the fact that flights to Batanes at that time have been canceled for three consecutive days, we chose to become chance passengers. At last, our travel to Batanes finally pursued on the next day.
Our Much-Awaited Travel
I was never a fan of travel packages, so we did everything on our own. We booked a lodge for PHP 2,500/night; there are a lot of cheaper options, though. If you would like to experience how Ivatans live, you could rent homestays at their stone houses for as low as PHP 150/night. Other hotels cost as low as PHP 700/night for non-airconditioned rooms and PHP 1,500/night for the air-conditioned ones.
Upon arriving at the lodge, we rested for a while then began touring around. Batanes has a lot to offer, but we have limited time so we chose to travel around Batan only. We would be only spending at least four hours of traveling North Batan, so we rented a motorcycle for an hourly rate of PHP 150. If you would be spending more time outside, you could rent motorcycles on a daily rate of PHP 1,000. There are also bikes (PHP 25/hour), tricycles (PHP 1,500-2,000/day), and vans (PHP 3,000/day) available for rent.
Our first stop was Naidi Lighthouse. Overwhelmed by the beauty of this lighthouse, we only had the photo above as its most decent picture. There is no entrance fee inside. On top of that, a view of the entirety of Batanes and of the West Philippine Sea are waiting for you at the top.
We then proceeded to Vayang Rolling Hills. There is really nothing much to do here, but to just savor such straight-out-of-a-painting landscape with your eyes.
Who thought a boulder beach would become as captivating as a white sand one? Way back 400 A.D., Mt. Iraya erupted and threw rocks all over Batan, thus formed Valugan Boulder Beach. Although swimming is prohibited in this beach, it would still be perfect to cap off one’s day here by just looking at the sea or by playing with the stones.
On our second day, we rented a motorcycle again and traveled to the south of Batan. The scene was so breathtaking—driving amongst cliffs, mountains, hills, seas, and stone houses that have withstood wars and typhoons—that we did not have any single picture taken.
Other Must-See Places In Batanes
Fundacion de Pacita Gallery and Restaurant, Japanese Tunnel, Basco Idjang, Tukon Radar Station, and several churches are also crowd-favorites in North Batan.
The southern part of Batan also has its majestic spots, such as Alapad Rock Hills Formation, Chawa View Deck, Tayid Lighthouse, Homoron Blue Lagoon (with a hidden white beach), Mahatao Boat Shelter, Marlboro Hills, and Fountain of Youth Spring.
Sabtang and Itbayat
If you have more time, you can travel to the other sides of Batanes. Sabtang has also lighthouses, hills, beaches, and stone houses as unforgettable as the ones in Batan. Traveling to Itbayat is also recommended if you are the more adventurous type. Since it is the northernmost island of the Philippines, traveling here is more difficult, tourism is almost non-existent, and hills and beaches are kept untouched.
Some Travel Tips
If you are wondering where to eat in Batanes, there are a lot of options depending on your preference. There are eateries with delicious yet affordable meals and even restaurants with pretty expensive but worth-a-try meals.
When it comes to safety, Batanes might just be the safest place in the Philippines to ever exist. The province boasts of its zero-crime rate. In fact, most of its locals just leave their bikes outside of their houses without locks. This is also the home of the famous Honesty Store, a store without an attendant and merely relies on the honesty of its customers.
If you want to dig deeper into the history of Batanes, you may opt to hire a travel guide. In most cases, when travelers hire tricycles or vans, their drivers also become their travel guides and photographers. There are also various travel agencies offering packages, which already include travel guides. But if you would like to manage your own time, just like what we did, you could definitely travel around Batanes just by yourself. The place is so small that every destination is easy to find. You can ask the locals and they are always willing to help. And as I have said, it is very much safe there.
Unlike any other spoiled or overcrowded travel destinations in the Philippines, Ivatans have impressively maintained the cleanliness of their environment and the richness of their culture. The best thing that we can do as a traveler is to throw our garbage in the right places and respect a place’s culture—not just in Batanes, but everywhere we go.