It’s been quite a while since my last post, as I’ve been studying for my board exams. huhu. But I’m taking a break from writing about our trip to Korea to write about our quick getaway to Batanes, a province here in the Philippines.
Batanes is located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines; it’s actually closer to Taiwan than it is to Manila. The province is known in the Philippines as the entry/exit point of many typhoons, and it is — this fact is important in understanding and appreciating the Ivatan way of life.
We booked a 3-day tour with Batanes Travel and Tours, as we wanted local knowledge and for convenience as we were a large group. The guide tells us that the number one source of livelihood right now for Batanes is their tourism, though it is still at its infancy. The province is quite remote: flights in and out are limited to two flights a day, and internet connection is not so consistent. The weather is also super unpredictable. So I really do recommend you get local guides as you visit!
Transportation and all the meals are coordinated by the agency with local restos, so you will also most definitely get a good taste of local food, aside from helping local businesses. 🙂
Our tour for the first day was around North Batan, the largest island in Batanes. Our first stop is Vayang rolling hills, which is basically a snapshot of what Batanes is known for–their picturesque hills. It’s a 360-degree view of their beautiful hills, against the sky and the sea. What’s beautiful about this place is that it’s so pure and peaceful. There were only a few tourists with us, and you can get to enjoy the freshest breeze.
Our next stop was the Naidi lighthouse, which is a fairly new lighthouse but it was built at the site of old American telegraph facilities which were destroyed during the war. It’s a super picturesque place, offering views of Batan island and the surrounding seas. You can go up the lighthouse for free for an even better view. Our guide also tells us that this is where they go if they want to do some stargazing!
After that we went to a tunnel used by the Japanese during the war. We got to walk about 20 meters inside, but there are actually deeper chambers inside which we didn’t get to go to because of the kids. I was amazed that this tunnel was manually dug–this was volcanic rock. However, our guide tells us that they did this through forced labor from the locals, who were completely helpless at that time. 😦
In the picture below is Mt. Iraya, a dormant volcano which is the most prominent peak in Batan. Our guide tells us, one of their ways of telling good and bad weather is if they can see the peaks of Mt. Iraya. Clouds covering the mountain usually means rain! Once, our guide just said, ‘look at the clouds, heavy rains will be here in 15 minutes.’ — and it did. This view can be seen right in front of the Japanese tunnel.
We also visited Boulder Bay, a beach filled with huge boulders. The amazing part is that this was 100% done by nature. This was one of my favorite places because we just enjoyed sitting there, making our way through the boulders and playing with small rocks.
Our final stop for the day was coffee at Cafe du Tukon in Fundacion Pacita, a hotel with a restaurant which was once the home studio of Pacita Abad, an artist who hails from Batanes. The whole place was SUPER ARTSY and we all loved it there. Food was okay and a bit expensive. But understandable because the whole province is really remote. Goods come from Manila through boats which take about a few days.
That’s it for our first day! I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this trip- all I knew about Batanes was its rolling hills, but we got to see so much more. If you want a break from the hectic urban life or from the usual tourist spots, then Batanes is really the place to go.
Our day 2 takes us to Sabtang island, another one of the three inhabited islands of Batanes! Please feel free to leave your comments, questions, etc.! 🙂