Where: Batanes Island Province, Cagayan Valley, Philippines
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust
When: January 2016
What: Kapian capa nu dios, Batanes ~A simple yet comprehensive guide to Batanes
Describing the beauty of Batanes, one would probably run out of words and adjectives. The northern most province in the country and also the smallest in terms of population and land area. It is around 162 km (101 mi) north of Luzon, and about 190 km (120 mi) south of Taiwan. If standing on a nice viewpoint on a good clear day, one can even see Taiwan.
The island's geographical position within the Pacific's typhoon belt causes sudden weather changes and also has a reputation of constantly being battered by typhoons. However, we would like to put an end to this misconception, Batanes is mentioned frequently in connection with typhoons because it holds the last weather station in the north of the country. It is a reference point for all typhoons that enter the Philippine area. 
Batanes is breathtaking with its natural beauty of seems to be endless hills, green green grasslands and cliffs with the cool and calming breeze of the ocean. They even say that when your vacation time is over and you have to leave Batanes, she will definitely break your heart.
The people of Batanes are called the Ivatans. They also have a share of rich, historic culture, heritage and even share prehistoric cultural and linguistic commonalities with the Babuyan on Babuyan Island and the Taiwanese aborigines - Tao people of Orchid Island in Taiwan.
**Fun fact: Orchid Island presently is an official territory of Taiwanese government. However, geographically speaking it is actually part of Batan Archipelago, where its original inhabitants, the "Tao" or Yami people made home of Orchid Island some 800 years ago. The indigenous Yami people are presumed more closely related to individuals of the Philippines than those of Taiwan. The native people's homeland were divided in the year 1620's due to Western colonizers, the Spanish (who got hold of the Philippines) and the Dutch (who had a hold of Dutch Formosa, which is now known Taiwan) conquering, invading and expanding their territories. Then the Dutch were expelled by the forces in 1662 Chinese Southern Ming Dynasty led by Chinese pirate Koxinga who then set himself up as The King of Taiwan. 
The island of Batanes has a total population of 16,604 (*as of 2010) and most of its locals are really noted to be nice and respectful compared to other provinces in the country. The place is really peaceful, crime is almost non-existent in this island, which makes the local policemen's job really easy. The culture of the Ivatan are very community oriented where they go out together to help a neighbor build their house. And most of all, they are still connected to nature as seen in their way of living.
The fastest and easiest way to get to Batanes, from Manila is by Air. As of Jan 2016, there are only 2 airlines that serves this route, namely Philippine Airlines (PAL) which flies 6 times a week and Skyjet which flies every other day of the week. Flights are just once a day, almost, depending on the weather too as this region of the country is where most tropical storms passes through.
The flights to Batanes are known for being expensive. Some flights may go up to 15,000PHP ($320USD) or higher. Some of the travelers even point out that this local flight is much more expensive than some flights to nearby ASEAN countries.
Don't worry, there are also seat sales or promo fares available. The key is to book early. If you really are keen on these said promo fares, you should subscribe on email or social media of these airlines to be updated on their promos. But keep in mind that there are also lots of folks also hunting for the best deals. So better act quickly and book your tickets earlier if you see that the price for your flight is the best deal.
There are also routes by sea, but this is depending on weather, and it has been a couple of years (2016) since we have last been to Batanes, we are not sure about the current routes and commercial lines that carry these said routes.
Also, before you book your reservation, please keep in mind that weather is unpredictable especially after summer days causing flights to be canceled, take this into consideration when planning your trip to Batanes.
~ Car or Van rentals are available but may be bit expensive if it is just the 2 of you, however it gets cheaper if you are maybe a group of 4 or more as you can divide the cost.
~Rental for bicycles are also available, but be warned of the steep hill climbs and downhills, but one must be physically fit, prepared and really eager then go ahead.
~Also renting a motorcycle/scooter is also considered by some, but it is recommended that you know your route to be able to enjoy your tour of the island.
Finally, the easiest and cheapest option is a local tricycle ride as its association (BATODA) has a clear and standard tarriff/rates with the different tour packages. So you need not worry about getting ripped off. They offer North Batanes tour / South Batanes tour and can even customize tours if you prefer. Usually, being a local, the tricycle drivers also becomes your tour guide to learn more about the places. You can check out Pricing section below for detailed information about the tour prices.
Finding a good accommodation in a remote area as Batanes may be a bit daunting, but no worries as there are a couple of places to stay. In the province's capital, Basco, there are some Lodges, Bed & Breakfast, pension houses, home stay, and few small hotels and resort. Just do your research, which area, and also considering your budget and we are pretty sure you can find an accommodation that is best for suited for you.
The most notable and popular accommodation in the province and on the "high-end" category is Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge. Because of its beauty, historical and cultural significance, it is actually a tourist spot and usually a part of itinerary for tours. Located a bit further away from the town proper, (near the other tourist spots, PAG-ASA weather station and Tukon Chapel). It is set atop the hills that showcases dramatic views and cozy feeling from its restaurant to their rooms.
The lodge is actually the former residence of international Filipino artist, Pacita Abad, the sister of Butch Abad who is a prominent politician in the province and has held various cabinet level positions in the National government, who is currently (Feb 2016) the secretary of the country's Department of Budget and Management since 2010.
Prices depends on the room you choose, their room rates starts at around 11,000PHP = US$230** to 20,000PHP = US$420** for the bigger rooms. They also have a minimum stay rule which should be at least 2 days.
Currently, many tourists have been booking as it is becoming popular, so if planning to stay here, you should book really early, a couple of months in advance. We were not so lucky with room vacancy and all rooms were fully booked when we inquired even a month before.
So we opted in to stay in an accommodation that is also away from town proper, may not have the best mountainous views, but is near the beach and that is alright with us.
Mr & Mrs Wanderlust's Review
Dive Batanes Lodge
We booked a Family Room through an online discount booking site. But the family room only has a shared / common bathroom, so we opted to upgrade to a Deluxe Room for additional fee.
+ Free airport transfer upon arrival and when departing.
+ Free breakfast with the rates
+ Has a balcony on their rooms
+ Friendly and helpful staff
+ Offers SCUBA diving
+ Just a few meters away from the beach
+ Beds are soft and spacious, so are their pillows
+ Room is always cleaned every morning, and sheets replaced, unless requested otherwise.
+ Lodge has a feel of a house, as it used to be a local's house who turned it into a lodge.
+ Rooms has electric fan, air-conditioner, and bathroom has shower and water heater.
+ Free WiFi (globe tattoo 3g). But signal is VERY weak, which is the same for the whole province.
+ Offers tours, motorcycle rentals, and car/van rental.
- Lodge has no cook, and only expect breakfast, as lunch and dinner aren't available
- Can have food cooked and you buy your ingredients but will charge 200PHP (US$5).
- Can request food but they only do SET Meals, which will cost you 350PHP (US$8) per head.
- May be a bit far from town proper, but they can call service tricycle for you if needed.
- Rooms are a bit small, at only 10 sqm. But a bit cozy.
- Bathroom is also really small and feels a bit cramped, good thing we are not that big.
- Water may run out without any warning so be prepared with an extra pale of water.
- Cellphone signal is impossible inside rooms, and can get really faint signal on their terrace.
- Heads up on their Family room that has only common bathroom/toilet.
- Have to pay 500 per day to have our room upgraded to Deluxe room with own bathroom.
- When we asked for the price of their set meals, staff said she doesn't know yet (being the care-taker we really think it is impossible not to know the price), then surprised us with the price per head once the food was served. We never opted for their set meals again and just roamed a bit outside to find a few good eats.
Price: $ - 1,800 PHP (US$38) night for 2, shared bathroom / + 500PHP ($11) / night to upgrade.
Service: 3.5 star - Staff were friendly and nice.
Facilities & Amenities: 4 star - Cozy rooms, a bit small, but has all the necessities.
Restaurant (foods):2 star - No restaurant, limited breakfast choice, expensive if they cook for you.
Bar: 2 star - No bar, just a fridge with a couple of local cold beer.
Overall: 2.9 /5 stars
**(exchange rates and room rates as of Feb 2016)
From its emerald green grasslands, windswept massif, astonishing cliffs above blue waters of the Pacific ocean, and stunning roads carved out of its mountain side. Wherever you look and go, you will definitely find beautiful scenery in Batanes.
Touring the province has been made a lot easier, as there are always packaged tours, which usually includes accommodation. However this may be a bit expensive and would be more practical to Do-It-Yourself (DIY). Unless, you are in a group with seniors and babies, then it may be understandable to spend a little extra for the said packaged tours for the extra convenience.
The Batan Archipelago is made up of 10 islands, of which only the biggest 3 islands are inhabited. Basco, which is the capital, and is in Batan Island is divided into 4 municipalities, but for tourism purposes, Batan is divided into two, North and South.
Batan Island North (Basco) tour
1. Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills
Basco Lighthouse is one of the only 2 lighthouses in the island. It is located in Naidi Hills, which has lush green hills and open sea which provides an astonishing backdrop for the lighthouse. Can easily be reached by a 1.2km hike from the town of Basco.
The hills name, Naidi came from 2 Ivatan words, Na means "past" and idi meaning "settlement".
The lighthouse was proposed by former congressman Florencio (Butch) Abad, not only as a lighthouse, but also as a tourist attraction. This structure was completed in 2003. The location chosen is where the first lighthouse of Basco was built and was also the site of the America's telegraph facilities during the period of its colonization of the Philippines. It was destroyed by Japanese Imperial Army at the start of World War II.
The viewing deck is perfect for you to see the whole Batan Island, including Mount Iraya, and even have a clear view of Sabtang Island in the south and Itbayat Island to the north.
2. Basco Town Proper
You can walk around the town proper, even after the tour. You can try many restaurants (however some require advance reservation) and also be warned that some only offer set meals which may be more expensive as they charge per head. Nearby is the first catholic church in the province, Sto. Domingo Cathedral or also known as Basco Cathedral.
3. Vayang Rolling Hills
The hills, probably is one of the most recognizable spots in the island. It is the best spot to enjoy the picturesque view of the West Philippine Sea from the wide area lush green and hills. From the endless waves you see below smashing on the rocks, together with the vast green grasslands of the hills, it truly is a remarkable and relaxing site, which somehow tells you to stop, take a rest, chill out, and just observe everything. The winds are also blowing non stop and sometimes would push you off your balance. Truly a breath taking sight and experience.
4. Valugan Boulder Beach
Philippines is known for its powder white sand and crystal clear seas, however for this particular beach, it seems different as its beach is made up of boulders of rocks and stones of different sizes and shapes. It's geological history was the result of nearby volcanic activity of Mt. Iraya in the early years of the island (400AD) where is spewed out huge boulders of volcanic rocks to be battered and polished by strong waves. Swimming is not really recommended in this area as very strong waves and winds may hurl at the giant boulders which may be dangerous for the swimmers.
5. Nakamaya Burial Grounds
Even before the Spanish colonizers came in the 15th century, the indigenous people of Batan Archipelago, the Ivatans already had a concept of life after death, and the sea is considered as a final resting place. The burial grounds is somehow shaped like a boat and facing the sea.
6. Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
This tunnel was built by the Japanese in the height of World War II, when Batanes was also occupied by Japanese Soldiers. This 5-door tunnel is hidden under the shelter of rocky hills covered by thick trees and grass. The tunnel served as a shelter and a look-out post for the Japanese soldiers.
7. PAG-ASA Weather Station
The weather station in Tukon sits above the hill, and it gives a great view of the surrounding landscape where you can see Mt. Iraya, also cliffs, the strong waves of the beach down below, and vast green rolling hills.
8. Tukon Church (Mt. Carmel Chapel)
Near the weather station is a small hand-made chapel built the traditional way. Boulders make up the church's walls, with wooden carved doors, and stained glass windows. There are also hand painted images of the province's patron saints. The previous representative and current cabinet secretary Butch Abad had the church built as his late parents' wish to have a place of worship nearby.
9. Fundacion Pacita
The best scenic hotel that Batanes can offer, and also on the high-end budget range. The place is owned and run by the Abad's which is the province's most influential family, particularly by Pacita Abad who is also a National Artist. It offers the best view of the hills, inspired by the traditional Ivatan home made of local stone, which combines organic design and interiors with contemporary comforts. And each room offers breath taking view of the area. Definitely a luxurious place to stay yet still keeps the cultural influences within.
Day trippers are allowed to take a picture but not too close from the hotel area to avoid disturbances of the guests checked-in. They also have a nice restaurant that shares a nice view of the hills, and they also serve very good meals, for reasonable price.
Batan Island South (Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan) Tour
1. Mahatao Boat Shelter Port
A scenic view, hidden and protected within the giant rocky hills cove, the government built a shelter port back in 2005. It is where inter-island motorboats, fishing vessels and motorboats dock during inclement weather. Apparently there also is an on-going development, a structure is being finished, and asking the locals, we were told that the government is planning to finish this as an accommodation place, for tourism and other purposes that would benefit local people as well.
2. Tayid Lighthouse
A picturesque lighthouse that watches over Pacific Ocean. This lighthouse was built in early 2000 that serves as an indicator to seafarers across the risky waters of Pacific Ocean. And just behind the lighthouse, is its backyard, a vast lush green pasture-field of magnificent views.
3. Racuh A Payaman (Marlboro Country)
Fondly called Marlboro Country by tourists and locals alike. It is a sight that would definitely take your breath away. The place is vast rolling hills with nothing but green with grass and lush meadows overlooking the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean provide its lucky visitors with a majestic perch. The area is declared by the government as a protected area through the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) and Batanes Protection Act of 2000 reserve.
4. Diura Fishing Village
Tucked in a secluded cove just three kilometers east of Mahatao Town Proper is Diura Village, a fishing community. Just being awed by the surrounding landscape composed of the rolling hills of nearby Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country), the Tayid Lighthouse, and Diura Beach, which separates the village from the treacherous but bountiful Pacific Ocean. The most common catches are the dolphin-fish and the flying fish. In local Ivatan language, dolphin-fish is called "dorado", mahi-mahi is called “arayu,” and flying fish, “dibang.”
5. Imnajbu Village, Uyugan
The village of Imnajbu is located in the southeast corner of Batan Island. The town is considered as the birthplace of Christianity in Batanes, as the village of Imnajbu was where the first holy mass on Ivatan soil was celebrated. The chapel nearby is actually commemorating the said historical event. The patron saint is San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino saint.
~a. Imnajbu Beach
Just across the San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel in Imnajbu, there is a sand, shingle and rocky beach where the locals are able to obtain the stones they use for their homes.
~b. Imnajbu Point, Alapad Hill Pass and Rock Formation
Still in Brgy. Imnajbu, there is a road that passes through a small hill forming what is called Alapad Pass. There is also a viewdeck that gives yet another marvelous vista of the beaches below. Just nearby, there is also a giant scenic rock formation that is worth a look.
~c. Long Range Naval Station Ruins
It is also where the ruins of the old Long Range Naval Station from the American era can be spotted. Currently being developed and to be opened as a museum.
6. Ruins at Sitio Songsong
Early people settled within this area but now is a ghost barangay which is a cluster of roofless shells of old traditional Ivatan stone houses abandoned after a tidal wave that hit the island of Batan in the 1950s. It has a long stretch of beach. The ruins are 23 kilometers from Basco.
The ruins of Sitio Songsong is now fenced and not open to the public anymore, as the private owners decided to close off the perimiter. Which is kind of unfair because they are closing off a piece of history and cultural importance to the town. But you can take a long walk on the beach nearby to be able to go around the fence and see the ruins up-close.
7. Honesty Coffee Shop
Back to the town of Ivana, just a few steps away from the port is where the famous Honesty Coffee Shop is located. In the province that boasts virtually zero crime rate, the shop has no need for any staff or someone to look after the store and showcases the exemplary values of its locals. The owners just rely on the honesty of the guests, to get what they need, and pay the corresponding amount at the drop box provided. One notable poster inside the shop says, "This shop is too small for dishonest people". Truly one of a kind shop in the Philippines.
8. House of Dakay and the Old Spanish Bridge
The house of Dakay is the oldest surviving stone house in Batanes. Built in 1887, it is one of the only five houses that remained standing after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake shook the town of Ivana on Sept. 1918. Of the five, this is the only one that remains unchanged. The cogon rood has to be changed and replaced every 20 years or more.
And just nearby you would also spot an Old Spanish Bridge still being used today.
9. White Beach and Homoron Blue Lagoon Pool
The white beach is a gem hidden in plain sight just along the road side. The scenery is fantastic as it is surrounded with high mountain like stone cliffs and giant boulders that somehow preserves the clear and calm waters of the beach.
Just a walk around the giant boulder in the eastern side of white beach, is where the Blue lagoon pool can be found. Also known as Spanish Lagoon because back in the colonization period of the Spanish era, they were the only ones allowed to take a dip here. Presently, it is open to public and to anyone who just wants a refreshing view coupled with nice cool water without the strong waves and winds that are almost always present in every beach of Batanes.
10. Chawa View Deck
Chawa View Deck gives a spectacular view of the Island's cliffs and West Philippine Sea. Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills can also be seen from afar. Facing the west, it is definitely a good idea to visit the place around sunset as it will give you a majestic view of the sunset. Long flight of stairs going down to the cliffs where one can fish, take photos, or just enjoy the view and feel the waves splashing around the giant rocks
Sabtang Island Tour
1. Savidug Village
One of the first traditional villages you can reach a few minute drive from the town proper in Sabtang. The village remain mostly untouched and would take you back in time as you walk its narrow streets lined with traditional Ivatan houses
The jinjin, that instead of stones, its wall is made of wood and cogon. The maytuab is a stone house with four-sloped thatched cogon roof, the sinadumparan, stone house with two-sloped cogon roof; Savidug shelters mostly sinadumparan houses, where stone walls of the houses same, but the doors and windows have individual unique touches of creativity.
Villages of Savidug, and Chavayan are candidates for inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
**Additional Notes: When we went to Savidug village, in Sabtang island last January 28, it was their community's fiesta or feast. That is why you would see colorful flags hanging around the roofs and electrical posts. The community is busy either cooking and preparing meals, for the celebration, and most are at the church listening to the mass
2. Chamantad - Tinyan Viewpoint
The viewpoint gives us panoramic views of the Sabtang coast. Walking up the hills offers a thrilling experience as there are always gusts of strong winds that would even sometimes catch you offguard. It is like a marlboro country of Sabtang that has vast green rolling hills, huge ocean waves washing over rising rocky cliffs over the scenic Chamantad cove below.
3. Chavayan Village
Another remote village in the northern most part of the Philippines that is able to preserve its heritage, traditional houses, and simple way of life. Also a candidate for inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List together with Savidug Village.
4. Nakabuang Beach / Mahayaw Arc
The beach of Morong or Nakabuang is calmer compared to other beaches in the island, and this only means one thing, swimming time! It is a short stretch with grass carpeted hills and houses the popular arch. It is called Mahayaw Arch, that has become an icon of Sabtang and sometimes even Batanes, you will definitely see it in the province's tourism posters around the place.
Accommodations - Hostel Bed - PHP 300
Accommodations - Hotel Bed - PHP 1,200
Accommodations - Resort Room - PHP 1,800
Accommodations - Family Room - PHP 2,000
Accommodations - Fundacion Pacita - PHP 10,000
Foods - Set Meal - PHP 350
Foods - Local Meal - PHP 300
Foods - Chicken Meal - PHP 150
Transportation - Van rental - PHP 4,000 / day
Transportation - Bicycle rental - PHP 500 - 1,000 / day
Transportation - Motorcycle / Scooter rental - PHP 1,000+ /day
Transportation - 10 minute Tricycle ride - PHP 50 per head
Transportation - Faluwa (Boat) Ride to Sabtang Island - PHP 75 / head
Transportation - Faluwa (Boat) Ride to Itbayat Island - PHP 450 / head
Transportation - Airplane ride to Itbayat - PHP 1,800 per way per head
Tour - Tricycle (North Batan) - PHP 1,000
Tour - Tricycle (South Batan) - PHP 1,500
Tour - Tricycle (Sabtang Island) - PHP 800
MISC - Environmental Fee Sabtang Island - PHP 200 / head
MISC - Souvenir - PHP 150++
On-call tricycle driver in Basco, also available for tours - Ramon - +63 (0939) 131 7555
"Climatological Information for Basco, Philippines". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
Deptarment of Science and Technology - Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST - PAGASA)
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
West, Barbara (2008). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asian and Oceania. New York: Infobase Publishing. pp. 899–900. ISBN 9780816071098.
Dios Mamajes, Batanes! Sit back, relax and watch the sights and sounds of Batanes.
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