All you need to know about a Batanes Trip

Batanes is in the bucket list of most Filipinos. And why not? This northernmost point of our country is indeed a paradise that very few are able to see and experience. But this experience, most often than not, requires a certain amount of cost that is quite high for a domestic travel.

I am one of those people who have had the privilege of visiting Batanes. And I must say, it is not only a paradise because of all the picture perfect views and landscapes, but also because of its people – the Ivatans. My facebook post about Batanes is one of my most-liked albums, and a lot of my friends have asked me about my recent trip – certain travel tips and itineraries that I can share for when they finally have the chance to visit this Philippine paradise we call Batanes. So, here goes.

HOW TO GET THERE

There are only 2 airlines that go to Basco, Batanes (the capital of Batanes) – Philippine Airlines which fly once every day, and Skyjet which fly once every MWFS. Both airlines have a very early flight schedule, and both use small planes which can only accommodate 70 – 80 passengers each.

I was able to experience both airlines. Skyjet on my way to Basco and PAL for my return trip back. Skyjet leaves around 5:50AM from Manila and arrives to Basco at roughly 7:05AM. This means you need to be in the airport very early. So, make sure you drink your coffee. You don’t need to eat your breakfast as Skyjet also provides snacks for all passengers. I heard they also give free unlimited wine onboard. Sadly, I was not able to experience this as I was asleep the whole time.

Sunrise welcoming me aboard Skyjet flight to Basco. Good morning indeed!

Sunrise welcoming me aboard Skyjet flight to Basco. Good morning indeed!

Tip: Having only 2 airlines that service the route, flights to Basco are very expensive so be on the lookout for airfare promotions. Also make sure to like the official fan pages of all your local airlines as they always put up their promos there.

Another useful tip that I can share is to book for September flights. The Ivatans (Batanes Locals) I spoke with said that apart from the usual summer months, they have a second, mini summer on September. And this month is usually included in the promo months! Neat, huh?

WHERE TO STAY

Now that you are finally in Basco, you need a place to stay. There is only one “hotel" here – Fundacion Pacita. And their rates are quite expensive. Even more expensive compared to the 5 star hotels in Makati. Not to worry though, as there are lots of inns, and homestays in Batanes.

Fundacion Pacita. The only hotel, and the most expensive lodging in Batanes. This used to be the house of International artist Pacita Abad. Proceeds from the hotel are also donated to help Ivatan artists in their studies.

Fundacion Pacita. The only hotel, and the most expensive lodging in Batanes. This used to be the house of International artist Pacita Abad. Proceeds from the hotel are also donated to help Ivatan artists in their studies.

During my stay, I stayed in Marfel Lodge. It’s one of the most popular and most recommended homestays in all the posts I’ve read about Batanes. And yes, I highly recommend it. The rooms are sufficient enough for one or two persons, and rate is only Php500 per person per day! With this rate, you can spend more of your hard earned money on food and experience! They even provide FREE Airport pick up and drop off! Marfel’s Lodge can be contacted at their Facebook page or through 0917-8574493. You will be able to speak with Ms. Marfel herself, or with one of the house staffs.

My home for the 10 days I was in Batanes – Marfel’s Lodge Annex

My home for the 10 days I was in Batanes – Marfel’s Lodge Annex

They have different rooms, with some rooms with queen bed, some with twin beds, and the others as suites. You will be paying for the room only – as in the space with the bed and the door for privacy. However, you will be sharing the common areas – living room, dining room, kitchen, and yes, even the bathroom, with the rest of the guests.

Below is a picture of my room for the 10 days I was in Batanes. Yes. There are 2 beds. This room was supposed to be for 2 people, but since I am travelling alone, they reserved this for only me, and only charged me the rate for one person. The room has aircon, but since I only paid for the “fan room", I never used the aircon. Plus, I stayed in October, the summer days were over, and the temperature was no longer that hot. You can always opt to use the aircon, but there is a certain amount of fee involved. You may just get in contact with Marfel for the rates and prices. I can’t remember the exact price, but I think I paid roughly around Php500 per night for my room here.

My Marfel Lodge room.

My Marfel Lodge room.

I did not like this idea at first, and I was very distant with my “housemates’. However, as days went by, I got to bond with them, and even with the house staffs. When I left Batanes, I ended up being friends with all my housemates and house staffs. During the latter days, we were even cooking meals amongst ourselves and sharing them with each other. (*Tip. If you and your housemates are still saving up, you can opt to cook your food in the Homestay kitchen for a very minimal fee. Since a lot of the ingredients were imported from the main land, their prices are more expensive in Batanes compared to the city.)It was a fun few days indeed. It’s really true what they say – arrive as a stranger, and leave as a friend.

A “family

A “family" portrait of me and my housemate. I am the third from the left! We posted this in the souvenir wall of our homestay, leaving something of ours in place that captured our hearts.

The Souvenir Wall in Marfel Lodge Annex. Notice our drawing on the upper right.

The Souvenir Wall in Marfel Lodge Annex. Notice our drawing on the upper right.

TOURS, TOURS and MORE TOURS!

So now that you have finally taken a rest from that early morning flight, you can now go and proceed with your Batanes exploration. My itinerary was a product of all the researches I made about Batanes – where to go and who to contact. So, lucky you, since I am sharing a copy of my itinerary with contact details with this post. Yes. You’re welcome.

Since you will be able to save on cost because of the homestay, you can splurge on tours! There are a number of tour companies operating in Batanes, but I recommend getting BISUMI Tours to bring you around. They have really knowledgeable and friendly tour guides, and they have a wide range of options to choose from depending on your budget – from private tours, to group tours, and tricycle tours. They offer a wide range of tours in Batanes, but the most common are the: NORTH BATAN TOUR, SOUTH BATAN TOUR (which are both in BATAN Island) and SABTANG TOUR. I was lucky enough, and stayed long enough, to visit all of them.

NORTH BATAN

I took the NORTH BATAN tour of BISUMI Tours on my first day. To save on cost, I joined a group tour along with 7 other people whom I initially don’t know, but eventually became friends as we went along. I was not really expecting anything so I was nicely surprised when a brand new Toyota Grandia went up the homestay driveway to pick me up. It was a fairly comfortable ride and tour, and I was even able to sleep during the drive from one place to the other. The whole NORTH BATAN tour took the entire afternoon, and we visited the following places:The Basco Lighthouse. This view offers a perfect sunset. So try and wait for it here when you visit.

  1. Basco Lighthouse
    The Basco Lighthouse. This view offers a perfect sunset. So try and wait for it here when you visit.

    The Basco Lighthouse. This view offers a perfect sunset. So try and wait for it here when you visit.

  2. Vayang Rolling Hills
    Vayang Rolling Hills. Where the wind is alive

    Vayang Rolling Hills. Where the wind is alive

  3. Valugan Boulder Beach
  4. Japanese Tunnel
    Inside the Dinaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel. There is a short descent inside with sharp falls and narrow walls. Flashlights are needed to light the way as it's pitch black inside.

    Inside the Dinaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel. There is a short descent inside with sharp falls and narrow walls. Flashlights are needed to light the way as it’s pitch black inside.

  5. Basco Idjang
  6. Tukon Radar Station
    Tukon Radar Station. The Northernmost Pag-Asa station in the country

    Tukon Radar Station. The Northernmost Pag-Asa station in the country

  7. Tukon Chapel
    Tukon Chapel aka Mt. Carmel Chapel. The land where the chapel stands is donated by the Abad family to the local government so that residents of the area need not travel far to hear mass.

    Tukon Chapel aka Mt. Carmel Chapel. The land where the chapel stands is donated by the Abad family to the local government so that residents of the area need not travel far to hear mass.

  8. Basco Cathedral
    Basco Cathedral. This church was first built in 1783, and is still being used until this day. On the flight back to Manila, I was lucky and blessed enough to sit beside their bishop - Bishop Almario Gregorio.

    Basco Cathedral. This church was first built in 1783, and is still being used until this day. On the flight back to Manila, I was lucky and blessed enough to sit beside their bishop – Bishop Almario Gregorio.

Me and my North Batan Tour mates. Shot taken at Valugan Boulder Beach during my first day in Batanes.

Me and my North Batan Tour mates. Shot taken at Valugan Boulder Beach during my first day in Batanes.

I recommend you to take the North Batan tour on your arrival day to make the most of your first day, especially if you are only staying for two or three days. You can also tour the island on your own, by renting a bicycle from your homestay. There are other shops in Basco that offers bikes for rent. Be warned, however, as there are lots of uphills in Basco, so biking will still be a challenge.

SABTANG

Next on the list is the SABTANG ISLAND tour. I decided to explore a little more, and planned to go and tour the island alone. I did not join my group on the first day and only rented a tricycle to bring me around Sabtang. The people at BISUMI are very nice as they allowed me to join their van in the 30-minute road travel to the Ivana Port, otherwise, I would have had to wait for a jeep or ride a tricycle at 5:30AM. Once we were at the Ivana Port, we rode the Faluwa (Ivatan boat) for about an hour to reach Sabtang Island.

Even the road is scenic in Sabtang. And yes. Those are cows on the edge of the cliff.

Even the road is scenic in Sabtang. And yes. Those are cows on the edge of the cliff.

There, my tricycle driver, Kuya Rudy Gecha, was smiling while waiting for me. He is to be my companion for the whole day, both being my tour guide and my driver. At the end of the day, he was also my host, as I stayed in his homestay for the night. I was the only tourist who slept in Sabtang that night, as all of them, including my group, rode the 2PM Faluwa ride back to Batan Island.

Me and my tour guide & trike driver - Kuya Rudy

Me and my tour guide & trike driver – Kuya Rudy

Above is a picture of me and Kuya Rudy getting ready to go around Sabtang. He is a local in the island, and provides tours for tourists of up to 3 pax (if you guys can fit in his trike). He is one of the friendliest people I have met in Batanes, and I highly recommend him. You can contact him via his mobile at 0908-5607833. He only charges a fee for the rent of his trike, which was around Php1,200. So make sure you give him a sizable tip. He also charged me around Php400 for his homestay for the night.

Here are the places we saw in Sabtang Island:

  1. Sabtang Town Tour
  2. Morong Beach and Nakabuang Arch
    The Nakabuang Arch in Morong Beach, Sabtang. Yes. Picture perfect. Just like everything else in Batanes.

    The Nakabuang Arch in Morong Beach, Sabtang. Yes. Picture perfect. Just like everything else in Batanes.

  3. Savidug Village and Savidug Idjang
  4. Sumnanga Fishing Village
  5. Chamantad – Tinyan Viewpoint (one of my most favorite places)
    Chamantad - Tinyan Viewpoint. The goats roaming and enjoying all the green grass they can.

    Chamantad – Tinyan Viewpoint. The goats roaming and enjoying all the green grass they can.

  6. Chavayan Village
    The road to Chavayan VIllage is a little rough. But getting there is so much worth it. From here you can see the village, at the foot of the mountain, and just beside the ocean.

    The road to Chavayan VIllage is a little rough. But getting there is so much worth it. From here you can see the village, at the foot of the mountain, and just beside the ocean.

    Chavayan Village Proper. Where the traditional head gears are made, the stone houses perfectly lined, and time moves very slowly.

    Chavayan Village Proper. Where the traditional head gears are made, the stone houses perfectly lined, and time moves very slowly.

    Notice the ruins of an old stone house. The Ivatans no longer reconstruct them, and instead consider them as a living memory and inheritance from their ancestors who built it so many decades ago.

    Notice the ruins of an old stone house. The Ivatans no longer reconstruct them, and instead consider them as a living memory and inheritance from their ancestors who built it so many decades ago.

I was not able to find out a lot of the background information that a normal tour guide would give, however, having a private tour allows you to take more breaks and photo-ops when you prefer, and gives you as much time as you want to spend in each of the stops.

Another road constructed through a hill. Even the travel is worth the time.

Another road constructed through a hill. Even the travel is worth the time.

There are not as many homestays here, but you can contact Kuya Rudy too if you decide to stay overnight in Sabtang. There is also a homestay in Chavayan Village if you are interested to spend the night there. Lobsters and Coconut Crabs are very affordable here too. So, if you love seafood, you will enjoy eating them here. In fact, I had a Php200 coconut crab for dinner that night! Oh, also, the electricity is shut down in the whole island from 12MN to 6AM. So, make sure your batteries and powerbanks are well charged for the travel.

It is also nice to know that Sabtang has a smaller island which they call Vuhus Island, or the “Cow Island", as it is where the locals keep their cows. If you are a little more adventurous, you can visit Vuhus. It takes about 15 minute boat ride from Sabtang. I was not able to go here though, as the wind was strong during my visit.

SOUTH BATAN

The last tour on my itinerary was South Batan. Unfortunately, I was not able to take this with my first group, as I have been sick on the day we were scheduled to go. So, I joined another group with BISUMI Tours for my South Batan tour. Not to worry though, as this time, I was with my Marfel’s Lodge Housemates, and we know each other already.

We had the tour the day before typhoon Lando arrived in PAR. We braved the strong winds and the occasional rain just to proceed with this tour. We went to the following places:

  1. Chawa Viewing Deck
  2. Mahatao Shelter Port
    Mahatao Boat Shelter.

    Mahatao Boat Shelter.

  3. Mahatao Town Proper
  4. Mahatao Lighthouse
    The Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse

    The Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse

  5. Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills)
  6. Alapad Hills
    One of my most favorite moment during this trip. Me feeling the strong wind on my face in Alapad Hills. I love how they constructed the road through the hill.

    One of my most favorite moment during this trip. Me feeling the strong wind on my face in Alapad Hills. I love how they constructed the road through the hill.

  7. Song-Song Ruins
  8. Uyugan Town Proper
  9. Honesty Coffee Shop
    The famous Honesty Coffee Shop. Where buyers can just take whatever they want and leave their payments in a jar. No one is watching the store.

    The famous Honesty Coffee Shop. Where buyers can just take whatever they want and leave their payments in a jar. No one is watching the store.

  10. Ivana Town Tour
    The Ivana Church. Directly across the Ivana Port. This is the third oldest church in Batanes.

    The Ivana Church. Directly across the Ivana Port. This is the third oldest church in Batanes.

  11. House of Dakay
  12. White Beach and Lagoon
Me and my South Batan Tourmates aka my Marfel Annex Housemates

Me and my South Batan Tourmates aka my Marfel Annex Housemates

Me and my housemates turned tour mates during our South Batan Tour. Above photo was taken in Marlboro hills where we spent almost an hour just marveling at the view, taking lots of pictures and just breathing in fresh air, despite the dark, looming clouds in the background. Each family here can leave up to 6 cows in Racuh A Payaman. Here, the cows and carabaos are free range. However, we only got to see the area where the carabaos are, as the cows, according to our guide, are much more violent and territorial.

The Racuh A Payaman, or simply translated as Pasture Land, is home to undomesticated animals. Each family in Uyugan (where this is located) can leave up to 6 animals here.

The Racuh A Payaman, or simply translated as Pasture Land, is home to undomesticated animals. Each family in Uyugan (where this is located) can leave up to 6 animals here.

SO YOU’RE DONE WITH THE TOUR. What now?

I was supposed to stay in Batanes for 6 days, but I ended up staying for 10. Our flights have been continuously cancelled due to the strong winds that Lando has brought. Thus, I had too much time on my hands with nothing to do.

So, my tip for you would be to make sure to book your flight during summer, or just make sure that weather will be good. If you can, avoid visiting Basco on June to October, as weather will be most unpredictable then. According to locals though, they have a second summer during Septembers, and they say that weather during this month is sunny. You can try and book for this month instead, as that is when most promo fares are.

If you have more time on your hand, just go out and chat with the people. Go around and explore the town. The Ivatans are all nice and good people. Really, it’s a perfect place to have your faith in humanity restored. If you are itching for more experience and adventure, you can go ahead and go back to the places you’ve visited during the North Batan tour. You can walk, jog, ride a bike, or hire a trike.

My Itinerary

I wanted to end this by sharing with you my actual itinerary and the names and contacts of the homestays and guides that I got. Notice that I was supposed to go to another Island – ITBAYAT Island on my second day, but that was cancelled due to time constraints. Itbayat takes about 3-4 hour faluwa boat ride from Basco. Looking back, it was good that I did not push through there because I would have been stranded there instead of in Basco.

DAY 1: BASCO, NORTH BATAN TOUR (c/o Bisumi Tours) – 0915-8034582

14 October 2015, Wednesday

  1. Valugan Boulder Beach
  2. Nakamaya Burial Grounds
  3. Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
  4. Fundacion Pacita
  5. PagAsa Weather Station
  6. Tukon Church (Mt. Carmel Chapel)
  7. Vayang Rolling Hills
  8. Chadpidan Boulder Beach
  9. Naidi Hills (Basco Lighthouse + Bunker Café)
  10. Domingo Cathedral
  11. Basco Town Proper
  12. Fundacion Pacita

WHERE TO STAY: Marfel’s Lodge0917-8574493

DAY 2: ITBAYAT: CANCELLED Tour Guide: Jason Asa : 0999-9327744 (PhP1,000 + Php1,000)

15 October 2015, Thursday

5AM: Go to BASCO Pier

6AM: Ride M/B Veronica to Itbayat, Chinapoliran Port (PhP450 per way)

M/B Veronica Transport Services: 0939-5023494

Tour Guide: Jason Asa | 0999-9327744 (PhP1,000 + Php1,000)

  1. Chinapoliran Port
  2. Lake Kavaywan
  3. Mt. Karoboban View Deck
  4. Torongan Cave
  5. Torongan Hills
  6. Paganaman Port (mid-late afternoon)
  7. Small Lagoon
  8. Rapang Cliffs (3AM, to be back at port by 10AM to Basco) | Guide to Rapang Cliffs: Jose Valiente, 0949-6200184 (PhP1,000)
  9. Stone Bell, at Rapang Cliffs
  10. Kaxobcan Beach
  11. Mt. Riposed
  12. Nahili Votox
  13. Komayasakas Cave and Water Source
  14. Manoyok (Other Caves: Northern Sarokan, Eastern Sarokan, Pevangan Cave, Do’tboran Cave)
  15. Agosan Rocks
  16. Port Mauyen

WHERE TO STAY: Cano’s Lodge: 0919-3004787 – PhP200/night

DAY 3: SABTANG

16 October 2015. Friday

Tour Guide: Kuya Rudy Gecha 0908-560-7833

  1. Morong Beach
  2. Chamantad Cove and Tinyan Viewpoint
  3. Chavayan Village
  4. Savidug Village
  5. Thomas Aquinas Chapel
  6. The Old Beaterio
  7. Sabtang Lighthouse
    The Sabtang Lighthouse. Until October 2015, this was still under construction.

    The Sabtang Lighthouse. Until October 2015, this was still under construction.

  8. San Vicente Ferrer Church
  9. Ahaw Arc
  10. Uvek Bay in Sumnanga (little Hong Kong)
    Shot taken in Sumnanga Fishing VIllage. Notice how organized and parallel the stone houses are. This is the same with all towns in Sabtang

    Shot taken in Sumnanga Fishing VIllage. Notice how organized and parallel the stone houses are. This is the same with all towns in Sabtang

  11. Island hopping in Vuhus Island

DAY 4: SOUTH BATAN c/o Bisumi Tours

17 October 2015, Saturday

  1. Marlboro Country
  2. Diura Beach
  3. Honesty Shop
  4. Tayid Lighthouse
  5. House of Dakay
  6. Chawa Viewdeck
  7. Homoron White Beach
  8. Spanish Lagoon
  9. Imnajbu Beach and Chapel
  10. Alapad Pass
  11. Alapad Rock Formation
  12. Songsong Ruins
  13. Spanish Bridge
  14. Mahatao Boat Shelter

Where to stay: Marfel’s Lodge

DAY 5&6: BASCO: FREE DAY

18-19 October 2015, Sunday-Monday

Where to stay: Marfel’s Lodge, or Fundacion Pacita

If you are interested to see the pictures, you can visit my page NONIEL Photography. I shared my Batanes Albums on my page. While you are at it, please also feel free to browse around my photos. I would be happy if you will Like my page too, and share it with your friends. You can contact me there if you have any questions, or need any help on your Batanes travel. I hope to see you in your travels soon!

Nonie Librella

About Guest Blogger: Nonie Librella is a HRM graduate at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, working in the real estate and luxury hotel industry. She turns into an avid photographer on weekends, documenting all her travels through her camera’s lens. Reach her at NonieL Photography’s Facebook page below.

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