Batanes is named as the Scotland of the Philippines. For me, it is a place where you will be taken back to another period of time in a world beyond beauty.
Batanes was my first solo backpacking place. It sets the bar higher when traveling solo in the Philippines. Yet this is my first time, I felt very comfortable. This place is just magical like this is your first time of opening your first Christmas present.
Here the most amazing things you can experience in Batanes.
Go solo backpacking. As this is my first solo backpacking, I researched for many travel blogs. I found out that airfare going to Batanes is extremely costly for a solo traveler. Airlines going to Batanes are only Philippine Airlines and SkyJet .Since there are no reviews yet by early 2014 on how was their experience in SkyJet, my only option is PAL or go to Tuguerarao then take a ferry but no credible reviews is published. Until I heard of a travel exposition of Philippine Travel Agencies Association together with huge and known commercial airlines, I decided to gamble a chance.
Luckily, I have booked a round trip ticket via PAL Express for less than PHP 2,000 only! I booked a 9-day vacation last April 2014.
Walk as far as you can, you will never get tired. While traveling in Batan island, my plan is to stay overnight in each municipalities to cover all the days that I was there in the most budget- friendly way. By morning, I waited for a jeep – Filipino’s common way to commute, that can take me to the farthest barangay of Batan Island – Imnajbu. It was Sunday, fewer jeepneys are on the road as this is their rest or harvest day. My jeep stopped at Itbud a barangay before Imnajbu. Since I wanted to visit Alapad, I have to walk for about 4 kilometers long (no choice). Surprisingly, for a plus size traveler like me, I never get tired of walking and baring the heat. The road is clear (best thing- no traffic. HAHA).
You can definitely feel the air is fresh. Your scenic views are green mountains, serene beach and the clear blue sky. The view is so pristine that I forgotten that it was lunchtime and the sun is at its peak of heat. After visiting Alapad, it was another 2 kilometer walk to Imnajbu. I also missed a jeep going back to Mahatao, which I have to walk for a kilometer. Luckily, one tourist van hitched me in. These kilometers are just numbers, your feet maybe tired but your eyes and soul is at its happiest state. It was one of the best walks I ever had!
Meet the nicest and honest people to be with – the Ivatans. Have you ever been in a place where people offer food even when you’re not hungry or water when you are thirsty, tell you directions even you are not asking, make yourself at home even you just met them, buy in a store with no helper to pay your bills or even get bothered if you left your bags from anywhere? Well, you have to be in Batanes. They are the most beautiful (inside and out, no pretension) creatures in this land. My solo backpacking became more special because of them.
When I arrived at Imnajbu, there are only few people left as they joined a sports competition in other barangay (Yes, they are healthy buds). A lady filled my bottle of water as I was very thirsty after walking at noontime, she even asked a guy to hitch me back to Itbud and going back to central Uyugan.
I was really lucky as well to have a free accommodation in a house owned by a relative of a barangay captain of Uyugan. They cleaned a room for me to sleep overnight and gave me comfy pillows.The room I stayed had no door yet it is the safest place! They even treated me for a free breakfast. What more I can ask for?
My officemate have relatives in Batanes that treated me for free dinners almost every night. They allowed me to leave some personal stuff while travelling to other island and municipalities. The Lizardo family is purely genuine and really really really cooks delicious foods J
Disclaimer: If you have trust issues with people, please exclude Ivatans from your list. 🙂
Hitch to motorcycles for free. After missing jeeps while traveling in Batanes, my only option is to walk. It doesn’t bother me anyways since there are some tourist spots that you can be visited along the way and it will be pricey for a solo traveler. As Ivatans are naturally kind and generous, they will offer you a ride whenever you stop at the sidewalk. At first, I am bit hesitant to ride a motorcycle as I don’t want it here in Manila and I don’t know whom I am with. Yet, traveling via motorcycle gave a different perspective of Batanes. It is seeing this place in new eyes, in extraordinary outlook. It was my first time to feel cool in riding a motor, not worrying if someone will hit us. It was being carefree and enjoying the wind on my face. Double the fun when it’s your time to chat with a local or someone who married an Ivatan. Definitely, the best motorcycle hitches eveeeerrr!!!
Enchant yourself with beautiful lighthouses. Lighthouses are commonly used in Batanes for guiding boats at night then it became one of the best tourist spots to visit in Batanes. Every lighthouse tells stories of Ivatan culture. In Batan Island, you can walk from the town proper to Basco lighthouse for about 30 minutes. There you will see a clear picture of how magnificent Batanes is. The Tayid lighthouse is my favorite as you can see Mt. Iraya at its best! The Sabtang Lighthouse is breathtaking as it faces the bluest ocean you can ever see. These lighthouses can take you to different magical dimensions of your stay in Batanes.
Ride a Faluwa Boat. The boats in Batanes must endure the biggest waves as they need to carry passengers and different kind of commodities. These include motorcycles, sacks of rice, live produce, construction materials, tires and anything you can imagine. To control the waves, their boats have no “katig” a beam to balance a boat. You don’t need to be afraid as ferry captains just enjoy the waves. Life vest is a must! Travel time from Batan Island to Sabtang Island is 1 hour, 30 minutes also depends on waves and weather. It will take 4 hours from Batan to Itbayat Island. A private plane is an option too 🙂 If you went rafting in Cagayan De Oro, imagine the waves 10 times harder! Plus you can see the flying fishes while at the middle of the ocean.
Be amaze and just say “thank you” at the churches of Batanes. Batanes is colonized by the Spaniards too. Thus you will see marvelous structures of Catholic churches. It was days before the Holy Week when I traveled in Batanes.
I have visited the churches from the town proper to the farthest roads that I have seen. Alone in Batan island, you can visit Immaculate Concepcion or called as Basco church at the town proper. The very beautiful stone church named Tukon is very ideal for weddings. There is a small Uyugan church and San Lorenzo Ruiz church at Imnajbu. The massive white painted Mahatao church beside a convent where you can also see the Batanes Blank Book Archive. In front of Ivana port going to Sabtang Island is the San Jose de Ivana church. You will be welcomed as well by the Sabtang Church once your tour starts.
There might be smaller or less visited churches in Batanes, this not includes Itbayat Island. At least, you have no excuse to thank Lord how marvelous is He to create this world.
Own a beach for a night in the cheapest way. After staying in Uyugan for a night, I decided to move to Mahatao. As I arrived, all people are inside their houses watching Manny Pacquiao fight. Yes, Manny is know in this place too:) I approached a woman who owns a variety store (maybe not interested on this boxer’s fight), where I can stay for the night. She asked a neighbor who own a small native house in front of Disvayangan Beach. After cleaning the house (the owner even asked his son to impede his homecoming celebration as I will rent the house), I enjoyed a dinner beside the beach. It was one of the best sunsets in the Philippines plus a bottle of beer (his son left some beers inside the fridge).
At night, you will only hear the sounds of waves and bees. By morning, I took an early swim. Watching the waves is such a good past time. After packing my things, I went back to the owner’s house. Surprisingly, she just asked to pay PHP 250 only! I hugged her so tight for being so generous. No PHP 250 will pay the peaceful night I ever had. In return, I also paid for the bottle of beer I drunk 🙂
Feel the vibe of foreign countries. As seating at Marlboro country, you can definitely assure yourself that this is the Scotland of the Philippines. The blue sea, mountains with lighthouse is so picturesque of your ideal European countryside. Undeniably, the Rolling Hills is like the green pasture of Austria. It is alive with the sounds of birds, cows, goats and some horses. The Valugan Boulder Beach will transform your moment to Indonesia as huge volcanic rocks are smoothening by waves. The Chamantad-Tinyan in Sabtang Island and Marlboro Country is a vast lands same with New Zealand’s fields. Precisely, the point of an expensive flight.
Take as many photos as you can! Batanes is a 360° picture perfect! It has the best places you can test your photography skills. You might be an amateur and just using a digital camera but this will take your photos and give different taste. Every angle is a justification of how God is good in creating this world. I found my own digital camera a bit distorted as it slides down into the sandy grounds of Sabtang Island. Luckily, it still works 🙂