Friday, April 10, 2015

Stunning Beauty of South Batan

A tour of South Batan marked my 4th day in this breath-taking province. Right after we jumped out of Faluwa from Sabtang, we officially started our South Batan trail. We started very early, actually. That is to avoid influx of tourists for each spots. Tour operation usually starts at 8 in the morning.  The South Batan Tour covers three towns in Batan Island:  Ivana, Uyungan and Mahatao.
Just across the port of Ivana, you can find San Jose de Obrero Church. Built in 1784 by Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas, it is the only church in Batanes with a separate bell tower constructed 30 years later. The present facade was built by Fr. Fabian Martin in 1866-1869. Located by the coastal area, it is here where Katipunero revolutionaries commanded by Capt. Perea landed on September 18, 1898 to liberate the province from the Spaniards.IMG_0685
If you want to grab something for breakfast, just beside the port, you can find the Honesty Coffee Shop. It is an unmanned refreshment store that has become famous worldwide for showcasing Ivatan’s honesty.  There is no standby seller, the owner rely on the honesty of its customers when paying for goods taken from the store. All you can find are signage of prices within the store.
At the back of the store, you will find these stones where you can write messages to the Ivantans.
Probably the most photographed Ivatan house – House of Dakay, it was built of lime and stone in 1887 and owned by Luisa Estrella who bequeatherd it to her favorite nephew, Jose “Dakay” Estrella.  A survivor of the destructive earthquake of September 13, 1918 which destroyed much of the town, its shutters and floor have never been changed and has retained much of its authentic look through the decades.
Next stop is the Spanish Bridge located just in the heart of the town of Ivana and was constructed during the Spanish period and still being used to date.
Next stop is the town of Uyungan. Extant of maytuab type of traditional houses still stand here. The town folks pioneered the drift net fishing for dibang (flying fish). This town is also the site of thriving palek industry.
Church in Uyungan Town
Song-song Ruins – remnants of an old settlement which were ravaged by tsunami in the 1950s. Residents were given homesteads in Mindanao under the Magsaysay resettlement program. Presently is a thriving coastal community again.
Itbud Idjang – This is a hilltop fortress where the early Ivatans climbed and defend themselves against invaders
Itbud Village – this is where the best tasting local wine called Palek comes from and where extant maytuab and sinadumparan houses still stand. It had the largest population on Batan’s southernmost part in the 18th century due to stable water supply spring and a well-fortified Idjang.
Itbud Church
National Museum – The repository of the rich ethnology, history and cultural heritage of Batanes and its people. It use to be an old Long-Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN) site constructed by the Americans.
Alapad Rock Formation – offers a captivating view of rolling hills and the vast expanse of the sea made popular by the movie “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit”
San Lorenzo Luis Chapel
Now we are approaching Mahatao town. Located six kilometers south of Basco, Mahatao is rich in culture, evident in the unearthed archeological sites dating back 1200-300 BC. This town is our last stop prior to going back to Basco. The best is yet to come.
Tayid Lighthouse from Afar, standing proudly amid the rolling hills of Mahatao
This place is my best spot in Batanes. We stayed here for no less than an hour. This, for me is Batanes, absolutely stunning.  Racuh a Payaman – christened by American tourists as Marlboro Country because of its contour, the endless rolling hills, wind-swept communal pastureland for cows, carabaos and horses are perfect sceneries for nature lovers and photographers. This is one of the places that where you can relax, and enjoy the most picture-perfect view  of the Tayid Lighthouse to the left and Mt Iraya to the right.
Tayid Lighthouse – erected in 2000, this colonial looking beacon offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as other parts of Batan Island and its rugged mountains and cliffs facing the West Philippine Sea.
San Carlos Borromeo Church – Declared in 2001 by the National Museum and National Commission for Culture and the Arts as one of the 26 churches recognized as cultural icons because of their beauty and excellent state of preservation. It was built in 1873 by Fr. Cresencio Polo using limestone walling in baroque style and cogon roofing.
Within the church premise, you can find Batanes Blank Book Archive. I was really curious why it’s called Blank Book and when I get inside and saw the books placed on the shelf, they’re hardbound books with blank pages. The guests/tourists will be the one write and fill up the pages. That’s only when I realize the name behind it.
Spanish Lighthouse – situated just few kilometers from San Carlos Borromeo Church, it is composed of two vertical structures about 30 meters apart which were manually lighted with fire for local fisherman during the Spanish Colonial period.
Mahatao Boat Shelter – inaugurated in 2007, this shelter is built to protect  fishing and passenger vessels from damage caused by typhoons and other unfavorable weather conditions.  It resembles the canals of Europe with its clear turquoise water and calm scenery
Chawa View Deck – a perfect spot to enjoy sunset supposedly as it faces the West Philippine Sea. The view deck has more than 100 steps  down the adjacent cliff to fish, take pictures, or frolic in the water.
When the tour ended, the feeling is still surreal for me. Everything I see in all the places I have been to were truly beautiful and definitely worth it.  Still stunned with the breath taking places I have visited, I must say Batanes has truly captivated my heart.  I have covered all three inhabited islands, there’s one thing left to do. Climb Mt Iraya, and finally say, I have conquered Batanes.

A New Heaven in the North (Sabtang Island)

Sabtang is an island municipality situated at 15 kilometers southwest of Basco. It can be reached by a 30 minute ride in a jeepney from the Provincial Capital, Basco to San Vicente Port or Radiwan Port of Ivana and another 30-40 minute ride in a motorized banca locally known as Faluwa.

Coming to Sabtang is not just an experience but an adventure.  One may not find here the conveniences in the city but the experience to this little haven of the north is more than the price it takes.  It is best enjoyed at least with an overnight stay. This is the closest you can get to experience the Old Batanes.  According to the locals, the waves in Sabtang is more frightening and turbulent than the ones in Itbayat coz this is truly where the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea clashes.  I think we’re lucky enough that day, it was a smooth ride.


Sabtang Island from afar


Sabtang Lighthouse

We were greeted by the welcoming smile of our guide, Kuya Jun in his unique tricycle service for our tour.  The materials used for its sidecar is not metal nor rubber, it’s mainly made up of branches of trees and dried coconut leaves.  This gave us a fresh feeling during our entire trip.  We’re not able to leave on time though as the girls took some photos with Kuya Jun’s tricycle.


Packed with smiles, we are now ready to explore Sabtang Island and experience the laid back Ivatan culture.  As we arrived in Sabtang Island, we first went to their tourism center where we registered. Visitors must pay an environmental fee that costs PHP 200. You can also take a restroom break here before your Sabtang tour starts.


Sabtang Tourism Center


Yes, we are crazy, we pulled over and stop at a non-tourist beach beside the road. The other tourists were just looking at us. Rock n Roll guys. (walang basagan ng trip!)



The  next series of pictures and spots will be the typical inclusions in a Sabtang Day tour. Some may start on the other side and have our first spot as the last. 

Our official first stop is Morong Beach where you can find the “Ahaw/Ahao” (Arc-like Cave).  This is one of the iconic and most photographed spots in Batanes because of its rock formation in a beach cove.   This place is an ideal site for picnic, camping and swimming.


Morong Cave


Morong Beach

The waves are strong but you can go for a swim if you can tolerate the cold temperature of the water. The sand is also not that fine as there were broken corals and shells along the shore but in all fairness, it’s white and clean


The famous Ahao/Ahaw Arch


Yes, I am crazy. The shot above is taken from the top of the arch (hehehe!) another life threatening moves. I did ask the guides though if I can climb and they gave permission. I did not regret, the view from up here is truly breath taking.

The next barrio, barangay Savidug with its native stone houses along the national road welcomes everyone with wonder.  Where in this world would you find a place with native stone houses whose wall is more than a meter in thickness? You will see that for yourself when you come to Savidug. 




The Savidug Village experience will not be complete without tasting this one! (I forgot the name though) it’s glutinous and sweet. Paired with buko juice (goodluck tummy!) and introducing the Ilongga seller of these yummy treats.


An Open Ivatan House for all


Look who I bumped into!!! The one and only Pinay Solo Backpacker and the famous tour guide himself Ryan Cardona Smile


A Dominican order chapel in the Savidug village

Some few kilometers away from the Stone Houses village is its Ijang. Nearly triangular shape hill less than 100 meters in height. This Ijang is a high rocky formation which has served as a fortress or refuge against attacking enemies of the Isabtangs in the early times.


Savidug Ijang

Another breath taking and picture perfect landscape and seascape is Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint.  I think this is where took a longer stop because of it’s picturesque view, not to mention the costumes and the refreshment offered in this part of the tour. I personally enjoyed this place as well as the awesome feeling of wearing their Vakul.


Wearing the Kanayi for Males


Wearing the Vakul for Females


Looking at the land formation called “Susong Dalaga” hehehe!


with arms wide open for you Sabtang



Turmeric Tea

Few kilometers down Chamantad is another village of stone houses. It is called Chavayan. The home of the skilled vakul weavers and has been nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  it is surrounded by beach and mountain and the last part of the tour in this side of town.  Between the two stone villages, we preferred to stay here.


The breathtaking landscape approaching Chavayan Village


Vakul Making Materials



The colorful church of Chavayan


Another Stone House Spotted

We have travelled 8 kilometers to reach Chavayan from the town center. It’s time to recharge and have a sumptuous lunch by the beach! We failed to eat coconut crab in Basco, so we filled in the curiosity by getting one here in Sabtang.


..the Php 350.00 worth of lunch with this view..

The serving is generous, your 350 will have  Turmeric Rice (Yellow Rice), Vegetable, Fish, Pork/Beef and sweets for desert (in our case, we got Toron). We paid additional Php 400.00 for the coconut grab. Nothing much to tell and describe though, it’s not as delicious as I thought it is. It’s just worth tasting when you are in Batanes.

We resumed our tour past 1 in the afternoon. We went back to the town proper and here we passed by San Vicente Ferrer Church.  There was a town fiesta when we went there so there’s a basketball game on going.  Reason why we were not able to proceed going to Vujos Island; no boatmen to take us there. They’re all busy playing and spectating. Another reason to go back Smile


San Vicente Ferrer Church


The interior of the church


On going Basketball Game


Vujos Island from afar (hanggang tingin na lamang)

This is our last baranggay stop,Sumnanga. Also known as the little hongkong ( I don’t know why) hehehe! From here, we can find Duvek Bay where remnants of Ivatan houses are being restored. The cove boasts pristine corals in Batanes. We also spotted some local fisherman just docked from fishing.



Dried Flying Fish


Fresh catch Flying Fish


Ivatans are honest and generous in nature. We experienced that one firsthand, I was just watching how they clean the fishes, in turn they gave as a bag full of fishes for dinner. Thank you very much!! We should be waiting for sunset in this area as this boasts a good spot to take the stunning setting sun but we have to go and spend it somewhere.


While Kuya Jun is talking to his friend, we spotted one Ivatan and had a chance to some chitchating. Guess how young is this woman? She’s actually 90 years old, yet very strong and lively. She’s even carrying a 6 Liter water on her back. She told us how simple and contented Ivatans are.  Tragic and hear-melting stories of typhoons trying to destroy this simple town.


We may not have witnessed the sunset in Duvek Bay, but we found a perfect spot right up here.  You can see all the 3 Islands from here: Basco, Itbayat and Vujos Island.


After an hour of watching the sunset, we went back to Chavayan Village. This is where we will be spending the night, the Ivatan way. 


What’s for dinner? A commoner food – Lobster!!! Yes, this is their typical meal, oh come on.  Delicious!


Saying goodnight to Sabtang! A tiring yet happy day


Smile of a Happy Traveler


..and we’re back in Ivana..

A visit to Batanes will never be fulfilling without stepping into this island.  It’s also incomplete without immersing oneself in the cradle of Ivatan culture and heritage.  It’s old houses, narrow streets, and old sites will leave lasting memories.  Thank you very much!