Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nature’s Playground - Batanes

What is it about Batanes? Aside from being the smallest and least populated province in the Philippines, the elusiveness of this place made it a dream destination for me.  It takes more than drive to get to this place. If the timing isn’t right, you will be facing the biggest storms but when properly planned, it can be pretty easy and you will make the most out of your trip.

The country’s northernmost and smallest province, Batanes is among the most sought-after tourism frontier destinations located at the confluence of the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean.  It has been declared by the government as a Protected Landscape and Seascape because of its rare flaura and fauna, undulating terrain, diverse marine life, limestone cliffs, and panoramic sceneries. It boasts stretches of white and cream colored sandy beaches and clear water.

Composed of 10 islands, with only three inhabited (Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat) while the islets of Dinem, Siayan, Ditarem, Misanga, Mavudis, Dequey, and Vuhus are uninhabited. It has six municipalities – Basco, Mahatao, Ivana, and Uyugan (located in Batan), and the island towns Sabtang and Itbayat.  Batanes’ tourist icon is its Ivatan indigenous house made up of stone, coral and lime walls, hardwood floors and windows, and cogon roofs. The province’s other postcard worthy images are its farolas or lighthouses, Spanish-era churches and grazing hills with literally breath-taking views of waves crashing the shores.

The provincial capital town, Basco is the gateway and hub of commerce and transport of the province with the presence of the airport that can bring tourist in either from Tuguegarao City or directly from Manila. From here, tourists can go around the other towns in Batan Island.

Finally, I am now realizing that dream of setting foot in this beautiful Island of Batanes. A year ago I kept my eye on seat sales particularly in Skyjet airlines. Last November 2014 I was able to finally booked my flights (one week worth trip). Monday, April 6, 2015 I packed my bags and prepared myself physically, financially, and emotionally for this once in a lifetime trip..hehehe!

A dream destination deserves nothing but a convenient carrier.  Skyjet is considered a full service airline (on board meals, free luggage and spacious legroom) giving its passengers a guaranteed boutique experience . It is taking passengers via a British Aerospace Jet (80-seater) - the same jet aircraft used by the British Royal Family. This type of jet is perfect and ideal for the Philippines’ small island airports with short runways.

SkyJet check in Counter at NAIA - 4


A glimpse inside the Cabin


On Board Snacks with Sparkling Drinks :)

IMG_1265 IMG_0006


Overall, a great flying experience. I arrived in Basco Airport past 8 in the morning. The sky is a bit gloomy though but think positive, everything will fall into place. I waited for Nanay Cita to fetch me.





Few minutes later, I finally got my well deserved rest here in my home away from home in Basco, Batanes. You will have this place by yourself if you get lucky, just like what happened to me on my first day. The house for rent is located on the second floor.

My Bedroom (3 pax capacity)


The Living Room


The Veranda


  The Kitchen


Welcome Breakfast for me :) (spare the egg, hehehe!)


After having breakfast, recharge time until lunch before exploring the Northern side of Batan.


I stayed 7 days and 6 nights in this amazing place, and most of you wanted to know how I survived getting around here, hope this simple itinerary will help you in planning your way around the Province of  Batanes.



08:00 AM – Arrival in Basco Airport

09:00 AM – Check in at Homestay, Breakfast – Rest Mode until 12 noon

01:30 PM – Start of North Batan Tour (you may opt to start early)

07:00 PM – Dinner and Lights off



04:30 AM - Wake up, Freshen Up and Breakfast (optional if you have sea sickness)

05:00 AM – Basco Port Bound

06:00 AM – ETD Basco via MB Veronica

09:30 AM – ETA Itbayat– Check in at Hostel

10:00 AM – Start of Tour

12:00 NN – Back to the Hostel – Lunch (optional)

01:30 PM – Resume Tour

08:00 AM – Dinner at Ivatan Pension and Lights off



02:30 AM - Wake up, Freshen Up and Breakfast

03:30 AM – ETD Centro

05:30 AM – ETA Rapang Cliff (Summit kuno) Sunrise Viewing if you get lucky

08:00 AM – ETA Centro

10:00 AM – ETD Itbayat – goodluck!

01:00 PM – ETA Basco Port


Day 4 – SABTANG ISLAND (Overnight Stay)

04:30 AM - Wake up, Freshen Up and Breakfast (optional if you have sea sickness)

05:30 AM – Leave by Basco by Tricycle

06:00 AM – ETD Port of Ivana

06:45 AM – ETA Port of Sabtang

07:30 AM – Tourist Registration, Start of Tour

12:00 NN – Lunch by the Beach

01:00 PM – Resume Tour

07:00 PM – Check in at Chavayan Homestay

09:00 PM – Dinner and Lights Off



04:30 AM - Wake up, Freshen Up and Breakfast

05:30 AM – ETD Port of Sabtang

06:15 AM – ETA Port of Ivana

07:30 AM – Start of South Batan Tour

04:30 PM – Rest and Prepare for Dinner

07:00 PM – Dinner (we cooked our food)


Day 6 – MT IRAYA

05:30 AM - Wake up, Freshen Up and Breakfast

07:00 AM – Start of Trek

12:00 NN – Summit (depending on your pace)

04:00 PM – Back to Jump Off – Souvenir Hunting

07:00 PM – Dinner (Pension Ivatan, again! lol)

09:00 PM – Pack up, Lights Off



Here’s a list of expenses that I made during my last trip to Batanes to give you a ballpark figure of how much budget to allot for this.

Per Person/






Accommodation in Basco (Non AC)



Accommodation in Itbayat (Non AC)



Accommodation in Sabtang (Ivatan House)



North Batan Tour (group of 2)*



South Batan Tour (group of 2)*



Sabtang Tour (group of 3)*



Faluwa Ride to Itbayat



Faluwa Ride to Sabtang



Tour Guide Fee in Itbayat



Motorcycle Rental in Itbayat - Whole Day



Rapang Cliff Guide (group of 3-4)*



Mt Iraya Guide (group of 3-4)*



Tourist Registration Fee in Itbayat



Tourist Registration Fee in Sabtang



Standard Meal Rate in Itbayat and Sabtang



Roundtrip Tricycle Transfer to Ivana Port



Roundtrip Tricycle Transfer from Chavayan to Sabtang Port



Lunch Rate in Sabtang - by the beach :)

All prices are in a per-person basis unless stated. I did not include our expenses for air fare, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs and preferences.  Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.

Things you MUST Know:

  1. The fastest way to reach Batanes is by air. However, the options are limited. Only Philippine Airlines and Skyjet Air fly to Basco, the capital town of the province. Keep an eye on seat sales as the airfare going to Basco are notoriously expensive.  I higly recommend though you take Skyjet, the fare maybe a bit expensive, but trust me you wouldn’t want to get stranded for days there. Just like what happened to the passengers when we left Basco, Skyjet was able to load passengers back to Manila while PAL didn’t even make it. *_^ So choose wisely.

  2. Bicycle is the cheapest way to go around the island, but make sure you have the stamina to match. The landscape is rugged and a bicycle ride can take you up and down the slopes of rolling hills a hundred times over. Check out Amboy’s Merchandise for the rental of the bikes  Small bikes: P300/day, Mountain bikes: P500-P1000/day (depending on the type and how long you will use it) and Old ones are available for P25 per hour

  3. Tricycle Tours: If you’re a party of two or more, this is a good option. The good thing about this is that the driver knows the spot and a bit of local info making the tour more guided and sweat free.

  4. I/we hired Kuya Dale Dela Cruz for North and South Batan: 0929-341-0941

  5. To get to Sabtang from Basco, you can hire a tricycle from your hostel at Php 220.00/trip to Ivana Port and take a 30-40 minute motorized ferry ride (Falowa) that leaves at 6AM. Sabtang is best enjoyed at least with an overnight stay and leave early the next day. It is the closest you can get to experience the OLD BATANES. Please get in touch with Kuya Jun Castillo: 0908-436-6357

  6. To get to Itbayat you may either take a 12-minute plane ride (non operational since Dec 2014) or  take a 3-4 hours Falowa “Rollescoaster” Ride crossing the West Philippine Sea that leaves Basco Port at 6 AM. The road leading to the center of the town is quite rugged. Expect to do lots of walking since there are no public transportation within the island. Either you rent a motorcycle/tricycle to roam around. If you will be staying in Cano’s Lodge: 0919-300-4787 and if you need guide please tell Nanay Cano that you will hire Kuya Jason Asa  for Inland Itbayat and Kuya Pepe for Rapang Cliff

  7. For accommodation, you may opt to stay in Atunay’s Residence, a homey and comfortable Homestay located in Basco Town Proper.  Get in touch with Kuya Victor: 0939-918-6506 and 0919-990-1123  Non AC 350/person, AC Room 500/person (solo), Php 1200/room and can accommodate a max of three. According to Kuya Victor, if you are more than 6 in a group and you want to rent the whole house, instead of charging you per head, you can have it rented for Php 1,800.00/night (super sulit)

  8. Basco has 24/7 power activated while both Sabtang and Itbayat maintains 18 hours electricity daily from 6 AM – 12 MN.

  9. Weather in Batanes is relatively cooler than the rest of the Philippines. The coolest months are from December to March where temperatures fall below 10 degrees. Dry months are from late March to June.

  10. In terms of Religion, 97% of the Ivatans are Roman Catholics and they appreciate visitors observing conservative dress code whenever they enter their churches.

  11. Landbak and PNB ATMs are available in Basco. You may opt NOT to bring your credit cards with you as you are expected to pay in cash all the time.

  12. There are no specific greeting for any time of the day. Older men and women are your “uncles” and “aunts” in Batanes. It is an accepted way to say hello. “Kapian ka pa nu Dios” is also used as greeting any time of the day while Dios Mamajes is Thank you.

  13. Internet is accessible in cafes, restaurants, bars, and other establishments. Some also have free WiFi. In addition Smart, and Globe phone networks are adequate in most parts of the three islands.

  14. As a world-renown tourist town, everyday things (e.g. carenderia food, drinks, supplies, etc.) and services offered in can be quite expensive. Be sure to bring extra money. Also, not all stores are open 24/7

  15. If you have the time and money, I strongly recommend that you devote one day for each tour and don’t miss Itbayat and Mt Iraya :)

You can still lower the cost in many ways. If you bike, it can bring down the cost of transportation significantly. You may also skip trying out some of the province’s native dishes for cheaper meals, although I discourage that. Any trip is just incomplete without digging into some local delicacies. The number of people in the group also affects the overall cost, which means you might end up spending more if you’re traveling alone (just like my first 3days).

This maybe one of the most expensive domestic trip I have but the experience you will gain in this province is priceless. Batanes is really everything that people said it is: so beautiful and serene that you’re tempted to take as much pictures as you can. So pack your bags and get ready to fall in love, cheers!


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