BATANES: The Winds Up North – Part 2 [Solo Travel]

Following my north Batan tour from my recent blog post, the next day I decided to go to Sabtang island. I availed my solo Sabtang tour from Ysabelle Homestay for only Php1,300. It was quite reasonable because Kuya Mik, my tour guide, brought along his motorcycle with him up to Sabtang Island but we’ll get to that later. The morning was frighteningly dark. From sunshine and clear skies the day I arrived, I finally saw the real Batanes weather. I thought that my Sabtang tour was going to get canceled because the sky looked like it was almost the end of the world. Ate Elma told me that it may still push through depending on the harshness of the waves we will be sailing through. Going to Sabtang, you need to start early in the morning because the boat going to the island leaves at around 7am everyday. After freshening up and eating the breakfast prepared by Ate Elma, me and Kuya Mik went on to our journey to the port.

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The motorbike ride to the port was one of the best things I have experienced. The cold breeze and the dark clouds made it such a surreal experience. The huge cliffs and the mountains we passed by were so scenic that I felt so small and insignificant against mother nature.

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It was still quite dark and rainy when we arrived at the port, but when they started giving out the life jackets, that’s when we knew the journey would push through. The boat ride to and from Sabtang island will cost about Php 200. Kuya Mik’s motorbike was then tied safely on the front part of the boat together with the other motorcycles. He told me not to sit on the front part if I didn’t want to get wet from the splashing waves.

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I can now say that I have experienced the real Batanes weather. It was so exciting for the waves were big and the skies were gloomy. The boat was kind of small and may tip over. It was awesome!

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We arrived the Port of Sabtang, a line of tricycles and vans were waiting there for their guests. We only had a few hours to tour Sabtang Island but before that, we needed to go to their municipal hall and pay their municipal fee of Php 200. Kuya Mik started our tour at Chavayan Village, it was on the farthest part of the island. He said it’s better to start there because the flock of tourists would most likely go there last.

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The ride to Chavayan village was indeed majestic. Cliffs and rough roads before you get to the village. On our way there, we spotted a very rare bird called the Black-faced Spoonbill. Kuya Mik quickly stopped the motorbike as he saw the bird in its peaceful endeavor. I couldn’t get a clearer picture though, but we were really lucky. I think we were the only ones who saw the bird that time.

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Chavayan consisted of cute little stone houses which endure the wrath of typhoons in Batanes. I also got to try on a “Vakul”, a head protection made by the Ivatan people to protect them from the rain and the heat of the sun. I was also shown how they clean the dry leaves used for the Vakul.

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King Kong vibes in here. Reminds me of Skull Island.

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Here in Batanes, the coconut crab is very common. I got to see one from a little shop that sells souvenirs. The coconut crabs are now actually endangered in Batanes as to why it’s not allowed to bring them home back to Manila. I didn’t try to eat one tho, for I didn’t want to contribute to the decline of the species.

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Next up, we headed to Chamantad-Tinyan viewpoint. I was out of words when I saw all the glory that is this place. It was so beautiful, it was a great place to have an existential crisis. One thing I was scared about though was the very very strong wind. It was literally blowing me away. Be careful when walking near cliffs while the winds are strong. Kuya Mik couldn’t take a proper photo of me because of the strong winds.

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We then went to Savidug Village. It was said that Yeng Constantino’s music video for “Ikaw” was also shot here.

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The very last stop of our Sabtang island tour was in Morong beach where we were scheduled to have lunch. In Morong beach, you will also find the Makabuang Arc.

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Since I was traveling alone, I was reserved a solo seat when we had our lunch in Sabtang. When touring Sabtang, you will most likely be with other tourists or groups that are on tour that day. Also, there is only one place where guests have lunch and that is the one in Morong beach. I was pretty hungry as I was waiting alone for my food. Kuya Mik and the other tour guides ate at another area. I was not informed that it was going to be a set meal. When the ‘Ate’ came in with my food, I asked “Ate, sa akin ba to lahat?” (Is this all mine?) and she said yes, laughing at my reaction. Maybe she was also surprised that I was alone traveling. For all Sabtang tours, you only have a choice of a set meal which costs Php 300.

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See the yellow rice right there? That’s Turmeric rice and it is my favorite. The Ivatan people love to put turmeric on their dishes and I have no problem with that.

You may ask why is eating a set meal the only option? Why can’t I eat at other eateries? What if I don’t have a tour guide? You will most definitely have a tour guide. Unfortunately, doing a DIY solo trip and visiting sites in Batanes on your own is quite impossible now. They require visitors to have a tour guide. Yes, it’s REQUIRED. If you’re on a tour, everyone goes on the same exact tour and everyone eats at the same place. I’ll get more to that later.

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Thus concludes the end of our Sabtang tour. The boat ride back to Batan was quite bouncy. Much harsher than the ride to Sabtang. The waves were pretty high but the sun was already smiling at us.

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When we arrived back to Batan, I still had hours to spare. I decided to go back to Fundacion Pacita and just spend the afternoon there. Cafe du Tukon is a little quaint cafe and restaurant with gorgeous views. Food prices are quite expensive because you are kind of paying for the view. I had pasta and an iced tea for a total of Php558.

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On my last day in Batanes, I went on the South Batan tour. This time I wanted to get a feel of those little hut tricycles so I availed of a tricycle tour to avoid the heat of the sun. Again, I arranged my tour with Ysabelle Homestay. Kuya Tino was once again my tour guide for the day.

We started the South Batan tour at Chawa view deck. It was a view spot facing the ocean but the highlight of this place is the staircase down. Strong waves were crashing against huge rocks. I suddenly wanted to sing “The Winner Takes It All” just like Meryl Streep from Mamma Mia haha.

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Kuya Tino mentioned that there were locals who already died here. They went down that rock platform unsupervised, not knowing that the strong waves could take them away. Please be do careful, those waves aren’t weak.

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Next, we went to Mahatao Boat Shelter Port. This is where fishermen boats are parked, as well as the coastal guard. I also got a chance to buy Taho from a very nice kuya.

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We then went to Tayid Lighthouse. It was so beautiful that I wanted to spend like a few more hours there just sitting down and pondering about life.

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Look at those cows there just chilling and living the life.

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After the lighthouse, my most favorite part of the tour was Racuh a Payaman or the Marlboro Country. Vast rolling hills make me a happy child. The views are amazing as always! It was hard to take proper photos though because of the harsh wind. You can definitely sing “The Sound of Music” here.

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After a very long tricycle ride down the hills, we arrived at the famous Alapad rock formation. It was saddening that I saw trash just right by the sea. Please keep your trash with you as you tour around.

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You can see the famous “BLOW UR HORN” sign everywhere in Batanes where there’s a sharp blind turn.

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Next up, the famous Honesty Coffee shop. Now there was a word going on around that Honesty Coffee shop required an entrance fee before you can go in, but when I went there, no entrance fee was paid for I can assure that. I bought a few snacks to bring home such as the Bukayo.

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From food to clothes and other souvenirs you can find them here in Honesty Coffee shop. You just need to write down the stuff you bought on the little notebook they have inside. This is for their inventory purposes. You pay by inserting your money on one of the boxes there. They do not have change so you really need to pay the exact amount.

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We then on traveled to the House of Dakay. It is the oldest house in Batanes. You can see from the structure that it is the traditional Ivatan house that needed to endure the harsh weather.

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Before we go to our last stop and end the day with lunch, we passed by the Spanish Bridge. It was built during the Spanish era and is still being used today by the Ivatan people.

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Our last stop for the South Batan tour is the Homoron White Beach. It was a quiet beach with shallow waters perfect for swimming! We didn’t get to go to the Spanish Lagoon because construction was ongoing.

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Alas, we ended the day with lunch at Paulvanas. I ate with Kuya Tino because I couldn’t possibly finish everything on the set meal. Everything was delicious or maybe I really was just hungry from all the touring.

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I also loved the Nilagang Baka with seaweed. I’m not quite sure what kind of seaweed it was but it tasted really good and resembled a Miso soup.

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Thus that ends my South Batan tour. I spent the rest of my night packing and chatting with Ate Elma back at the homestay. Getting back to requiring a tour guide in Batanes. Yes, unfortunately, it was recently approved by their municipality to require all visitors with tour guides. So to those wanting to go to Batanes and doing a DIY trip, you can’t go alone for you need have a tour guide with you. There are several tour agencies around Batan which can help you with touring around. Though if you are a solo traveler like me, I highly recommend doing an “angkas” tour (motorbike tour) because it is cheaper and you can talk to your kuya tour guide on which places you want to go to first.

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A short funny story just when I was about to leave Batanes. The morning of my flight was rainy. I woke up to the sound of harsh winds outside the homestay. The powerlines were also out. The winds were very strong and I feared that my flight might get cancelled. I ate my last breakfast at Ate Elma’s with only a lamp infront of me. I started to get nervous that I might not be able to go back to Manila because I had work the next day. As always, the weather in Batanes is quite bipolar. I still went to the airport and the Skyjet people still pushed through with the flight, thank god!

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That concluded my stay in Batanes. It was indeed something new for me. Traveling alone in my own country and immersing myself with the locals. The Ivatan people are genuinely nice. I’ve never felt more welcomed. I have nothing but nice things to say about my stay with Ysabelle Homestay. Ate Elma’s family made me feel like I had a family in Batanes as well. Saying goodbye to this marvelous place is heartbreaking. If only I could stay a few more weeks or months just getting along with nature. I couldn’t go to Itbayat Island anymore due to limited time. They say people get stranded there for a few days if the weather becomes bad.

Me with the ever amazing and nice Ate Elma

If there was a place I’d like to live in here in my home country, it would be Batanes. Never mind the no internet part and the part where there are no commercialized areas. I would love to immerse myself in this kind of environment. I hope I could visit Batanes again soon. Hopefully to visit Itbayat this time. I still can’t believe I went here alone. Just a dream once, a dream that someday you would be coming with your loved ones. But when people you once cared about start to leave you, that’s when you’ll have the drive to go. I still have my dream, even if I was left with nothing. 🙂

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Until we meet again Batanes!

Total expenses:

  • Skyjet Roundtrip Flight- Php 12,260
  • Ysabelle Homestay 4 days and 3 nights with Breakfast- Php 1,350
  • Batanes Eco Tourism Fee- Php 350
  • Beehan Lunch Meal- Php 120
  • North Batan Tour- Php 1000
  • Beehan Dinner- Php 140
  • Sabtang Tour- Php 1,300
  • Boat ride to and from Sabtang-  Php 200
  • Sabtang Municipal Fee- Php 200
  • Set Meal Morong Beach, Sabtang- Php 300
  • Cafe Du Tukon Meal- Php 558
  • South Batan Tricycle Tour- Php 1500
  • Paulvana Set Meal- Php 300
  • Beehan Dinner- Php- 100

TOTAL: Php 19, 678

 

If you would like to stay with Ysabelle Homestay in Batanes, check out their facebook page below. You may also contact them using the number below.

Ysabelle Homestay
Santana St. Brgy. Kaychanarianan Basco, Batanes
https://www.facebook.com/YsabelleHomestayBasco/
(+63) 928 234 2542

 

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BATANES: The Winds Up North – Part 1 [Solo Travel]

Who would have thought that those vast green hills and marvelous seaside cliffs exist here in the Philippines? You don’t have to look no further because there’s Batanes right here. It has always been a dream of mine to visit this place. I couldn’t go because for the past few years, I thought I wasn’t capable of going on an adventure alone, hence I was waiting for people to come with me. One fateful night after my Japan trip, I was pondering on where to go next. I remembered that I’ve been always eyeing Batanes. I checked through Skyscanner and found a 12k roundtrip ticket with Skyjet airlines. I couldn’t get cheaper promo fares because I’m a spontaneous person who books a flight like a month before.

Days before my flight to Batanes, we were experiencing heavy rain in Manila. I was so scared that my trip might get canceled. Luckily, the morning of my flight was quite a sunny day. The flight from Manila to Basco, Batanes took only about an hour. By the time the plane landed, the first thing I noticed was the huge mountain you could see from the runway. I later on learned it was Mt. Iraya. Basco airport is not as big as the other airports. It was just a small building with a waiting area and a runway. The moment you get off the plane, you need to pay the eco-tourism fee of Batanes (Php 350) where they will give you some sort of pass that YOU NEED when you go to the sites you wish to visit. There are no baggage carousels in this airport so you have to wait for the airline staff to take all the bags out of the plane and get it from where you have entered.

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I decided to stay with Ysabelle Homestay during my time in Batanes. They picked me up from the airport too! There was a bit of a mix-up when I arrived because the current guests haven’t checked out yet, but that was okay. Ate Elma was one of the owners of Ysabelle Homestay and she let me stay in their “extension room” just a few blocks away while waiting for the guests to check out. There I met this adorable little fella called…. *drumroll*  S H  E R L O CK !!!

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You could imagine my excitement because this dog was named Sherlock. I later on discovered that Sherlock had a brother and guess who….. Mycroft! Sadly, Mycroft already crossed the rainbow bridge. Bless the people who named these dogs. I was quite hungry and bored so I walked around the small town of Basco. I asked Ate Elma for recommendations on where to eat and she recommended Beehan. I then had a quick lunch at Beehan which is very near Ysabelle’s extension. I got the Lumpiang Togue (Fried Springrolls with Beansprouts) for only Php 120.

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I need to warn you that there are no fast food or commercialized areas in Batanes. There are only eateries and small canteens. Beehan was a very nice place with good food. It became my go-to place to eat while in Batanes because there were only a handful of eateries in Basco. I also discovered that pork was much more expensive in Batanes than beef and seafood. Feeds were quite hard to acquire in this place as to why pork and chicken are expensive, unlike beef where the grasslands are vast. But if you do get the chance, please opt for veggies if you can.

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I only had 4 days and 3 nights in Batanes so I wanted to start early. I availed of the North Batan day tour (Php 1000) with Ysabelle Homestay. If you’re a solo traveler like me, the cheapest tours you could get were via “angkas” or a motorcycle back-ride. You can also rent a motorbike with Ysabelle homestay. If there’s two of you traveling you can opt for the tricycle ride. For groups, there are the huge air-conditioned vans.

I transferred all of my stuff to the main house of Ysabelle Homestay before my North tour began. In Batanes, there are only a handful of hotels and the rest are homestays. I chose Ysabelle Homestay because of their good reviews. I also wanted to experience staying at an actual house in Batanes. I availed of their non-airconditioned rooms for only Php 450 per day which also comes with breakfast. I had a tiny electric fan in my room which was enough for me. Ysabelle Homestay is no other than a humble home, welcoming guests. I had a huge room and a big bed all for myself. The house was very spacious and Ate Elma’s family was nothing but nice to me.

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My North Batan “angkas” tour started in Tukon Church. It was still under renovation on the day we visited. Such a beautiful structure on top of a hill.

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We then headed on to the PAGASA Weather Station. These are what remain of the area after another typhoon hit Batanes.

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Just nearby the PAGASA Weather Station is Fundacion Pacita, a beautiful hotel/restaurant with breathtaking views.

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I was most excited to see the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel. This was made during World War II by the Ivatan people when the Japanese forces took shelter in these tunnels. Now this is where that pass comes in. Remember that pass you get when you paid you eco-tourism fee? There will be people checking that so make sure you have it always.

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Next up was the Valugan Boulder Beach. It was kind of sad when I saw a few trash scattered around 😦 Please do bring your trash with you always. Clean as you go.

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We then continued on to Vayang Rolling Hills. I was like a happy child all giddy when I saw Vayang Rolling Hills. It was just like stepping into a postcard. The views were breathtaking indeed. That’s tiny little me in the photo below. Can you imagine how big this place is?

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If you’re wondering who’s taking photos of me, it’s Kuya Tino, my tour guide from Ysabelle Homestay 🙂 They take great photos and don’t really mind if you take a few minutes taking pictures.

We finished the North Batan tour at the Basco Lighthouse. People can watch the sunset here. I have my fear of heights but I still managed to go up the lighthouse to get a view of the town of Basco.

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Seeing the sunset from the lighthouse was a nice way to end the day. At around 6pm we then headed back to Ysabelle Homestay. Again, I had my dinner at Beehan. I had the Tapsilog and a coke for Php 140 this time. I found myself strangely sleeping early that night. Maybe that’s just the province life. As early as 9pm I could no longer hear people outside. I was starting to love Batanes for its peaceful community.

I’m sad to inform you guys that there’s no internet in Batanes. There used to be but after the last typhoon hit the place, all connections were lost. It’s also kind of hard to get some signal. But there are some places where it reaches 3G, just like the area of the Basco lighthouse. If you are really desperate for internet there are small stores or ‘tindahan’ that offer internet connection for a few minutes. You may ask the locals around the Basco area. Though It’s nice to shut yourself off from social media for a few days. If you’re into that stuff and living a laid-back life surrounded by nature, then Batanes is definitely for you.

 

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A small shop that offers internet connection

 

 

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They will give you this so you could enter you password and voila! you can browse the internet!

 

Part two of my Batanes trip can be found here
https://katabelgas.com/2018/03/08/batanes-the-winds-up-north-part-2-solo-travel/

 

If you would like to stay with Ysabelle Homestay in Batanes, check out their facebook page below. You may also contact them using the number below.

Ysabelle Homestay
Santana St. Brgy. Kaychanarianan Basco, Batanes
https://www.facebook.com/YsabelleHomestayBasco/
(+63) 928 234 2542