Batanes: The Philippines' Most Beautiful Island

BATANES' CRAGGY CLIFFS, EMERALD HILLS & LEGION OF COWS

One early morning in Siquijor, while enjoying our sumptuous American breakfast, I asked my friends on where would be our next destination this year.We usually discuss our upcoming trips while having our last meal in a certain hotel. We've been travelling together for almost three years now.

Richard, Christine and Mike mentioned the places they have never been to and then narrowed down the list, making sure everyone will enjoy the place for the first time. Surprisingly, Batanes came out as our top choice.

Batanes, Philippines

Traveling to Batanes is relatively costly. The air fare could fly you out to a certain Asian country. However, breathtaking, overwhelming combination of majestic landscapes and moody weather are waiting for you in Batanes.

Surely, these will make you fall in love with Batanes.

Geographically, Batanes Islands are almost as close to Taiwan as they are to Luzon. One interesting facts is that when you turn on the radio, you'll be tuned in to a Taiwanese radio station loud and clear comparing to the local radio stations from nearby provinces where you get stuttering, buffering and really terrible connections.

Batanes, the northernmost island in the Philippines, is composed of ten tiny islands, offering craggy cliffs, emerald hills and legion of cows and goats.However, these islands are sparsely populated and are subject to frequent typhoons. The three largest islands namely Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang are the only inhabited islands.

Batanes, Philippines

Weather in Batanes is really unpredictable. According to our tour guide, February is the coldest month there. Batanes is also considered as the reference point for all the typhoons entering the Philippines.

Biking is the best way to discover the beautiful islands of Batanes. You can leave your things anywhere you want as Batanes is known for zero crime rate. Yes, you read it right.

Hello, from the other side of the Philippines!

Batanes, Philippines

THE MOODY, UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER IN BATANES

Few months before heading to Batanes, Christine and Mike lined up for a Travel Expo in Mall of Asia Arena to get the cheapest flights being offered by different local and international airlines. Luckily, they were able to book the cheapest package from Philippine Airlines. The package includes air fare and accommodation at Amboy Hometel for three days and two nights.

There are two major airlines flying directly from Manila to Basco, Batanes and vice versa. Aside from Philippine Airlines, you can book a flight through Skyjet Airlines. Regular round trip tickets ranges from 13,000 pesos to 16,000 pesos ($270 to $333). Getting cheap flights would save you a lot on your budget.

Travel fair is one the perfect venues to book the cheapest flight a backpacker would ever imagined.

Batanes, Philippines

However, it is being attended by thousand of travelers so expect the worse in terms of falling in line and getting those discounted plane tickets. Remember, the early bird gets the worm!

Three days before our scheduled flight to Batanes, Metro Manila was experiencing heavy rains. Cancelled flights were reported on television, making me worry, uncomfortable about our scheduled flight. I have been dreaming of this trip for years and I didn't want to have it cancelled or re-scheduled at all.

Luckily, when I left the office early in the morning, heading to the airport, the forecasted weather was generally stable and fine. The excitement came back and I can't wait to witness the beautiful, breathtaking Batanes!

The reported scheme that allegedly involves the airport’s security personnel who plant bullets on bags of passengers to extort money was still a hot issue that time.

Batanes, Philippines

Forum on planted bullets on bags to extort money in NAIA. In a way, this issue bothered me. So, the moment I get off from the cab, I immediately grabbed my backpack's waterproof cover. 

After checking in, I directly went up to a coffee shop to grab some food. Minutes after, Christine was calling me informing where to meet them. Joining us on our Batanes trip were newly-wed Ysa and Kenchi, Christine's friends. We were six to conquer Batanes! 

Batanes, Philippines

We left Manila early in the morning. After few minutes, from above, I saw the tiny, beautiful islands of Batanes. The waves from the Pacific Ocean were inviting. I never imagined looking at greenly islands being sorrounded by the largest and deepest ocean in the world. That moment, I thanked God for this opportunity, witnessing such a beautiful place.

We arrived in Basco Airport very timely for breakfast. One hotel staff picked us up then immediately head to Amboy Hometel. Batanes has moody, unpredictable weather. I needed someone to hug that time!

Batanes, Philippines

BREATHTAKING, PICTURESQUE BATANES

The moment the hotel staff opened the room, I immediately turned on the lights then grabbed my tablet to take photos of the bed, the rest room including the views from the window for review purposes. After few minutes, I decided to unpack my things then organized them at the closet.

While having our heavy breakfast at the restaurant, I have noticed paintings displayed on the walls. They are all beautiful. According to one of the hotel staff, those were painted by the young Ivatans in return of having money to finance their schooling.

After breakfast, the hotel staff introduced us to our tour guide and van driver. The guide educated us about our itineraries that day. I have learned that there are two kinds of tours being offered in Batanes, the Batan North and Batan South tours.

We started discovering the beautiful, breathtaking Batanes through the Batan North Tours. The tour includes the following destinations.

Batanes, Philippines

Mt Carmel Church, also known as the Tukon Chapel, is considered as the church of fulfilled dreams. Most people consider Batanes as the home of the winds, where you can feel God's whisper. This chapel is designed based on the traditional Ivatan stone houses. I have noticed that the roof of the chapel is made of concrete red bricks. I didn't leave the place without praying and making some wishes. I'm hoping that these wishes will be granted soon. Afterall, I prayed it at the church of fulfilled dreams.

I also fell in love with Sto Domingo de Basco Church. This is one of the first buildings made of limestones during the Spanish regime sometime in 1812.

Yes, this church has survived so many typhoons and other natural disasters for decades now. According to historians, this church was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

Batanes, Philippines

Aside from the beautiful churches, Batanes offers other kinds of attractions. One of these is the Radar Tukon. Interestingly, this was used as a United States' weather station. The tower provides breathtaking and magnificient views of Batan and Basco islands including the South China Sea and Mt. Iraya. Currently, Radar Tukon houses the Basco Radar Station.

Decades ago, Batanes was occupied by the Japanese, taking over the territory from the Americans. During the Japanese occupation, they built the Dipnaysupuan Japanese tunnel which is hidden in the hills of Tukon. It was used for the refuge of Japanese soldiers and for lookout purposes.

Batanes, Philippines

While on our way to the Boulder Beach Valugan, our tour guide mentioned that Valugan means 'east' in Ivatan language. When Mt. Iraya errupted, it scattered andesite rocks around the northern half of Batan, creating the boulder beach. Seems like the waves from the Pacific Ocean polished this beautiful boulder beach. To date, Ivatans call this as the Valugan. 

Just like my friends, I also enjoyed the nature and the spectacular views in Vayang Rolling Hills. This is the perfect place to witness the beautiful West Philippine Sea. Imagine those stunning seacapes, the fresh air, the cows all over the area... jaw-dropping! I felt so blessed being in that place. I'm having issues describing this place. God, this place is so beautiful.

The Batanes Lighthouse is waiting for you at Naidi Hills. From the top, you can see the whole Batan island while enjoying the breathtalking views. This is the perfect place to witness the sunset. The Basco Lighthouse is a 6-storey building with a viewing deck on the fifth floor. 

Batanes, Philippines

Before ending our day tour, we headed to Fundacion Pacita to have some snacks. We were very hungry when we reached the restaurant. The restaurant staff was very friendly as were the only customers at that time. The food served is delicious but for me, they're a bit pricey. Though it is quite far, the place offers breathtaking views of the island. Flowers are all over the place. According to our tour guide, Fundacion Pacita was formally opened to public to finance the scholars being supported by the late Pacita Abad, a native Ivatan and National Artist.

Check out my review about this restaurant later.

We had a very organized day tour as we were strictly following the time frames on each tourist destinations. Our tour guide and the van driver were very knowledgeable and with sense of humor. I have learned a lot from him. I will have a separate journal for our tour guide as he deserves a shout out for his kindness and for being so proud of his hometown. I remember, he was teary-eyed when he mentioned a certain incident involving his fellow Ivatans few years back.

Overall, our first day was filled with so many memories we'll treasure for a lifetime. Indeed, Batanes is worth-visiting. As I mentioned earlier, it is the Philippines' most beautiful, safest place ever!

Batanes, Philippines

THAT'S WHEN YOUR HEARTACHES END

So, this is our second day in Batanes. As expected, we're still excited to explore this beautiful place. With excitement, our tour guide informed us that the South Batan Tour is the most recommended tour because it has the most breathtaking landscapes and historical sites.
Chawa View Deck offers beautiful views of the western cliffs of Batan island. It faces the West Philippine Sea so imagine how beautiful the place. Chawa View Deck is the first place to visit for the South Batan Tour.
Batanes, Philippines
Tayid Lighthouse in Mahatao is very different to the Basco Lighthouse because it is hexagonal. Unfortunately, the lighthouse isn't open for tourist anymore as it is being repaired. According to our tour guide, the lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea.
By the way, Mahatao Town has less than 2 thousand people. It is considered a 6th class municipality.
Racuh a Payaman, also known as the Marlboro Country, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Batanes. The place is super beautiful as it offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. You'll see cows all over the place. It is one of the many places where you can just sit and relax while appreciating the beautiful nature. You'll have the most picture-perfect view of the Tayid Lighthouse to the left and Mt Iraya to the right. The Diura Beach is just in between. Indeed, the most beautiful place. Absolutely stunning! And, oh yes, this is the perfect spot to shout out your heart aches.
Batanes, Philippines
The Ruins at Sitio Songsong, San Jose Borromeo Church, Diura or the Fishing Village, Fountain of Youth, the Mahatao Pier, the Uyugan Town, the Ivana Town, the San Jose de Ivana Church are among the places included for the South Batan Tours. You'll definitely fall in love with Batanes once you have completed these places. Luckily, we did! Cheers!
Batanes, Philippines
Batanes, Philippines

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