Batanes (Batan Island)

Travel Blog by Jen 
May 5, 2009

BEAUTIFUL BATANES!  One place now ticked on my Bucket List.  I must say that this is the best place I've been to in the Philippines (El Nido following closely).  If you're a lover of nature and all things untouched by commercialism, then you'd have to plan a trip here.  Batanes offers encompassing views of the ocean, rolling hills, dramatic sunsets and life in its simplest :)

Planning to go?  Make sure that you go here during the summer (February-May) as Batanes lies in the typhoon belt (Batanes is known as "Home of the Winds").  Seair flies to Basco, Batanes and the journey is just an hour.  Because small aircrafts are used, it is best to plan well ahead of time.  For this trip in May, we booked our tickets in December.  That's how much we wanted to get a confirmed seat and cheap fares :)

There are many types of accommodation to suit every traveler's budget.  These range from inns, pension houses to small resorts.  Our party of five chose to stay in Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge.  We were hooked on this by the pictures we saw online alone!   We occupied a family terrace suite that had a master's bedroom and an adjoining room, both of which are handsomely furnished. Both rooms open to a large private veranda which overlooks the South China Sea.  The viewing deck was also perfect for star-gazing at night.

Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge sits on a hill

Our veranda that looked out to the vast, beautiful ocean!

The Master's Bedroom (in a Family Terrace Suite)

The adjoining room with 3 single beds

View from our veranda --- cows grazing down below :)

Daily breakfast was served in a spacious common area / art gallery.  The establishment was named after the owner's sister, Pacita Abad, a native of Basco and a well-known painter.

with the Woman of the House, Henedina Abad

the huge artwork that greets visitors upon entering the main hall

Now that you're all settled in, make sure that you take a tour of Batan Island and Sabtang Island (see separate post on this blog).  Our room rate included a half-day cultural tour of Batan Island.  If you want to see more of the island, you can arrange to hire a van and a driver to take you around.  Fundacion Pacita can handle this and their people are very polite and accommodating.  (Special thanks to Steve of FP!)

Here are the highlights in Batan Island which you should not miss: 

Chawa View Deck
This a popular stop for picture taking with good views of the South China Sea. There are 100+ stone steps that lead to the bottom. Easy going down but quite a feat going up.

Chawa View Deck

from Chawa View Deck

long way up, long way down

Vahay ni Dakay in Ivana (House of Dakay)

This is the oldest Ivatan house in Batanes, dating back to the 18th century. The house is made of stone, corals and limestone which make it very sturdy against strong winds and storms.  The roof is made of cogon grass. 

The current resident now is Lola Florestida Estrella, a descendant of Jose Dakay who originally lived here. She is a charming old woman who happens to be very comfortable now with tourists taking pictures of her and the stone house.

The oldest Ivatan house

Lola Estrella

stone walls, wooden windows

Honesty Coffee Shop
Also a popular stop for tourists as it promotes the honesty of the Ivatans. This is an unmanned refreshments store where one pays for the goods taken from the store based on the honor system.  All items are marked with the price.  One can just simply get whatever he wants and deposit the payment into a 'payment box.'  You can always give more but definitely, not less.   A sign inside the store says: "This store is too small for dishonest people." :)

The Honesty Coffee Shop

 Insert your payment in this slot.

Imnajbu Cliff Roads
Imnajbu is a small town in the municipality of Uyugan. The dramatic rock formations and the amazing view of the ocean make it an ideal photo stop. We were told that this was the place where  the movie "Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit," which starred Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta, was filmed. Inspired by that trivia, we also climbed a hill ourselves and let the cool strong wind and the awesome views envelope us!

Cut in half

Look at this amazing view!

seascape, landscape

San Jose De Ivana Church
First built as a chapel in 1787 and rebuilt in 2001, a year after it was destroyed by an earthquake. The church is also made of limestone and is baroque in style. Built by Dominican priests. 

This church stands just in front of the Ivana Port, where boats sail off to Sabtang Island.

San Jose De Ivana Church

San Carlos Borromeo Church of Mahatao

Built in 1873, this is considered a National Cultural Heritage Treasure. It is also baroque in style, with the walls made of stone and the roof originally made of cogon. Outside, probably the smallest lighthouse in Batanes stands.

Mahatao Church

The smallest lighthouse in Batanes

Spanish Bridge
Located in Mahatao, this is most likely the oldest bridge in Batanes and is still being used today. This was built by the Spaniards.

The Spanish Bridge in the background

Rakuh-a-Payaman or Big Pastureland / Marlboro Country
Also called "Marlboro Country" as this resembles the location where the commercial of the same name was shot. Instead of horses, there are cows grazing on the hills. This place is breathtaking as it overlooks South China Sea, Mahatao Lighthouse and Tukon in the distance. Maria Von Trapp could well be singing "the hills are alive..." here! It's THAT beautiful!


Serenity captured in pixels

Mr. Carabao with the Mahatao Lighthouse in the distance

On our third day, we hired a private van to take us around town. We wanted to buy some souvenirs and to stop freely as we wished. Here's where Ryan and Homer took us:

White Beach

The sand is not as white and as fine as Boracay's but perfectly swimmable. The water is clear and the huge rocks on the shore provide shade.

Valugan Beach / Boulder Beach

Also known as Boulder Beach because of the huge boulders now sitting on the shore. These were spewed out by Mt. Iraya, a dormant volcano when it last erupted in 505 A.D.

"The stones provide protection for the easter side of Basco and theyc contribute substantially to the enhancement of the aesthetic value to the seascape and landscape of Batan Island," a sign by the local government of Basco, said.

Boulder Beach

Big waves

Mahatao Lighthouse

This is an octagonal lighthouse that faces the Pacific Ocean. Surrounding this are hills with quilt-like patterns of greens.  Very picturesque!

Mahatao Lighthouse

The Mahatao Wind Farm

The Mahatao Wind Farm consists of three turbines but on the day we went there, the turbines were taken down for maintenance work.

a "fallen" turbine

Rolling Hills

Our guides all said that this is the best place to watch the sunset... and it was!  They made sure that we arrived here ahead of time.  It was just lovely.  I also loved the fact that we can actually climb the hills and choose a vantage point where we can watch the sun go down.   There were magnificent views all around as day turns to night.

Rolling Hills

Beautiful sunset

Food in Batanes

The food in Batanes is something to rave about too. Owing to its geography, fish, lobster and coconut crabs (locally known as "tatus") are abundant.

The town and population is really so small that there are only 3 restaurants in Basco: Pension Ivatan (local cuisine), Cafe Napoli (Italian) and a small canteen whose name I forgot  (it was closed when we went there). 

Our meals were usually taken in Pension Ivatan since it was always open and offered a wider variety of choices. Our first lunch here consisted of lobster (Php 50.00 per 100 grams) and a huge Ivatan Platter (Php 950.00, good for 5-6 persons). The platter was made up of paco salad, grilled chicken, grilled squid, beef, uvod balls, venes and lunis (adobo).   Definitely a must-try to sample the local cuisine :)


Ivatan Platter

The next day, we ordered steamed coconut crabs (the pride of Batanes, I must say!). Its meat is soft and sweet. This is priced at Php 80.00 per 100 grams.
Coconut Crab

Batanes is also known for their dried flying fish (locally known as dibang) and their strong and pungent garlic. A pack of 4 fish would set you back Php 100.00 while a kilo of garlic would cost around Php 80-90.  Food in Batanes is cheap as the locals grow their own vegetables and use the resources that are readily available to them.


Flying fish hung to dry

Food is great.  The people are just as great.  The unspoiled beauty of this town is greater than you can imagine.

This is a place for writers, poets, photographers, nature lovers and everyone else in need of any reason to just get away from it all!  Can't you tell I fell in love with Batanes?  Now, if only I could live here AND still earn a living by not being a farmer, a fisherman or raising cattle... *sigh*



Come and  visit BATANES!

The best time to go is during the summer months of February to May.  Book well in advance as plane seats are limited.  For a quotation, please send us an e-mail.

All pictures used here are the writer's own.