We were in high spirit as we started exploring the North Batan, the prelude in our Batanes tour. Prior this trip, I just could not contain my excitement that I had several sleepless nights imagining our close encounter with the rolling hills, the well-manicured grasses, the vast expansive view of the sea and the lighthouses. I prayed that our three-day stay in the island province will promise a very memorable escapade considering our month of visit is January, a month where rain frequents Batanes.
Batanes awes an influx of tourists. Travel junkies has been dreaming to visit this place but the expensive airfare is the number one adversary in getting there. I was thankful that we chanced to book a promo fare. Since we were only three, we opted to explore Batanes through the tricycle tour and stayed near Basco Airport.
Since we only have limited days to explore Batanes, we chose the standard tour: North Batan, South Batan and Sabtang Island. Coming from Basco, North Batan is the nearest among the three to visit and will only cover a short but pleasing journey, a prologue of what Batanes has to offer.
In Getting There:
Batanes is primarily reach by air and travel time may take 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the airline and weather condition. Two airports serving this province are Basco Airport and Itbayat Airport. Both runways are small. Airlines servicing these airports are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Skyjet (from Manila) and Sky Pasada (from Tuguegarao).
Our Tour Guide: Betina Dando or simply Beth – her contact number: +639217625068
These are the places we visited in North Batan:
1. Batanes Provincial Capitol
Beth fetched us at around 12:30 pm and paid the environmental fee of Php350 in Provincial Capitol. The staff provided a brochure with map and Hotlines.
2. Welcome to Basco Arch
The initial thrill in our tour and photo ops started in the Welcome to Basco Arch. It is near the town proper and is just beside the main road overlooking the Philippine West Sea. The glistening blue water was a remarkable sight. Basco Lighthouse is already visible in the viewing deck.
3. Tukon Church
Our first windy experience started in Tukon Church also known as Mt. Carmel Chapel. It is nestled peacefully in Tukon Hills. What is so interesting about this church is its unique design. Its outside structure was made entirely of stone, inspired from the iconic traditional Ivatan stone house. Plants adorned the lower facade. Its roof was made of red bricks while its ceiling has hand-painted images of patron saints of Batanes.
The most influential family of Batanes, the Abad family owned the Tukon Church. They were behind its construction with the help of the locals who desired to have a church near the community.
4. PAG ASA Weather Station
Typhoon Ferdie badly damaged the establishment so it was temporary closed. Anyway, we enjoyed the moment taking pictures of the beautiful view as well as our photo ops with our shawls swaying with the wind.
5. Fundacion Pacita
This lodging house and restaurant is the most expensive in Batanes. However, its location atop a flourishing hill, which offers a picturesque view of the province, will be your consolation when you stay here. The defined tranquility will guarantee you a relaxation you will need when you stay in Batanes.
Pacita Abad, the most iconic Ivatan painter owns Fundacion Pacita. When she died in 2004, her artworks filled the house making it more appealing not only to their guests but also to those who will visit it. There is a restaurant in the vicinity where guests can dine but expect it a bit pricey.
We enjoyed roaming around and sitting on blue wooden benches as if we were having meeting and taking lots of pictures to our heart’s content.
6. Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
It may sound creepy to get inside the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, but do not hesitate to try it. It is exciting and interesting to navigate a tunnel especially those built during the Japanese occupation. Nestled on Tukon Hills, this 5-door channel will give you a thrilling experience as you walk to the narrow and dark ally in getting to the exit.
We had no flashlight when we got inside so we used our cellphone to light our path. Honestly, it was not creepy, maybe because I already tried this activity in my hometown in Albay. If you are left and you have your cellphone with you, do not panic, the passage will surely bring you to the other end. Anyway, it was just a short tunnel and you can finish it in 5 minutes only.
7. Valugan Boulder Beach
Valugan, which means, “East”, is locally known as Chanpan, a sacred fishing port of the Ivasay fishermen. What is so unique about this beach is that is has no wide stretch of white fine sand but consists of boulders and gravels. It is said to be an evidence of geologic forces from the volcanic eruption of Mt. Iraya around 325 B.C. and the two others around 286 A.D. and 505 A.D.
Swimming is not allowed in the beach because the strong waves will surely knock you off to the boulders. Since we cannot frolic on water, we seized the moment sitting in one big boulder feasting on the wild waves crashing the shore. I mean the boulders hehe. Later we enjoyed stone stacking.
The long stretch of Valugan Boulder Beach is indeed a nice subject for IG worthy photos.
8. Sto. Domingo de Guzman Parish (or Basco Cathedral)
Sto. Domingo Church was inspired in Baroque style painted in vibrant yellow. Its color become glorious yellow when the rays of the sun streams to the structure. It had undergone reconstructions and renovations due to typhoon, fires and earthquake but then it was rebuilt in its original form. The church was completed in 2011.
The church is open to tourists from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.
9. Vayang Rolling Hills
The undulating green terrain and the expansive view of the West Philippine Sea made Vayang Rolling Hills an incomparable sight to behold. This rolling hills located on the West Side of Basco is a pastureland to residents of Diptan known as Idiptan.
Viewed from the top of the hill are the three major island municipalities: Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. We enjoyed a lot taking photos of the rolling hills and sitting on the grass while gazing into the breathtaking view and the blue sky. Mt. Iraya is a nice backdrop for photo taking. There were grazing cows at the bottom of the hills.
Again, it was windy so we had a wonderful moment flying our shawls in the wind.
9. Basco Lighthouse and Naidi Hills
There are three lighthouses in Batanes, one is in Basco and the other two are in Sabtang and Mahatao. Basco Lighthouse was the first to be build which towers to 66 feet (20 meters). The body was all white while stone covered its lower part as furnished with the traditional Ivatan houses made of rubble masonry. It has a spiral stairway, gallery and a viewing deck on the fifth floor.
I vowed myself that we will visit all the lighthouses in Batanes. Thank God that we already visited this one. What we enjoyed most in the viewing deck was seeing the whole island of Batan, Mount Iraya and the West Philippine Sea. We are waiting for the sunset, as it is a spectacular sight in the lighthouse. Unfortunately, thick cloud shrouded the horizon.
10. Mt. Iraya
I included Mt. Iraya in my post because she is oftentimes a backdrop in our photo shoot. The local government allows trekking the mountain. Well, if I come back, I will include this in my itinerary. Anyway, it will only take 3 hours to reach the summit.
Mt. Iraya is dormant and is standing at 1,517 meters (4,977 feet).
That ends up our North Batan tour.
From the joyful tricycle ride, to the cool breeze and the mesmerizing scenery, our North Batan tour is the prelude in our wonderful adventure in Batanes. Two more tours to go and we are up to see more of the beauty and charm of this island province.
Maximum passengers for the tricycle are only three. Right now their basic standard rate for this tour is:
- North Batan tour – Php1,500
- South Batan tour – Php2,000
- Sabtang Island tour – Php1,000
Where we stayed:
We are budget travelers and Nanay Cita’s Homestay is our choice. They have cheap fan room but their location is near the airport. It has no free breakfast but they can cook for certain fee. Homestays and inns in Batanes range from Php350 to Php5,000.
Nanay Cita’s Homestay (fan room-Php350/aircon-Php500, private bathroom) +639399193616
Wakay Homestay (fan room-Php400/aircon-Php600) +639466174612
Shanedel’s Inn and Cafe (fan room-Php650/night, shared bathroom, breakfast included) +639281941910
Tawsen’s Palace Inn - (aircon-from Php2,500 to Php5,000, private bathroom, free breakfast): 0921-639-8509/0995-728-8193
Casa Domingo (aircon-from Php2,800 to Php4,500, private bathroom, free breakfast) – 0956-264-5045/0929-209-1113
Hi-end: Fundacion Pacita (family room-5 pax, airconditioned, with breakfast and airport transfers-P21,235.50/night)
Airfare – round ticket coming from Clark to Basco-vice versa – Php7,186
PTP Bus – two-way – Php560.00
Terminal Fee – Php150.00
Breakfast at Tapa King – Php151.20
Packed lunch at Tapa King – Php109.00
North Batan Tour: Php1,500 (divided into 3-Php500
Environmental Fee: Php350.00
Dinner – Php100
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