Bodies were tired, one pair of sandals retired but our spirits were revved up. We’re on our third day of our 7-day Batanes jaunt and after our DIY walking tour of Batanes, we were in high spirits to explore more of what Batan Island has to offer. The Southern part of Batan Island isn’t the walk-in-the-park type of tour so we’ve decided to rent a tricycle to cover the rest of the scenic spots in the island.
We opted not to avail the tour packages offered by some tour operators (which are usually charged at around 1,500 to 2,000 per person including a tour guide and lunch meal) for the South tour. Kuya Joseph (+63908.290.3003 | +639366439904) was referred to us by the locals. He’s a local tricycle driver and not a tourist guide. We knew that beforehand. I relied on my buddy’s knowledge and familiarity on the spots; he’s been there a few years ago. We shelled out 1,500 for the whole day affair with Joseph. No time limit.
|Our cool trike|
+63908.290.3003 | +639366439904
Call time was 10:00 a.m. After a quick trip to the market for our yummy breakfast (thanks goodness to Troy’s lodge that allowed us to cook in their kitchen), we were ready for the South Batan Island tour for that day.
The sun was magnificent except for some occasional gust of wind (read:cold wind) brushing my face. I couldn’t ask for a better weather. Again, I never made an effort to do some prior research so I wasn’t expecting anything on this trip. And so after a few warnings to Kuya Joseph that we usually take our precious time to savor each stop, we went on.
First stop was the Chawa View Deck. It’s a cliff with a hundred or so downhill steps for a nice view of the rock formations. Well, it’s a view deck not a swimming place. A few minutes of snaps and we’re good.
Having our own ride made our frequent stopovers very convenient. We’d stop at one point and take some snapshots of the gorgeous view on the way to a destination. Kuya Joseph got used to it after a few stops. Oh by the way, Blow Ur Horn signs are everywhere.
One of those stopovers was the Mahatao Boat Shelter Port which serves as the boat’s shelter from the strong waves which could cause some major damage to it. The clear blue water was tempting. Me wanna jump into it for a few laps and head back again but that didn’t happen.
|tempting blue waters|
Next was an old church in the town of Mahatao that is declared to be a national cultural treasure by the National Museum. Built around the 18th century, the Mahatao Church (Parish of San Carlos Borromeo) is one of the oldest churches in Batanes that surpassed numerous storms and deluge. I’m not really into churches but this one looked legit. The tiles, the doors and windows and the statues or santos were creepingly ancient. With only the three if us inside it, I felt sneaky.
Next stop was the White Beach. It’s more of a secret beach. Snuggled in a thick expanse of coconut trees, I hurriedly dashed my way into the greens and head out to the beach. First thing I noticed was the clutter on some areas. Gawd, please, take care of your own trash.
I went further to where the water is. The sand was ivory-creamish but the rocky seabed wasn’t enticing at all. I was ready to take a dip but hesitated after realizing that it wasn’t my happy beach. I took some photos and chilled for a while, like a few minutes while. And then we sped off.
|no happy beach for me|
It was lunch time and we decided to look out for a cheap place to eat. Well, not really that cheap; meals can be really expensive in this island province. Whatever was on our way was our next target. And then there’s Vatang Grill and Restaurant.
Vatang Grill and Restaurant is one of the popular lunch stops when you’re doing the South Tour of Batan. We ordered their house specialties; Vatang Yellow (Turmeric Rice. 140 pesos), Salt and Pepper Pork (180 pesos) plus Pancit Canton (140 pesos).
We didn’t notice that the food was ready for we were busy chitchatting with our Joseph. And the servings were huge. It could fill 3 hungry souls; value for your money. The dishes were great. The rice was remarkable and the pancit was very tasty.
The town if Ivana was our next destination. There are not much old stone houses in this area but there stood this oldest surviving one; and they still get to live in it.
The House of Dakay is probably one of the famous stone houses in Batanes. Thick stone walls and a roof thatched with cogon grass, the house of Luisa Estrella was built in 1887. With the numerous non-traditional houses around it, the house totally stood out from the rest of the village.
Next was the Ivana Church (Parish of San Jose de Obrero). This old church was built in 1787 and again, the antique feel was sensed upon entering inside. The old tiles, the pews, the choir loft, the doors and the windows; you’d feel genuine taste of what a century-old church would feel like.
We then hiked up to the bell tower of the church and got a nice view of the port and the Sabtang Island from there.
One of the most popular spots in Batanes was our next stop; The Honesty Coffee Shop. My buddy told me a story. Due to the scarcity of stores and eateries around the area, Elena Gabilo put this store up and would leave it to do her thing for the day. The seafarers and locals heading to the other island would go here for a quick stop for their famished souls.
The concept of the Honesty Coffee Shop is simple; you get what you want, register it on the log book and leave the payment inside a box. If you got no spare change then it’s up to you if you consider it as a tip or you could have it changed at the nearby house. Apparently, almost all of the customers would pay the right amount and/or would leave the change behind. I scored some coke for 20 bucks :)
|honesty is next to Godliness...|
The serene and relaxing Itbud village in the town of Uyugan was our next stop. We couldn’t help but as Kuya Joseph to pull over this lined old stone houses. With the perfect mountains as backdrop, this coastal town is perfect as I could imagine it. Again, the Batanes I had in mind. Much more than the houses, the locals were so welcoming and even opened the church for us to get a glimpse. I love Itbud. It’s stuck in my head.
Next was the Alapad Hill. This one’s gotta be my favorite. Located on the side of the road, I had to face the strong winds just to get the perfect spot on the hill. A perfect view of the sea, the rock formations and the mountains was 360 degrees of happiness. It was truly breathtaking. You need to be there to experience it; that instant wherein you don’t wanna take some photos anymore and just live in that moment. Just lovely.
|my favorite spot|
A theme from a famous cowboy tobacco advert way back was playing in my head as we check out the Batanes’ Marlboro Country. We certainly wanted to be there at around sunset. The perfectly grazed hills and the view of the sea were captivating.
Again, I took my hands out of my camera and just sat somewhere to experience it. All my worries and fears were left behind as I look around this impeccable natural wonder. We quietly watched as the sun retired for the day. Got no more words to describe everything, I was in awe.
Batan Island is charming. I thought people are over exaggerating when they say that Batanes is awesome. It certainly is. I think what worked for me was that I wasn’t much excited getting there. Less research = More fun. Well, that’s just me. But you have to experience it. Right now. Leave everything behind. Just go. Now.
And so we thought it’s over until we heard that there’s a Marine Sanctuary in Basco town so we searched for it. We went into the Town Hall and learned that you need to pay 100 pesos to explore the sanctuary which is located near the Batanes Resort (government owned). We went there without paying the fees ‘coz we were there just to check it out.
When I saw the beach I couldn’t resist and went on to explore it. And then hypothermia. The water was cold. As cold as ice water. I couldn’t bear it. Even the strong waves prevented us to swim. Defeated, we went back to our mat and laughed so hard, it was the first time I sent myself out of the water, you know how I love the beach. Endless laughter.