Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Batanes: Fun Surprises and Shocking Moments at Sabtang Island

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

It was five in the morning and the fowls were doing their morning throat exercises. After fifteen minutes of frostiness on Basco streets, we heard the sound of happiness. Our jeepney. It stopped in front of us. We peeped inside and saw that it’s jam packed; human souls up to its access door. Certainly no room for us. And then it struck me. Topload. Our frail and cold bodies pushed its way up to the roof. We had to find a way to sit fittingly with the stuff stowed there. He sat on a tiny space as I firmly sat on a native woven chair which was tightly tied on the roof. Very sleek. Like a princess on a homecoming thing, well not.

After our 27-peso ride and one hour of solid chill from the frosty Batanes, we arrived at Ivana Port; our jump-off point to the land of happiness.

After our DIY Batanes North Tour and our Batanes South Tour (Batan Island), the next plan was to conquer Sabtang Island. Again, I never researched prior this trip so I didn’t know what to expect. And almost everyone we asked told nothing but wonderful things about the place.

As the sun was slowly creeping into the sky, we waited with some locals for our assigned boat. It was cold. I was totally wrapped with everything I could cover myself with. And then we had coffee. And then I stole had a quick bike ride. And then chatted with some Sabtang locals. And then our boat. Our falua arrived at seven in the morning and we boarded twenty minutes later.

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
cold and waiting
I heard so many horror stories about the falua ride. But after experiencing the Babuyan Island’s wildest 7-hour boat ride, I know I’ll be fine. We paid 75 pesos each for the 45-minute ride. The waves were ok. Well, it’s comparable to Zambales’ waves. I slept all throughout.

Batanes Falua
the falua
We didn’t avail of the tour packages for Sabtang Island. We asked around Basco and got hold of a trike driver’s contact number that will be our buddy for the next two days. Kuya Rudy was patiently waiting for us at Sabtang port. I saw him and immediately felt that it was him. I instantly noticed the trike we'll be using for the trip, the motorbike was the usual one but the sidecar was pumped up with cogon grass roofing. The same thing they use in their traditional stone houses. Very cool.

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
Kuya Rudy Gecha
0908.560.7833
First stop was the town’s Tourism Office near the port. Apparently, we need to pay 200 pesos each for the environmental fee. We weren’t informed about that beforehand. But then it’s for the upkeep of the island and there were no entrance fees everywhere so that was ok.

We moved on to the San Vicente Ferrer Parish or the Sabtang Church near the Tourism Office. Gazing the facade of the church, my buddy told me that somebody opened the church’s door for us. It was the parish priest. Donned with a simple shirt and pants we were honoured to have a private tour around the church by its head.

San Vicente Parish Church Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

What was outside was more fascinating. The ruins of the old lighthouse and the convent were the most interesting parts. The priest also showed us the Sabtang Ecclesiastical Museum and Prayer Room; it houses the parish’s old stuff. A few santos and figures of the church were there. Old documents and articles were also exhibited. I was delighted to visit the church and meet the priest. He was saddened that some travelers would just visit the fa├žade and take photos of it without digging deep into its core.

San Vicente Parish Church Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

San Vicente Parish Church Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

As we moved on with our tour, me and my buddy can’t help but just express our admiration on the perfect view around the island. I quirked;

Kuya Rudy, alam mo ba kung gaano kaganda ang lugar n’yo?

Kuya went on with a smile and told us that he’s used to it ever since.

Little Hong Kong was our next destination; a fishing village in Barangays Nakanmuan and Sumnanga - a very quiet community of fisherfolks. We left our trike somewhere and explored. Rows and rows of traditional Ivatan stone houses with cogon grass roofings, old folks doing their everyday usual stuff and loads of docked boats on the shore.

Little Hong Kong Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Little Hong Kong Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
such a strong woman
The sun was nowhere to be seen but it added some mystery to this quiet milieu. Very quiet. So quiet that I wanna lay down somewhere and just chill. But we needed to move on.

The view going to the next destination was wonderful. We had so many stopovers just to relish the moment of amazement. We needed to convince ourselves that everything is real and happening in front of our eyes. I’m just lost for adjectives here.

Little Hong Kong Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
me wanna jump and run and swim
Mahayaw Arch in Morong Beach (Barangay Malakdang) is one of the most photographed spot in Sabtang Island. The moment I heard the word “beach” I was ecstatic.

It was lunchtime and a restaurant serving local stuff was in sight at the Morong beach. It usually caters to guests who availed the tour packages. But then they accommodated our request to dine. A meal was around 300 – 400 pesos per person. We asked if they could prepare a meal allotted for one person to be shared by me and my buddy. They obliged. Also, they provided Kuya Rudy with his own meal. Nice.

While waiting for the food (and the crowd), we explored the Morong Beach. Mahayaw arch was first in sight but I went further. The long stretch of shore was impeccable. The sand was a little bit rocky but the water was so inviting. The endless view of the hills was also stunning. And I just couldn’t help it. I needed to try the waters.

Mahayaw Arch Morong Beach Sabtang Island Batanes
that famous arch
Morong Beach Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
very tempting
Away from the crowd, I went into the Nakabuang cave and removed layers and layers of clothing. It was cold. But the rush in me didn’t mind it. I took a deep breath and ran into the shore just like a kid. I went straight to the waters and swam like hell. It was freezing cold. The water was great in spite of the strong current. I stayed there for a while and enjoyed that moment. Very refreshing.

Morong Beach Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Morong Beach Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
freezing cold water
After the nice dip, we went to the luncheon area. We asked if we could dine on the shore but they declined, we were then ushered to our designated table. Our meal for one was huge. We had some soup, pork and chicken adobo, fish, squid, ferns and rice cakes. It was heavy. We had a hard time finishing it. Everything tasted ok but nonetheless it’s good.

Ivatan Food Batanes
a meal for one shared by the two of us
Siesta was on my mind. But we were in a hurry. And then we headed to the Sabtang Lighthouse. While on our way, we saw this lady who’s wearing the traditional vakul. So cool.

Vakul Ivatan Batanes
rock on!
The Sabtang Lighthouse is your typical lighthouse standing on top of a cliff; a nice vantage point to get a perfect view of the sea.

Sabtang Lighthouse Batanes Philippines

Moving on, we stopped by somewhere along Savidug Beach. The Savidug Breakwater was promising. We saw some corals and fishes so we asked Kuya Rudy if we could probably have a quick swim. He indulged and we went on with our snorkelling stuff.

The water was nice and there were some corals and some fishes in sight. Too bad it was low tide and we couldn’t help but bump into the seabed with our snorkels on. Fail.

Savidug Beach Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Savidug Beach Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
braving the cold water
The Savidug Village was our next stop. Again, rows and rows of traditional Ivatan stone houses were a common sight. It has this “urban village” feeling compared to the “rural” feeling at the Sumnanga fishing village. The lawns were perfectly manicured. The streets were empty. We constantly asked ourselves about the folks’ whereabouts. It was quiet. It was nice.

Savidug Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
where are they?
We were walking along every street. Checking out different window designs, the stones on the houses and peeping inside some houses. It was creepingly quiet. It was nice.

Savidug Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Savidug Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
I am not eating you guys...
And then the Tinyan Viewpoint. I asked Kuya Rudy if it’s the place where the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meets, he said no. It was late in the afternoon and he told us that it is our last stop before our overnight place and that it will be the last time we’d experience a strong cellphone signal.

Tinyan Viewpoint Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
we are small
The strong gust of wind kinda prevented me to push further. It was cold. It was windy. And I was persistent. I went on as if knowing where to go. And then I saw the Chamantad Cove. It was jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring which reminded me of Nagudungan Cave in Babuyan Islands.

I didn’t mind getting beaten by the strong winds. All I wanted was to lie on the topmost part of the viewpoint and stay there forever. But then again, we had to move on.

Tinyan Viewpoint Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Tinyan Viewpoint Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
happy but it doesn't show (cold/chilly/frosty)
Our last stop for the day was the Chavayan Village. This place is totally distinct from the whole island. No cellphone signal. No internet connection. No restaurants. No nothing. But in spite of it all, it has its own charm that’s screaming out without even trying. That strong and intact customs and mores are very evident from the whole community.

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
very quiet
Kids playing on the streets were our first taste of the village. They have this huge container drum with holes which they rolled around the street with bursting laughter all the way. We didn’t quite know why they were laughing, and then we saw some kids getting out of the drum. And they exchanged places. Others were getting inside the drum while some were rolling it. It was so thrilling watching them having fun.

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
cool and fun kids
We then needed to find a place to stay for the night. We wanted to experience living inside an Ivatan stone house and the community itself.

We stayed in one of the “accredited” guest houses. We went to the appointed house and checked out what’s inside. An old school stone house with no divisions and the huge doors and windows was our home for that night. The toilet and bath were located at the bottom part of the house. So imagine us doing number 1 in the middle of the night. For 150 pesos per person per night we got a good deal. Or so we thought.

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
our home for the night
Moving on, we went out and checked out the village. Our feet led us to the school where we got to chat with a grade school teacher. Grades 1 and 2 students (there were seven) were in the same room and taught by only one teacher. The place has this rural feel where everyone knows everybody. 

They spoke Chirin nu Ibatan, their local dialect. Even the kids converse in that language and we’re at lost talking to the them. It’s nice to know that everyone is somewhat resistant to the changes happening around them with the way they live. If you wanna experience the true essence of Batanes, you should visit and stay at Chavayan.

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
we spoke different languages but we seemed to click
For dinner, we were asked what we liked. We told them that we have some rice and canned stuff with us so cooking it was just our problem but we were asking if they could get some coconut crabs for us. They told us that they could prepare our dinner and get half a kilo of the crabs. Our meal arrived soon and the coconut crabs were the bomb. I’ve tried local lobsters and curachas in Babuyan Islands but these crabs were very tasty. It’s because they eat coconuts I guess. Its sweet and tangy taste lingered in my mouth. I could finish a whole piece. Ugh. So tasty.

Curacha Batanes Philippines
coconut crabs = happiness
After which, we had some beer. Amazingly, they sell Red Horse beer there for 100 pesos/1 liter; kinda reasonable in that place. We immediately settled in our nest. It was cold and we need not any fan. The power went out at midnight. We could only hear the waves and the insects outside. We dozed off easily.

Our breakfast arrived the next day even without us ordering one. We were quite unsure on how this “hotel-like” service would cost us but we just indulged; a nice meal of fried fish and some eggs with coffee.

Dried Fish Batanes Philippines
the 400 pesos breakfast!
And then we went out for another round of roaming around the village.

When it’s time for us to leave we asked for the total bill for our stay at the Marcelo’s House. And when I got hold of it I was in total shock. A 15-hour stay for two persons amounted at around 1,500. I checked out the itemized costs and was speechless for a while. The dinner was 600 pesos (no qualms about it because of the crabs) plus a service fee of 50 pesos (a 10-meter walk delivery service). The breakfast was 400 pesos (are you kidding me?) plus a service fee of 50 pesos. The lodging fee was 300 pesos and an electricity fee of 30 pesos. Whoa! We were in state of shock for a few minutes.

Big problem. We didn’t have enough money for we still have to pay for our trike ride to the port and all we could do was beg them to lower down the costs. We bartered our rice and got a total of 1,200 pesos for everything. Less than 300 pesos from the original price but we were still sad about it. Nobody told us about the meals and stuff and we were too clouded to ask when we arrived. Lesson learned; always ask, even how uncomfy it is. Just ask.

Chavayan Village Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
the 1,500-peso shocker
Kuya Rudy arrived to collect us and immediately told him about the situation we were in. He was disappointed as well and told us that he didn’t know about the meal charges and the other fees.

He said sorry for them which he shouldn’t have to. Anyway, we had fun in Chavayan village; especially the playing with the kids part.

We were at the Sabtang port an hour before noon. We had so much time before the falua boat leaves so we checked out the Poblacion area. A combination of old stone houses and new one covered the area. We had to try some special ice candies for sale in one of the stores. It was tasty at first until we get into the slimy part. We were laughing so hard on how to finish it.

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines

Sabtang Island Batanes Philippines
huge ice candies
At 1:00 p.m. we were hustling our way to the port. The falua was waiting for us. The waves were much stronger than the day before. But then I slept all throughout the trip. Me and waters are best friends I guess.

Next big problem; getting out of Ivana town. If you availed a packaged tour to Sabtang Island this wouldn’t be a problem but if you do it DIY then you have to wait and wait for a jeepney to arrive. And so we did. We waited. And waited. And before we die in desperation we tried to hitchhike.

Luckily, a cement mixer truck stopped and let us in. Basco wasn’t his final stop but we agreed to get off to where his stop was. And it was fun. We were 10 feet above the road and the truck’s wide windshield gave us the perfect view. The driver was like, Ma’am pasensiya na po walang aircon. And I went on, Ha? Ano ‘yung aircon Kuya!. And then laughter.

Batanes Road Philippines
hitchhiking cement mixer series
We got off on one of the zig-zag roads en route to Basco. Kuya said sorry and we told him we’ll be fine and thanks for the ride. Walking away, we saw a small truck and hailed it. Again, the driver let us hitch and stayed at the back part of the truck. A few locals were hitching too and it was real good fun. The nice view and some nice chat with the locals were some of our priceless moments in Batanes.

Batanes Road Philippines
hitchhiking truck series
Worn-out but elated, we got off at Mahatao town to check out the Mahatao Lighthouse. We hired a trike for 100 pesos and went to the lighthouse we’ve been spotting from the Marlboro Country side. The lighthouse was nice. But the view from this side was really breath taking. Got no words again.

Mahatao Lighthouse Batanes Philippines

And so we went on again. Not knowing where to and how to. With empty pockets and full desire to wander and get lost, we went on.

Amazing view. Stone houses. Hitchhiking. Overpriced accommodation. Resistant community. Ice cold swim. Empty wallets. Happy moods. Surprises and challenges. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sabtang Island is definitely on top of my happy places in the country. You have to be there to know why. Just go. Now!

Blissfulguro Batanes

Sabtang Island Tricycle Tour
Kuya Rudy Gecha
0908.560.7833

For 1 to 4 person/s
Half Day tour – 800 pesos
Whole Day tour – 1,500 pesos
Chavayan to Sabtang Port – 500 pesos

Sabtang Island Batanes







51 comments:

  1. wow.. can't wait for our trip.. haven't plotted our whereabouts though...
    great help -- all your Batanes posts ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. balitaan mo ko sa trip nyo ha? enjoy batanes! :)

      Delete
  2. Nice pictures, nice story behind each of them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. wow ang ganda at napaka adventure ang saya maki hitch sa mga sasakyan hahaha imbes na maididismaya ka lalo kapang nag eenjoy sa paghihitch :) nice yan ang mga trip kung gawin sa mga lakd ko.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. magugulat ka sa kabaitan ng mga pinoy mina. naalala ko ngapala, pumara kami sa private van ng basco state university ata, di kami pinasakay... buti pa ang mga truck drivers :)

      Delete
  4. Oh my gosh, everything is just too beautiful. huhuhaha nakakaiyak.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maliban sa magandang tanawin, napaka-seksi ng iyong body! ;)

    And you look so happy :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow! salamat naman sa seksi at happy mica :)

      Delete
  6. Hahaha i cant imagine yung pa unti unting pag tanggal ng saplot at in fairview prepared sa ilalim naka black two piece!

    Gnda , sobrang ganda! Astig ang last pic pa ,, kasama nio po pala si christian?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. di ko din maimagine ang unti-unti kong pagtanggal ng saplot. at ready nga talaga ko kulapitot. hehe

      Delete
  7. Haaay! Nakakainggit! Ang ganda ganda talaga dyan, picture pa lang e lalo na siguro pag nandyan ka.

    ReplyDelete
  8. waaaah! Naiinggit na talaga ako!! Makakapunta rin kami diyan! Hihi. Gusto ko rin magswim kahit malamig!! Hahaha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha. go na irish! ngapala, bonggatulationsss! :)

      Delete
  9. I miss Batanes. We stayed for the night in Chavayan too. But we left early to catch the first trip of the faluwa going back to Batan island. Buti na lang, or else, we might have payed for a 400 peso breakfast?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I felt so bad about what happen to you in Sabtang, we too have the same experience in Marcelo's house last May 2013. We too was overcharge of our meals, a one night stay cost about 3 Thousand plus. We were so shocked because we only ordered 1 vegetable dish and 1 fish for every meal for the two of us. 1 small coconut crab cost us about 800 pesos.. Lesson learn also for us for not asking how much for every meal... Did you know that the tricycle driver Rudy was also the driver who brought us to that place and according to the municipal tourism office in Sabtang, Rudy is in connivance with Marcelo's place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi there. that's so sad to hear. pero if ever man na may connivance sila eh that's really bad for their tourism. I think the tourism office should do something about this. kawawa naman ang travelers na limited ang budget pero gustong maka experience ng legit batanes experience. nakakalungkot lang sobra...

      Delete
    2. I guess there are dishonest people in Batanes after all.

      Delete
    3. Kahit saan nga talaga siguro... :(

      Delete
    4. hello..i just want to ask kung meron ibang place to stay in sabtang aside from Marcelo's place na stone house rin..nakakashock naman kc pricing nila..hehe

      Delete
    5. I heard that there are two homestays there. But I guess they do the same thing. I think you just have to be clear about everything from the start. Bring you own food siguro? :)

      Delete
  11. Ang galing ng trip mo na to gurl... ya lng asar don s overharged fees..sayang nmn.

    ReplyDelete
  12. what a nice post!! superb tempting. white sands beach, smiley people & delicious foods = heaven :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nice nice post. Bookmarked again! At talagang importante na my redhorse sa chavayan #culturalimmersion. Hahaha sino kumuha ng pic mo habang unti unting nawawala ang saplot? Lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. infernes 100 pesos sa 1000 ml. na Red Horse is such a steal na ha? ikaw talaga attorney, yang iniisip mo ha? haha

      Delete
  14. Asteeg titser..pangarap ko din to..very informative, dahil sa mga blog mo..narating na din namin ang Baguio Hydro Falls. Thnx titser. next stop Batanes :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi, may i know how much did you spent on Batanes excluding the airfare? I hope you won't mind kasi I need to compare it to the packaged one that includes all the meals for 4days 3 nights and tour of the north and south of Batanes including the entrance fees for 9800/pax?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Thomas, we both spent almost 7,000 for this trip (kung tama yung naaalala ko. hehe).

      Delete
  16. Hi! Thank you sa blog mo at na-inform na kami in advance sa overcharged meals nila.hehe tanong ko lang pala kung may trip ba to sabtang every sunday?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. every day naman may trips sila. except pag holidays ata (?) :)

      Delete
  17. also by the way, when you order coconut crabs, it's really best to check magkano kac raw price is around 800 per kilo , that made your fees hike up

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We asked them beforehand naman. Mga 400 ata nun eh...

      Delete
  18. I was really laughing when i read the part where you took a dip , malamig tlga! just have to run run and run sabay talon, LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pagkatapos sa beach magbilad sa araw para ma-defrost. Hahaha

      Delete
  19. read all of your batanes entries and it is such a great help on our upcoming 4D/3N batanes trip next month. a couple of questions though. what are the timings of the falua (boat) from sabtang island back to ivana port? is there one that leaves early morning like say 7am? we plan to do the sabtang tour on our 2nd day, spend overnight there and leave on the 3rd day at early in the morning so we can still do the south batan tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep Sugar. May boat ng umaga and mga lunchtime :)

      Delete
  20. I have just started following your blog a few days ago and I just want to say ang "galeng" mo! I want to start a blog myself and I have become a fan of yours. I find your entries funny, informative and full of zest. And i admire you for choosing a noble profession. I was laughing and teary-eyed at the same time reading your entries about your life as a public school teacher. I know I should be commenting about your Batanes post but I also want to express my awe for all the adventures you had and will be having.

    Anyway, I also want to go to Batanes but whenever I google about the trip, it costs around 14k less meals and airfare. What can you suggest? I also have one question to ask..When you go on your trips,
    do you take down notes or you just write from memory? I'm asking coz it's so informative and detailed. :)

    Thanks and I look forward to reading more of your posts. God bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Ra. Thank you for the kind words. Nakakatuwa ang mga mensaheng katulad nito. Nakakataba ng puso :)

      About Batanes, We scored a good deal from PAL few months before our scheduled trip (1,400 roundtrip). With regard the accommodation, we found cheap ones there (around 300-400 per room). Food is medyo pricey pero understandable kasi nga ang hirap ng pagbibiyahe dun talaga. Sa trips naman, we tried to contact local agencies but found cheaper tours from locals themselves who aren't connected to the agencies. So yung samin talaga, di umabot ng 14k eventhough tumagal kami ng 8 days dun.

      I always take down notes; either on my mobile phone or my little notebook :)

      Hope you enjoy your Batanes trip Ra :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for getting back to me and for the tips.:) 'will definitely heed your advice especially with writing. God bless you always especially on your trips. xoxo

      Delete
  21. BLISS, HOPE YOU DONT MIND, ITS FOR MY RESEARCH KASI EH, WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE IMPACT/COMMENT ABOUT BATANES? :)

    ReplyDelete