Batanes has been on my travel bucket list for a long time and when a seat sale from Philippine Airlines came last June 2014, I immediately grabbed the opportunity. I had my round trip ticket for a February 23-27 flight at only around Php 2,500. A really great buy as my traveler friends would tell.
As I want my vacation in Batanes to be more relaxed and as I was again going solo, I somehow steered away from the DIY path. About four months before my trip, I started arranging my packaged tour with Ryan Cardona of BISUMI Tour & Services and with Tom and Yana of TRavelYoung. Yes, four months lead time – that was how excited I am. All I have to do after availing the packaged tour was to wait for the day and be on my flight.
Day 1: North Batan (Basco)
It was a wonderful February 23 for me. That giddy feeling on traveling to a dream destination struck me again. The last time I felt this was a year ago when I saw Lake Bababu in Dinagat Islands and Sohoton Cove in Surigao Del Norte.
In going to Basco from Manila, I suggest that you choose a D seat so that you can have an aerial view of Batan Island. Seeing Batanes the first time is a moment every traveler would cherish. I remember hearing from fellow travelers that they almost cried out of joy when they first saw Batanes from the window of the plane. As for me, I had this very big smile and wide-opened amazed eyes.
At Basco Airport, I was welcomed by Jay-Ann of Marfel’s Lodge. If you will be visiting Batanes, especially on a budget, I suggest homestays such as Marfel’s Lodge. Filipino hospitality would be the best in the world but Ivatans have taken hospitality to greater heights. I rested a bit and conversed with my housemates in Marfel’s Lodge-Main while waiting for the start of my tour.
At around lunch time, I and other tour participants were picked up by Ayan of BISUMI Tour& Services for our North Batan. We had our first taste of Ivatan food at Jessica Salamagos Kabaya Restaurant. I enjoyed their kinilaw na pusit and pako salad.
The tour proper started with a visit to Tukon Chapel or Mt Carmel Chapel. This chapel, inspired by Ivatan houses, was a project of the Abad family for the community in Tukon.
Nearby Tukon Chapel is the PAGASA Radar Station, which is also one of the favorite viewpoints in Basco.
Also within the vicinity is Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge, the premier accommodation in Batanes and was once a home studio of artist Pacita Abad.
For the history buffs, Basco has also its offerings. An example is the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel which served as shelter for the Japanese forces during the World War II. Another is the Basco Idjang which is an ancient fortress and look-out point for invaders.
A beach with powdery white sand might be most people’s default for a beautiful beach but Basco boasts of its Valugan Boulder Beach. Instead of sand, large boulders from Mt Iraya eruption that took beating of the Pacific Ocean waves fringe the shores. It is said to be one of the perfect spots to catch sunrise in Basco.
We also visited the hub of Ivatan artists in Basco called Yaru Nu Artes Ivatan. Here, one can buy beautiful works of arts and souvenirs made by hand by Ivatan artists.
Then, we went to Vayang Rolling Hills. The greenery is very inviting that you would not mind going up and down several hills. Every view here is breathtaking.
To cap our tour with some sunset viewing, we headed to Naidi Hills where the Basco Lighthouse can also be found. Naidi Hills is also the location of the telegraph facility used during the American era. One of the buildings has been converted to a restaurant called Bunker’s Café which only operates during summer months.
After our tour, we were then dropped-off to our respective lodges. Walking distance from Marfel’s Lodge-Main is Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant where I had my dinner. I just spent the night in Marfel’s Lodge-Main with my temporary housemates. I also had the chance to meet the very kind Nanay Fe, the owner of Marfel’s Lodge. I slept early that night as our call time the following day for Sabtang Island was 6 AM.