Never have I been to a place in the Philippines that made me not want to leave.
Batanes! It’s the northernmost and smallest province in the Philippines, both in population and land area. I, my friends, and almost everyone I know or see on travel pages on Facebook and/or other social media sites wants to go to this special place up north. Dubbed as the “New Zealand of the Philippines”, you cannot go wrong saving up for an adventure of a lifetime!
Airfare from these airline companies vary. Normal rates reach ₱5000 ($107) and up per way. But fortunately, its not always sad, for they at times give out markdowns, with discounts up to 70-80% off the regular fare. All you need to do is to follow their social media accounts for announcements. And go to Travel Fairs happening all year round throughout the country.
As for me, I booked my ticket through Philippine Airlines, and it was the best decision I ever made:
Nope – I didn’t pay ₱12,262.00 but only:
Yes – roundtrip airfare for just ₱1,756! How?
- Back in May 2016, I came across on Facebook a travel group discussion about PAL’s website having a glitch, where all local destinations show Air Transportation Charges = ₱o
- That just means everyone booking that time will only have to pay Taxes and Service Charge, where my ticket to Batanes only showed ₱1,756 instead of ₱12,262 – SOLD! SWERTE!
– Glitches are manna from heaven –
- Think the good news ends here? wait till you reach page 4 😁 Happy reading!
NOTE: ₱7300 indicated on the title is per person rate. Applicable for Tricy Tours (good for 1-2 pax) only. If travelling with more than 2 pax, please coordinate with tour agencies, or if you and your team is up for it – rent multiple tricycles.
(Late Blog Post, Travel Date: June 17-20, 2016) Everything packed and ready to go! I headed to NAIA Terminal 4, and waited for boarding. There’s only 1 flight per day/per airline to Batanes, so you don’t need to worry about late departure/arrival. And being said that, my flight departure wasn’t delayed 🙂
The comfy window side seats await! And as you saw earlier, flight time is less than 2 hours. Take off! just about 30 minutes after take off, flying above the province of Bulacan, we were served with Sky Treats 🙂
We all got a Chicken Asado Bun and a cup of Wilkins drinking water (that was opened by the crew right in front of us) so we can be sure the water is safe. Concurrently, the bun actually tasted good! 🙂
Time went so fast, we were already on our final approach to Batanes! Looking out of the window, I’ve seen what I can recall was some of best sights I have ever seen in my life. Islands surrounded by the vast sea, never ending hills, lots of lighthouses, boulders and cows!
Cute story: There was a female passenger, maybe in her early 20’s who was trying so hard containing her emotions after seeing the beautiful landscapes, I can hear her overemotional with joy and excitement as she tells her Mom and Dad how happy she was seeing Batanes for the first time.
What you’re seeing above is the municipality of Mahatao. Also visible is the San Carlos Borromeo Church.
Maligayang Pagdating sa Basco, Batanes!
Thank you PAL for the safe and fast flight! Behold, a perfect sunny weather for my Batanes escapade! I never thought it would still be sunny in June 🙂
Welcome to Batanes, Home of the Ivatans. Before exiting the airport, you will need to pay ₱350.00 Ecotourism Fee (because if you don’t, you will be asked by an airport guard – who checks everyone leaving, to settle it before you can exit the airport) See image below for more information.
I was picked up by Nanay Cita’s tricy (tricycles in Batanes are called tricy) and it only took less than 10 minutes to reach the homestay. Upon arrival at the homestay, I met Nanay Cita, who seemed friendly and approachable. True to other backpacker’s words, I know i’m staying in a quality and safe house. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the house and my room because I forgot to charge the battery of my DSLR and it ran out right after leaving the airport. You can check Nanay Cita’s Facebook page, contact number and room pricing at the end of this blog entry (Page 5).
I arrived at around 8:30 am, and I was told by Nanay Cita that since I’ll only be doing North Batan (tricy) Tour for that day, I need not worry about spending my time resting till after lunch, where the tour will start. So I listened to her and spent the rest of the hours in my room, charging all my devices, and preparing for a hot sunny day.
Day 1 – NORTH BATAN TOUR
First Destination: Mt. Carmel Chapel
This chapel was opened on May 2008, and stands on top of a hill, overlooking the town of Basco and the surrounding landscapes.
The design of the church was inspired by Ivatan stone houses, and was constructed by the Abad Family – the most prominent and influential family in Batanes.
Next: Radar Tukon (PAGASA Weather Station)
Why is it called Radar Tukon? Radar = Lighthouse, Tukon = Hill. This facility used to be a lighthouse, and was also used as a United States weather station. Now its a fully functional PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) weather station.
You will get spectacular views of the Basco town, and surrounding hills while at the station.
Radar Tukon seen from afar, photographed while heading to the next stop.
Next: Fundacion Pacita
Not far from Radar Tukon is our next stop, Fundacion Pacita – A beautiful “Nature Lodge” once home to Pacita Abad, an internationally acclaimed artist, who succumbed to the Big C in Singapore in 2004, and now rests in peace on the wind-caressed Tukon Hill adjacent to Fundacion Pacita. Since then, the lodge has been refurbished by her brother, current Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad.
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photos inside the lodge, as it is strictly for guests only. I was only allowed to take a photo up to its Facade, where I was greeted with lush greenery. Should you want to see more photos of this lodge, or know the rates, click HERE.
Visitors can go inside Cafe du Tukon for rice meals and refreshments. It was a sunny day, and even if I was just riding inside a tricy the whole time, it still made me very thirsty. That kind of thirst that wants a glass (or two) of their famous Tubho Iced Tea. The cafe is ventilated by ceiling fans, thus not really making the hot sunny day more comfortable for their customers.
I was seated right next to a marble sculpture of Pacita Abad, and some books that tells the story of her life and Fundacion Pacita.
I wasn’t really hungry, that’s why I only asked for their refreshments list. They are not very affordable (given the fact that you are in an exclusive Cafe, and I need to save money since I’m a backpacker) so just I opted to just try their Tubho Iced Tea.
Yes. The serving you see below costs ₱80.00 not the cheapest, but I had to try. I read many blogs before my Batanes trip, and most of the people said its good.
Overall, the taste for me was passable. Good for experience, haha.
Next: Dipnaysuhwan Japanese Tunnel
Upon reaching this place, you will have to present your copy of the Ecotourism leaflet to the staff outside the tunnel, as it will serve as your ticket for free entrance. Otherwise, if you evaded paying the Tourism Fee (The staff outside the tunnel said that some people would – WHAAT) you will have to settle the amount with them.
Please forgive me as I don’t have any photos inside, it was so slippery because the soil and rocks you will be stepping on are wet. (I think the water reservoir is being utilized up to now) and oh, it says on that board that you may see a live coconut crab. inside, well I didn’t. I was told by Kuya Bony – tricy driver (and tour guide) that they were extracted from the cave by the locals.
Long story short, inside you will have to be careful, because the descent to the underground level is steep and slippery. Wearing of sneakers or hiking sandals is advised. There were indeed numerous chambers that felt a little creepy. Should you want to see how the tunnels look inside, click HERE.
Next: Valugan Boulder Beach
This beach is inteded for fishermen, not swimmers, because you know, boulders.
Nevertheless, even if you aren’t going to swim, you’ll still be satisfied just admiring the landscapes and wandering around the beach. Stack the rocks (people say that if your stacked rocks are still there when you come back the next time you visit Batanes, your wish will come true).
Next: Santo Domingo Church (Basco Cathedral)
This church is one of the first limestone buildings to be built under the spanish regime. Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and Patron Saint Santo Domingo de Guzman. I was really in awe seeing the architecture inside and out.
In 1860, the church was damaged by a fire and rebuilt by Father Antonio Vicente, OP in 1863, and the roof was added by Father Mariano Gomez, OP in 1891. It survived the Filipino-American War (1899 to 1901) and the World War II (1941 to 1945).
Next: Vayang Rolling Hills
Words aren’t even enough to describe how magnificent the view was when I went there. I am very happy we have this wonder of nature just a few hours away from the hustle and bustle. Look at that wonderful landscape partnered with West Philippine Sea.
Of course I didn’t want to miss the chance of not having a souvenir photo at this beautiful place! and yeah, a GoPro selfie below XD
This was one of my favorite stops. Sun was setting against the blue sea, reflecting light on the hills, oh what a beauty!
Last Stop: Basco Lighthouse (Naidi Hills Lighthouse)
Sun was setting, reflecting its rays on the lighthouse and lush surroundings, yellow everywhere. This is the first lighthouse built in the town of Basco, and truly I must say, the view from its deck was AMAZING.
You will have a 360° unobstructed view of the whole town, and the majestic Mt. Iraya – an active volcano located north of Batan Island. You can actually climb this volcano, just plan before you go, and make sure you are prepared for steep ascents.
Another view from the deck worthy of your full attention (not me, of course lol)
And before I knew it, its already end of Day 1 in Batanes. No time wasted. Seeing every single moment of the sun setting while lying on my back on the lush greenery was one of the best experience of my life.