Apo Reef and Pandan Island: Living the Island Life

It's my BIG day once more and I thank God for another blessed year.

While I had the breathtaking encounter with the whale shark in Cebu last year, as of this writing marked my best underwater experience. I'm not talking about the famous Tubattaha Reef, but the first largest atoll reef in the country and the second largest in Asia - the Apo Reef.

Manila to Apo Reef could be a 6-7 hours of butt-numbing trip:
  1. Cebu Pacific flies in Occidental Mindoro few times a week. Check their website for the updated schedule. Travel duration is 50 minutes.
  2. From Occidental Mindoro airport, ride a tricycle going to Dimple Star Bus Terminal. Travel duration is 10 minutes.
  3. Ride the bus departing for Sablayan. Travel duration is 2.5 - 3 hours, depending on how fast your bus driver is.
  4. Ride a tricycle going to Sablayan Tourism Office and pay necessary fees for the trip in Apo Reef. Travel duration is 5 minutes.
  5. Ride the tourism *boat (not fishing boat) going to Apo Reef. Travel duration is 2 - 3 hours, depending on the current.
- *Boat capacity is 10-12 pax for P8000. It is advisable to go in a big group to lessen the expenses, unless you have a budget to splurge :). In my case, I don't have any other choice but to travel with just my boys since it was off peak.
- There is no regular boat trip to Apo Reef, so it is best to coordinate your trip with Sablayan Tourism Office.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Afraid to miss the plane, we left our apartment early. Summer is over (hmmm....not for me) and some of the schools started already, but at 4 AM, the domestic airport was still jam-packed with passengers. Good thing Cebu Pacific has kiosks where their passengers without baggage can check-in. No more waiting in long lines.

The plane flew earlier than its original schedule. After 40 minutes, we arrived in San Jose Airport, Occidental Mindoro.

Outside are tricycles in queue. I asked one of the drivers for the rate going to Dimple Star bus terminal. When one told me 'P50 each' (so P150 for the 3 of us), I didn't hesitate to walk away from them and headed on the main road where drivers only charge P15 each.

The road to Sablayan is not that bad, but our trip took 3 hours (pagong ang drama ni manong driver). I'm not sure about the view as I was asleep most of the time :)

We had our lunch at Kamalig Restaurant in Sablayan (where serving is good for 3 pax), then, headed to Sablayan Tourism Office to pay for the following:
  • Overnight Boat Rental (P8,000 with a discount of P500 since the boat is good for 10-12 and we're only 3)
  • Mandatory Guide Fee (P1000)
Sablayan Tourism Office

Good thing they are open 7 days a week

After the fees were settled, our guide, Kuya Ramil accompanied us at the public market to buy drinking water and food for our dinner.

View from the Public Market

At Sablayan port, we were greeted by Kuya Joshua, the boat's captain and his crew.

Apo Reef Natural Park is consists of 3 uninhabited islands - The 22-hectare Apo Island (the largest island and where we stayed overnight), The Apo Menor (Binangaan Island) and Cayos del Bajo (Tinangkapan Island).

Though known as the world's second largest contiguous coral reef system, I did not set high expectation for this underwater experience - it's rainy season. The water might not be that clear to enjoy with. In fact, gray sky is waving at us.

After 2.5 hours, Mr. Sun and the fine, white sand of Apo Island greeted us.

Standing in awe, our guide waved at me asking me to register at the hall that serves as the office and quarters of the people protecting Apo Reef - park rangers, army, LGUs and DENR with no potable water and electricity.

Park Fees

Park Adage

We wasted no time. When Kuya Joshua told us we're going to snorkel, we went back to the boat immediately. Apo Reef is too large to snorkel, especially for non-swimmers, that's why I love their approach of letting us hold the rope attached to the boat while it's moving around.

Just grab the rope and enjoy the underwater scene

I don't have underwater pictures to share (I posted some during our second day), but, believe me, there were times that we never stop at saying 'wow', and almost forgot that we're underwater and swallowed salt water. As for my son, he'll never forget the school of blue fishes passed through in front of him.

We ended our day with a trip to the lighthouse. 

We boarded a raft that will cross the lagoon surrounded by mangrove to get to the lighthouse.

Definitely another 'wow' moment when you reach the top.

Enjoying the sand and water afterwards....

Kobe's footprint in the sand

The island is ours

It was our guide who cooked our dinner and set up our tent. Since there are no electricity and fresh water on the island, we had our dinner early and shower using 1 pail of water (wisik-wisik lang, pede na!).

Advance Birthday Dinner

our humble accommodation

Tip: You may bring your own tent or rent one in Sablayan Tourism Office. But if you fail on any of the two, the people in Apo Island has spare that you can rent for P300 (good for 4 pax).

We did not have a good night sleep. It was too humid so we stepped out in our tent and proceed on sleeping on the benches, but then, the non-stop biting of sand mites kept me awake the whole night (ikaw na ang mag paypay ng anak mo magdamag).

From tent to bench

Monday, June 8, 2014

Happy Birthday to me!!! 

At 7:30 AM, after paying the P270/pax Entrance/Environmental Fee (tent rental fee of P300 was waived since we were not able to use it), we boarded the boat for our second round of snorkeling. This time was really awesome. I saw different fishes and coral beds. Just posting few shots since my phone did not give justice to the underwater beauty of Apo Reef (and I'm still hoping to acquire new underwater cam).

After more than an hour of snorkeling (believe me, sulit na yan, especially if you don't have underwater cam), we headed straight to Pandan Island, which is almost 2 hours away from the last snorkeling spot in Apo Reef or 10-15 minutes from the town of Sablayan.

Meet the crew. Happy 33rd to me!

First glimpse of Pandan Island

I didn't book a room here. I wanted to check first if the beach will charm me and make me stay for a night. With coconut trees surrounding the island and the birds chirping, it definitely was! 

We had the budget room. It doesn't have an electric fan, but who cares if you got the most expensive room in the island while the electricity is shut-off at night and flowing water is limited?

The Budget Rooms

What to do in Pandan Island:

Head to the beach and enjoy its fine, white sand.

Lay on the hammock, read your favorite book, or have some quiet time with yourself while enjoying the laid-back setting of the island.

Grab some beers and stay on the beach while waiting for the buffet dinner.

Disclaimer: 2 for hubby, 1 for me (coke for baby, wink!)

Tip: Be ready for additional expenses for every night spent in the island, as you are required to avail one buffet meal per day for P470/pax . Food was just OK, nothing exceptional.

Tuesday, June 9, 2014

It's time to go back to San Jose. After 2 sleepless nights (speaking for myself and hubby) - 1 in Apo Reef, 1 in Pandan Island, we left the latter early morning, longing for the comfort a hotel room could offer.

I also didn't book any hotel room in San Jose. Jazmine Royal Hotel got good reviews so, we headed here first. The room looks fine so we pay for a night and spent the first 2 hours lounging.

Hungry? Then head to Circle Food Center. We first went here for lunch. Their lomi and lumpiang shanghai taste good that it made us to come back for dinner.

There are other islands near San Jose that you can visit (and now on my bucket list). There's the Ambulong Island, Ilin Island and White Island - few reasons to go back in this province.

Goodbye for now Apo Island

Actual Itinerary and Summary of Expenses (excluding airfare):

Sablayan Tourism Office
amazingsablayan@yahoo.com; amazingsablayan@gmail.com
(63) 9294280431, (63) 9984259898, (63) 9159953895, or (043) 4580028

Pandan Island
(63) 9193057821

Jazmine Royal Hotel
(63) 9463567415

Batanes | Wander to Wonder

Beauty beyond nature,  dream vacation, breathtaking view, jaw-dropping, heaven on earth, or as my new-found travel buddy / high school friend, Jean, described it – peaceful haven and simplicity overload – all of these are just understatement until you experience Batanes yourself.

Batanes, the smallest province in terms of population and soil area is an island in the northernmost tip of the Philippines, where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Geographically closer to Taiwan than in Manila, it is composed of 10 islands – 7 uninhabited and 3 inhabited – Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat.

My dream of setting foot on this island came true last April. It was supposed to be our Holy Week 2013 destination, but due to financial constraint, we ended up in Port Barton and El Nido in Palawan – where the latter topped my favorite beaches in the Philippines.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The time that I have been waiting for has finally come! It was 7:45 AM when the PAL Express plane landed in Basco Airport. I didn’t know that Ate Remy, the caretaker of Novita House, was there to pick us up. It was Meong who saw her holding a white board with my name on it.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) has a direct flight (and 2 flights during peak season) from Manila to Basco daily.

Welcome to Batanes

From airport to Novita House is a 5-minute walk. I booked the guest house 3 months before the trip. Food in Batanes is pricey, so we need to stay in a place where we could cook. It’s hard to find guesthouses in Batanes since not all are available online. Lucky me, Novita House was still available when I booked it.

I’m not sure the maximum people that can stay in Novita House, but it has an air conditioned room good for 4, and just before you enter the room is a bedroom good for 2.

Where to stay in Batanes - Novita House

Where to stay in Batanes - Novita House

Where to stay in Batanes - Novita House

Where to stay in Batanes - Novita House

If you want to stay in a guest house and Novita House is no longer available, call Ate Remy, she might be able to help you find one.

It was also Ate Remy, who arranged the van for our Batan – North and South and Sabtang tour.

After the power nap, we started our South Batan tour. We were picked up by Michael, our van driver who, originally came from Nueva Ecija and decided to settle in Batanes several months ago with his Ivatan wife. According to him, you cannot settle or live in Batanes unless you are married to a true-blood Ivatan (parang mud blood ng Harry Potter lang ang peg ni Michael).

You can charter a tricycle for a minimum cost.

We were on a budget so we didn’t hire a tour guide. I just did a little research that will serve as the background on the places that we’re going to visit.

South Batan is consists of Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan towns.

Mahatao View Deck
With its tranquil and turquoise water, it is one of my favorite spots to photograph in Batanes. I called this place ‘simply gorgeous’.

Mahatao View Deck, South Batan, Batanes

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port
This infrastructure supports the goal of the fishing industry of Batanes – sufficiency and job generation.

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port, South Batan, Batanes

San Carlos de Borromeo Church (or Mahatao Church)
The first stone-made church in Mahatao. In 1872, a strong typhoon destroyed it, and a new church in baroque style was built by Father Crescencio Polo, O. P. in 1873. This is now a National Cultural Heritage Treasure conferred by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA) on July 2001.

San Carlos Borromeo Church, South Batan, Batanes

Maywang A Libro Du Vatan (Batanes Blank Book Archive)
A small library beside the San Carlos Borromeo Church that contains shelves of hardbound blank books where visitors can write.

Blank Book Archive, South Batan, Batanes

Blank Book Archive, South Batan, Batanes

Blank Book Archive, South Batan, Batanes
Yeah, I wrote on Book # 681, not hard to find since it is my birth month and year.

Old Spanish Bridge
This is the oldest bridge in Batanes built by the Spaniards.

Old Spanish Bridge, South Batan, Batanes

House of Dakay
Included in UNESCO World Heritage Site, the house that was built in 1887 is one of the oldest and last few standing old century houses being used to date.

House of Dakay, South Batan, Batanes

St. Joseph Church

St. Joseph Church, South Batan, Batanes

Honesty Coffee Shop
The unmanned variety store is famous for showing the honesty of the Ivatans. 

Honesty Coffee Shop, South Batan, Batanes

Take the goods that you want to purchase and drop your payment on the boxes. Each item is labeled with price, so make sure to pay the exact amount (or close to the actual amount) since there is no one to give you change.  There is also a record book where you have to log the item you purchased.

Honesty Coffee Shop, South Batan, Batanes

Honesty Coffee Shop, South Batan, Batanes

Song Song Ruins
A village few meters from Songsong beach that was hit by the tidal waves during the 1960s.

Song Song Ruins, South Batan, Batanes

We also passed by on the house used in the movie ‘Batanes’.

Old Stone House, South Batan, Batanes

Dekey a Kanayan (Alapad Rock Formations and Hill)
What else should I say aside from it is also one of my favorite spots in Batanes? From here is the view of beautiful rock formations, cliffs and blue water.

Alapad Rock Formation and Hills, South Batan, Batanes

Some scenes on the movie ‘Hihintayin Kita sa Langit’ were shot here.

Alapad Rock Formation and Hills, South Batan, Batanes

Alapad Rock Formation and Hills, South Batan, Batanes

Alapad Rock Formation and Hills, South Batan, Batanes
Jump shot of the day

You can also see the LORAN Station (a former US navigational facility) ruins from the hills.

LORAN Station, South Batan, Batanes

San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel and the site marker for the first mass in Batanes soil
According to our guide, the first mass and baptism in Batanes was celebrated here, making barangay Imnajbu the birthplace of Christianity in Batanes.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel, South Batan, Batanes

Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills)
Not as green as I have seen on different photo blogs or sites, but still took my breath away. With the bluish Pacific Ocean, greenish farms fields and Mt. Iraya and the Mahatao Lighthouse greeting you, who wouldn’t?

Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills), South Batan, Batanes

Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills), South Batan, Batanes

Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills), South Batan, Batanes

A small eatery for the tourists serving local dishes will welcome you in Marlboro Hills.

Getting nearer to the light house that we have seen from Marlboro Hills.

South Batan, Batanes

Pension Ivatan
We ended our day by having dinner in Pension Ivatan where we were greeted by brown out. Yehey! It is located several steps away from the airport (pero naligaw pa din kami). They are famous for serving the ‘platter’ that consists of the ‘must-try’ dishes in Batanes.

Pension Ivatan, Batanes

Unfortunately, most dishes were not available during our visit so we ended up on asking for their ala carte menu.

A reservation is needed if you want to try the platter since food is cooked for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sabtang is the smallest inhabited island in Batanes. I can’t wait to be here since it offers more sights of well-preserved stone houses.

It was 6:30 AM when Michael picked us up and dropped us in Radiwan Port in the town of Ivana. Our boat ride to Sabtang and the van for the tour was pre-arranged by Ate Remy.

Faluwa ride from Basco to Sabtang
One of the faluwa in Radiwan Port

Faluwa ride from Basco to Sabtang
Tourists bound to Sabtang

After the registration, we boarded a small boat called faluwa that will take us to Sabtang Port. It is the main means of transportation when you are moving between islands of Batanes, an oval-shaped motorized boat without outrigger and can easily navigate on the strong waves of the sea. I have learned that boat ride could be rough, since we will cross the water where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea. But thank heaven that the sea was calm during that day.

Faluwa ride from Basco to Sabtang
Off to Sabtang

Faluwa ride from Basco to Sabtang
Kuya controlling the boat using his foot

We reached Sabtang port after 30 minutes and greeted by Kuya Charles, our van driver for that trip. A couple also joined our group (my bad, I forgot their names).

Sabtang Island, Batanes
First glimpse of Sabtang Island

Sabtang Island, Batanes
Vans waiting at Sabtang port

We headed first at the Municipal Tourism Information Center to pay the registration fee. Then, proceed on our first stop – Barrio Savidug. Here, we were greeted by a street of old stone houses with cogon roof and small windows, some were already ruined, some were renovated.

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Walking and exploring the place reminds me of Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur – a street of Spanish houses. It was like you were being transported in a different time.

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Old Houses in Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

After Savidug, we headed to Chamantad. We passed by Idjang (fortified mountains), the Ivatan settlements that served as the first fortress against invaders.

Idjang Fortress, Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Idjang Fortress in Barrio Savidug

The Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio bumpy ride was all worth it once you started your trek to witness these views.

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
View from the van

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
Hills and Seaside of Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
Seaside of Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
and another seaside view

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
Gorgeous hot summer

Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio View
Jump shot of the day

Our next stop was Barrio Chavayan, a UNESCO nominated site for its old houses, streets and sites.

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Welcome to Chavayan

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Chavayan house and the hanging fishes

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Why do they always paint the windows blue?

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Kailangan naka yuko para makapasok

You can have a photo op with the old and young Ivatans, buy souvenirs, enter one’s house (just ask their permission first) and savor their simple way of living.

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes
A local na inistorbo din namin para mag pa picture :)

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Chayan Kids, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Chavayan Kids

Where to stay in Sabtang, Batanes
Don't worry, babalikan kita

If I got more time, I will not have a second thought to spend a night here and explore what more Chavayan could offer (learn to weave vakul, maybe? Nyahaha).

Old Houses in Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Time is precious when you only have a day in Chavayan. The last faluwa ride back to Batan is 1:30 PM since late afternoon trips are not advisable due to weather conditions.

After exploring Chavayan, we went back to the van for our last destination in Sabtang – the Nakabuang Beach and Arch, where our pre-arranged lunch was served near the beach.

Nakabuang Beach and Arch, Sabtang Island, Batanes
First glimpse of Nakabuang Beach

Speaking for myself, the food served on Nakabuang Beach is overrated. The coconut crab is a must try, but nothing was special about it.

After lunch, we headed to the beach where you can find a natural arch formation.

Nakabuang Arch, Sabtang Island, Batanes

The sand is white, but not so fine. Still, where else in Batanes can you swim? With limited time left, Joy and I immediately dip in the inviting water.

Nakabuang Beach, Sabtang Island, Batanes

At exactly 12:30 PM, we boarded the van bound to Sabtang Port as we do not wish to miss the faluwa ride.

Sabtang Port, Batanes
Sabtang Port

Sabtang Port, Batanes
Good bye Sabtang

At 5 PM, we were on our way to Naidi Hills, near the Basco Lighthouse for our (again) pre-arranged dinner at Bunker’s – used to be a bunker during Japanese occupation and later converted as a restaurant.

Naidi Hills, Basco, Batanes
Sunset from Naidi Hills

Basco Lighthouse, Batanes
Basco Lighthouse

With the Basco Lighthouse, hills, mountain and sea around you, the chance to witness the sunset, the sumptuous and savory meal on your table, one will keep coming back here.

Bunker’s is only open during dinner and reservation is required (lucky you if you got accommodated without reservation because the couple who joined our tour in Sabtang was not).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Literally speaking, I have 3 itineraries for this trip because of the pros and cons on visiting Itbayat – the largest island in Batanes (with a population of less than 3000, yeah, this is the largest). So I got plan A, B and C.

Pros – (1) It is the northernmost inhabited island of Batanes, the one closest to Taiwan. (2) They have cave, beautiful rock formation and 360-degree view of the island. (3) I want to experience jumping from faluwa to a concrete landing when the boat is swinging up and down when the ocean wave is strong (pero nung na experience ko, ayoko na maulit).
Cons – (1) You need 2 days (or stay overnight). There is no boat traveling to and from Itbayat during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and regular Sundays. (2) Weather is unpredictable, a trip back to Batan might be cancelled if the weather is bad and the wave is too strong.

It was 5 AM when we left Novita House and made our way to Basco port on foot. The generous Ate Remy accompanied us all the way to the port.

Basco to Itbayat

There are 3 boats on the Batan-Itbayat-Batan route – the M/B Ocean Spirit, M/B Intransa and M/B Veronica. We bought our tickets on the latter as recommended by Ate Remy since it’s the newest and fastest amongst the 3.

Basco to Itbayat

Basco to Itbayat

Before 6 AM, M/B Veronica started to sail.

Basco to Itbayat

The seawater on the entire 3-hour boat ride was calm. Some of us even positioned ourselves at the top of the boat to have a better view of what awaits us.

Itbayat, Batanes

The views from the top didn’t fail us – the unexpected sightings of dolphins (it was AWESOME by the way), the boat crew pulling the fish from its bait, and the endless count of flying fishes entertaining you.

Itbayat, Batanes
Fresh from the ocean

Chinapoliran Port, Itbayat, Batanes
Chinapoliran Port from afar

The sea was still calm and it was close to 9 AM when we reached Chinapoliran Port of Itbayat. Yeah! We did it! We were officially on the northernmost tip of the country.

I immediately get out of the boat so I can watch how the cargos are alighted, including the van (yes we had van on the boat).

Chinapoliran Port, Itbayat, Batanes
Unloading our stuff

Chinapoliran Port, Itbayat, Batanes
Unloading the van

Chinapoliran Port, Itbayat, Batanes
Success!!! van unloaded

After more than an hour of waiting, Kuya Jojo, the tour guide I contacted before this trip arrived. We headed to Nanay Cano’s house.

There are no hotels in Itbayat, only homestays or lodging houses.

We were not advised that the four of us were not going to stay in the same house. Per Nanay Cano, Jean and I will share a room with the 3 girls who arrived before we do, while Meong and Joy will stay on the other side of the universe (joke!). I think it was fine with Nanay if we didn’t want to be split out since I booked our room 3 months before the trip. She gave us 2 options – Meong will share the room with 2 other guys in one of her extension houses or Meong (plus one of us) will stay in one of the homestays there, we just chose the latter.

Being apart with Meong and Joy was a blessing though, it was then when they met Nanay Laura, the best cook in the island!

We rented a tricycle that is good for 3, and I back-ride with Kuya Jojo. At 12:30, the tour begun.

Itbayat, Batanes
rough road and lush greenery

Torongan Cave
Having been to Samar, where I experienced the most challenging activities (trek, hike, climb, spelunk, crawl, etc.) to explore a cave, the 20-minute trek to Torongan Cave was an easy one. We passed through the forest where I was amazed how the gates were placed on some of the privately-owned area.

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes
"gated-property" version in Itbayat

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes

Stalactites will greet you as you reach the entrance. 

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes

A little more trek and you will see an opening with the sea as its background – such a beauty to behold.

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes

Torongan Cave, Itbayat, Batanes
The opening is believed to be the first landing place of the Austronesians from Taiwan thousands of years ago.

Bring lots of water for this trip.

Torongan Cliff
At the top of the cave is a short climb to the cliff – where one can commune with nature.

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes
Be mesmerize on any angle

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes
Boat-shape burial of the ancient settlers (hindi lang obvious sa picture ko)

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes
Also good for camping

Torongan Cliff, Itbayat, Batanes
Believe me. It was hard to say good bye

Yawran Village
Original cogon houses can be found here.

Yawran Village, Itbayat, Batanes

You can also buy fresh coconut juice – as in fresh-picked coconut.

Yawran Village, Itbayat, Batanes

Itbayat Airport
If you do not want to endure the 2-3 hour aggressive waves from Basco to Itbayat or vice versa, and if you can pay P1800/pax/way, then charter the 8-seater plane, and you’ll be in Itbayat in less than 10 minutes.
Itbayat Airport, Batanes
Jumpshot of the day

Kavaywan Lake
It was not really a lake. It was just the rain water that fills the area.

Kavaywan Lake, Itbayat, Batanes

Valanga Port
The port is being constructed during our visit. According to Kuya Jojo, this will be the island’s main port and will also be open for the RORO vessels once completed.

Valanga Port, Itbayat, Batanes
on the way to Valanga port

Valanga Port, Itbayat, Batanes
down Valanga port

Paganaman Port
We ended our tour on this port, where fishermen docked their boats with steep platforms, yet scenic views.

Paganaman Port, Itbayat, Batanes
on the way to Paganaman port

Paganaman Port, Itbayat, Batanes
steep platform

Paganaman Port, Itbayat, Batanes
fishermen's boats

Electricity on the island is shut off from midnight to 6 AM.

Tuesday, April  15, 2014

Jean and I woke up early and found ourselves wandering around the town center – there’s the basketball court, a large field with some kids playing football, the central school and municipal hall.

Itbayat Plaza
View of the plaza from Itbayat Church

We went back to Nanay Laura’s place and found her preparing our breakfast.

What to eat in Itbayat
No banana leaves, just Abaya leaves from Atipuho tree

Where and what to eat in Itbayat - Larez Carinderia
With Nanay Laura in Vakul (on the background is the Atipuho tree)

where and what to eat in Batanes
Dibang (Flying Fish), plain and turmeric rice, lukay (yum), uvud patty for breakfast

Beside Nanay Laura’s is yet another place to stay when you visit Itbayat – the Levinda Lodge.

Where to stay in Itbayat, Batanes - Levinda Lodge

At 9:30 AM, we bid goodbye to Nanay Cano.

Where to stay in Itbayat, Batanes - Cano's Guesthouse
Nanay Cano, retired teacher

While waiting for M/B Veronica to dock, we met the boat’s captain – Julio Balanoba, who in August 2013 was reported missing and found by the Japanese Coast Guard. For the full story, click here.

Julio Balanoba
with M/B Veronica captain - Julio Balanoba

If the waves going to Itbayat the previous day was calm, going back to Basco was a different story – boats were rocking hardly amidst the strong and aggressive waves, passengers had difficulty getting on the boat.

Watch the video on how difficult it was to get on the boat given the strong waves (to upload sooooon).

The two-hour trip back to Basco was a misery.  Some puke, while others decided to stay awake.  It was hard to sleep. It was like tossing and turning you endlessly. I got a headache after that journey. Now I understand what is meant by ‘seasick’.

Exhaustion was not an excuse to continue our day with the North Batan Tour. After an hour of rest, Michael picked us up in Novita House.

Vayang Rolling Hills
The endless waves of hills with the view of West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The hills are not as green as I expected it to be, but enough to enjoy the picturesque view.

Vayang Rolling Hills, North Batan, Batanes

Vayang Rolling Hills, North Batan, Batanes
on the other side is brownish hills

Valugan Boulder Beach
The view of the Pacific Ocean and the gigantic waves, the volcanic rocks spewed out by Mt. Iraya long time ago, and polished by tides over time makes this place a stunning one.

Valugan Boulder Beach, North Batan, Batanes

Valugan Boulder Beach, North Batan, Batanes
Meong's signature "washed away" shot

Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
The tunnel built by the Japanese as shelter for their soldiers during World War II.

Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, North Batan, Batanes

Idjang Fortress in Basco
Other Ivatan settlements that served as a fortress against invaders.

Idjang Fortress in Basco, Batanes

Tukon Radar Station
The PAGASA Weather station of Batanes. From here is a 360 degree-view of Mt. Iraya and Basco town.

PAGASA Weather station, Batanes

Tukon Church or Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Chapel
Who wouldn’t want to get married on this small but beautiful church? Inspired by Ivatan stone houses, the church has stone walls, but the roof is made of bricks.

Tukon Church or Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Chapel, Batanes

For the second time, we went back to Bunker’s for dinner. This time, without much of the sunset, but more time to explore the lighthouse and appreciate the surrounding hills.

The Bunker and Basco Lighthouse, Batanes
The Bunker and Basco Lighthouse

The Bunker and Basco Lighthouse
View from the top of the lighthouse

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This day is one of the reasons why we push through our North Batan Tour the previous day despite the boat ride we experienced from Itbayat to Basco – to spend time on the beach.

White Beach or Homoron White Beach
Located along the national highway, White Beach is a short strip of white sand where we found our inner peace. Nyahaha! We spent hours doing nothing, sleeping, exploring the area, sleeping, watching the waves and sleeping again.

Homoron White Beach, Batanes
Homoron White Beach

Homoron White Beach
our temporary "tambayan" in Homoron White Beach

Blue Lagoon or Spanish Blue Lagoon
When we got bored of White Beach, we headed to the Blue Lagoon on foot. This swimming site was once only allowed for Spaniards back in the Spanish era. One just has to walk or trek the rocky cliffs that will lead to its natural pool. This was the only area in Batan where we had the chance to swim.

Blue Lagoon or Spanish Blue Lagoon
Passing through these boulders and rocks to get to the Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon or Spanish Blue Lagoon
boulders and rocks in Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon or Spanish Blue Lagoon
around Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon or Spanish Blue Lagoon

Take extra precaution when visiting the Blue Lagoon, its strong waves smashing rocks and boulders might get you out of balance.

Agree, there are no chic hotels with large swimming pools, nor formal dining type of restaurants. Cost of airline tickets going to other South East Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia are way cheaper compared to Batanes, especially if you are travelling during summer and there are no airline promos.  But, would you also agree that Batanes is a combination of distinct landscapes, honest and warm people, simple manner of living, unpredictable weather and hell of an adventure?

Each day I spent on this trip was a memory to treasure.  With that, Dios Mamajes (Thank You) Batanes!!!

Actual Itinerary and Summary of Expenses:

Ate Remy of Novita House, Batan Island, Batanes – 09274121031
Michael (Van Driver), Batan Island, Batanes – 09491400217
Mr. Bong of Bunker’s, Batan Island, Batanes – 09997274789
Nanay Cano (Homestay), Itbayat, Batanes – 09193004787
Kuya Jojo (Itbayat Tour Guide), Itbayat, Batanes – 09206603801
Casa Napoli Pizza, Chanarian, Basco, Batanes – 09189642567