Friday, July 17, 2015

Exploring Batanes: South Batan

We all know that Batanes is gorgeous (even if you haven't been there, just Google and you'll pull up amazing photos), but it's interesting that people say North Batan and Sabtang Island are only mere preparations for South Batan as it's said to be the most beautiful of them all. Really?! I mean, we were already so impressed with the hills on the first day, how could any place be more breathtaking? We were about to find out as we prepared ourselves for the South Batan tour. 

Now because I hurt my right foot swimming in Sabtang Island (hello, reef beach!), I had to wear flip flops for the duration of the tour. And once in a while I'd check my band-aid because the cut would hurt while walking up and down the hills :( So ladies, I cannot stress the importance of Aqua shoes when you're headed to Batanes, especially if you're planning to swim. 

Here are some of the places we visited in South Batan. No need to take the faluwa (yay!), we just had Kuya Dennix (our tour guide) and Kuya Dante (our driver). 


Can I just say, the weather in Batanes is the perfect blend of warm, sunny, and windy. And yes, you will get a tan for sure even with sunblock on. Anyway, chawa in Ivatan means cliff and the Chawa Viewing Deck features a grotto with a 150-step stone staircase that leads tourists downwards to the base of the cliff. It's the first spot you'll see as you head out of Basco on the way to Mahatao. 

The descent was a little steep and the parentals gave up halfway, plus they felt it was too hot at 8:00am to be basking in the sun. But of course, my sister and I trudged on. At the base you'll be enamored with the waves of the West Philippine Sea crashing against the cliffs of Batan Island. I think we stayed here for more than 30 minutes endlessly taking photos and waiting for the stronger waves to come in. This is precisely why we decided on an exclusive tour with a designated driver, none of that group tour shiz where we have to rush per tourist spot because there's a schedule to follow. 

Look at that -- absolutely gorgeous! I mean, these were really slippery rocks but we decided to sit here and admire the scenery anyway. Half of the time I was thinking of how I miss the water so much. 

Side story: Did you know that drivers here are very courteous? While traversing narrow roads, drivers will sound their horn once or twice and will take turns to pass, greeting fellow drivers as they do so. None of those crazy impatient drivers back in Manila. 

Tish's buwis buhay shot

Fishing is one of the main livelihoods in Basco and we were told that fishermen go out to sea early morning and are usually back by 7am. I really, really pleaded if it were possible to join the fishermen or at least go to the plantations so I could experience how the locals work, but Kuya Dennix said it's not possible at this time :( 

Batanes usually experiences rough waves especially during inclement weather, so the port here (with concrete barriers and natural rocks) serves as protection for boats and fishermen. 

What's happening in the photos below? I saw the mommy chicken and I wanted to hug the yellow chicks. The mom was not thrilled. 


The only hexagonal lighthouse in Batanes is erected here in Mahatao. The Tayid Lighthouse looks over the Pacific Sea, while the Basco Lighthouse in my previous post looks over the West Philippine Sea. Surrounded by pastureland (and lots of cows), I was so kilig with the lush green hills and hedgerows. 

too windy for my shirt!

Side story: Fresh food every day, fresh mountain air, simple living. It's enough to drive any city girl crazy but I love it! By this time I was already thinking, can I possibly buy land in Batanes and retire here? Short answer is no, unless I am of Ivatan lineage or I end up marrying one. Hmmm...


Of course we were terribly excited to see the famous Marlboro Hills (or Marlboro Country as some call it). Named as such because it greatly resembles the place featured in the Marlboro commercial filmed in the 1950s. 

We trekked to the top of the hill and it gave us a breathtaking panoramic view of Mt. Iraya, the Tayid Lighthouse, and Diura Beach (to be featured in my next post). 

I am loving the difference in our skin color: that is an LA vs LU post right there :)

Yes, I did sing "The Hills Are Alive" when this photo was taken.

This candid shot of my Dad is one of my favorite photos shot on site. The bewilderment of being in a place that is so beautiful for words that the only thing you can do is to stop and appreciate the majesty of it all.


Honesty Coffee Shop is known as the quaint sari-sari store where you can buy local delicacies (malunggay cookies, turmeric cookies) souvenirs, 3-in-1 drinks, etc. without having a security guard or staff watching over you. In a town where there is zero crime rate, it proudly employs the honesty policy wherein you just pick whatever you want, check out the prices posted on the wall, then pay the amount due. If you don't have the exact amount, you can conveniently come back the next day and change will be available for pick up.

Started in 1995 by Elena Gabilo, a teacher assigned to Chavayan Barrio School, she knew how tiring the one hour banca ride is for travellers and the importance of having a warm cup of water to drink upon disembarking. When she retired in her 60s, her husband provided a makeshift stall with the consent of the mayor, and then started to provide this service free of charge.

So we pretty much hoarded stuff for pasalubong, here I am counting and listing down everything in the log book. And oh say hello to my tan, I wish I could stay this golden forever.

And then we paid for everything which amounted to Php 1900+. We didn't need change and we were so happy with our purchases :)


House of Dakay is the oldest surviving stone house in Batanes. It's reported to be one of the 5 houses that survived the strong 8.3 magnitude earthquake in 1918. It was built in 1887 and was originally owned by Luisa Estrella, and then later on given as inheritance to Jose “Dakay” Estrella (Luisa’s nephew).

There's also a gorgeous old Spanish Bridge that's still being used today. 


Kuya Dennix shared that this was also known as the Spanish Lagoon because back in the colonial period only the Spanish priests were allowed to bathe here. It's now open for everyone who wants to refresh themselves mid-day. It can be slippery still so be careful. 


Before we set out for lunch, we had to make a quick stop at the local church. This one in particular is the most culturally significant as it was declared a cultural icon by the NCCA and the National Museum.

As per usual I wandered off and found some students playing softball in preparation for Batanes Day on June 26. I had no idea softball was their main sport and I was so excited I ended up watching the game which made the students conscious because I was continuously snapping photos.

A friend who visited Batanes back in February was even offered lessons and was invited to practice with them. I was not invited (hmp!) but I guess it was because they were really practicing for the competition in 2 days. I was probably a welcome distraction for the students, as their coach was egging them about hitting the ball and all. 

If I had that view every day while practicing, I would do it nonstop. I really hope that one of these youngsters make it big one day, as I would love to look back into my camera roll and say, "I took a photo of her back when she was a newbie."


Not a tourist spot but this small canteen came highly recommended by locals. The food they serve is delicious and the portions are good for a group of 4-6. Paulvana is a combination of the names of the owner's 2 kids: Paul and Vana. 

Here are some of the local dishes they served, was not able to take a photo of the chicken dish and Venes (taro). 

fern salad
Lunis (like our adobo)
Kinilaw na Octopus
Sweet Potato Fritters
After driving back to the lodge, everyone decided to take a nap while I biked around using Christa's bike. 

I went around Basco, spotted a BBQ stand and ate a couple, biked to the airport past the government offices, passed by the local school, watched the students happily hanging out with their friends while the teachers hurried off home; spotted the coastline, biked along the highway trying to figure out a way to end up and beach, finally found a narrow road that led straight to this (that memorable photo) just in time to watch the sun set.

After walking on the shore for some time, I was so tempted to take a dip but the wound on my sole from my reef swim was hurting already. I hurried off and went back to DDD in order to freshen up for dinner. 

So, how does South Batan compare with North Batan and Sabtang Island? I think the Marlboro Hills took the cake today, it is by far my favorite place next to the Mt. Carmel Church. 

Another adventure awaits tomorrow, stay tuned. 

*Our exclusive tours were booked through DDD Habitat.
Rates: Php 25,000~ for 4 pax inclusive of:

  • Siayan Room (good for 4)
  • duration: 5 days 4 nights
  • package tour (guide + driver) 
  • lunch during the tours

To get in touch with our tour guide, contact:
Dennix Cantor: 0948-2048358 / 0916-3214303

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    Great shots, Kira! :)

  2. Love that bit with wanting to hug the baby chicks! Haha!

  3. I'm so weird like that! I have a thing with chicks, especially the yellow ones :D