Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Batanes: How Do I Love Thee?

Batanes Day 2 

Wandering Around the Island of Batan ...and falling in love with it

As promised, we woke up very early to make up for the procrastination we did the day before. Beau rented a motorbike which we will use for touring Batan. Rent per day is Php 800 inclusive of petrol. When we asked for helmets, they just smiled and said they don't use them. So just be very careful.

We started our day heading to Valugan at around 5:30 AM. Ivatans start their day early. We passed by locals already heading to the farm or some of them already selling their fresh catch.


a lovely day in Basco

I also noticed how gracious they are. It is the only province in the Philippines I've been, where every local you encounter will greet you "Good Morning" (or whichever is appropriate on time of the day) or will nod their head and smile at you. Everyone is sending out good vibes. How can you not smile the entire day? :)


Valugan Boulder Beach (Basco)

We reached the Boulder Beach just in time. The sky was dismal giving us no guarantee of the sun showing up. But for me, even though it was covered with dark clouds, it was still one beautiful sunrise.


lurking sunrise

This beach is one of a kind, in fact mind-boggling. I really can't help but wonder, where did all these boulders came from? And why they were just drifted in this very part of the island?


Valugan Boulder Beach

After the sunrise viewing, we looked for a place where we can eat breakfast and guess what? We came back to Pension Ivatan Restaurant. Thumbs-up for their Pansit and Lomi!


Pancit Ivatan


From Basco, we continued our journey towards South traversing through the National Road. I found this welcome sign odd because it is at the side of the road.


kapian kapa nu Dius!

As we went on and on, Batanes slowly unraveled its astonishing beauty. It sunk in to me very slowly that I have to pinch myself to remind me that I was really there and it was no longer a dream.


even the roads are photo-worthy

We had no fixed itinerary, we just stop whenever we feel like it. I'm so glad we resorted to do-it-ourselves. We had the time in our hands, we decide where to stop and when to stop. Also, since we were in a motorbike, we can see the beauty of everything around us. I never wished I had a GoPro not until I saw Batanes.

Tourist attractions in Batanes have no signages. So if you're not on a guided tour (like us), you won't know or can't be certain of what you've reached hehe. But if you really have a good eye on what's marvelous, you will definitely find them. *Wink wink* :)


Chawa View Deck (Mahatao)

Four kilometers from Basco, we reached the Chawa View Deck. It has a striking vista of cliffs resisting the raging waves of South China Sea. We passed by it on the other days when the sea is calm and I must say that I love the view better with the crashing waves. Their is a long flight of stairs going down if you want to see the view up close. I descended but did not get near the rock formations as you never know when the big waves will hit. Always consider your safety. I heard about someone who got injured here.


stunning view in Chawa

When you hike down, you will not miss the cave on the left side of the cliff. That is the Chawa Cave where the view deck was named after. I so wanted to check out what's inside but I was wearing a long skirt and a pair of slippers, not fit to climb those coarse rocks and slippery boulders.


Chawa Cave

The cave's entrance faces the South China Sea. It is believed to be enchanted and has natural salt beds inside it.


Shelter Port and Idjang (Mahatao)

As we go on our way to the South, we spotted this nice little port from the road. The emerald-colored water caught my eyes instantly. This port gives "shelter" to the inter-island boats and other vessels during stormy weather conditions.


Idjang serving as a barrier for boats' safety

We also kept looking for the Idjang which we couldn't find. It turned out that it was that big rock formation fronting the port from the sea. Idjang is the Ivatan's term for rock fortresses where their ancestors live during times of war.


road somewhere between Mahatao and Ivana

The weather was a little strange that day. Or maybe it was really like that in Batanes. Rain started to pour when we reached the welcome sign of Ivana. I want to check out the white sand beach I saw along its coast but the rain distracted me and I completely forgot about it.


San Jose de Obrero Church (Ivana)

It was like nothing happened when we reached the church. The clear blue skies were back. Just in front of the Port of Ivana is this church. It was built in 1814. It was the only church I saw with a fortress-like belfry.


Ivana Church


House of Dakay (Ivana)

There were too many tour groups at the Honesty Coffee Shop at the time that we decided to skip it that day. We headed straight to the House of Dakay. It is said to be the oldest house in Ivana after surviving the earthquake in 1918.


House of Dakay

We were so excited to see Lola Ida (the owner of the house) that we even brought her a pack of cookies from Manila. We were surprised to find out that she already passed away just a few weeks ago (January). We just give the cookies to the little boy whom we conclude her grandson.


Song Song Ruins (Uyugan)

In the town of Uyugan, we passed by what has been Sitio Song Song. It was a coastal village which was left abandoned by the Ivatans in the 50s after being ravaged by a tsunami.


the ruins of Song Song

To the west of this village is this long stretch of sandy shores. Some parts are rocky but the sea is not as rough as with the other parts of Batan. I bet this beach is far more beautiful on a summer day.


lonely beach of Song Song

Its been a ghost village for how many decades. Adding to the "ghost" feel of the place was the dark gray skies that afternoon. If only I can live in Batanes, I wouldn't mind living in this place even if I have to live here on my own.


Alapad Hill (Uyugan)

One of the places I enjoyed the most was here. I spent I don't know how many hours here. Just lying down, walking and jumping around. All sorts of movements you do when you're totally happy. I heard this was the location of that Richard-Dawn 90's movie Hihintayin Kita sa Langit.


the hill

I am a weird tourist. What catches the eyes of the others, don't catch mine. I guess that explains why I don't have a photo of that road rock formation in Imnajbu hehe. I also didn't like taking photos of those old bridges and already unrecognizable structures because they don't look interesting to me.


the rock formations

When we reached what we thought the end of the last town from Basco, we came across this closed gate along National Road. And because there was nobody around, we were thinking if this could be the end of it. Is there an on-going road construction? Was there a landslide? Should we drive back to Basco from here?


ang mahiwagang gate

Well, we met a number of vehicles driving from that direction and there was no other road they should be coming from so we just opened it, passed and closed it again. Later we found out that the gates purpose was for the cows. It is to prevent them from getting lost from the pastureland areas. Yun naman pala haha! ;)


Racuh a Payaman (Mahatao)

Our last stop for the day was what they call the Marlboro Country. When we first saw it from the road, we were like "Eto na ba yun?" Like what I mentioned earlier, attractions here have no signs or whatsoever. For me, whether this is the Marlboro Country or not, I am so going to these wonderful hills! It is that enticing!


my Julie Andrews moment ;)

Just seeing the incredible hills and the countless cows around, I knew we found the right place. We were the only human beings joining the animals there the entire time. We also spent hours here because it is just so wondrous.


this is Earth untouched by man

The view of Mount Iraya and the Pacific Ocean adds to its already divine landscape. This place takes all your worries away. You will think and feel nothing but peace, gratefulness and joy once you started to absorb the scene. This is one of the place I will never get tired of returning to.



a piece of heaven on Earth


As the day approaches to an end, it was starting to get really cold. February is still winter in Batanes and I underestimated it. I thought winter without snow won't be that cold. But I was wrong. I did not bring the appropriate jacket for this trip. That was so stupid of me knowing that I'm weak in the cold (even A/C). After how many hours on the road experiencing the sun, the rain and the cold wind, I felt like I am starting to get sick.


happy spending time with these guys ;)


*****

We went back to the lodge at around 4:00 PM. We still had plans of going around Basco but I couldn't drag myself out of bed anymore. The chills never left my body accompanied by headache and colds. I'm so glad we had sinigang for dinner. Just what a sick person needs. Sabaw! :)


Ate Crisan's yummy Sinigang na Tanigue

We circumnavigated Batan in 9 hours. It must be that long exposure to the winter wind. I just stayed in bed and took cold and flu medicines hoping I'll be fine the next day. No, I should be well. We were leaving for Sabtang in the morning. Then it rained heavily that night making it feel much colder. Brrr...

"The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man."  ~Author Unknown


This is Part 4 of my Batanes travel series.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dreaming the Day Away in Batanes

Batanes Day 1

Prologue

Days came too fast that suddenly, it was our time to fly to Batanes. To tell you honestly, I wasn't prepared. I  just packed my bags a few hours before the flight which was so un-me. Maybe I was too busy with work that even the travel itinerary that I usually prepare, was done by Beau. The counter for Basco was already closed when we get to the airport! That was only when the excitement started to kick in.

Boarding was on time and everyone happily fastened their seat belts excited for our destination. But after 15 minutes on the air, the plane made a u-turn. Yes, it turned back to the direction of the airport! A few minutes more, the flight attendant announced that we were landing back due to mechanical problems. We waited for about an hour (or more) before we were boarded to another plane.


Vuhus Island and Dequey Island


We safely arrived in Basco at around 10, instead of 7:45 AM. We were greeted by a wonderful weather and this cute little stone airport. We were surprised that our cellular network was unavailable when we switched-on our phones, wondering how will our host can fetch us from there.


Basco Airport

We just took a tric to our lodge. We were then warmly welcomed by our host family. For my review of their place, please go to this page.


route planning


Okay, so what did we do on our first day in Batanes? Staycation! Haha! Well, we woke up too early that morning (3:00 AM) to make it on our 6:00 AM flight. Also, blame it to my night shift body clock. I normally sleep during daytime because I work at night. So as soon as the cold wind blows from the window, I was swept away to dreamland.


yay! Ivatan feast :)


We woke up in the afternoon and planned to go to Naidi Hills but also did not push through. It just turned out to be a total siesta day. Come evening, we joined fellow travel bloggers and friends for a dinner in Pension Ivatan Restaurant. You may read about our delicious experience here.


anyare? ;)


It has been a night of good food with good company. I was able to meet my old friends and new friends as well.


us with Nath and Ferdz ;)

Nath and I have been running around with the same travel crowd since 2011 but it was only now that we've met personally. As for Ferdz, he is one of our favorite travel blogger/photographer. And him inviting me/us  for this event is just super! It was great to finally meet them! Though I don't have a photo of everyone, it was nice meeting the rest of them that night! :)

I know, I know. Our first day was blah and uneventful. When they asked, "so where did you go today?" We were like, "umm... in the lodge?" Haha. But it was not the first time I did that. In Bagan, I missed the epic sunset because I overslept. In Bali, I also spent my first day just staying inside my very zen home stay, enjoying the peacefulness and ultimately sleeping. I am a very laid back traveler. And that's what works for me.

Sorry Batanes, I was really too sleepy but it didn't mean that I wasn't excited. You'll see, Day 2 is a different story. :)


This is Part 3 of my Batanes travel series.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Where to Eat in Basco, Batanes: Pension Ivatan Restaurant

Pension Ivatan Restaurant no doubt is one of, if not the most famous restaurant in Basco. When you say you're going to Batanes, people who've already been there will tell you to try their Ivatan Platter which is the best way to sample the Ivatan cuisine. I also noticed that every guests in our lodge always ends up eating here. Quite popular, isn't it?




It is situated just in front of the airport so you won't miss it. It is the mustard yellow big house across the street. There are about 6 tables inside (if I remember it right). Then if you want al fresco dining, there are 2 tables outside in front. You can combine these into 1 (a long one) if you have a big group like ours. On the right side, there's also a gazebo that can sit about 8 pax which is also good for big groups like a family or barkada.


the menu


The prices of their food is about average, not cheap but not too expensive. You surely can afford it. We were glad that Ms. Tess was there that night to share with us a brief history of their restaurant and to give us some details of the Ivatan dishes they serve.


Restaurateur Mrs Tess De leon


We had Camote Chips (sweet potato) as appetizer. Fried golden brown, not sweetened nor salted. Just pure sweet potato goodness.


Camote Chips


And here was the star of our table, their famous Ivatan Platter. It is consisted of 5 cups of Supas (Turmeric Rice), Ivatan Salad or Pako Salad (Fiddlehead Fern), Payi (lobster), Tatus (coconut crab) and 6 other dishes which are featured below individually.


The Ivatan Platter, Php 1,700


The first thing I tried in the platter was the Uvud Balls. It is made with banana pith with minced pork and fish flakes. It was surprisingly good!  It wasn't the taste I imagined it would have.


Uvud Balls, Php 150


Luñis is the Ivatan's version of adobo. Unlike the adobo that we're used to, it is drier (close to being crispy) and garnished with a lot of garlic. I also liked it because it wasn't too salty.


Luñis, Php 280


Next is the Inihaw na Tadyang ng Baka (Grilled Beef Ribs). Tender meat and right amount of spices, you can never go wrong with this.


Inihaw na Tadyang ng Baka, Php 150


Another dish only common in Batanes is the Dibang or the Flying Fish. In fact, it was there where I first tasted one.


Grilled Dibang, Php 70 pergram


Vunes is a veggie dish made up of dried gabi stalks. It goes well with the turmeric rice.


Vunes, Php 130


One of my favorites is the Kanañiz or the grilled cuttlefish. It was well grilled so it was still juicy. For ultimate yumminess, don't forget to dip it to the Ivatan's perfectly fermented vinegar!


Kanañiz, Php 230


Aside from the Ivatan Platter, we also get to sample the Batanes Flavor Platter.

From top, clockwise: Caliente or beef soft skin, Inihaw na LiempoKiniliaw na Isda (Tanigue), Beef Tapa and Camote Chips. My favorite here is the Kinilaw na Tanigue. I am totally not a kinilaw fan, in fact I hardly eat one. But their version made me think that maybe I should try eating it more often. It was that good.


Batanes Flavor Platter, Php 250


They also have their own version of Bicolandia's famous dish, Laing. It is made up of rolled gabi leaves stuffed with dibang and gabi stalks cooked in young coconut milk and a little shrimp paste (alamang). If you're into spicy food, this one is for you.


Stuffed Gabi Rolls, Php 200


We were also served with their version of Bulalo. There's always something different in their dishes and for this specific one, it is the vegetable that they use. Instead of the usual petchay (Chinese cabbage) that we use in mainland Luzon, they cook it with humahum (baby fern). It is one of those ferns that you will see in your gardens. Guess what? It also tastes good.


Bulalo with Humahum, Php 280


Just when we thought our Ivatan feast was over, there came our dessert. It is a sweet and creamy tuge salad topped with cheese. Tuge is a root crop very similar to gabi (taro) which are abundant in Batanes.


Dukay Salad, Php 50


It was so fitting that we spent our first night in Batanes sampling their awesome Ivatan cuisine. We enjoyed all the dishes and I must say that they really have a distinct taste that you can not find elsewhere. I also appreciate their idea of using local or homegrown ingredients which gives it a signature Ivatan twist. The service (staff) is also commendable.

Don't miss Pension Ivatan Restaurant on your visit to this wonderful province. Your Batanes experience will not be complete without trying their authentic Ivatan dishes! 

Special thanks to Mrs. Tess De Leon of Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant for hosting a fabulous dinner for us and to Ferdz Decena of Ironwulf En Route for the invite.


Restaurant Information:

Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant
Address: Barangay Kayvalugan, Basco, Batanes
Phone Numbers: +63 908-865-9675; +63 917-585-9288; +63 932 889-4580
Email: pensionivatan@yahoo.com.ph

Restaurant Rating: ♥♥♥♥

*Forgive my photos, I'm such a noob in food photography and it ain't taken by my beloved Canon camera :(


This is Part 2 of my Batanes travel series.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Where to Stay in Basco, Batanes: Crisan Lodge

Updated September 15, 2014 

That PAL Express seat sale brought a lot of tourists to Batanes since December of last year. When it was our turn to visit this February, the home stays we knew were already fully booked. Ate Fe, owner of another lodge  referred us to Kuya Mon who happened to just opened a home stay. Yes, they help each other in Batanes.

It was our first time in Batanes, so we didn't know where his place is. Smart had no signal on the day we arrived. We had no way of contacting him. The map doesn't show his place either because it is new. We just took a tric going to his place trusting that the drivers knew him. We had no idea that Basco is that small of a municipality so everyone knew each other.




We paid Php 30.00 for the tricycle. Crisan Lodge is actually not too far from the airport. You can even just walk. But the map we got from the airport has no street names which makes it difficult for us to just go on foot. And Beau didn't get the address from Kuya Mon which made me go berserk. That's what happens when you allow a guy to plan your travels.


staying up there


The lodge is located on the second floor, on top of their mini-grocery store and residence. It was named after his wife, Ate Crisan.


living area


Our Room

Ate Crisan entertained us right away and showed us our room. It has a big bunk bed that could actually accommodate maximum of 4 people. The rate here is Php 300 per person per night.


our room

It has a big cabinet and shelves for your stuff. They also provide towels. By the way, I love their memory foam pillows and fluffy blanket. I said it was new right? We were the first guests to occupy this room.


double bunk bed

It was designed like your own house, with living and dining facilities. You can cook your own food downstairs since cooking amenities were not yet complete at the second floor. But you can also ask Ate Crisan to cook for you. They just charge a very minimal fee. And trust me, she cooks so well!


dining area

As soon as we got settled in our room, Ate Crisan served us her welcome soup. It is a seaweed soup. It was my first time to try such. The weed's texture is a little weird in the mouth but I consumed it to the last drop because it was tasty.


seaweed "lumot" soup

It was then followed by this yummy turon. For non-Filipinos, turon is fried banana coated in melted brown (caramelized) sugar, wrapped in lumpia (spring roll) wrapper. I loved this version of turon. Ate Crisan put her own concoction of creamy chocolate inside. So delish! From that moment, I know it's going to be a great stay. ;)


chocolatey turon

According to Kuya Mon, this part below is not yet complete. He plans to put a fridge and other kitchen appliances here. For now, it serves as the kitchen sink where we wash our dishes. They have complete dining wares and kitchen utensils that you can use.


unfinished mini-kitchen

We didn't have an en suite bathroom. We shared it with the guest from the other room. It didn't cause any problems though because only 2 rooms share it.


shower room

They have hot shower, hurray! A must when visiting Batanes on winter months like we did. Water pressure is not too strong but it was fine.


toilet

I also liked that they always keep the place clean. That's one of the most important thing for me when it comes to accommodations.


The Other Rooms

They currently just have 4 rooms. The other 2 rooms were separated by another door . They have their own living room there.


the other sala

They also have a mini-kitchen there but they lack a dining table so guests staying in this side of the lodge still eat at the above dining area. They also have their own toilet and bath in this side.



kitchenette

The first room also has a double bed bunk like ours, so it can also accommodate max of 4 pax. It also has just about the same room size.






The rooms in this side also have small balconies. Rate here is Php 350 per person per night.


balcony

The second room is larger with 2 double bed bunks. It is good for families and barkadas as it can accommodate maximum of 8.




More spacious than the others, it has extra space for your vanity stuff and more shelves. Rate here is also Php 350 per person per night.




The balcony is a great place to catch some fresh Batanes air or to chill out with a bottle of beer. ;)




One thing we liked most about it, is its location. It's very central. It is near to the airport and the commercial establishments. Just walk a few meters and you can find canteens and markets. Just below the lodge is their store where you can buy anything you may need.


Beau and Kuya Mon

But our favorite part of staying here is how they took care of us. Kuya Mon helped us with a lot of things. From motorcycle rentals to arranging our tour and home stay in Sabtang to waking us up and telling the jeep going to Ivana to wait for us. He is a customer service superstar!


Ate Crisan, their son Camille and yours truly

Same thing goes to Ate Crisan, for always making sure we were comfortable and for feeding us with her delicious cooking. I can't remember anything she cooked that I didn't like. Their store staff were very nice too.

When in Batanes, I'm sure you'll always want to go out and marvel on its natural beauty most of the time. All you need is a comfortable bed and a host that will make you feel like you're family. That will surely make your vacation more memorable. I am recommending this place for your future stay in Batanes. And please send our regards to them when you do. :)

xx,
Liz and Evan


Other Notes:

  • Bike Rental: Php 20/hour (Php 25 for non-guest)
  • Motorbike Rental: Php 100/hour (Php 120 for non-guest); Php 700/day (Php 800 for non-guest)
  • Van (rates to follow)

Recent Update:
  • All rooms are now air conditioned. 
  • They also now have van rental and tours.


Accommodation Information:

Crisan Lodge

Address: Dita St., Brgy. Kayhuvokan, Basco, Batanes Philippines
Contact Person: Mon Imperial
Contact Nos: +63 999 990 7548; +63 915 849 0178
Website: http://crisanlodge.com
Rates per Night per Pax: Php 250 and Php 300 for rooms without balcony and Php 350 for rooms with balcony. Maximum number of pax per room depends on your preference.

Accommodation Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I hope they'll  have wifi soon. :)




This is Part 1 of my Batanes travel series.