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.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Where to Eat in Batanes: Affordable and Yummy Eats in Batan

Finding a good restaurant and canteen in Batanes can be quite a challenge. When you say restaurant, automatically people will recommend you Pension Ivatan. It is where you can sample the best of Ivatan cuisine. There's no arguing in that. But if you've been in the island for several days, you would eventually want to try out different places offering good quality food.

If you are also on a budget, you would prefer to look for places offering cheaper meals on some days. We did a combination of eating in a restaurant, eating in our lodge (paluto) and eating in canteens. Yes, they don't call them carinderia or eatery in Batanes, folks. They call it a canteen. It is quite odd to us because we only call an eating place a canteen if it is at a school or an office hehe.


Ignite Grillhauz (Basco)

One of our favorite place to eat in Basco is this one. It's a small, green painted carinderia near the plaza and the school. Everyday, they have their Menu of the Day displayed outside.





If you will look at their price list (on in any restaurants in Batanes), you might utter to yourself "ang mahal naman" (that's quite expensive). But hell no. Please don't compare it to Manila or any other places in Pinas. These prices are already reasonable by Batanes standards. Try to understand that this province is isolated from mainland Luzon. Most of the produce and products came from Tuguegarao in Cagayan. Of course they pay a lot to ship them.





We chose one of their Budget Meals. The 1 Ulam (Viand)+1Gulay (Veggie)+1Rice combo for Php 75.00. I had Pork Nilaga and Togue Guisado while Beau had Pork Steak and Bulaklak ng Sibuyas (Onion Flower) Guisado. It was our first time to try the bulaklak ng sibuyas hehe. The servings of the food were generous. It was even enough for another round of extra rice. ;)




They taste good too! We loved it. Though the place is small, it is clean. And Kuya who cooks and serves the dishes at the same time is very kind too. Thumbs-up! :)


6 to 8 Panciteria  (Basco)

If you're looking for a place to grab some merienda or a light dinner, this could be it. If you're craving for some pancit, spaghetti, noodle soup, hamburger or siomai - they have it all here. They also serve a few rice meals.





A very simple place which offers a lot of food choices. It is spacious with tables here and there. It feels like your just dining at home.




We ordered their Pancit Cabagan Special for Php 75.00. Good thing we just ordered one pancit because the serving is good for 2 (or even 3 actually).




The pancit tastes so much better with calamansi and white onion!  Then we just bought some pork barbecue and bread (monay) from their neighbor. Solb! ;)




Tasty and affordable. Aprub! :)


Paulvanas Canteen (Mahatao)

We'd been driving around Batan for 3 days total. So sometimes, you'll just stop wherever when you feel hungry and look for a place to eat. One time, we saw a sign pointing to this canteen while we were on the road in Mahatao. We just followed the sign and found it.




This canteen is tucked in a street off the main road. It is owned by a very nice lady named Ate Carol. It only has a few tables and they only have a limited menu. Not everything on the menu is also available all the time. This place is not as crowded as Basco that's why.




Good thing our food of choice is available, Sisig! Panalo for Php 100.00 only! :)





She also cooks 1 or 2 dishes per day for her regular customers. We also availed of her veggie for the day which is Ginisang Monggo for Php 40.00.





Food serving of both are good for 2 persons already. We only not enjoyed eating the food here but also our conversation with Ate Carol. I hope you can also try her dishes when you pass by Mahatao. Highly recommended! :)

So those are our few but good recommendations for you in Batan. All of them have a clean place with delicious and affordable food. There was also this little store where we eat our breakfast. It has no name but "Nanay" has a rockin spaghetti for Php 10.00 only! Binalik-balikan namin yun haha! I also sometimes grab some afternoon snacks from her like Camote Fritters (Php 5.00) and her Malunggay-Squash Puto (Php10.00). She also sells yummy egg sandwich also for Php 10.00. Gaah, I can't recall which street it was.

If you have other discoveries of good cheap places to eat in Batanes, please share it in the comment section. We'll appreciate your suggestions. Because yes, we see ourselves coming back there! :)

"Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste." ~Charlotte Brontë


This is Part 6 of my Batanes travel series.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sabtang Island: Simply Stunning

Batanes Day 3 (continued)

After exploring Chavayan, we were transported back to the town proper for our lunch. I would really love to take a lot of photos of the magnificent views while riding in the tricycle but the bumps while traversing the curvy road made me think twice. I was somehow afraid of falling off from the cliff hehe.





From the jagged road, you will be amazed by the island's coastal view. It is just breathtaking. We also saw some fishermen doing their work in the broad daylight. No boats needed. Yes, they can catch fishes in shallow waters, right there near the shore.


fisherman

Then we were back to Ate Ching's canteen. We ordered Blue Marlin Fish Steak for lunch. Our friends were right by saying that food in Sabtang is more expensive compared in Batan. We paid Php 200 each for our lunch. But no, I'm not complaining. This fish steak is to die for! It may look plain and simple but it was the best! And it was actually good for 4 persons, even the rice. Yum!


fish steak

We started the rest of our tour after lunch. After getting our change from the Tourism Office, off we went.


Morong Beach and Mayahaw Arch

We went first to Morong Beach. It is also sometimes called as Nakabuang Beach because of the cave that is also located there


THE Beach

This beach is also home to the famous and the most photographed natural rock formation in Sabtang which is the Mayahaw Arch.


Mayahaw Arch

It has a long stretch of fine white sand and the water here is not as crazy as in the other part of the province. Yes, it is swimmable on a good day. Swimming wasn't a part of our plan, so we just enjoyed strolling by the beach. Why we didn't swim? It was still a winter month in Batanes. The wind was so freaking cold.


we got it all to ourselves! :D

While walking we noticed some trashes scattered randomly at the shore. It made me a little bit sad. We asked our guide if the people in the island and the tourists dispose their garbage properly. He said that they actually do and those rubbishes that we see were just carried away by the sea current. They came from Taiwan. True enough when we picked up some of the plastic bottles, the labels were in Chinese and the products were made in Taiwan.


foreign trash

Taiwan is just 190 kilometers from Batanes and the strong current of the merging of South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean has a big factor on how this can happen. Rudy (our guide), also said that they have a weekly clean up drive in this beach. It's the only thing they can do to keep it clean. It is another example of the admirable community spirit of the Ivatans.

On our way to our destinations, we just stop whenever I see a stunning view somewhere. This one below is one my favorites.


priceless

On our way to the further barangays, Rudy also showed us the jump-off point going to Vuhus Island. I would have wanted to go there if we had a lot more days.


that's Vuhus Island

Just like in Batan, the road around the island was cut through the rocks. It is amazing how it still retains its natural beauty.


in Batanes, everyday is a winding road like this :)

By the way, beware of this road all the way through the last barangay Sumnanga. The winding up and down steep road takes whatever lose items you have. Beau's slippers fell off from the tric. Good thing we retrieved it on our way back. Some of my friends had their tripod and wallet fell on the same road hehe.


Sumnanga: Sabtang's Little Hongkong

We finally reached the last barangay. It is dubbed as Little Hongkong due to the fact that it is a fishing village or where most of the fishermen in the island resides.


the way to the village proper

It has a different character compare to the other villages in the island. It is more quiet and we hardly see many people.


the emerald sea on a clear sky

At the very end of the paved road before going up to the village, this will be the sight that you'll see.




A very tranquil cove which again will take your breath away. I don't know how many times I've used the word beautiful in this entire series, but I really can't help it!


♫ come away with me ♪

I spent a good 30 minutes here just sitting and taking in the beauty of nature. I really wished I could try those small boats there but it was low tide.


The Hunt for a Coconut Crab

Beau was really keen to try and taste the coconut crab or tatus as the locals call it. So after sightseeing, Rudy took us to the locals whom he knew that sell it.


surprisingly modern houses

We navigated into those small alley ways and found the crab seller. Luckily they haven't sold them yet to the restaurants. The wooden cage where they keep the crabs is one of a kind. I wished I've taken a photo of it. But they told us to keep distance because when they manage to escape, they can hurt you with their pincers (sipit). We bought it for Php 340 per kilo. This guy weighs 0.75 kilo.


Tatus

Coconut crab is the same specie as hermit crabs but an arthropod just like the scorpions, the millipedes and the centipedes. For sure, I'm not the only one who thinks it looks so weird. Like, alien-weird. They can only be found in less populated islands across Indian and Pacific Oceans.


Beau with a weaving fisherman 

Sumnanga was the end of the road. Once you've reached it, you already have to turn back. Sabtang isn't like Batan that you can circumnavigate. Probably, the terrain of the southern tip of the island is not suitable for road construction. Well, that was just me thinking.


the view of Morong Beach from the top


Sabtang Lighthouse

Our next stop was the lighthouse. This is the first thing that will catch your attention upon arriving in the island. Approaching Sabtang, this is situated on a hill at the eastern side of the port.





This lighthouse is picturesque in any angle.  On its left side is this lovely downhill spot where the hill meets the sea. With its white sand and turquoise water, I almost went down and play. But Beau did not allow me to do so because he said the waves are unpredictable. Okay, fine.




Notice how odd the skies were. The photo I took above with the lighthouse on the right shows clear sunny skies. And then this one below with the lighthouse on the left side shows the dark clouds covering the blue skies. It gives the lighthouse a totally different impression.




This is no doubt one of my favorite places in Sabtang. :)


Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint

On our way back to Chavayan, we passed by this other tourist spot in the island. This is also the last site before Chavayan that has a mobile network signal. When people in Chavayan have to make urgent calls or send a text message, they drive all the way here. I'm not kidding.




The skies being dark and the sea being gray and hostile did not make it great for an up-close shot. And it was high tide. We can't see the beach down below. I'll just be back someday.


Savidug Idjang

We also went around a bit in Savidug but I did not take photos anymore because it is very similar to the stone house village of Chavayan.


Idjang

Just like in Mahatao in Batan, there is also an idjang here in Sabtang. They say that this one in Savidug is the most beautiful and perfectly shaped among all the idjangs in the entire province.





I also enjoyed the hilly landscape of this place with grasses and shrubs unique to Batanes. Really, it was like no other.

*****

It was already getting dark when we got home and it was chilling cold. The coldness in Batanes is different. It wasn't like the Baguio or Sagada cold. It feels damp at the same time. You'll feel like your face is wet with mist and then being blown closely. Tired of going around the whole day and sleepy because we left very early in Batan, we fell asleep.


What's For Dinner?

We woke up at around 8:00 PM when the house owner has arrived. She asked us what do we want for the coconut crab and if we want some rice as well. Still having our supply of bread and what not, we decided to just have the steamed crab.


steamed tatus

Yaiikks... There goes the alien looking crab. It is harder to eat than a regular crab because it has a thicker and harder shell. It took us a couple of hours to finish it. It sure tastes like the other crabs but it has a tad of bitterness at the end. It has a drier meat and the texture is different too.

I felt a bit sad knowing that these guys is now close to being endangered. It takes them 7 years to breed and if people will keep capturing them even before their breeding age, they will eventually go extinct. I may never eat one again in the future. :(


*****

Saying Goodbye to Sabtang

The next day we woke up at 4:00 AM to catch the morning boat. We made our way in the dark and made it to the port just as the boat is about to depart! Had we arrived 5 minutes later, we probably missed it!




The sail was smoother on our way back to Batan. Gone were the big waves we encountered the previous day. We were blessed to have our journey the way we planned it. It doesn't happen to everyone else, as the Batanes weather and the condition of the ocean is highly erratic. People get stranded sometimes.

This trip to Sabtang was one of the highlights of our Batanes adventure. I loved the simplicity of life, how people stay happy and content with what they have, the stillness that soothes your soul and the quietness that lets you listen to yourself.


"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." ~Kahlil Gibran



This is Part 5-3 of my Batanes travel series.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Charmed by Chavayan

Batanes Day 3 (continued)


Sabtang is the smallest among the three major islands of this province. No trip to Batanes is complete without visiting this island.  Chavayan is located in southeastern side of Sabtang. You can visit the island for a day tour but staying overnight here is highly recommended.


Welcome to Chavayan :)


Where to Stay in Chavayan

No home stays here are advertised. Most of them you'll just hear by word of mouth. It's either your host in Basco will contact someone they knew in the island, a friend who'd been previously there will recommend you to where they stayed or the tric driver/guide will just take you to them when you arrived.


our homestay

In our case, our host in Basco, Kuya Mon arranged our home stay and guide for Sabtang. We stayed at the second floor of this house in A. Hidalgo St. We paid Php 150.00 per night (per person).


our home for the day

It is a typical traditional Ivatan stone house with a very thick wall, with the kitchen, toilet and bathroom all separated from the main house. Yes, if you feel like peeing in the middle of the night, you have to go outside with your flashlight and find your way to the toilet in the dark. It happened to me hehe.




The view in front of the house by the windows are the neighbors' stone houses and at the back we have the hills as the view which is exhilarating.


the view from our door


We strolled around this charming village after resting for a while. It is small, quiet and yet so lovely.


stone house row

Aside from the traditional houses, plants and flowers grow beautifully which adds up to its wonderful surroundings.




We intentionally photographed the church at this angle to show you its roof. Isn't it nice? The walls were made up of stones and concrete but the roof was of cogon grass.


Chavayan Church

We then headed to the beach. Chavayan like other parts of Batanes is blessed to have an amazing backdrop of both the hills and the sea.



stunning panorama


It was low tide then so the seabed was exposed at that time. When I saw these weeds attached to the sea rocks, I remembered the seaweed soup that Ate Crisan prepared for us in Basco. I even took a portion of it from the rock and tried to taste it haha. Now you know I'm that crazy. It wasn't bad! ;)


"if it looks good, eat it!" :)


The beach is rocky so it is not good for swimming. However, I really enjoyed walking around this beach.


serene sight


You will see how rich the marine life is in this part of the Philippines. I saw a lot of things I didn't and I know I couldn't see in other beaches of the country. Everything here is unspoilt.


other types of sea grasses

Aside from fishing and farming, Ivatans' another source of living is raising livestock. Our guide even said that the number of cows and goats in entire Sabtang might be more than their total human population. :)


"meeeeehh!!!"

When we were roaming around, we didn't see people in the streets. Just a few men constructing a house, a few women selling their products, the others were probably busy farming and fishing. And because the group tour boat was not allowed to sail by the coast guard that morning, we were the only tourists present that day!

I think this is the place where I've seen the simplest form of living. People live in complete harmony. They don't close their houses' doors when they're out. Their community is based on trust and honesty. Don't we all want to live in such place?


simple life

Ivatans are noticeably devout Catholics too. It is very evident with the presence of beautiful churches and grottos in every part of the islands.


stone grotto


I also finally got the chance to wear the vakul in Sabtang. It is a woman's headgear covering the head and back which keeps the wearer cool during the long hours of work in the farm.


distinctly Ivatan :)


Here in Sabtang Weaver's Association, you may buy a vakul as a souvenir. It is Php 20.00 to take pictures in them and you can take as many pictures as you want. They also sell other local products and merienda. When we were there, they were selling freshly cooked camote cue. It is also an "honesty store" like the one in Ivana. There is nobody manning the store. The price is just listed there and there's a pouch where you will put your payment. Please be honest!


my favorite Sabtang photo :)

I loved everything about Chavayan. I can imagine myself retiring in this far-flung village someday. I actually wished we could stay longer. There's still so much I wanted to explore at the far end of the beach and the hills. I knew that if I stay longer, I will end up not wanting to leave.


"We travel to open our eyes, broaden our minds and soften our souls."



This is Part 5-2 of my Batanes travel series.