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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.

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