If there is one word to describe the smallest and northernmost province in the Philippines, it would be dramatic. It is home to picturesque hills, stunning natural formations, archaic local lifestyles, and fascinating architecture. Batanes not only stands out as a pollution and crime-free region, visitors revel in the feeling of being in a totally different world, truly away from everything. This destination is perfect for people who wish to bask in nature’s serenity, totally undisturbed by anyone or anything. Photographers may well think that they have gone to heaven with the raw splendor of Batanes. History, art, and culture buffs will have a plethora of new things to discover and marvel at. This province will make sure you truly connect with nature and leave you coming back for more.
Let Nature WOW you
Valugan Beach features numerous boulders instead of sand. The large rocks were spewed out by Mt. Iraya when it last erupted but strong waves have polished the rocks to smoothness over the centuries. Though Valugan is not a swimming beach, tourists and photographers flock here to catch the sunrise, as it is facing east. On the west side near Basco lays its twin Chadpidan Beach, equally glorious during sunset.
Homoron White Beach has gentler waves as opposed to the rather angry waves surrounding most of Batanes islands, making it favorable to swimming. With a strip of white sand amidst rocky cliffs, it is a good spot to have a picnic. On the other side one will find a blue lagoon. It has a natural pool amenable for a refreshing dip despite having rocky sands.
The mountain range is the latest addition to UNESCO Heritage Sites of the Philippines. It features one of the most diverse flora and fauna found in the country, most are endangered and indigenous to the area. It has an area of more than 6800 hectares, with a forest full of century-old bonsai or pygmy trees. The hike takes 1-2 days featuring river trekking, 5 vegetation types, steep wall climbing and waterfalls.
Di-atay and Diura Beaches
Hidden in separate coves are Di-atay and Diura Beaches. They both feature pebbled sandy beaches surrounded by spectacular backdrops of hills and lush greenery.
“The hills are alive with the sound of music…” No one can blame you if you suddenly burst into song while running about Marlboro and Naidi Hills. Reaching the hilltops will reveal astounding views of the Philippine Sea while endless waves strike the coastline. Spend hours to take in the views, have a picnic, fly a kite or take jump shots while cattle freely roam the hills. In super simple terms, just let go. You probably won’t be able to help yourself anyway.
If the hills aren’t enough, the majestic Mt. Irayat will surely please the mountaineer in you. The volcano is an important landmark for Ivatans, the native people of Batanes. According to legend, a ring of clouds would form around the mountain whenever someone dear in the community passes away.
Go spelunking or surfing
There are caves to explore in Batanes including Chawa Cave, Crystal Cave, Itbayat Caves including Torongan, and Nakabuang Cave. The caves in Itbayan are not to be missed as they contain imposing stalagmites and stalactites formations. Torongan is considered as a prehistoric abode with burial grounds on top. It is believed to be where Austronesians coming from Taiwan first stepped foot on around 2000 BC. Surfing in Madiwedved is rather undeveloped compared to other areas in the country. It however promises towering waves and powerful winds due to Batanes’ geographical location on the typhoon belt.
The Ivatans are unbelievably honest people. Honesty Coffee Shop is undeniable proof of this. Here, no one is present to man the place. Goods are prepared before the shop opens and customers are trusted to drop their payments in a box. The oldest house in Batanes as Dakay House, it was built in 1887 and withstood a devastating earthquake in 1918 – one that brought down the whole town to the ground. See more old houses just by walking around the towns. Even better, step in Traditional Ivatan houses with their limestone walls and cogon roofs. These houses were built through Bayanihan, an old Filipino tradition wherein community members built homes together. In the past, bayanihan entailed helping a family move to a new location with the men of the community literally carrying the family’s hut.
Geographically speaking, Batanes is nearer Taiwan than most parts of the Philippines, close enough that Taiwanese radio broadcasts reach Batanes with the turn of a knob. Despite being quite isolated to the rest of the country, it had its share of Spanish colonization and World War II. Take a tour of old Churches like the unique San Jose de Ivana where the Katipuneros who fought against Spanish rule raised their flag symbolizing their claim over Batanes, centuries-old San Carlos Borromeo, Sto. Domingo de Basco, and San Vicente Ferrer Churches. The latter’s construction marked the consent for the people of Sabtang to return to their homeland after being exiled by Spanish emissaries. Explore the ruins of the American radio center operational during WWII, a tunnel used as a hideout by the Japanese, an old Spanish bridge still operational to date and the ruins of a whole town when a tsunami hit in the 50’s.
How to get to and around
Daily flights from Manila to Basco are available from major Philippine airlines. The trip takes a little over an hour and is the preferred way to travel to Batanes. By sea, ferry rides from Cagayan and Ilocos are available twice a week on a 9-hour journey. To get around Batanes, hire a private car or avail of packaged tours as there is hardly any public transportation in the province.
- Sometimes, checked in luggage are sent by the airlines the succeeding day without prior notice so make sure to bring at least 2 days worth of clothes in your hand carry luggage. Pack your medicines and important personal items in your hand carry as well.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes for trekking.
- Drugstores in Basco may only have usual medicines in stock. It is best to bring enough of what you need for the duration of your trip.
- Pack for both sunny and rainy weather. Sometimes it rains in Batanes even during summer.