On my 26th birthday, I fulfilled one of my travel goals: I finally got to visit Batanes!
My Batanes trip was such a big deal for me because I’ve always had the impression that it’s quite difficult to get to this place. First off, tickets to Batanes can be quite expensive, and seat sales are pretty hard to come by. Second, the weather in this place can be quite unpredictable, so there’s always a chance that your flight to or from the island would be cancelled.
Despite all that though, I still wanted to visit this place and I’m glad that my friends were willing to make it happen! ❤️ I don’t normally celebrate birthdays but this time, I did… and I celebrated it in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines + with my favorite people!
Day 1: November 17
Our flight to Basco, Batanes was at 6 AM and we were leaving from Clark Airport (around 2-3 hours from Manila), so we got on the road as early as 12 AM! #TeamNoSleep
When we were about to land, it was announced on the plane that we would have to go back to Clark. I think it was because of the weather? All I remember was that the clouds were pretty thick and I couldn’t see anything. Kuya Justine, the tour guide who fetched us from the airport, did say that it rained at the time our flight was supposed to land, so maybe that was it. He also told us that it was a pretty common occurrence. The guy seated in front of us during the plane ride even said that this was his third attempt to get to Batanes; this also happened during his first two attempts and unfortunately, those trips didn’t push through.
Anyway, we went back to Clark and we were given boarding passes for the next available flight. This time, we were able to land without any fuss 👍🏼
For our first day, we had lunch at Villa de Babat, where we got to sample local Ivatan food (which I loved) 😍 Then, we were off to Mt. Carmel Church and the PAGASA Radar Station!
My favorite part of the first day’s tour has got to be the Japanese Tunnel tour, where we went into an old tunnel which served as the Japanese soldiers’ hideout against the Americans during the Second World War. Of course we didn’t go deep into the tunnel’s other parts for safety reasons, but I had lots of fun exploring what’s inside! It’s pretty dark though, so tourists are discouraged from entering the tunnel without a guide.
After exploring the Japanese Tunnel, we went to Valugan Boulder Beach, which has an interesting history. We were told that the rocks on this beach resulted from the eruption of Mt. Iraya, a nearby volcano. These rough rocks were slowly polished, day by day, by the waves and tides from the ocean.
Finally, Kuya Justine brought us to the famous lighthouse at Naidi Hills 😍 I was looking forward to this because I was thinking that, if we were lucky, we would be able to catch the sunset 😍
Day 2: November 18
We were supposed to sail to Sabtang Island on this day, but Kuya Justine told us that the Coast Guard didn’t allow it since the winds were pretty strong that day. He arranged for us to go to South Batan instead. Although it was a bummer that we didn’t get to visit Sabtang Island, I was pleased that they were genuinely concerned about tourists’ safety.
For our first stop in our South Batan tour, Kuya Justine took us to Chawa Viewdeck in Mahatao, where we were treated to a nice view of the hills and the ocean! He told us that it serves as a rest stop for people travelling through the island’s zig-zag roads. Fishermen also use the viewdeck’s stairs for easier access to their fishing boats. For now though, the stairs aren’t very safe to use because some parts were damaged by the typhoon.
The view is amazing though!
After that, we went to Tayid Lighthouse, another famous lighthouse in Batanes facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s less accessible than the lighthouse in Basco, in that you have to walk quite a bit to reach it. Once you’re there though, you’ll be rewarded with captivating views of the ocean… and the farm animals grazing out in the open 😂 😍
South Batan is also home to Marlboro Hills, my favorite place out of all the ones we’ve visited! 😍 It’s a communal pastureland where cattle and water buffalo graze freely. It was my first time to see a vast stretch of rolling hills and meadows, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when we got there. It was just captivating. I’m looking at my photos now to relive that moment but I feel like they don’t bring justice to the beauty of the place.
We also visited the famous Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana. The shop’s concept is pretty simple: just take anything you want from the shelves, list down all the items that you took and their corresponding prices, and drop your payment in the drop box. When you’re done eating or drinking, just clean up and leave. It’s called the Honesty Coffee Shop because there’s no shopkeeper or anybody to watch the tourists. It’s amazing how shops like this thrive in Batanes, and it’s even more fascinating that people are actually honest and are paying the right amounts! I’m not sure whether this would work in other places though!
During the latter part of our day, we went to the House of Dakay, one of the oldest stone houses in Batanes. We even got to meet the family who owns the house. They still live there, so I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to explore the interior of the house and try on their traditional Ivatan clothing!
Day 3: November 19
I woke up at 6 AM to my friends singing Happy Birthday to me ❤️ It was such a lovely start to my morning, but then we received word from Kuya Justine that the Sabtang Island Tour was cancelled because of the typhoon. It was raining really hard outside and the winds were crazy, so we had no choice but to stay home for the day.
Normally, rainy days wouldn’t be so bad if you had decent internet and/or gadgets to play with. But as luck would have it, we had neither. The phone signal was so poor that we didn’t even have access to decent 2G, and we didn’t bring gaming consoles or anything of the sort because we went on this vacation knowing that we wanted to spend time with each other and not with our gadgets. I’m so glad that I was with my friends though, because we had lots of stories to share and conjured up lots of random activities on the spot, so we didn’t really feel bored. For instance, they came up with the idea of borrowing a guitar so we could have jamming sessions 😂
They also [somehow] managed to organize a little surprise for me, complete with cake and birthday noodles, while I was napping! 😂
Day 4 and 5: November 20-21
We were supposed to leave for Clark on the 20th, but our flight was cancelled due to the weather. Soooo, we were stranded in Batanes for 2 days!
Of course we were bummed, but it wasn’t so bad because we took the opportunity to stroll around the town and try out other local restaurants. It’s nice to have food delivered to the homestay, but we wanted to go outside and visit the restaurants ourselves!
(I just realized I don’t have photos of their food though XD)
But besides that, we really didn’t do much. It’s a pretty small town so it’s easy to see everything just by walking around. I think we spent the rest of our day in our homestay, chatting and drinking the hours away 😅 It was relaxing though, and a welcome change of pace for me. I’m so used to filling my days with so many activities that I barely have time to breathe. I really felt like I was able to de-stress during the two days that we got stranded.
Fortunately, the weather cleared up within those two days so we finally got to board our flight to Clark on the 22nd of November. It was a bright and sunny day, and our flight went without a hitch ❤️
Despite getting stranded and not having any contact with the outside world for a few days, I had a great time in Batanes! It’s such a beautiful place and the sights I saw exceeded my expectations. I would definitely visit again someday to see Sabtang Island and the other sites we missed. I hope we get better weather by then!