Top 10 Things To Do When in Batanes

 

When in Manila and looking for a new travel destination, how about looking into the possibility of visiting Batanes? It’s the northernmost group of islands here in the Philippines, best known for its untouched and unspoiled beauty that it has even earned a nomination in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The tickets can be a tad too expensive (more or less P8,000 for a one way trip) but do believe me when I say that it’s going to be worth it! This statement might come off as a biased one coming from me (seeing as Batanes is my lovely hometown) but head on to Google and search for reviews and you’ll surely see a lot of tourists singing praises! *beams with pride*

I was raised in Batanes for almost 15 years. Which means that I know my way around the island; so from a trueblood ‘Ivatan’ to you, here’s  a list of things that you should ABSOLUTELY do when you’re in Batanes:

 

1. Go to the beach in Batanes.

My best picks: Chadpidan Beach, Sabtang Beaches, and Nakabuang Beach. And yes sir, we do have beaches that can equal the beauty of Boracay! The perfect plan? Just lounge by the shore, have a picnic, grill some fish (try Batanes’ favorite fish: the ‘dibang‘ or flying fish), grab some booze and play some music! 

Photo by Opal Bala  

And you shouldn’t leave the island without witnessing at least one sunrise and one sunset. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

If you want a photo spree in one unique beach, try Valugan’s beach. There are these numerous large boulders that charms a lot of photographers.

 

2. Get to know the Ivatan people and their history and culture in Batanes.

Ivatans are probably the warmest people that you will ever meet in your whole life. They’re a bit shy at first but just strike up a conversation and they’ll be more than happy to answer your questions about Batanes. They might even offer to take you to a popular landmark, like Fundacion de Pacita Abad, the former house of internationally known artist Pacita Abad who was a trueblooded Ivatan, or bring you to the ruins of the Loran Station, a former US facility during the war.

Batanes also prides itself for its ‘almost‘ zero crime rate. For my 15 years of stay there, I can still remember the number of ‘cases’ and it doesn’t reach the count of five. I was so used to that way of living that when I started living permanently here in Manila, there was a phase where my friends would have to constantly exclaim, “Why aren’t you holding on to your bag? Don’t leave it all over the place!”

In fact, in Ivana, we also have this Honesty Coffee Shop where no one mans the store. We just list down the things that we want to buy and then we’ll drop our payment by the drop box.

TIP: You should meet Elo Hostallero in Sabtang (oldest man in Batanes) and Ida Estrella of in the house of Dakay (oldest house in Batanes).

Photo by Opal Bala 

 

3. Visit the other islands in Batanes.

Batan is the main part of Batanes that comprises of districts Basco to Imnajbu, but you should also head on to the two remaining inhabited islands: Sabtang and Itbayat. Ride a  falowa (Ivatan boat) to head on to these islands and you can even get to see dolphins during the wild and crazy boat ride. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

 

4. See the stone houses in Batanes.

I remember someone asking me before: “So you guys live in caves?” I resisted the urge to laugh but, no, we don’t live in caves darling, but we do have stone houses.

In our language, we call our houses as ‘vahay‘ and as per Batanes history, the Spaniards taught us how to build them up using limestone and corals, and these stone houses could actually withstand strong typhoons and even earthquakes.

I’ve lived in the main municipality of Batanes which is Basco, a more urban place, and it almost has no stone house left. But there are stone houses in the other districts like Ivana and Mahatao, but it’s in Itbayat and Sabtang where you could see more of the stone house communities. (You should also check out the old churches!) 

Photo by Opal Bala 

  

5. Get your ‘The Sound of Music‘ game on, head to the hills (or the mountains), hike, and do jump shots in between!

One does not simply leave Batanes without taking jump shots in one of the numerous picturesque spots—which is like… everywhere! One couldn’t even call it a ‘Batanes’ experience if you won’t take the opportunity of going on a hike. 

Photo by Opal Bala  

My favorite place has always been the Naidi Hills (where you could also find the Basco lighthouse). I remember countless times when my classmates and I would roll down the hills and then I’d arrive home with bruises and bits of grass in my hair and on my clothes. (Island life FOR THE WIN!) Try to find time to also trek Mt. Iraya!

 

6. Drop by the island’s own ‘Marlboro Country’  in Batanes

We call it ‘Rakuh a Payaman‘ which showcases this breathtaking view of vast pasture lands with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

  

7. Roam around in two wheels in Batanes.

This is a must! There are shops that lend you bicycles (I’m not sure for motorcycles), so go ahead and rent one and then travel along the winding and cliff-hugging roads that connects one district to the next. If you’re up for it, you can bike from Basco up to the end of Batan island which is Imnajbu; it’s a long bike, alright! But my friends and I have done this countless times and we usually finish in just half a day! So awesome!

Sidenote: I miss seeing these ‘Blow UR Horn‘ signs. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

 

8. Go ‘top loading’  in Batanes

Go top loading on a jeep! It’s dangerous if you think about it: the jeep will be working its way through winding roads so I bet you have these visions of yourself getting thrown off the cliff or something. But I’ve never heard of someone dropping to his death due to top loading. It’s really fun! Try top loading too on a falowa while on your way to the other islands. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

 

9. Try to attend at least one fiesta  in Batanes.

It gets really lively and you’ll get to see cultural presentations like the Palo-Palo dance, Fundanggo, Sagalas and Gozos, and more! The main fiesta you should witness: Batanes Day (happens on June 26) and it’s usually a week-long celebration consisting of fairs, parades, sports festivals, and shows. (I miss watching bull fights in Mahatao!)

Other festivites: Ivana Fiesta (May 1), Uyugan Fiesta (May 10), Diptan Fiesta (June 13), Valugan Fiesta (June 27), Basco Fiesta (August 8), Mahatao Fiesta (November 4), etc. 

Photo by Opal Bala 

 

10. Eat, eat, EAT  in Batanes!

As a seafood lover, I advise that you ABSOLUTELY try the payi (lobster), tatus (coconut crab), and dibang! Other fishes: arayu, doradu, mahi-mahi. Try the lataven a amung (kinilaw) too, a perfect pair for your bottle of beer!

Rootcrops: pinasu a wakay, dukay, gabi, and amay (mashed kamote and taro). And yes, never forget to try vunes (dried gabi) and uved (pork balls with flying fish and banana trunk). For the absolute experience: eat it with your hands, baby!  

Photo by Opal Bala  

There’s still a LOT of other things that you could do in Batanes, really. You could go scuba diving, surfing, and more. But When in Batanes, do these top 10 things and you’ll definitely have an EPIC and MEMORABLE time in this Philippine wonder. Guaranteed!

 

 

Top 10 Things To Do in Batanes : When in Manila

 






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