Let me tell you about Batanes.
Batanes is the northernmost group of islands in the Philippines, so distant, it is actually closer to Taiwan than mainland Philippines. Batanes is where cops perhaps have the easiest job in the world, for there are very little to no crimes. Batanes is where little kids are the symbol of old Filipino traditions kept alive—taught well by parents to always take the hand of the older to “mano” no matter if you are simply a stranger passing by who greeted with a smile. Batanes is where the houses are so open, in the mornings when I brush my teeth, my view is a hill of emerald pasture where cows frolic and a lighthouse peacefully sits.
And Batanes is where you’ll find the trait we all, at some point, have thought has been lost to this country for good: honesty. Here in Batanes you will learn that the Ivatans will, quite possibly, be the most honest people you will ever encounter.
And, of course, Batanes is where you will witness the splendor of nature and community at its finest and its grandest. Here, below, are 10 things to prove just that.
10 Sights in Batanes That Will Make You Want to Fly There ASAP
10. The National Highway
Aboard a van with the guide from BISUMI Tours and the team I went there to work with, we trod Batan Island’s national highway to get to our destination. And let me tell you, the highway here is so different than that of Manila’s. There are only two lanes here, but no traffic. And instead of shiny high rise buildings as a view, this highway in Batanes perches on a cliff, sometimes curving in between rocks towering so close on either side. A truly spectacular sight, no less.
9. Valugan Boulder Beach
I’ve seen a ton of photos of Boulder Beach in the internet throughout the years, but somehow, none of those photos could still have prepared me for how fascinating it was to see this famous beach in the flesh. A long stretch of big white boulders where the equally big white waves crash, the whole scenario looks closely similar to the white-boulder coast of Capones island in Zambales, but grander. Much, much grander. Bigger mountain backdrops. Bigger rocks. And bigger feels.
8. The Lighthouses
Batanes is abundant in lighthouses. And I don’t know about you, but I always thought there to be something particularly endearing about them. This one, the Naidi Hills Lighthouse, is right in the heart of Basco—the same lighthouse whose sight I would wake up to from my homestay. It looks just as charming up close as it is from afar.
7. Vayang Rolling Hills
I watched my first Batanes sunset here. Golden slabs of sunshine veiled over everything—the hills, the rocky beach beneath, the cattle in pasture, us. Our skins were drenched in the warmth of the sunset as we just sat there, wondering how we ever got so lucky to be where we were.
6. Mt. Carmel Church
Mt. Carmel Church is a quaint, quiet little chapel on top of a hill, overlooking a beautiful view of both houses and nature. Though built only in the early 2000s, Mt. Carmel Church has that old soul feel to it as it was patterned after the traditional stone houses of Batanes. It is a beautiful, intimate structure. It is easy to fall for the quiet charm of this church, which makes it a popular wedding venue not just for the locals, but for Manila couples as well.
5. Alapad Rock Formation
Looks familiar? This very spot was made famous by one of the most beloved pairings ever to grace Philippine TV—Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta. The popular “i-Dawn Zulueta mo ako” stunt was shot right here for the 1991 classic hit film Hihintayin Kita sa Langit.
But I had my own version of a movie here. I sat at the edge of the hill, right before it sloped down to the wide, rocky beach below, just taking in the air and the grandeur of it all. In my head, the famous line from Perks of Being a Wallflower played: “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” That was my movie. And it was perfect.
4. Stone House Village
Coming to Batanes, I was excited to see the stone houses the most. Made from limestone, dead corals, and boulders, these houses were made to last through the fiercest weathers that hit this region, and stand for everything Batanes and its people are—a timeless beauty.
3. Tinyan View Point
Fan of the Lord of the Rings? Tinyan View Point, as the rest of Sabtang Island where it can be found, will make you feel like you have just stepped into Middle Earth. For those who are not familiar with the trilogy, yes, that is a very good thing.
2. Marlboro Hills
Personally my favorite from all the sites, Marlboro Hills is a breath of fresh air. The view of a vast body of water fiercely crashing into majestic cliffs will perhaps inspire you, as it did to me, making you feel small and grand all at the same time.
1. The Ivatans
I dare to argue that despite all the breathtaking sights that seem larger than life, the Ivatans would still be the best thing about Batanes. After all, Batanes would not still be the dreamy land it is now if not for the caring hands of the locals who have helped sustain and nurture it throughout the years.
I stayed at a lovely homestay with an Ivatan family. The mother, Leonor, or Nana as she is lovingly called, is a Manileña who moved to Batanes 20 years ago when she fell in love with an Ivatan. Together with her husband, she welcomes strangers like me into their home, cooking for them delicious breakfast and treating them like their own family.
Our tour guide Kuya Art, another Ivatan, is a jolly fella who makes the funniest jokes and takes the best pictures. He knows Batanes like the back of his hands, and getting to know this place through his eyes and through his stories will surely make you love and appreciate Batanes all the more.
The Ivatans are so gentle and honest (and trusting, in return) they have stores with no one watching—just take what you want, and don’t forget to leave your payment on the counter. In one incident, one of my tour mates even accidentally left her powerbank on the street where they stopped to take pictures, and you’ll be surprised to know she still found it there an hour after when she realized she left it and went back for it.
The kindness and the honesty of the Ivatans are something we can all learn from, during this time when these two qualities would sometimes feel obsolete.
There is a popular souvenir shirt in Batanes that reads “Batanes: magastos pero sulit” [Batanes: costly but worth it] which really does say it all. I admit, journeying to Batanes will not come so cheap. But there are just certain things in life you simply cannot put a price tag on. Batanes will be one of those.
It might cost you a month or two’s savings to get here, but you see, money you can always just earn again. Moments, however, pass. Sometimes, all we have is here and now. So better grab it and live for the moment. Take the leap. Buy that plane ticket you’ve been eyeing. What you might get in return could be so much more—an experience of a lifetime.
And that one, is honestly, always worth it.
Special thanks to SkyJet Airlines for taking WheninManila.com to this unforgettable outreach trip to Batanes. Regular flights to Batanes are available through SkyJet Airlines. Check their website at www.skyjetair.com for tickets and flight promos.
BISUMI Tour and Services
Richard and Leonor Argonza