TRAVEL: 19 best experiences you can get only in Batanes

Photos and words courtesy of Yui Mendoza

A beauty. A sight straight out of a dream. A charm no picture could ever justify. For certain, Batanes now sits comfortably on top of my most favorite local destinations.

Here are 19 “best” you can only experience in the country’s Paradise of the North!

19. Spring of Youth – nature’s own infinity pool. The view and the relaxing cool water are reasons enough to endure the 20-minute trek. Best placed as the last item on your itinerary.

18. Weavers’ association – where vakuls, kanayi, and kalapay are scrupulously crafted. Sadly, Sabtang elders struggle to keep this tradition alive since young Ivatans favor modern protective gears (plastic raincoats and hats) and given the amount of work involved in weaving every piece.

17. Vayang Rolling Hills

16. Chamatad Tinyan Viewpoint – If you’re into breathtaking seascapes, this one is for you. Windswept hills, dramatic terrains, and scenic curves all the way down to the cove. Like a dragon’s lair straight off a fictional film!

15. Savidug Village — a village flanked with traditional Ivatan houses

14. Dress up like a local – here’s me donning vakul (the Tina Turner-Mufasa inspired headdress), kanayi (vest), and kalapay (basket for root crops and other harvests). Vakul is usually worn by women but for the full experience, I decided to put it on along with the other pieces. Why not?

13. Tayid Lighthouse – like the other six, this lighthouse serves only tourism and not navigational purposes. It has five corners, setting it apart from others that are spherical in shape.

12. Transportation – no cars, no jeepneys. You go around the area by renting a tricycle, a motorcycle, or a bike. BATODA is their version of Grab. Passengers make a reservation thru call/SMS.

11. Mahatahatao – acts as a natural fortress and protection for tataya (fishing boats) and faluwa (passenger boats) against the crashing sea waves. Named after the bravest mangpus (datu/leader) of the tribe — info from manong bangkero.

10. Unlimited hills – hills gridded by a web of livengs (hedgerows) are a common sight anywhere in Batanes. They prevent soil erosion, divide farm areas, shield crops from strong wind, and keep pasteurized animals in place. Also, it adds to the hills’ aesthetics!

9. Alapad – a rock formation shaped by wind, storm, and time. A cave on the surface shelters a number of free-range goats.

8. Honesty cafe – An unmanned shop which has been operating for 17 years. Customers help themselves to a cup of coffee, ube cookies, sweet potatoes, T-shirts, and souvenir items.

7. Dakay – the oldest house in Batanes. Prides on its authenticity since it did not undergo any renovation since its construction circa 1870.

6. Stone houses – nope, it’s not Ireland. A place in the country where houses are of stones. Made out of corals and boulder stones held together by limestones which make them fire- and stone-proof. Cogons are used as roofs. They also act as natural insulators. Houses are elevated, its lower portion “ahbu” doubles as a storage area for root crops.

5. Ivatan cuisines – in the photo: Yellow fin fish, liempo, paco salad. As per Ate local, Ivatans learned to tap on pacos as a food resource since these ferns thrive amidst unfavorable weather conditions. Do try vunong (dish wrapped in “kabaya” leaves), uvud (meatballs made of banana heart and ground meat), and grilled flying fish!

4. The Japanese Tunnel – hideout of the Japanese fleet during the WWII, drilled and formed by the Ivatans (Batanes’ locals) under forced labor. In wartime, both ends of the tunnel were camouflaged by bushes and vines. A steep descent leads to the chambers and bunkers then used by the Japanese.

3. Idjang – back when tribal wars were common in the province, high elevations were used as lookout points for approaching enemies. Now, only grazing animals occupy the area.

2. Sto. Domingo Parish – renovated after the earthquake that hit the province in 2000; hence, the modern facade and belfry.

1. Racuh a Payaman – a personal favorite. A wide blanket of green which serves as pastureland for cows and horses. What to do? Sit down, take the beauty in, or spend hours just staring at the stunning view like I did. Its cinematic cliffs, cows in the background, and strong wind will surely linger in your memory forever. Racuh-a also offers the most beautiful sunrise!

Thanks for the memories, Batanes! I am spellbound.

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