The age of social media revolutionized our way of life—from how we project ourselves to the world, to paving an avenue to meet new friends, to making us more aware of things that matter (world news perhaps?) and don’t (Entertainment? Mundane happenings in our friends lives? Advertisements?). But these things that don’t matter sometimes? They matter other times. Like when we’re tired and wanting some bit of a break…these advertisements that we normally look past suddenly becomes our way out of the seemingly endless routine we find ourselves in every day. It’s either we give in to our impulse to shop for new shoes, clothes, gadgets OR give in to our wanderlust…even just for a few days. Yes, I’m talking about those travel adverts and those endless promos we stumble upon online (perhaps I can write a separate article on this, I’m deviating a bit (a lot) on the topic at hand). Anyway speaking of promos and wanderlust, my friend, Poli, came across this travel pass offered by SkyJet, one of the two airlines that fly to Batanes (circa 2014). But since SkyJet is facing a bit of turmoil at the moment, you can opt to book PAL Express for the meantime. Now, here goes my first tip: the key to cheap trips is to plan and book early (at most, a year prior to your travel).
We got the travel pass (roundtrip: 5,400php/pax) at the latter part of 2013 and decided to set foot on this magical island on March 2014.
I hopped to an 80-seater chartered plane by 5:45am and got off at around 7:00am. Time for a touchdown selfie! I can recall how ecstatic I was seeing Batanes’ landscapes for the first time.
Since we were just three, Kuya Ryan Cardona hooked us up with a tricycle driver (instead of an A/C van) to guide us in the island. Another cheap negotiation right there. You may contact him at 0919 2795 963 or 0915 8034 582. Do check them out here BISUMI Tour and Services.
Day 1: March 28, 2014 Northern Batan Island Tour (click photos to enlarge)
- PAGASA “Tukon” Radar Station (typical weather substation which I don’t have a photo of)
After checking in and settling down at Batanes-DDD Habitat Lodging House, we ate our lunch at a nearby canteen and got ready for our half day tour. We followed the itinerary in that exact order as advised by our guide. We started our epic exploration by 2:00pm and ended at around 6:00pm. We were exhausted so we decided to splurge a bit on food, ordering an Ivatan platter at Pension Ivatan Hometel and Restaurant (1500 php/3 to 5pax).
Day 2: March 29, 2014 Sabtang Island Tour
- Registration at Sabtang Tourism Information Center (Php200/pax)
- (30 minute travel back to Sinakan Centro)
Our 2nd day started early, after a quick breakfast, our guide led us to San Vicente Port/Radiwan Port in Ivana (30 minute ride from Batan). From the port, you can easily spot Sabtang; but danger lies in the water between these islands. I won’t lie, I am a beach guy, but the Batanes waters gave me the chills. When we rode the faluwa (traditional Ivatan boat), my heart pounced with excitement. Someday, I am going to swim and dive here. After 30 minutes of constant tidal wave bombardment (sea was calm according to locals), we reached Sabtang and met our cogon trike driver/guide. The 200 php environmental fee maybe burdensome; but once you’ve “seen” Sabtang, you might actually consider paying more just to conserve its beauty. To fully experience Sabtang, you can opt to stay overnight at Chavayan. Unfortunately, time is a luxury we don’t have, so we rode the last faluwa ride back Ivana port by 2:00pm. I left the island with a heavy heart, there were so many things the island has to offer yet I’ve got so little time.
We reached Batan at around 3:30pm. With ample time in our hands before dusk, we decided to explore the nearby streets. You can rent a bike and feel the Endless Love koreanovela vibe under the 30°C warmth of the sun – not so Korean eh?
There were a lot of souvenir shops scattered in the streets of Basco, the culprit behind my spending of 3000php for pasalubong (souvenirs) alone. I figured, this could probably be my first and last stay here so why not indulge (crossing my fingers – I really wish to get back there). My friends and I ate at a carinderia (local eatery) feeling the need to save up from yesterday’s sumptuous meal.
Day 3: March 30, 2014 Southern Batan Tour
Wow, I got tired typing these places. But, that was never the case back then, when we were jumping from one place to another, crossing place after place off of our list. The whole day tour started at 9:00am. I went out with my hoodie, prepared to face the Batanes sun and boy was I in awe-gasm the whole time. We capped the day off with a beer or two while I sang my heart out in a karaoke at a local bar we found while roaming around. On one hand, I wanted for Basco to have rave bars and a wild nightlife. On the other, I wanted to preserve its serene atmosphere. Maybe it’s just the alcohol messing with my head.
A friendly reminder: Bring as much cash with you if you’re an impulsive buyer. There’s only one ATM at Basco. It so happened when we were there, the machine was defective. I was short in cash and didn’t know how in the world will I get back to Manila. Good thing, my friend Migs always had emergency cash in times of dire need.
Day 4: Departure
When I posted the photos on my facebook page, I couldn’t help composing a few lines to the tune of Royals as I describe my Batanes feels:
I’ve never seen Batanes in the flesh
Its steep cliffs and rolling hills like the movie
And I’m not proud, this isn’t my address
These picturesque towns with my multiple selfies.
End Notes, Tips and Advice
Please utilize the different social media platforms to your advantage. Be patient in finding seat sales of various airlines or travel sites. These promos are there, trust me, you just have to exert extra effort in getting one that fits you and your budget. Your little effort can save you a lot of money. I know Batanes is one of, if not, the most expensive travel destinations here in PH. But hey, don’t fret. You can work your way around it with careful planning. Search for promos and book early! Scout all the available itineraries online, mix and match those to your preference. A DIY trip can be tedious but rewarding at the same time.
Batanes is indeed a precious gem in the north boasting its impeccable cliffs and landscapes. Yes, we can google images, bookmark blogs, and play vimeo or gopro videos of Batanes. But the one thing that strikes me as I brush my existence in this wonderful island is the locals. The people, you can’t just search them in the web—you have to experience socializing with them yourselves. They are the most kind and most honest people I have ever met. One example is our guide. I can remember how he would always nod and smile to the people he met on the road as he drove us to different locations. At first, I thought they knew each other; but when we got to the southern part of Batan, he’s still nodding and smiling at everybody. This is when I thought to myself, this couldn’t be, maybe he’s a politician or a barangay officer. Then it hit me, that’s their nature. Simple as that. He even told us that you can leave your bike at the side of the road and come back the next day and your bike will still be there, unscathed, untouched. Hence, the Honesty Store – you probably heard a thing or two about this magnificent concept.
It was an honor meeting you, Batanes. You showed me places I couldn’t even put into words. What made my trip more special was meeting the locals, thank you for welcoming us with such warmth and purity. Til we meet again.