Sunday, July 29, 2018

Witness Batanes

Batanes is Philippines' northernmost and smallest province. It is composed of 10 islands with only three islands inhabited, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. The archipelago province is a protected area, landscapes and seascapes, in its entirety - the only province in the Philippines declared as such because of its rare flora and fauna, its terrain, diverse marine life, limestones cliffs and panoramic sceneries.

Batanes was always on my priority list in my PH81 campaign. But because of the flight tickets, it was pushed backwards in the list. Thanks to Philippine Airline, the Batanes dream became a reality.

Let me share our story from preparation to the actual travel itself. Happy reading!

Day 0 - Planning
I booked a Philippine Airlines (PAL) promo ticket from Clark to Batanes and vice-versa for only PHP 3,500 roundtrip. The ticket included 10 kgs of baggage allowance and snacks.

The normal one way airfare to Basco ranges from PHP 6,000 to 10,000 so I thought I got a good deal.

Other airlines that fly to Batanes are Skyjet and Cebu Pacific.
A month before our travel, I started doing my research and searched for accommodation and tours.
I have booked a 4 days and 3 night stay with  Ate Linda at Time Travel Lodge and booked tours with the famous Kuya Lito.
TimeTravel Lodge - Batanes
Rooms are with private bathroom (hot and cold shower), cable television, and free brewed coffee.
Includes daily breakfast and airport transfers. All rooms are installed with air conditioner and you can choose between a fan room or an aircon room.

Rates are as follows:

Solo travellers
Fan room - PHP 800
Aircon room - PHP 1,500

Two (2) pax
Fan room - PHP 1500
Aircon room - PHP 1900

Four (4) Pax
Fan room - PHP 2,400
Aircon room - PHP 2,900

You can contact Ate Linda at 0939-623-8978 for updated rates and room availability.

Other accommodations are Marfel's Inn which is known to backpackers and Ivatan Inn where Kuya Lito is affiliated.
For Tours, I went on with the well-recommended Kuya Lito. He is famous on every Facebook and blog posts specially with his Lighthouse Milkyway Shots.

Batan - North Batan (P1000 per tricycle) and South Batan (P1500 per tricycle)
Sabtang - P1500 per tricycle

These tours include service fee for the tricycle, tour guide fee and the photography skills of our guide/s.
The recommended pax for each tricycle is only two as the road in the island is uphill and downhill.

You can contact Kuya Lito at +63-918-216 -7440.

Our Day 1 and Day 2 tour guide who is also under Kuya Lito was Alvin.
Here is his number +63-946-327-3053
Our Day 3 tour guide was Kuya Roderick but I was not able to get his number.

Bumped into Kuya Lito (outer right).
And yes the man in the middle is Kuya Roderick, our kind and talented Day 3 tour guide.
I prepared our itinerary beforehand. We were determined to have a more relaxed travel where we can enjoy every bit of Batanes. Because of time constraint, we decided to go on North and South Batan Tours and skipped Sabtang Tour.

Fast Facts:

There is already a mobile and data signal in Batan. At the time of our visit, I had LTE signal for smart. Local says that Globe has weak signal.

December to February is the best time to visit Batanes. Lesser rains and storms and cooler weather.
March to May (Summer) is the best time to avoid rains, storms and being stranded. The downside is the landscapes are brown because the plants and grasses are dry during those times.
June to November (Rain Season) is the best time for the grass to grow which means colourful landscapes.

We visited in July and thank God for the beautiful weather, no rains, clear skies, bright sun and green landscapes.

Day 1 - Pre-departure and Spring of Youth

Our flight is Clark - Basco and Basco - Clark. This is favourable for us as we live near Clark.

If you are from Manila, you can hop into Point-to-point (P2P) Buses. It will take you directly to Clark International Airport (CIA). Hassle free. Info in this link. But if you want a cheaper option you can ride a bus going to Dau Terminal. Then ride a jeepney to Clark Maingate. Tell the driver to drop you off at Maingate. Fare is PHP 9. Then from Maingate Terminal, find Route 1 Jeepney (Green) and tell the driver that you are heading to CIA. Fare is PHP 11. The drop-off is at CIA Gate. You need to walk for 5-10 minutes to reach the Departure Area. There are also special trips in Maingate Terminal. Fare is PHP 250.

If you are being your vehicle to CIA, there is Park and Fly amenity for PHP 90 per day.
You also need to pay airport fee unless it was already included in your ticket. Airport fee for domestic flights is PHP 150 and PHP 600 for international flights.

Before our flight, I sent a message to Ate Linda of Time Travel Lodge for our accommodation and Kuya Lito of Ivatan Inn for our tours to remind them since it was a month ago when I booked their services.

When went out of Basco Airport gates, we saw Ate Linda holding a piece of paper with my name. She took our bags and hired a tricycle for us to get to the lodge only to find out that it was literally 5 minutes away from the airport. She showed us the room and we were impressed. We had a Fan-Room with private bathroom for PHP 1500 per night. It was cool and windy in Basco so we did not mind. But they have also aircon  (PHP 1,900 per night) installed just in case we changed our minds. And yes, we did. Haha

We took a brief rest and I called Kuya Lito for our tour. We had a minor problem. We have not taken our lunch. But there's no one in the Lodge as Ate Linda got some errands to do. So we decided that we will just finish the tour and eat lunch/dinner after. But at the back of my mind, I knew our itinerary today which is the Spring of Youth required trekking. Nevertheless, we are pushing through with our tour today. Then Alvin from Ivatan Inn came to pick us up at the Lodge. Alvin is connected with Kuya Lito. I think that time, Kuya Lito was also running an errand so he asked Alvin to take us to Spring of Youth. But we can't really go on an empty stomach so we told Alvin about our "no lunch" situation. Haha! He willingly took us to Beehan Restaurant for our lunch. And there you go, problem solved.

After lunch, we headed straight to Spring of Youth in Mahatao. Travel time is around 20-30 minutes. The road to Mahatao is really breathtaking with the view of ocean, Mount Iraya and Basco. Upon reaching the jump-off point, we registered and paid and entrance fee of PHP 50 per pax. 

We then started the 20-30 uphill trek until we reached the Spring of Youth. Since it is a spring, the water in the pool was cold. Ivatans created a pool facing the ocean and Mount Iraya. The pool is open from 7:00AM to 5:00 PM and it is closed during Monday and Friday for maintenance. During maintenance, they empty the pool and clean it up. The best time to visit the spring is at early morning. Both locals and tourist go to the place during afternoons.

We finished at around 4:30 PM and headed back to our Lodge. We asked Ate Linda about the nearest restaurant/eatery near our accommodation and she lead us to Pension which is  just 5 minute walk from the Lodge. After dinner, we also bought snacks in Shop and Save which is along the way back to the Lodge.

Day 2 - North Batan Tour
Before starting any tour in Batanes, tourist need to pay a PHP 350 environmental fee. In return, they will give you a "Breathtaking Batanes" booklet with a serial number. Inside the booklet is a Batanes Eco Tourism Ticket for Basco, Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan, Sabtang and Itbyat. This is like your passport to Batanes and you have to bring it and get it stamped for your tours. There is a fine for tourist and tour guides who will not comply with this.

The places visited in the tour were:

1. Basco Arc - It has the "Welcome to Basco" sign and a view of the capital, lighthouse, and the vast ocean.

2.  Mt Carmel Chapel - Famous for weddings and movies. Currently, it is under construction. Since this is on the top of the hill, it gave a breathtaking view of Basco.

3.  Pagasa Weather Station - This too is under construction during our visit because it was destroyed during a typhoon. But again, we took advantage of the view from this area.

4.  Japanese Tunnel - The tunnel was created during World War II and served as shelter for Japanese soldiers and prisoner for captives during the time. FYI. It was really dark inside. We were not able to get down to the stairs as it was flooded with water.

5. Valugan Boulder Beach - This beach got stones that were from the eruption of Mount Iraya in 400 A.D.

6. Vayang Rolling Hills - Yeah, you can literally roll from the hills. Haha  The view is an endless waves of rolling hills with a combination of landscapes and seascapes.

7. Naidi Lighthouse - The lighthouse closest to the capital. This is also were we took our milky way shots.

The tour runs from 3 to 4 hours depending on your pace and photo sesh. Haha!
The tour fee was PHP 1,000 per tricycle for a maximum of 2 pax. The fee included service fee and tour guide fee. Alvin took most of our pictures. Yeah, hassle free and perfect frames from our tour guide. After the tour, we stopped at Beehan for lunch. Then, Alvin dropped us off our accommodation.

We took a rest and watched movies during the afternoon. Afterwards, we headed to Pension for dinner. I then called Alvin if we can take us to the Lighthouse for milky way shot. There are also some tourist in the Lighthouse at that time. And Kuya Lito was there too. Aside from the night photography, I really enjoyed star gazing and the cool breeze of air with the sounds of the ocean waves. When we are done, Alvin brought us back to our Lodge. Roundtrip fare was PHP 100 for 2 pax.

During our visit, the sun set was at 7:00 PM and the best time to do milky way shots is from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. After 9:00 PM the moon started to show its light.


We were not able to visit Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge as they are preparing for an event on that day.

Day 3 - South Batan Tour

This is the most jumped pack tour we had in Basco. We were able to visit 17 places. For our South Batan Tour, Kuya Roderick, one of Kuya Lito's guides, did the tour. He was so good with his photography skills that he held the camera most of the time and we loved it.

1. Chawa Viewdeck - A viewing deck for the west part of Batan.

2. Mahatao Shelter Port - This port is where the boats are "parked" especially during stormy days. There's an islet that serves as barrier from the waves.

3. San Carlos Borromeo Church - a cultural icons. This church was built in 1873 but the people where able to preserve its architecture. You can also see the Spanish Lamp Post that was used as light house during Spanish period.

4. Blank Page Library - This is inside San Carlos Borromeo Church. They have a thousand of blank pages book. Each book has a series number and people can write in the blank pages. Have you heard any Blank Page Library Love Story? Well, I did read some and that inspired me to go here. To enter the library, you need to pay PHP 50 entrance fee.

5. Tayid Lighthouse - Another lighthouse in Batan but this is not used anymore.

6. Marlboro Country - The true name of the place is Racuh a Payaman. An endless rolling hills with strong winds facing South Batan and the ocean.

7. San Lorenzo Chapel - The place where the first Catholic Mass was heard in Batan.

8. Alapad Rock Formation - Where the famous "Blow UR Horn" is situated. And the rock formation along the road is interesting.

9. Nanay Ching - We had our lunch here. They offer set meal for PHP 300 which included, two types of rice, soup, three viands and dessert.

10. Sung-sung Village - These are remnants of an old settlement which were ravaged by tsunami in 1950s. Residents were relocated to Mindanao and the place became inhabited for some time. Today, it is a thriving coastal community again.

11. San Antonio Parish - One of the oldest church in Batan

12. Honesty Store - as everyone is curious about it. Yes, this shop is unmanned and the owner relies on the Honesty of the customers. We bought souvenir from this shop. The process is that you have to the thing/s you bought and its price in the logbook. And there's a huge money bank where you can drop off your payment. It is best if you have the exact payment.

13. San Jose el Obreto Church - The only church in Batan with a separate bell tower.

14. House of Dakay  - Most photographed Ivatan House. It was owned by Luisa Estrella  who bequeathed it to her favourite nephew, Jose "Dakay" Estrella. The house survived a destructive earthquake in 1918 and is maintained and retained up to this time. Just a little farther to House of Dakay is a souvenir shop.

15. Spanish Bridge - Constructed during Spanish era. It is the road which lead to the doorsteps of the Church.

16. White Beach - A fine white sand beach  where locals stay to have picnic and family get together.

17. Blue Lagoon - Also called Spanish lagoon as the priest during the Spanish era used to bath here. The lagoon is just near the high way but it is almost hidden in everyone's sight.

The tour runs from 6 to 8 hours. Again, this depends on your pace and picture taking sesh.
After the tour, Kuya Roderick, dropped us off the Lodge. We rested for a while and prep for dinner. We had dinner at Pension and we thought of going to Lighthouse again for another milky way shot. But the sky was cloudy so we postponed it and got some rest.

Day 4 - Basco Streets
This day was dedicated for roaming around Basco streets and buying souvenirs. We went to Tawsend Souvenir shop and Bisumi Souvenir shop. I think, the cheapest of all souvenir shop is at Bisumi. After strolling the streets, we had out lunch and prepared for our flight.


I spent PHP 12,089 (exact. all-in expenses) for our airfare, airport fee, accommodation, entrance fee, environmental fee, tours, tip, food and souvenirs. Yes, PHP 12,100 for 4 days and 3 nights in Batanes. Not bad right? :)

Below is the summary of our itinerary and expenses.
Kindly note that from the summary, I have excluded the food, tip fee, and souvenirs as these are relative to each traveller.

Day 0
Airfare - PHP 3,500

Day 1
Angeles Main Gate to Clark Airport (via shuttle) - PHP 11
CIA Airport Fee - PHP 150
Check-in at Time Travel Lodge - PHP 4,900 for 2 pax - PHP 2,450 per pax
Lunch - Beehan Lunch
Travel to Spring of Youth (via tricycle) PHP 500 for 2 pax - PHP 250 per pax
Spring of Youth Entrance Fee - PHP 50
Dinner - Pension
Snacks - Shop and Save
Total Expenses  Day 1 - PHP 2,911

Day 2
Breakfast - Lodge
Batanes Environmental Fee - PHP 350
North Batan Tour  (via tricycle) PHP 1,000 for 2 pax. PHP 500 per pax
Lunch - Beehan
Dinner - Pension
Lighthouse - Milkyway shot (via tricycle) PHP 100 for 2 pax. PHP 50 per pax
Total Expenses Day 2 - PHP 900

Day 3
Breakfast - Lodge
South Batan Tour (via trickle) PHP 1,500 for 2 pax. PHP 750 per pax
San Borromeo Church - Blank Page Library Entrance - PHP 50
Lunch - Nanay Ching (set meals)
Bought Souvenirs
Miscellaneous (C.R) - PHP 10
Dinner - Pension
Total Expenses  Day 3 - PHP 810

Day 4
Breakfast - Lodge
Roaming Basco Streets
Bought Souvenirs
Total Expenses  Day 4- PHP 0

4 Days Expenses - PHP 8,131

Food, tip and souvenirs - PHP 3,958


The trip to Batanes was like a dream, a beautiful dream.  I cannot believe that I was able to go there and explore the place.

I saw it from postcards, Google, Facebook posts and different blogs but having to experience the place and kindness of the people is a different thing, an amazingly, on to the next level experience.

I so love you Batanes.

For questions, feel free to post a comment or post in the question box in the homepage. See yah!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Follow Me @indaygala