Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Biyaheng Ivatan: A 2-Day Batanes Budget Travel Guide


We tame the wind
We tame the sea
But we do not tame the Earth
For She is our Mother

-Ivatan Poem-

Batanes has been one of the places in my bucket list, but due to its location and the budget you need to go there, delayed my trip for a couple of years. Batanes is the northernmost province and is hammered by storms all year round. It is an hour and a half flight from Manila and expect turbulence when you fly there. The island also experiences three (3) weather changes in a day. So in this blog entry, I will give you a detailed information about my trip with some information on places to go, budget needed as well as some delicious food to taste.

I booked my Batanes flight with SkyJet last June 2016 at around PHP 6,000.00 one way (Manila to Basco). I tried looking for some seat sale over the internet, but there were none in all the flights going to Batanes (Phil Airlines, SkyJet and there's another one whose name I forgot). From Davao, I flew to Manila around 10PM on a Thursday and arrived around 12MN in Terminal 3. The flight to Batanes is at Terminal 4, so I need to "Grab a Car"  for my flight. My SkyJet flight left Manila around 5:55 AM.

I arrived in Batanes Friday, January 20 around 7:00AM. The first thing I noticed is Mt. Iraya which is an active volcano. It was very sunny that time and it’s the perfect time to tour the island. We entered the airport and line up to pay the environmental fee of PHP 350.00. They only have two people writing all the receipts, so expect that there's a line. If you contacted accommodation and tours prior to your trip, you will see them lining up with name plates. I saw my name from the board of Marfel's Lodge's staff.

We left the airport and headed straight to Marfel's Lodge which is just a few blocks away (Yes, you can just walk). Marfel's Lodge is a cozy house and smiling staff. Ate Emie, who's from Mindanao, was the staff that oriented me around the house. It has it's own "Honesty Shop" where you can get food and drinks, list it down and just put your money in the basket. It also has cable TV in a small but homey living room, separate ladies and men's restroom and shower. My room (Room 4) was spacious and since I booked for a "fan room" at PHP 500.00 per night, I didn't turn the AC on, even if it is installed and ready to use. Marfel's also has bigger rooms for family accommodation that has it's own restroom.

Bedroom

You can contact them through this number: 09088931475.

P.S. During my Visit, there's no DATA connection in the island. No INTERNET!

DAY ONE (January 20, 2017):

Mahatao Light House
I started my day one tour of Batanes at 9AM. Our iterinary is North and South Batan. I contacted a tour guide, Dale. He had an emergency in Manila, but he already arranged all my trips. I chose to go by Tricycle since going with a group in a van is a hassle. When you travel and tour with the group, you need to wait for everyone to finish (like taking pictures, eating, etc.). If you just go with a tricycle, you can easily move to different locations faster than everyone. My driver's name was Rosco and he's a smiling, courteous man (I think Ivatan's are nice people since they always smile at you and greet you). He would take you to great spots and would sometimes give you some trivia about the place. He would also offer to take your picture and he's also good at it.

Mahatao Boat Shelter
We visited South Batan first and I loved the coastal roads that slither the island. We went to Chawa View Deck, which is was a cliff overlooking the beach. There were stairs going down the cliff side if you want to take pictures near the rocks. We also passed by Mahatao Boat Shelter Port which we weren't able to visit since it is under construction and it's not accessible to tourists. We also visited some the Tayid Lighthouse which also can be seen from Racuh A Payaman or what they call the Marlboro Country, the House of Dakay, the Imnajbu point where you can see the rock formations along Alapad Pass.

There is  Sitio Songsong, where Rosco, my tour guide showed me the height of the water when the tsunami hit. We also visited the famous Honesty Shoppe,  and the Homoron White beach and lagoon. We also stopped in one town to have our lunch. The set meal costs PHP 300.00. After lunch, we started the North Batan tour.

Racuh A Payaman
The afternoon of Day one was spent travelling to the North. We started the trip by going to the Fundacion Pacita, then visited the PAG-ASA Weather Station and the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel. We also went to the Valugan Boulder Beach, the Vayang Rolling Hills and dropped by the "I love Batanes" at the Basco Light House on Naidi Hills, where I get to climbed the top and took some pictures of the entire Basco Town Proper.

It rained that afternoon so I was not able to get out of the lodge to eat dinner, however, in Marfel's kitchen they have a lot of noodles, canton and drinks that you can choose from. My first day ended with a comfy snuggle inside my room, since it was raining and it's very cold.

Here's Dale's number in case you're interested to contact him for the DIY Tour: 09176197009. Batan South tour costs PHP 1,500.00 while Batan North costs PHP 1,000.00.
Tayid Lighthouse
Tayid Lighthouse
Racuh A Payaman

Alapad Pass
Honesty Coffee Shop

Honesty Note
House of Dakay
Bicycle Ride around the town
Homoron White Beach
Fundacion Pacita
Valugan Boulder Beach
Basco Lighthouse
DAY 2 (January 21, 2017):

Sabtang Lighthouse on a Gloomy Day
The day started really early as I was informed that someone will pick me up for my Sabtang Island Trip. It was around 6AM and I was fetched by Herman. He drove me for 45 minutes going to the Ivana Port and we arrived there around 6:45AM. Since Dale already arranged my tour, my seat was already reserved on the bigger Faluwa. It was raining and the waves are pretty big that time. By 7AM, we left Batan harbor and braved the wild sea. We reached Sabtang after a dizzying 45 minute boat ride. One way costs PHP 100.00.

Stone Houses in Savidug
I registered and paid PHP 200.00 for the environmental fee. Michael (my tour guide)  started the tour (in a cogon topped sidecar) by visiting Savidug Village.  There we had  pictures taken inside some empty stone house near the church. We also passed by the "Sleeping Beauty", a mountain who is shaped like a sleeping woman. Next shop was the Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint where you can climb the cliff to see the beautiful Chamantad Cove. Be extra careful when its raining and the winds are strong because you might get blown away. You can also get souvenirs from here and taste their Tubho Tea and Arius Wine.

Chavayan Beach
Our next stop was the Chavayan village where I get to talk to builders constructing the port (who are from Gensan) along Chavayan Beach. Michael also showed me the traditional wooden lever they use to pull the boats to the shore. You can see more stone houses here and the place where they weave "vakul", the cogon headgear. Next stop was the Morong Beach, where we had our lunch. Again I paid PHP 300.00 for the set meal. The waves are really ferocious and even higher this time and my guide advised me to stay away from the water because the current is strong enough to snatch you. So I played tag with the sea and took pictures of Nakabuang Arch on the beach. They also have the zipline here that nobody's trying during our visit because of the heavy rain.

Wooden Lever used to pull boats
Ivatan Elder wearing vakul
Nakabuang Arch on Morong Beach 
After lunch, we head back to the port and waited for the trip back to Batan. At this time, the waves are really high and the Sabtang Lighthouse is less visible with the gray skies in the background. I rode the same boat back to Batan, but this time, the trip was really a roller coaster ride. The crew looked confident though, so I know that we can reach Batan safely and just get a nasty headache on the way back.

Uved Balls

I reached Ivana port, dizzy and waited for Herman.  We drove back to Marfel's Inn and paid him PHP 450.00 for the trip. As the night time approached, the rain became heavier. I got my pasalubong the day before but I still visited the souvenir shops to buy some extra. I went to Pensionne Ivatan and I tried out some of their Ivatan Specialties. Since I already tasted Turmeric Rice, Seaweed Soup (Yumm) and Lunyis (salted pork fried in its own lard)  on my first day, I ordered two Ivatan dishes- Caliente, which is carabao skin and Uved Balls (Ubod with fish and pork).

Caliente is like Mindanao's balbacua but it's kinilaw and not a soup. I went back to Marfel's Lodge and spent a few minutes hanging out with some new friends (Beth- with very cute kids and my new jetsetter friend Badet, who will stay in Batanes for 9 days…I envy her!) . I packed my stuff, paid Ate Emei and slept. I also wrote a poem and posted it on the instaboard of the Lodge. I was picked up around 6AM the next day and dropped off at the airport. I was sad that my Batanes trip is a little short, but I was happy because I get to visit the island and stood under Mt. Iraya's shadow. As I board the plane, the rain is getting heavier, like what I feel as I leave the bewitching islands of Batanes.

Caliente

TOTAL Expense on this trip for Davao Friends:

Transpo:
  1. DVO-MLA-DVO: Cebu Pacific around PHP 4,000.00
  2. MLA-BSO-MLA: SkyJet is around PHP 12,000.00
  3. Airport Transfer Terminal 3 to Terminal 4: PHP 250.00

Accommodation:
2 days at Marfel's Lodge- 09088931475 (Fan Room): PHP 1,000.00

TOUR: 

Day 1:
  1. Batanes Environmental Fee: PHP 350.00
  2. Tour to South Batan: PHP 1,500.00
  3. Tour to North Batan: PHP 1,000.00
  4. Lunch at Paulvana's: PHP 300.00

Day 2:
  1. Tryke to Ivana Port (Roundtrip): PHP 450.00
  2. Faluwa Fare- Batan to Sabtang (Roundtrip): PHP 200.00
  3. Sabtang Environmental Fee: PHP 200.00
  4. Sabtang Tour: PHP 1,000.00
  5. Morong Beach Lunch: PHP 300.00

TOTAL: PHP 22,550.00

***This is excluding the meals outside the tour, pasalubong, etc.

#MAHALPEROSULIT

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Basco Lighthouse

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