Va Voom Batanes!

Jun 6, 2013 by

This surreal view in Batan Island offers a perfect backdrop for tourists

This surreal view in Batan Island offers a perfect backdrop for tourists

The Ivatans have this thing for the “V”. There’s the plant called Vuyavuy that they make into a Vacul. There is a barangay called Chavayan, a dish called Uvee. The slippers you wear is called Chavaianas. Seriously now. Batanes is like being in a movie set of epic proportions. It’s like Ireland, Switzerland, and I would guess New Zealand rolled into one place. The tour was a perfect combination of rest and recreation. There was even siesta in the itinerary on day 2 at 2:00 P.M. Some quick info. Batanes is the northernmost tip of the Philippines. Batan is one of the three islands of Batanes. The other two are Sabtang and Itbayat. In Batan, a dormant volcano called Iraya rises above the South China Sea.

Author Kevin Piamonte basks in the vastness of the view that matches those tha we have seen in LOTR movies.

Author Kevin Piamonte basks in the vastness of the view that matches those that we have seen in LOTR movies.

SPF 100 is your best bet in Batanes to avoid becoming a well-done toast. But you have to brave the sun and the heat in Batanes because that’s what you went there for. The Ivatans wear this garb called Vacul made from a plant called Vuyavuy to protect them from the weather (so you thought I was kidding about the “V”?). In December, we were told, the temperature drops to 10 degrees and you cannot climb the hills because winds will blow you away and there is a strong possibility you will end up in Taiwan because it is nearest to Batanes than Luzon. Batanes is a place of the weather-beaten and the sublime. Nature and its elements rule the islands. The ruins of Sitio Songsong are a testimony to this. Swallowed up by a tsunami years ago, the remains eerily stand by the seaside with the Pacific Ocean lurking in the background. Because weather can be unpredictable in Batanes, stone houses are musts. The cogon roofs of these houses are also very thick so rain drips along the sides protecting the inhabitants of the houses.

The oldest stone house in Ivana is called House of Dakay. Dakay pertains to the owner who used to go around town topless. But she was not crazy.

pertains to the owner who used to go around town topless. But she was not crazy.

This stone house in Sabtang Island used to be a Convent. Majority of the Ivatans are devout Roman Catholics

This stone house in Sabtang Island used to be a Convent. Majority of the Ivatans are devout Roman Catholics

Crossing the South China Sea on another day led us to Sabtang. Sabtang has a population of about 2,000. A village called Chavayan had stone houses lined up next to each other and across each other on a one-way street. Can you gossip? Can you even fight your neighbor? You can sit yourself to zen in this island and fall asleep. The siesta in the itinerary makes sense after all.

The unique boulder beach South of Batan.

The unique boulder beach South of Batan.

One of the delightful things we experienced in Batanes was the visit to the Honesty Coffee Shop in the town of Ivana. I have been reading about this shop without a vendor for quite sometime and I thought it is the most noble idea to actually trust people to be honest enough to list down and pay for what they get. They also get their change if there is a need for any. Inside the shop it says “The store is too small for dishonest people.”

Honesty Coffee Shop welcomes honest people from all over.

Honesty Coffee Shop welcomes honest people from all over.

An interesting post found inside the Honesty Coffee Shop.

An interesting post found inside the Honesty Coffee Shop.

In one of the hills of Ivana was where Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta ran up. He then lifts her up in the air. It was a breathtaking moment in the film “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit.” This scene has prompted the local guides to commonly ask their guests “gusto mo rin magpa-dawn zulueta?”

Cows grazing on the hills of Racuh a Payaman. Popularly called Marlboro Hills.

Cows grazing on the hills of Racuh a Payaman. Popularly called Marlboro Hills.

Batanes is a fishing community. Seafood is very cheap. Lobsters cost 400 pesos a kilo. We had lobsters for several days in a row. Coconut crabs which can rarely be found in other parts of the Philippines are abundant in Batanes. But the Ivatans (people in Batanes) say the crabs are dwindling. So the crabs sell at 900 pesos a kilo. Coconut crabs thrive on coconut trees more than the ocean. Nothing to fancy about really. It’s like alimango in the sense that there’s not much meat. You only go for the aligue or the fat. And the coconut crab is plentiful of that – so much more than the aligue because it already drips like oil. One coconut crab for the rest of your life is enough! Another gastronomical challenge in Batanes is the Ivatan Platter. The Ivatan Platter at 1,500 pesos is a feast to cap the adventure. Four of us could hardly finish the:

  1. Turmeric rice (turmeric is homegrown in Batanes), 2. Coconut crab, 3. Fern Salad, 4. Luñez (pork cooked in its own fat), 5. Lobster, 6. Uvud balls (heart of palm and flying fish made into balls), 7. Shredded gabi, 8. Grilled chicken and beef
The Ivatan Platter. is a must-try. And make sure you have enough space in your stomach before feasting on it.

The Ivatan Platter. is a must-try. And make sure you have enough space in your stomach before feasting on it.

When you get to visit a place like this, there is a strong force that makes you feel the great hand of God. This must definitely be one of His Edens. The untainted green of the mountains and pristine blue of the oceans make you realize when people respect the environment then something truly beautifully sublime is what you will behold. It makes you wonder how beauty can be created without the intervention of the human hand. And once again you can only think of the spiritual and the sublime. In Batanes you will definitely get beaten by the elements – the harsh heat of the sun, the forceful gusts of wind, the rough rolling of the waves as you cross islands – we even got wet by a sudden downpour. But you can only be too grateful that in your lifetime this experience came.

Batanes. Beyond expectations.

Batanes. Beyond expectations.

2 Comments

  1. Rei

    Was searching for pics of Batanes in Google when I bumped into your blog, and might I say I was truly entertained and intrigued. If I may ask though, how much did you spend, all in all, during your stay there? :)

    • bobby

      Hi Rei! We were fortunate enough to get really cheap airfare rates because it was a promotional fare from PAL (maiden flights month, I think). We got a packaged rate for 5 days and 4 nights and for the two of us we spent around 30k including hotels, tour transpo, food, everything. But hey it was all WORTH IT! :) You should go! :)

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