I have had the pleasure and the privilege to set foot on Batanes for a 4D and 3N solo travel adventure and it left me in awe since then up until now. And I’m already missing it. Wow! is definitely an understatement. I heard sighs, admiration and maybe all the positive words (uttered in various tones) to describe a place from other tourists. Everywhere I gazed was a sight to behold, it was crazy gorgeous!
Since I was traveling alone, I did my homework and researched thoroughly. I’ve learned that Batanes is one of the safest place on earth, in the Philippines at least, and it has an impressive zero crime rate. With a total population of some 17,000 ++ people, called Ivatans, Batanes is at the northernmost part of the Philippines composed of 10 small islands but only three are inhabited. One of the occupied islands is Batan, where the Capital of Basco is situated.
It is divided into two regions North and South Batan. Then there’s the island municipality of Sabtang, the smallest of the three. Thirty minutes away from Batan, it can be reached via a Faluwa, a type of boat. The last and the biggest inhabited island is Itbayat, it is also the hardest to reach due to weather restrictions. Travel time to Itbayat is around two to two and a half hours via boat from Basco Port or an eighteen minute plane ride. Some tourists get stranded in the island if the weather conditions suddenly get harsh.
Thanks to the not so promo fare from Skyjet Airlines, I was able to book a flight since April 16, 2016 and on June 29, 2016 I touched down on Batanes for a 4D/3N adventure. Flight time to Batanes is 1 hour 15 minutes from Manila Domestic Airport. Aside from Skyjet, PAL Express, Sky Pasada and Wakay Air also fly to the province. The airfare that I got was for PHP 7,892.80 (approx. $ 176 USD) round trip, it was still high but it was already half the regular round-trip ticket price, so, I can’t complain.
I booked my accommodations at Marfel’s Lodge, it is categorized as a homestay owned and managed by Ate Fe Fitero. Ms. Jayann, the assistant manager assisted me with my booking online. Homestays are the home away from home establishments that cater to tourists at a very much affordable cost. At Marfel’s Lodge, the per night stay for a single bed standard room ranges from PHP 400 (fan room) and PHP 1,000 (air-conditioned room) best suited for budget travelers like me. I can have full use their kitchen if I want to cook my own meal. The Ivatans are well-known for being honest, so most homestays or accommodations in Batanes had adopted the honesty store concept.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Sir Jim and he escorted me to the extension building of Marfel’s Lodge just at the back of the Main Lodge located along Reyes Street. It was only a 5-minute walk away from the airport, how convenient! Ate Emy is the housekeeper and the go to person at the main lodge; she showed me my room and gave me a quick tour of the kitchen and the common rest room.
Marfel’s Lodge also offers day tours but I opted to go with Bisumi Tour and Services by Sir Ryan Cardona. Bisumi offers group tours for joiners or solo travelers to cut on the cost but aside from that it is the perfect venue to meet other people and make new friends. I availed of the Sabtang Tour only because I planned for a DIY tour of North and South Batan and he gladly accommodated my request. These two names are a powerhouse in Batanes. Ate Fe’s Marfel’s Lodge and Sir Ryan’s Bisumi Tours were in most blogs that I’ve read, if not all, with positive reviews.
After a quick rest, I have asked Ate Emy for her assistance in renting a mounting bike. She gladly accompanied me to the bike shop, while we were navigating the streets, she said that I came at a good time because the province is celebrating Batanes Day/Week until July 1st and there will be programs, food fairs at the town plaza during the night time.
It would be an opportunity to immerse myself more with the native culture. Along the way, I noticed that the locals that we passed by on the streets will either smile at you, nod their heads or greet you. It felt really positive and encouraging that nothing will go wrong while I’m on my holiday. After a few turns, we’ve reached the place but it was not open yet. Since she knew that I will be joining the tour with Bisumi, she guided me to the office which was just a few steps away to confirm my tour schedule.
Ate Emy left me with Sir Felix and she went back to the lodge. I told Sir Felix that I wanted to rent a mountain bike, then he went inside and talked to his colleague. The receptionist at the office then came out, Kuya Felix asked her to escort me to another bike rental shop. We hopped in to her motorcycle and went to the other shop that was a couple of blocks away from their office. I just thought that what they did was a genuinely kind gesture to welcome and to assist a tourist like myself. Their behavior truly said a lot of how they are as a community. No wonder why having zero crime rate and honesty stores are possible in Batanes.
On my first night, I had dinner at Pension Ivatan, according to some articles; it was one of the must-try restaurants. The place was along the National Road, near from where I was staying. It has a native feel to it and seemed ok. I wanted to try their local dish and ordered Lunis, their version of Adobo, and Yellow Rice or Turmeric Rice, plus barbecue and mango juice. Waiting time was a bit long, more than 30 minutes, but when my food came, it was not hot, not even warm, so I was wondering why it took that long. Food was ok, nothing special. The meat for the Lunis didn’t seem to taste newly cooked. For their price range of PHP 150 – 450, I expected more.
The following day, I woke up early at 5:00H, call time was at 6:00H for the Sabtang Tour. I booked a group tour with Bisumi for PHP 2,200 that included aircon van transfer, Faluwa fare (boat going to Sabtang), buffet lunch and other fees. Plus, pick up and drop off to and from my accommodation which is another example of how special the Ivatans treat their visitors. According to our guide, Kuya Bob, Sabtang Island tour is always scheduled in between North and South Batan because if in case the weather becomes harsh and you get stranded in the island, you would still have until tomorrow to come back to Batan. We were 9 in our group for the Sabtang tour and I was the newest addition.
It was group of 4, a group of 2 and 3 solo travelers including myself. They also arrived in Batanes yesterday and did the North Batan tour all together with Bisumi while I was on a DIY. At first, it was a bit awkward because they already knew each other but before the tour ended we’ve already exchanged numbers and planned to have dinner at the town plaza. Just like that, I have made new friends.
After the tour, I passed by Bisumi office and told them that I will be joining the group again tomorrow for the South Batan tour. My original plan was to rent a mountain bike again but after my last biking experience in North Batan and seeing the trail that I would have to go through on our way to Ivana Port I’ve decided to ditch the bike and ride the van. Maybe next time, when I’m more physically prepared. 🙂
That night, I met with my tour mates at the town plaza, we’ve had some pizza, barbecue, halo-halo (the halo-halo was actually good) and some beers. We’ve shared stories and tried to get to know each other. Before we ended the night, we all agreed to go to the lighthouse out of a dare and curiosity to do some stargazing. We didn’t reach our destination because some of the girls from our group backed out when we we’re passing the road near the cemetery. Scary! When you’re in Batanes, 21:00H was already too late, it if weren’t for the Batanes Week celebration we might be sleeping by 20:00H.
Day 3, call time was 8:00H. I woke up at 7:00H, geared up and waited for the van to pick me up. We were headed to South Batan.
We’ve spent the night again at the town plaza. There was a program sponsored by the government and private business sectors, there were trivia games about the province for the kids and adults, some dance numbers and acoustic singers. It was a fun and memorable night for me. I and two others will be leaving the following day back to Manila.
While I was there the weather was perfect (a few days after my trip a typhoon hit the island on Jul 06 at signal #1 but on Jul 07 it was heightened to signal #2), I made friends out of strangers, I got to personally experience the Ivatan people’s generosity and kindheartedness. One of my tour mates said that maybe one of the reasons why the Ivatans are very kind, always smiling and always willing to give a hand is because they get to see those jaw-dropping seascapes and landscapes every day which give out a very positive vibe all the time.
I have been dreaming of going to Batanes for the longest time and then one day I was already there. I was able to get a decent fare with a travel period that coincided with my vacation from work. As the souvenir statement shirts say “Batanes: A Dream Destination, Magastos Pero Sulit! (expensive but worth it!). I have a better understanding now why Batanes is in every traveler’s bucket list. This one is definitely for the books (on the very first page. 🙂 ); it was absolutely a place to go back to and an experience to relive.
Here was my 4D/3N itinerary
|06:00H – 07:15H||Manila – Basco travel time|
|07:45H||Check-in at Marfel’s Lodge|
|07:45H - 09:00H||Rest|
|09:00H – 9:30H||Look for Mountain Bike rental shop|
|09:30H - 17:30H||Start of DIY mountain bike tour: In exact order > Basco Cathedral > Basco Lighthouse and Bunker at Naidi Hills > Vayang Rolling Hills > Tukon Church/Mt. Carmel Chapel > Tukon Radar PAGASA Weather Station > Fundacion Pacita > Japanese Tunnel > Valugan Boulder Beach > Back to Basco.|
|17:30H - 19:30 H||Rest|
|19:30H – 21:00 H||Dinner|
|21:10H||Back to Marfel’s|
Day 2 – Sabtang Tour
|06:15H||Pick up by Bisumi Tour van from Marfel’s|
|06:45H||Arrive at Ivana Port (we we’re late, the Faluwa usually leaves at 6:30H)|
|06:45H – 07:15H||Travel time from Ivana Port to Sabtang|
|07:15H – 12:15H||Arrived in Sabtang Island and visit sites (Sabtang Church, Morong Beach/Natural Arch Rock Formation, Savidug Village, Chavayan Village, Chamantad & Tinyan View Point and Lunch)|
|12:30H||Back to Sabtang port|
|12:40H – 13:10H||Travel from Sabtang to Batan|
|14:00H||Back to Bisumi office|
|14:30H||Drop off at Marfel’s|
Day 3 – South Batan Tour
|08:00H||Pick up by tour van from Marfel’s|
|08:00H – 12:30H||South Batan Tour with Bisumi (Chawa View Deck, Mahatao Boat Shelter, Tayid Lighthouse, San Carlos Borromeo Church - Blank Book Archives was still closed we weren’t able to get in, Honesty Coffee Shop, Spanish Bridge, House of Dakay, Alapad Pass and Rock Formation and Song-Song Ruins)|
|12:30H – 14:00H||Lunch and sight-seeing at Racuh a Payaman a.k.a. Marlboro Country|
|14:30H||Back to Basco – Bisumi Office|
|15:00H||Drop off at Marfel’s|
|15:00H - 17:30H||Rest|
|17:30H – 18:30H||Walked to Naidi Hills to watch the sunset|
|18:45H – 22:00H||Dinner and watched the program at the town plaza with tour mates|
Day 4 – Back to Manila
|06:00H||Walk to airport, 5 minutes away only|
|07:45H – 09:00H||Basco – Manila Travel|
Breakdown of Expenses
|PHP 317||Food @ Manila Airport|
|PHP 350||Tourism Fee Batanes|
|PHP 480||Bike Rental (PHP 60 X 8 hours)|
|PHP 44||Lunch (1L water and biscuit - was not able to eat proper lunch)|
|PHP 435||435 Dinner @ Pension Ivatan|
|PHP 455||Food shared with tour mates (Lunch – Coconut Crab and Dinner @ Plaza)|
|PHP 2,200||Sabtang (PHP 200 balance) and South Batan (PHP 2,000) Tour fee|
|PHP 100||Tip for Kuya Bob (tour guide), shared with tour mates|
|PHP 150||Dinner (at town plaza)|
|PHP 217||Snack, Beverage for lunch|
|PHP 80||Honesty Store goods|
|PHP 7,892.80||Airfare Skyjet|
|PHP 1,200||Marfel’s Lodge Accommodation (400x3 nights fan room)|
|PHP 2,000||Bisumi Tour deposit|
|PHP 1,626||Day 1|
|PHP 1,245||Day 2|
|PHP 2,747||Day 3|
|PHP 16,710.8||Total Batanes 4D/3N Solo Adventure|
How about you? Are you ready to experience Batanes on a solo travel adventure?
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