Batanes is not just a beautiful place. It is an experience that cannot be wholly captured in words or pictures alone.
There were seven of us in the group, all were girls, and I only knew one person: Candy. She was my friend from way back in high school and when she first invited me to go to Batanes,
I did not hesitate. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know anyone else in the trip or that I would be living in poverty for the next three months just to save up for the air fare. I was going.
And so I went.
After a séjour in Cagayan Valley where we would make our connecting flight to Basco, we found ourselves at the Tuguegarao Airport a full hour earlier than the airport’s opening. We were going to take the North Sky charter plane because it was cheaper than a direct-to-Basco flight from Manila. And was I excited! I was going to ride a charter plane for the first time! Something I only read about in books or see in movies will be happening to me. It will no longer be an activity limited to the rich and famous. I was feeling very sosyal right there.
Before boarding the plane though, we had to undergo some painful proceeding as apparently, each one of us exceeded the allotted baggage allowance per passenger. The North Sky staff informed us that, contrary to previous advice from our contact person, only 5kg of baggage per person was allowed. And this 5kg already included both hand-carry and check-in luggage. So, almost everyone had to pay an additional P50/kg of excess baggage (mine measured 5.5kg).
Anyway, I was already very excited for take off and to begin the actual experience of flying via charter plane. But just my luck, my seat was a bit uncomfortable because the air-con vent was directly blasting air against the back of my head and I was seated at the eastern side so the sun was shining on me with all its might. And because it was a really small plane, it felt less pressurized and I felt like this combination was going to give me a migraine. So, after taking a few pictures of the land below us, I tried taking a nap just like everybody else.
At last we arrived at the airport and my first impression was that it was, well, small. But it was a really nice airport because the welcoming committee included Mt. Iraya, the highest peak in Batan Island.
After getting our baggage and some photo op, we got in the Batanes Cultural Travel Agency van for a lift to our lodging of choice, which turned out to be only a few streets away from the airport. DDD Habitat has a really great location in that it seemed to be near almost everything, the airport, the plaza and the souvenir shops. For P1800 a night, we were able to book the air-conditioned Sabtang room which consisted of two queen-sized beds, a bunk-bed, three side tables, a CRT TV, pillows, blankets, toilet paper, towels, soap bars and six sockets. The bathroom however was not inside the room and had to be shared with the occupants of another room. And to make up for our needs, the owner allowed us to use the one near the kitchen. Both bathrooms however were not perfect: the one beside our room had a very weak flush that made doing number 2 a tricky business while the other bathroom’s faucet was quite detachable so one could find oneself drenched in cold water if the faucet was not handled with care. Meanwhile, one advantage of staying there was the free wi-fi, which was pretty decent, except during our second night.
After depositing our stuff at the lodging house, we decided to look for a place to eat because it was already nearly lunch and it’s fair to say that the excitement of riding a charter plane made everyone hungry. We ate at the SDBCI Canteen near the town plaza. I had some unremarkable unidentified fish sinigang with rice. After lunch, it was already almost one o’clock and our North Batan Island Tour was about to commence. We intercepted the BCTA van on its way to DDD Habitat and off we went to the North.
First stop was the Tukon Chapel or Mt. Carmel Chapel which was built in the tradition of the stone houses that Batanes is famous for.
Next stop was the Tukon Radar Station.
I was seated towards the back of the van so I could hardly hear what our tour guide was saying about the two places that we’ve been. But then my tourmates started getting excited when he mentioned this place that I have never heard off: Fundacion Pacita.
The resort, according to their website, was the “home studio of internationally-acclaimed artist Pacita Abad”. The resort’s façade was really pretty and there were artworks everywhere! However, staying there overnight would be more expensive than our entire budget for a 4-day stay in Batanes (which includes tours, food and pasalubongs). But then again, as per their website, the proceeds go to the funding of education of young Ivatan artists. Maybe next time?
Meanwhile, it was decided that we would go back there the next day for some coffee. And while arrangements were being made, I and another tourmate made our way to the resort’s restroom. It turned out that we were a group of small-bladder ladies and a big chunk of the trip would be spent looking for or staying at restrooms.
Next stop was the Basco Ijang which was an ancient Ivatan fortress.
Then it was time to check out the “Japanese” tunnel, which was actually a tunnel built by the Ivatans. The Japanese used them as hiding places during the World War II.
From the tunnels, we made our way to the Valugan Boulder Beach. Looking at it made me miss surfing a lot. The waves looked like really good surfing waves. But as there were boulders everywhere, it seemed crazy to pull a stunt like that.
From the beach we went to pay a visit to the Basco Cathedral which is also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Batanes province.
After making my first-time-to-visit-a-church wish, we headed to the Vayang Ranch or the rolling hills of Batan Island. Upon seeing these hills (and even without knowing what they’re called), one couldn’t help but singing (or think of singing) ♪The hills are alive ♫ with the sound of mu-sic ♫♪
We did some trekking, taking photos all the way. I tried in vain to do that perfect panorama shot that would capture the beauty that I was seeing but Apple was no match for it. That or I was a really lousy photographer.
Finally, the peak of Mt. Iraya finally said hi!
It was now nearing sunset and we had to rush to the Basco Lighthouse on top of the Naidi Hills. The lighthouse was no longer operational so some students were using the place as practice grounds for their school activities.
While waiting for the sunset, we ordered some snack at the Bunker Café. As the name suggests, it was used as a bunker during the Japanese occupation.
Finally, the sun was setting. The day ended and we all went back to DDD a little bit sunburnt, with very little to no battery (gadgets and people alike) but with our souls made a lot fuller by seeing and being in God’s creation.
to be continued…here.
March 1, 2013
***photos were taken using Iphone 5, watermarked in Lightroom
Summary of the day’s Expenses:
- P40 airport breakfast (P20 1 sachet Kopiko brown sugar + P20 Monde mamon)
- P20 terminal fee
- P15 SEC fee
- P25 half-kilo excess baggage (P50 per kilo)
- P65 lunch
- P170 pasalubong (5 pieces ref magnets)
- P35 turon with butter sauce
- P30 water
- P600 van rental (total)
- P800 tour guide (total)
- P1800 per night DDD Habitat (P257.14 per pax)