If you’re looking for a tranquil and idyllic island to spend your next vacation, then fly to Batanes, Philippines and wallow in this island province for a few days – and you will surely be captivated by its natural charms and pure ambiance.
The smallest province in the Philippines in terms of land area and population, Batanes is composed of 10 tiny islands and islets, namely: Batan, Sabtang, Itbayat, Mavudis, Siayan, Diogo, North Island and Y’ami. But among these islands, only the first three (Batan, Sabtang, Itbayat) are inhabited.
Interestingly, Basco, the capital of this scenic group of islands located in Batan, lies 280 kilometers north of Aparri, Cagayan (the northern tip of the main island of Luzon) while it is just 190 kilometers south of Taiwan. Since miles of rough water separate Batanes from the rest of the Philippines, the Ivatans (the people living in this province), have developed a distinct culture. Honesty, gentleness, politeness and bravery are among the distinctive characteristics of the Ivatans. They also have great pride of their land and heritage.
Another unique quality of Batanes lies in its landscape. Boasting of steep cliffs, rolling hills, deep canyons and shores lined with boulders, the province reminds one of New Zealand in some way. But what many people find remarkable about Batanes, however, is the way its houses are built to withstand the harshness of typhoons – featuring stone walls and thick thatched roofs.
Quick Facts about Batanes:
•Location: between the Bashi Channel and the Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea meets
• Land area: 230 square kilometers
•Population: approximately 18,000
•Literacy rate: 95%
•Language: Ivatan (an Austronesian language, featuring pidgin Spanish with Chinese accent)
•Major industry: cattle and garlic
•Number of islands: Ten, but only 3 are inhabited
•Topography: Almost 50% are hills and mountains
•Natural resources: marine (including rare corals), verdant hills and mountains, lush pastures
•Climate: temperate (similar to that of Taiwan), can be as low as 44 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit (7 – 13 degrees centigrade)
•Economy: 75% of the people are farmers and fishermen
•Best time to visit: from Mid-March to June
Things to Consider
Batanes is known for its cool and windy weather which can be unpredictable at times. Rainfall is experienced any time of the year. The province lies along the typhoon belt so it often gets hit by typhoons, thus houses are made of stone walls and thatched roofs.
Be sure to bring jackets to ward off the cold and protect your from the wind. From December to February, the temperature in Batanes is almost temperate and can drop to as low as 7 degrees centigrade (44 degrees Fahrenheit).
There are hardly any vehicles in the province, but other urban conveniences, such as electricity, cable TV and mobile phones are present.
Because the weather can change suddenly in this island province and flights to Manila are suspended, you need to make sure you bring enough resources should you get stranded on the island for another day or two. But overall, a trip to Batanes is a sort of an escape into the idyllic rural world with a few modern conveniences tucked under your belt.
Interesting Places in Batanes
Batanes offers a number of interesting places to see and wonderful things to do. There are several sandy beaches where you can swim, and fishing villages, lighthouses as well as churches to visit. You can also opt to go island hopping or simply stay in its many scenic spots for some quiet moments of reflection and to admire nature in its entire splendor.
The following are among the places you need to see while in Batanes:
•The House of Dakay (1887) – a UNESCO heritage building
•St. Dominic de Guzman Parish Cathedral
•Mahatao View Deck Mt. Iraya – a mountain on Batan Island with an elevation of 1008 meters
•Burial Caves – Itbayat Island’s prehistoric burial caves
•Nakaboang Beach, Ark & Cave
•Sumhao Wind Power Plant
•The Sitio Songsong Ruins, where a tsunami destroyed the seaside town in the 1950s
•Chadpihan Beach, White Beach, and many more
•Payaman (known as “Marlboro Country”) – a pasture overlooking farm fields and the Pacific Ocean
How to go to and where to stay in Batanes:
SEAir offers early morning flights everyday from Manila to Batanes and vice-versa. These flights land directly on the provincial capital Basco, on Batan Island. You can call SEAir at +632-849-0100.
You can also reach Batanes by sea. Batanes Multi-purpose Cooperative (Tel. # 0917-793-0102) operates a ferry called MV Ivatan Princess that takes passengers to Batanes from Currimao, Ilocos Norte and vice-versa two times a week every Wednesday and Sunday.
There are several inns where you can stay in Batanes. These include the following:
•Brandon’s Lodging – For details and reservations, call +63-919-366-2158
•Batanes Resort – Call +632-922-9621 local 327 (Ivatan Center, Q.C.)
•Shanedel’s Inn – Call +63-920-447-0737
•Ivatan Lodge – Email: email@example.com
•Troy Lodge – If you want a place near the airport, try this lodge (Tel. # +63-920-447-0726)
These inns offer surprisingly low rates, and most have urban conveniences on top of essential amenities. You may call them to find out their newest rates and the amenities they offer, as well to book your reservations.
Despite the seemingly inaccessible location of Batanes and its reputation of being a backward province, many tourists find this group of islands so intriguing and enthralling. And its pristine beauty and serene ambiance will continue to haunt and beckon you to return long after you have left it.