No photographs nor words can capture the magic of Batanes enough.

 

One needs to be there to understand the raves. To experience. To feel. To see. To hear. To be captivated.

 

I can only try.

Yin-Yang

The Batcave

Time Travel Lodge

5-minute walk away from the airport

Airport

Basco Airport

One-story stone house typical of Batanes. What better architecture to welcome us
Airport closes after lunch. Free space for all–to run, to bike, to tend to cows

Only in Batanes

North Batan

Mt Carmel Church

An Abad Family initiative, the world renowned artist and the current cabinet secretary
A moment to rest and appreciate 360 degree- view of the beautiful Batanes
Church amidst lush greenery

Fundacion Pacita

 

 

Fundacion’s yard

 

Valugan Boulder Beach

Basco Lighthouse

In Naidi Hills
Overlooking atop the Naidi Lighthouse; couple on the left doing “prenup” shoot
Sunset by the Basco lighthouse
Mt Iraya backdrop

Japanese Tunnel

South Batan

Chawa Viewing Deck

Mahatao

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

Venice in Batanes
These are what we fondly call spider cows/goats/animals. They hold their own at a high angle footing & don’t fall down
Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse, the only hexagonal lighthouse in Batanes

San Carlos Borromeo Church

A national cultural treasure in Mahatao
Oh to learn in this environment!

 

Racuh a Payaman

Racuh a Payaman (wide pasture) A communal pasture land (the locals prefer using Racuh than tourist-named Marlboro Country)
With another breathtaking view of Mt Iraya, where you’d spontaneously sing the hills are alive ala Sound of Music

Maydangub White Sand Beach



Uyugan

Song-Song Ruins

Architectural remains from the devastation of a 1953 tsunami in Sitio Song Song. Residents were relocated in a different province

 

 

Ivana

Dakay House

Oldest Ivatan house in Batanes, since 1887. Florestida Estrella, 86, solely lives here, but absent during our visit
interior of Vahay ni Dakay
Kitchen appliance found in the Dakay neighborhood
In a bridge overlooking the Old Spanish Bridge
Old Spanish Bridge

San Jose de Ivana Church

San Jose de Ivana Church. A walk from here is tha Radiwan Port heading to Sabtang Island

Radiwan Port

The starting point to an unforgettable Faluwa ride

Honesty Coffee Shop

Shop signage donated by travelers
Elena Gabilo, the woman behind the Honesty Coffee Shop

A little chat with Lola Elena revealed the story behind the humble shop.

It begun out of concern for travelers, mostly her own people, who had to wait long hours for the boat to the next island (since the shop is where the port is). She thought to provide them at least some coffee as they while away time. There’s no one to man the store at times when she has work to do so she had to leave it open. Tourists eventually named it the Honesty Coffee Shop.

A lot of people would express amazement and appreciation to her. The same Iranian visitors who gave her the store signage would even repaint her signage everytime they visit the place.

She has been one of the most photographed Ivatan because of this.

Sabtang Island

Savidug

 

Chavayan

Barangay Chavayan Stone Houses
The tourists are here. They come out to watch :]
Even their street sign is just plain in theme– rustic, quaint, idyllic!
Bikes just parked outside their houses without locks and without worry
A beautiful little community still excited about guests coming to their little island
These kids willingly (and seemingly bravely) stopped and posed for us
A locally-woven traditional head gear Vacul, a protection from rain and sun worn by the women

Itbayat Island

We were determined to visit all of Batanes, notwithstanding the international trip-level expenses we will incur for all the tour fees. We were even unknowingly brave to conquer the 3-hour boat ride amidst wild waves to get to this last other (extremely) isolated island.
The coast guard cancelled our already paid (but refunded) trip because of the gale (strong winds, I just learned). We waited for the go-signal to proceed day after day. But after we experienced the gut-churning 30-minute falowa boat ride to Sabtang, we conceded to take the flight to Itbayat, not minding additional air fare. It’s THAT bad. But worth it, of course. Even an air trip was not granted. A welcomed reason to go back to Batanes.

Mt Iraya

Since our overnight stay in Itbayat was cancelled, we moved on to another unforgettable activity–hike the highest point in Batanes
We were getting tired walking about 30 mins already from the foot, when our guide said at this point,  now we begin the climb #sohard
Into the wild, where each side is a cliff
Mt Iraya is an intermediate climb. It is indeed off the beaten path. At some points, there were no paths
 At the shoulder. We see both the South China Sea and the Pacific
Basco ariport, the straight green line down there. It’s that short, too!
Almost at the summit, battered but not beaten
Mt Iraya Summit!!! 1009 MASL!
We’re at the northernmost part of the country. We’re at the edge of the edge!
We got to the top of that! :p
We baptized all are scratches from sharp grasses and traitor loose branches as Batanes battle scars; our muscle pains, successes; our extreme exhaustion, strength.
We survived, without any proper preparation, a dormant volcano, the highest point in the island.
We were not as physically invigorated as when we were a few years younger, but we proved, we have trained our minds to be as strong as we need it to be.

Diura Fishing Village

These buoys are ingenuously recycled all around town as decorative pieces like this
In Batanes, one can’t help but take pictures everywhere, no matter what camera one holds

The Experience

There are places we haven’t been to but we have built a preconceived notion what it’s like. It’s either we have romanticized that place out of a collection of words and images that grabbed us through the heart or we have demoted it to the bottom of our checklist out of a compendium of undesirable imageries our own thoughts have created as well. A lot live up to our prejudgments, a few surprise, but only a few, a few in a soul-deep level, feel like it was once home.
Batanes is that. She is your childhood where children go out of the street to play ‘til sundown; where elderlies sweep the streets and burn the leaves at the front/backyard; where everyone smiles to everyone because they know they are closer than 6 degrees of separation.
She is your quiet, cool night, drinking and blabbering with people about profundity and mundaneness. She is the smell of home-cooked meals and early morning mist. She is the sound of the waves while you write and you wait. She is the present, a sprightly and hopeful present.
She is what life is about and should be like. Simple, organic, genuine. She is sincere. She does not rush. She soaks in every free second she was endowed with. She does not take advantage. She does not take for granted. She gives of what she has.
There is a reason why Batanes is isolated up above the tip of the land. One day in your harried life, you will need a chaste escape, a reminder, a gentle slap. Batanes will cradle you with one tight hug and sprinkle you with all that you’ve been missing earning a life.
Photo by LA Madridejos

How about you? What place you haven’t been that you regard highly as home?

[For the logistics part of the trip, itinerary, budget, tips, and other details, I’ve compiled a Batanes Travel Guide for TravelFindsShop.com]

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