“Ang Batanes hindi ginu-google, kundi ini-experience!” (Batanes should not be googled, it must be experienced!)
A line from the romantic-comedy film, “You’re My Boss,” which starred Toni Gonzaga and Coco Martin. With wide and sweeping drone shots, the film, which half was shot in Batanes, showcased the beauty of the province. But, it still has so much more to offer. The charm of Batanes cannot be captured entirely in the movie screen.
About an hour and a half flight away from Manila, Batanes is an archipelago on the northernmost part of the Philippines and is 190 kilometers away from the southern part of Taiwan. Radio stations in Batanes would sometimes pick up signals and broadcasts from Taiwan.
The province is the smallest in the country in terms of land mass and population. Among its ten islands, 3 are inhabited namely Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. Batan is the largest where the capital, Basco is located.
I flew with my friends, Abril, Vanessa, Monmon and Tita Matess. We were very excited because being budget travelers, reaching Batanes is pretty costly compared to other destinations in the country. Round trip ticket prices may range from P4, 000 during promos to as high as P15, 000. We got complimentary tickets from Skyjet Airlines, which flies to and from Batanes once a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only.
Click photos to enlarge
We booked two rooms at Marfel’s lodge, which is about 5 minutes away from Basco Airport. The rates cost P350 per head for fan rooms and P450 with air condition. They were spacious and guests are allowed to use the television, gas stove and other stuff inside the kitchen. The veranda is quite big where we spent time chatting after our tours. Marfel’s also has its own “Honesty” store where there is no staff looking after the goods, the owners trusting the honesty of guests to pay right for whatever they take.
We availed of a two-day tour package from Kuya Rene Aclan (+639102615295) for only P7,500 or just P1,500 per head, all in. I’d highly recommend the guy. We had a 3-day trip and toured North Batan on day 1.
Here are the places we visited:
Photos by Abril Carpio
- Tukon Church, Basco Batanes
Mt. Carmel Church or more famously known as Tukon Church is situated on top of Tukon Hills in Basco. Its design is patterned after the Ivatan stone houses that were made to stand against typhoons that regularly pass by the province. The chapel was a dream project spearheaded by the Abad family, the most prominent family in the province; they wanted to have a place of worship that was just near. Patrons and saints are painted on the ceiling and wall behind the altar made by Ivatan artists.
Outside is the scenic view of the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. The sight of the sky and vast sea was truly breathtaking. The sun was up when we got there but we didn’t feel much of the heat because of the strong winds.
- Basco PAG-ASA Complex
A few meters from the church is Radar Tukon or Basco PAGASA Complex. This radar station is formerly a United States weather station on a hilltop where guests can have a 360-degree view of Batan Island, South China Sea, Mt. Iraya and the entire municipality of Basco.
- Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel
Our 3rd stop was Dipnaysupuan Tunnel in Basco. It is a series of tunnels that served as shelter for Japanese military forces during World War 2. It has five doors that lead to several chambers inside, some were used as bunkers. Located on top of a hill, it was a strategic location where they had a good view of incoming American and Filipino soldiers.
A lot of locals including children were rounded up by the Japanese to help dig the tunnels. Though they were not hurt during that time, the locals complied due to fear of getting killed. The local government of Batanes is trying to preserve this location well but according to our guide, there have been no archeological research and digging done in the tunnels so far to find artifacts or any remnants of the war.
- Vayang Rolling Hills
Still within the municipality of Basco, Vayang Rolling Hills is also known as Vayang Ranch. The hills offer a stunning view of lush greens, vast sky and blue sea that seems to have no end. I may sound exaggerating but being in Vayang Rolling Hills can make you emotional, the sight was just glorious. The forceful wind and serene view gave a mix of tranquility and excitement.
When we were there, I felt grateful for everything I have and opportunities like that where we get to experience the beauty of life.
- Valugan Boulder Beach
Valugan means “east” in Ivatan. There is no white sand here instead, the beach shore is covered with big boulders of stones and it’s not easy to get around. The stones were coughed out by Mt. Iraya, a nearby active volcano that erupted hundreds of years ago. The rough stones were scattered in the area and over the years were polished by strong waves from the Pacific Ocean. We stayed for a while in a shed in front of the beach.
- Basco Church
Santo Domingo Church or Basco Church is also known as Cathedral of Immaculate Concepcion, in honor of the patron saint of the province. It was first built in 1783 made out of cogon and woods. Due to fires and frequent typhoons, it was rebuilt using stones in 1795 under Father Francisco de Paula Esteban. The façade was constructed in 1812 but got burnt in 1860 and rebuilt again in 1863.
The church survived the Filipino-American war in 1899-1901 and World War 2 in 1941-1945. It has undergone numerous renovations and was fortified to withstand disasters. The cathedral we see now was completed in 2002.
- Basco Lighthouse
Located in Naidi Hills in Barangay San Antonio, Basco Lighthouse is a favorite venue for weddings and debuts in Basco. Before it was first completed in 2003, another lighthouse stood in its location, which was destroyed during the World War 2. An American telegraph facility that connected Batanes to Manila was also in the same site but was reduced to rubbles due to bombings.
The structure is six stories high and has a viewing deck at the fifth floor where the whole of Batan Island can be seen. It was raining when we got there and the staff were clearing decors used during a wedding ceremony that was held that morning
8. Basco Marine Sanctuary
We were already done with the tour but we really wanted to go for a swim. Kuya Rene was so kind to bring us to Basco Marine Sanctuary to swim and watch the sunset. He joined us and shared experiences in his job as a tour guide. The day has ended but Batanes just wouldn’t run out of fantastic treats. Look at this sunset.
Indeed, it is not enough to see photos or watch a movie shot in Batanes, you have to go there and see for yourself to experience the beauty of this province. Just be sure to bring your heart with you when leave Batanes.