When face-to-faced with the crashing waves and rolling hills of Batanes, it’s almost an impulse to ask “am I still in the Philippines?” And walking through the old town of Sabtang, you wonder which century you were transported in to. Such are examples of  mystical experiences of coming to Batanes.

Batanes Island

The 10-tiny island group collectively called the Batanes Islands, is considered as the Philippine’s last frontier. It is located at the northernmost tip, halfway between Cagayan’s Babuyan Island and Taiwan’s Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻). It is surrounded by a vast expanse of water where the Pacific Ocean meets the China Sea.

When I decided to travel more of the Philippines, I knew that one day I will come to Batanes. I didn’t expect (not complaining), that it will be this year. What a travel-ful year it had been for me upping my Lakbayan score from F to C+!

While no longer the exotic destination it used to be, Batanes is still not easy to get to.  Although there are daily flights to Basco, long way from once a week before, and doubles during winter season. Oh yes, it’s the only part of tropical Philippines that has all 4 seasons. There is still the monopoly of Seair, thus, tickets are expensive. And because of its geographical situation in the open water, typhoon constantly threaten to cancel your flight, thus frustrating a lot of travelers, us included.

We originally booked for 4d/3n to allow us 1 day of diving the sanctuary, but they called us a week before that due airplane maintenance, the flight will be moved back one day, but we can opt to move our return flight as well, but we couldn’t so we had to make do of squeezing everything to 3d/2n.

On the day of departure, we were told that our checked-in baggage will arrive on the following day due to this flight will bring in cargo from previous flight. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but luckily we packed light and can hand carrying everything. This an example of how people get frustrated. Batanes is not covered by your usual Travel Inconvenience Benefit so the airline can cancel for any reason, the last minute, and you can’t do anything about it.  So it is a test of your level of desire to get to Batanes. Is it worth it?  It is, but I wish it isn’t so hit and miss.

Day 1 – Basco Proper, Batan Island

Basco Airport

Basco Airport with wind proof stone wall

It was a real surprise to arrive with the sun in full force. As a matter of fact, it was scorching hot! While in Manila we were betting on whether flight will be cancelled due to the forecast of super typhoon Juan. And so we found from the locals that it isn’t Batanes per se that is constantly battered by typhoon, causing the cancellation of flights, but the way to Basco is a typhoon superhighway.

Batanes have varied accommodation types, from home-stay for budget travelers to some luxury villa for winter seeking expatriates. For the purpose of record, we stayed at Batanes Seaside Lodge, a midrange hotel with a view of the ocean from the terrace. It is managed by Lydia who is also a restaurant owner, a wedding gown designer, maker, and a wedding planner! We were amused how in quaint little town, each person seems to hold multiple roles in the society. The population of Batanes never grow higher than 16,000. Guess what? Lydia told us that her restaurant cook is also a dive master!

With only 2 days to explore Batanes, you guessed right it’s done amazing race fashion. It seems to ba a popular theme of my travel these days. We only took half an hour for breakfast and then we’re off to sightseeing with our driver and tour guide Mang Narding.

Enjoy the rest of the story in photos with captions.


Rocky Beach of Chadpidan. Taiwan can be seen on a clearer day.

Ivatan Pastureland

Pastureland of Ivatan Folk

Basco Lighthouse

The Famous Basco Lighthouse

Dakay House

Dakay House – The Oldest House in Batanes circa 1887. The cogon on its roof is replaced every 30 year.

Tukon Church

Tukon Church on top of the hills with view of Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.

San Jose de Ivana circa 1860

San Jose de Ivana circa 1860

Mahatao Church: San Carlos Borromeo Church circa 1787

National Heritage: San Carlos Borromeo Church (aka Mahatao Church) circa 1787

Valugan Boulder Beach

Valugan Boulder Beach

Valugan Boulder Beach

Zara engulfed by waves at Valugan Boulder Beach

Spanish Bridge circa

Spanish Bridge circa 1860

Rolling Hills of the Marlboro Country

Rolling Hills of the Marlboro Country

Bayanihan in Batanes

The helpful spirit of the locals. Not our van. Oozi lang kami

Batanes Group Photo Wanderlass

sisters and solemates

Batanes is a haven for photo enthusiast like myself.  A lot of these places have 360 view of the surrounding. It would have been super to take a panorama sphere. It’s one of my motivation to come back and of course the scuba diving that didn’t happen because of strong waves…. more photos of day one on my flickr gallery