Friday, March 7, 2014

Basco,Sabtang, Batanes - March 2014

Batanes. One of the most dreamed of vacation destinations of Filipinos. It is not New Zealand, nor has the best beaches, but its vast hills mixed with angry waves and winds continuously bashing its lands and shores is an irony of peace to a city stressed state of mind. People are kind and honest and gives you the nod at most times even waves at you when afar and Oh, you don't get to find any MickyD’s nor Jolly Bees here. A torture to the commercially reliant and somehow, a relief to ones disgusted with what has been done to Boracay.
An easy reality to the determined deep pocketed and a toss coin of chance for us religiously awaiting for rare seat sales. But then again, having heard that tickets sold at the travel expo this February (and come September) 2014 cost 2k less, makes the 7k/head-back and fort tickets we got sound extravagant. </Hint>. “Still better than paying 14k and up”, we told ourselves in consolation.
In all fairness, SKYJET planes are not propeller types, like those from Airphil, and they serve Cafe France bread, bottled water and offers sparkling wine. They even have a small pack tic-tac handed after the light meal.
*For Sunrise view, take DEF seats.
So Off to the Northern Islands.
Basco, Batanes. A small town almost entirely negotiable by walking. We were provided free airport pickup but had we known its proximity to our accommodation, especially that our tricycle service took long to pick us up, should have walked instead of waiting.
Tricycle here is on-call and this may have been the reason why the Pension representative took long to have us picked up: They had to SMS the tricycle terminal to dispatch a unit to pickup the hotel rep, then us.  With this set up, not all drivers are at the Terminal but maintains a number queue and if the contacted driver is unavailable after 15minutes from notice, the next takes his slot.
BATODA (Grab-a-trike): 0929.703.8404 / 0906.697.0679

DDD Habitat.
Location: Lopes St. Brgy. Kayvaluganan, Basco, Batanes
Tel: (02)6819085/ (02) 6473534 GLOBE +639065177580; SMART +639084641319 / +639098770044
Room rate: Php 800 / night – DITAREM room (Fan Room with CR)

DDD Habitat is just a 5 minute walk from the airport. Take the left to Castillejos from the Main Road then turn left at Lopez. You can also take any street from the main road then turn right to Lopez. DDD Habitat is at your right, before reaching Castillejos.
The Lobby has a small library and they have a mess hall at the second floor where a long table and kitchen, convenes guests to tell tales of the productivity of their present stay. This is where the common CR is also located. Enjoy the view of the town and Mt. Iraya at the 3rd floor roof deck. Lunch box, a resto beside the Pension already ceased operation.

Room Itbayat (2nd floor)
*DDD Habitat was kind enough to upgrade us to the Itbayat room for the same rate as Ditarem. 
Spaceous, modern appeal with aluminum glass windows, 2 matrimonial beds,  Aircondition (Split type) and comfort room (No bidet). 2sets of 2plug outlets- one set defective. Extension cord and Water heater available upon request. Bring a multi plug adapter.

Getting Comfortable.
The first agenda of the day is coffee. Walking around, we found Dietician Cafe (By the main road-in front of Batanes General Hospital) and learned that even at 9am, most are just prepping to start the day so we had to wait a little for the coffee vendo machine to heat up and our baked mac (P75) be served. Its a small eatery, don't expect too much, besides, the name gives it away as the Not-Your-Gluttony-Food kind of Trip.
Spent time roaming around the Plaza, Sto. Domingo church passing by their tourism office, police station, school yards, and a local canteen-SDCBI or just SDC to the locals. Kind of just mind mapping the area. Loaded up for lunch at Pension Ivatan Restaurant before starting our North Batan Tour.

Day1: Tour North Batan, DIY.
Tours are at P1500/head. DIY(Tricycle tour) at P1000. Some offer P250/hour.

This circuit tour starts mid-day and takes you to the following places:
Up north
Chanpan/Valugan Boulder Beach
Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel - WWII Japanese Hideout
Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge
Mt. Carmel Chapel
PAGASA “Tukon” Radar Station
Basco Idjang Viewing
Back to Town proper
Sto. Domingo Cathedral
Vayang Rolling Hills
Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills
While we are unaware of the perks of joining tours for North Batan, we find that budget is well spent doing this, DIY.

Batanes is fairly safe and people are honest, so there is less if any chance of getting ripped off, but then, money saved is more money spent on other stuff.

Day2: Sabtang Tour. 
For this, we joined Ryan Caldonas tour via TRavelYoung as this requires Jeep travel  to Ivana Port and Boat (Faluwa) ride to Sabtang Island, then another jeep arrangement at the island to take you to its spots. Lunch is included in the tour. Since we’re not staying overnight, we took the Tour bait.
DIY is to take the 6am jeep ride to Ivana Port, Arrange boat transfers, then take a tricycle (Cogon topped) tour in Sabtang.

Contact persons: Wyona Victoriano  / Tomas Roy Velasco
Contact info:  0917.410.6099 / 0915.303.0595
Email address:
Rates: (As of March 7, 2014)
  • North Batan – 1,500 / head
  • South Batan – 1,700 / head
  • Sabtang – 2,000 / head
  • Itbayat – 3,800 / head
Instead of contacting TravelYoung, we suggest that you go directly to Ryan Cardona for possibly cheaper rates since he’s TravelYoungs point person in Batanes.
Tour guide: Ryan Cardona
Contact info:  0919.279.5963 / 0915.803.4582
*Note though that Ryan runs this business and also guides guests  and may not be the one to handle your Tour.

Private Jeep to Port Ivana (30 to 45minutes)
Faluwa Boat ride from Port Ivana to Sabtang Island (30 to 45minutes)
Waters are wild during the cross. Bring bonamine and take it on the jeep going to Ivana Port. Provides enough time for it to be ingested by your system. Take 2. Lol.
We’ve heard stories of others having difficulty docking their Faluwa as the waters are either low or too much for the boatmen to navigate through. This may also be the reason why guests are obliged to leave and take the 2pm trips back Ivana Port.

Points of interest in Sabtang
San Vicente Ferrer Church
Town Tour
Malakdang Lighthouse
Brgy. Savidug Stone Houses
Sto. Thomas Chapel
Lime Kiln
Savidug Idjang Viewing
Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
Brgy. Chavayan Stone Houses
Sta. Rosa De Lima Chapel
Sabtang Weavers Association
Souvenir Shopping/Picture taking (Ivatan headgears)
Travel back to Sinakan Centro then lunch at Pananayan Canteen in the area of:
Mayahaw (Natural Arc Formation)
Morong Beach

Notes: Tea is available at the Sabtang Tourism Office. Helps lessen the drowsiness from the sea crossing.
Apply sunblock, bring water. Buy stuff here other than magnets and shirts. Souvenir shopping  form part of your South Batan tour and actually costs lesser in Basco.
Pray that the group you’re with are happy-jolly , hindi KJ kind of fellows.
Be kind to your fellow tour mates, they may be the same people you’re stuck up with should you intend to take the next day package under the same Tour.

*Return to Ivana Port. This area is also where the Honesty store and San Jose de Ivana Church and Ruins is, and forms part of your South Batan Tour.

Day3: South Batan Tour.
Chawa Viewing Deck
San Carlos Borromeo Church
Mahatao Spanish Lighthouse
Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse
Racuh a Payaman aka Marlboro Hills
Alapad Hills and Rock Formation
Lo-Ran Old Naval Base
Ruins of Song-song and (Batanes Movie, House Scene)
Honesty Store
House of Dakay (Oldest Local-already passed away this year) and Old Spanish Bridge
White Beach and Hohmoron Lagoon
Souveniers at Basco

Day4: Bike Around Basco.
We were referred by teh wifes’ College friend and web famous travel blogger and owner of, Angel Juarez to Sir Nards where we were able to rent our two Mountain bike rides for the day. Note that you can also rent em Korean bikes with Pandesal holder (I say this in jest and for the lack of a proper name call, and I think they are actually made in Japan) to go about town viewing Basco for as low as P25 per hour. But if you plan to go to the farther places, it will be difficult for you to negotiate uphills with a single speed, heavy framed Korean Bikes. Bike rental is at P500 so making the most out of it is a prerogative.
Noting your North Batan spots is beneficial in determining where to go unless you want to go freestyle and roll where the wheels lead. As for us, we revisited the initial places, hung out and chilled to the tune of the outdoors.

Bike rental: Kuya Nards
Contact info: 0915.382.7136
Rate:  500 / day

Day5: Somewhat, South Batan Redux
Rented a tricycle for a generous amount of P1000 to freestyle South Batan. Prices in Batanes is not cheap, We opted not to haggle.
The past tours overcast clouds made us decide to return to Marlboro Hills (Racuh a Payaman) to just take photos and hang out. “Ayun, ma ulap pa rin.” Lol. But it was a refreshing, no time pressure stay, so we were all smiles sniffing sobs in happiness. Again, LOL.
Re-visited the Tayid Lighthouse and had lunch at Pacita Fundacion. Going there, we took the beaten track and not the main road. This mainly consists of snake terrain one way roads, to some, we had to board off and walk. From the Lighthouse, slicing through the back country roads and appearing almost near the Pag-Asa Weather station, near Pacita.

Food (Those we were able to try)
  • Pension Ivatan Restaurant. Big Soup servings. Fairly priced at P250-P400 for 2pax. Just beside the Airport.
  • Casa Napoli Pizza and Pasta. Thin slice. Order 2 Large size pizzas, one for each person. P270-P370 per pizza. Just Pizza, no other food served. Pizza resto is part of hotel grounds. They have coffee in the Hotel canteen. P50 tricycle ride, one way. Not feasible to walk, possibly bike, yes.
  • AIC’s Agri-Ventures. Castillejos St. Organic Rotisserie chicken. Brown rice. We ordered a half chicken and two orders of rice. Was able to meet and chat with 2 of the 3 owners of the venture. They were kind enough to provide us with their Bulalo soup, erm, free. Awesome people. Try their Chicken Ice Cream too. Spent P245 for 2pax.
  • SDCBI Canteen. Near the Plaza and Sto. Domingo church. Canteen style. We loaded up and spent P293 for 2pax. For a student canteen format, its a bit pricey at almost a hundred per meal per person. Still a go to diner if you do not want to wait or failed to make reservations in restos. Walking distance within Basco.
  • Octagon Bed and Dine. Big Soup servings. P250+ for 2pax. Seaside, nice place to go drinking too. Just a bit outside town, P60 tricycle ride, back and forth. Tire a sweat a little, if you choose to walk. Bike-able, yes.
  • Batanes Seaside Lodge and Restaurant. Spent P430 for 2meals and 2 sides. Outside town. We biked going and back to the Pension.
  • Bunker. At the Naidi Lighthouse. Serving is Meal set (Fixed. They dictate what they serve)-P300/pax. Need to make reservations.  Bike-able, but like most areas, you may have difficulty using the pandesal korean bikes and end up walking the last parts due to the terrain of the road getting there. But going down should be a breeze.
  • Shanedel’s Inn and Cafe. Walk-able, at the edge of Abad St. Had breakfast here even when we made no prior reservations. Had to wait a little for food to be served. Seaside, Port view. P320 for 2pax.
  • Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge. Pricey and restaurant ala mahal format. Had two pastas for P700 (And hardly burped). Coffee is P80, serves 2. Best sipped at the gardens, during overcasts.

Additional Notes:
Tubho Tea - Served in the Information center in Sabtang.
Buchid - Cogon Grass that when dried is turned into house roofs, lasts for 25years.
Kapanidungan or May-Uhu - Ivatans Bayanihan. 
Marida - Forest Snail
Vacul- Dried Cogon worn as head dress by women

Overall, Batanes will always be one to return to. Although we concur that airfare is murder- at the back of our minds, it may be for the best. Leave the Mainland commercial-isms to the Mainlanders and Batanes to its inhabitants and to itself. We find the business people, even at the rates of their sold and acquired commodities- mainly imported from Tuguegarao, are not as money greedy as some poisoned commercialized tourists spots and we commend them for such. Even more knowing that some of them have day jobs and run businesses at the same time. I pay them high regard- if people are awesome, the wonders of the place comes second.

BATANES TRIP – March 7 to 12, 2013 (Itinerary)

March 7, 2014 - Friday

325 AM  - 345 AM
Taxi to Domestic Terminal 4

Coffee at Café France
540 AM – 700 AM

Travel time to Basco Batanes
745 AM

Arrived at DDD Habitat

Full payment for the accommodation
830 AM
Breakfast at Dietician Café (Baked macaroni)
1130 AM – 1230 AM
Lunch at Pension Ivatan
100 PM – 600 PM
North Batan Tour

Coffee at Pacita Fundacion

Tricycle to and from Octagon Restaurant
730 PM – 830 PM

850 PM

Back to hotel, rest
Php 5,930.00
+ 800.00 DP for accommodation

March 8, 2014 - Saturday

445 AM

Wake up call
515 AM

620 AM – 710 AM

Travel to Port Ivana
724 AM – 750 AM

Boat ride to Sabtang
800 AM – 200 PM

Sabtang tour

Fresh Buko

Bukayo and Kamote

Ref Magnet
1145 AM

Lunch at Pananayan Canteen
126 PM

Sabtang Port
203 PM

Ivana Port
245 PM

Back to hotel

Tricycle to and from Casa Napoli

Dinner at Casa Napoli

900 PM

Back to hotel, rest
Php 1,068.00

March 9, 2014 - Sunday

730 AM

Wake up call
815 AM

932 AM – 500 PM

South Batan tour

Honesty coffee

Magnet and postcards

Tshirt - souvenirs

Tip for the tour guide
600 PM
Dinner at AIC Agri-ventures

Ice and chicaron
745 PM

Back to hotel, rest
Php 1,025.00

March 10, 2014 - Monday

745 AM

Wake up call
830 AM
1000 AM – 900 PM
Bike within North Batan
1249 PM

Back to hotel, water refill
130 PM
Lunch at SDCBI canteen
730 PM
Dinner at Seaside Restaurant resort with Pia

910 PM

Back to hotel, rest
Php 1,872.00

March 11, 2014 - Tuesday

700 AM

Wake up call
800 AM
Breakfast at Shanedel’s Café
9 AM to 300 PM
Tricycle to Marlboro, Tayid Lighthouse and Pacita Fundacion

Tip to tricycle driver
200 PM
Late lunch at Pacita Fundacion

330 PM

Back to hotel
445 PM
Tricycle to Bunkers
600 PM
Dinner at Bunkers with Kuya Rene, Iva, Ms Cynthia and Louie

Beer + Junkfood
800 PM

Back to hotel , pack and rest
Php 4,418.00

March 12, 2014 - Wednesday

415 AM

Wake up call
430 AM

518 AM – 524 AM

To airport (by foot)

Terminal fee
750 AM

Departure time
930 AM

Arrived in Manila
949 AM – 1047 AM
Taxi to Pasig
Php 400.00

Overall expenses:
Php 5,930.00
Php 1,068.00
Php 1,025.00
Php 1,872.00
Php  4,418.00
Php  400.00
Php 14,713.00
Php 14,579.20
Php 29,292.20