Tag Archive | "Batanes"

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Batanes: The island of Sabtang

Posted on 17 February 2014 by Dreidel Regala

Ever saw that picture of a beach with an arch in Batanes.

Morong Beach

Morong Beach

That’s the famous landmark of the island Sabtang. But it’s not the only thing you’ll find in the nice island.

***

“Nakakahilo”, these were the marking words to me by a friend over our seaside lunch in South Batan, “pero may binibigay namang throw up bag sa passengers”. They were in the island during the height of typhoon Maring and just came back a day before I landed in Basco. I was tempted to imagine disgusting trajectories but managed to divert my thoughts to the deliciousness of the coconut crab in the table. It is however unknown to me if that friend used it.

When next morning came and I found myself sitting in the faluwa, my Perfect Storm expectation was debunked. In fact the weather was perfect, the sun was out, the sea seemed normal, and the locals were mostly standing freehand in front of the boat. Mid way the boat stopped. “What’s going on?”, I blurted. “They caught fish”, pointing to the back. The boat crew was multitasking: navigating and fishing at the same time.

***

Fiesta and Balance

An interesting concept to fiestas in Batanes. Fiestas usually meant food feast. But food rarely gets finished the first day. So when I was in Sabtang with some friends, we were treated to a Balance. Balance generally means feasting on leftover fiesta food. Until this day though, I still don’t get why it’s called that. Afterwards we had another lunch in Morong beach hence for that day we had a hefty double lunch.

Going to "Balance"

Heading to the “Balance”

Stone houses and Overnights

The staple stone houses of Batanes are I think most abundant in Sabtang. Plus sleeping in one is possible there too. I do recommend spending at least a night (probably in Chavayan town) cause past lunch time you can have the island seemingly void of day trippers.

Stone houses in Sumnanga

Stone houses in Sumnanga

Chamantad viewing deck

On the way to the town of Chavayan, you’ll pass a viewing deck. It’s actually one of the nicest things I’ve seen in the province. Definitely worth a stop.

Chamantad viewing deck

Chamantad viewing deck

Unexpected landscapes

As with all of Batanes, random sceneries are everywhere.

Lake which appears only during rainy season

A lake which, as I was told, only appears during rainy season

Sumnanga bay

A boy playing on top of a rock under a silhouette sky

An Ivatan at work

An Ivatan at work til the sun sets

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Batanes: The island of Batan

Posted on 11 September 2013 by Dreidel Regala

The islands of Batanes are found in the northernmost part of the Philippines. It is often heard during weather forecasts because Basco holds the last (or first) weather station.

The province has 3 inhabited islands – Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. The remaining islands are generally used as pasture land but if you fancy adventure you may rent a boat and cross the frisky Luzon Strait and explore where only a few explored. Be wary though as I heard the farther you get the more expensive it is.

Batan Island

Batan island is usually the base of most travelers. Here your plane will land in the capital Basco where most establishments are found. When I first saw Batan island from aboard a plane I was leaning my face hard on the windows in excitement. The aerial view is a good start in seeing the hilly lands of Batanes. Unfortunately, the plane’s window didn’t give me a chance to take some good shots cause it’s either scratchy or dark. So I just savored the view from my seat. By the way, that’s a right side seat so tell the agent in the check-in counter to put you on the right so you’ll see the island.

Batan island on board the plane

Batan island on board the plane

While Basco looked established already, the province’s traditional stone houses are still apparent. Alleys are small and are usually used by bikes and motorcycles with the occasional cars and trikes. Walking around town felt like walking in an old book during Sunday afternoons.

Rolling hills

Rolling hills

The small Batan island can normally be toured for 1.5 days depending on the amount of photos one takes. The landscape is just amazing that I hated myself for not lingering around long maybe under a tree in one of those hills overlooking a herd of cows while reading a good book. Oh don’t do that by the way, I heard cows has a tendency to be aggressive! Especially the black ones, no wait, those are carabaos ackk!

Lighthouse in Mahatao Batanes

Lighthouse in Mahatao Batanes

Generally you will be indulging yourselves with endless hills, lighthouses, mountains, stone houses and other fantastic island views. But on the flipside you may also do a 4-hour climb of the Batanes staple Mt. Iraya for a different vantage point. If that’s not your kind of thing well I also learned that going boat fishing is also something visitors can do. I actually thought of doing this myself, fishing in Batanes waters. Excitement! Too bad the waves are too rigid for my definition of adventure. On a fine day though this should be a feast. I saw the fishes they have in Batanes and they are really big so catching one means fantastic lunch. Now if you wanna go deeper, then diving is for you. Dive around the vast expanse of water around the island but be sure you get proper guide and advise.

Mt. Iraya in the background

Mt. Iraya in the background

Transportation

 

South Batan road side cliffs

South Batan road side cliffs

Since public transportation is sporadic, the common practice when going around Batan island is to rent a motorcycle but this option is only good if you have a license and riding along cliffs doesn’t scare you. Blow your horn! If you are unsure if you fit option #1 maybe option #2 will sound a different fun – biking. Biking will mean cheap and fun, fun if you don’t mind cycling uphill the whole afternoon. Remember, even if Batan island is relatively small, some spots are somewhat far especially on tired legs. Option #3 is what most visitors do – join group tours. This is what I did when I went the first time. Since several travelers are pooled in, I see it like a tourist passenger ride. Only draw is that you are bounded by other’s schedule but if you get to meet awesome company then this won’t be a problem. Now as for hiring a public trike, I think this could work too but I have not much info on this and how far they can go. Of course depending on your location you can always opt to walk. With the island’s scenery, walking around is always nice.

Biking is very common in Batanes

Biking is very common in Batanes

Place to stay

When I was walking around Basco I noticed that there are several lodges, inns, and homestays in the area. Places like DDD Habitat, Brandon’s lodge, Pension Ivatan, Batanes Seaside Lodge, Shanedel’s inn, Batanes Resort, and the upscale Fundacion Pacita are just some. But of course my favorite is Marfel’s lodge.

Money

Remember Batanes is not the big city so everything will be paid in cash. If possible bring all that you need. There is a Landbank atm near the plaza but if that machine runs out of cash then who knows what headache it will give you. On a good note, I and a friend was able to get ours on different occasions.

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Why I think Marfel’s lodge is the best place to stay in Basco, Batanes

Posted on 31 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Why I think Marfel’s lodge is the best place to stay in Basco? Simple – it feels home.

Ate Fe texted me that she’ll be waiting at the airport. After a canceled flight two days before, my excitement turned into a big worry no thanks to the lurking typhoon in the country. She told me I can stay in Marfel’s now that one of the original guest has rescheduled her trip. Nice!

“Dreidel”, a short-haired lady called me so I quickly turned to her and gave her a hug like I knew her a long time already. After waiting a while for other guests (who by the way turned into friends) who’ll stay in the sister location, we went on to Marfel’s lodge. It’s actually in a walkable distance from the airport even for guests on wheeled luggage.

Marfel's lodge

Marfel’s lodge

A simple 2-storey home in De Padua Street greeted me. There’s a living room, a dining area, a kitchen, and even a terrace. The house only has 2 bedrooms which could probably accommodate 2 solo travelers each, maybe more for families or friends who can share beds/spaces.

I had 2 other great housemates who are solo travelers too. “B” even cooked a feast for us the night before she left. We got along so well that everyday after going around the sites we would hang in the living or dining area to watch TV or just do a lot of kwentuhan. A lot of times Ryan and Jay-ann, our guide friends, would join us and play silly games.

Kwentuhan with (L-R) me, ate Fe, Alvin, and Ryan

Kwentuhan with (L-R) me, ate Fe, Alvin, and Ryan

I think it’s not just their friendliness to their guests but rather the Ivatan hospitality that is common to Batanes. Just like when ate Fe surprised us with a cooked lunch in a stormy stranded Wednesday. The typhoon winds were strong but I didn’t feel alone because it felt like home in Marfel’s.

The basic Marfel’s lodge may not be for the fancy soul so take note of these when booking.

  • It’s a house converted to a lodge so don’t expect hotel amenities
  • It doesn’t have overlooking views but location is very central
  • The room is priced at 350/person with a fan but there is air-conditioning installed too
  • If you are staying overnight in Sabtang or Itbayat you can leave your stuff in the room
  • At the moment there is just one toilet and bath so be mindful of use especially when the place is full
  • Sometimes ate Fe will check on the guest’s needs but keep in mind that Marfel’s is a self served environment
  • There’s a chance you will share the room, living, kitchen, and dining areas so try to be friendly, it’s fun!
  • There’s a mini honesty store in the house so be that – honest
  • Drinking water is not free but is reasonably priced in the honesty store
  • If you need anything that is not in the store, try asking ate Fe about it cause she has a separate bigger store too
  • Towel is provided but please don’t ask for replacement everyday
  • Try not to break stuff
  • Don’t ever take anything that is not yours
  • If you want to go biking you can rent it from ate Fe @ 20/hr
  • Ate Fe is the sweetest person who can take suggestions but please do it nicely and not in a demanding way

If you need more info you can contact ate Fe @ 09088931475. You may also read Solitary Wanderer’s and Pinoy Adventurista’s posts about Marfel’s.

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Sea sickness and how to remedy it

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Sea sickness is a common problem for a lot of people. The constant rocking of the boat renders an unwelcomed headache and eventually nausea to the vulnerable subject. Usually we hear advises to take motion sickness medicines but I prefer not to take any of these drugs.

Faluwa boat to Sabtang

Faluwa boat to Sabtang

In my recent boat trip to Sabtang island in Batanes, this problem is consistently the talked about topic. I traveled in August where typhoons and storms commonly linger around the country and thus causing clumsy waters.

Batan and Sabtang crossing

Crossing between Batan and Sabtang islands

The Solution

 
The simple (and tested) way to combat this is by just looking at the horizon. Sit near a window, face ahead, and stare outside (or if possible at your destination). I’ve done this a lot of times and I never left a boat with a used barf bag. And probably the same reason why boatmen rarely suffer from it too.

Boatmen looking ahead

Boatmen looking ahead

Now if you don’t have access to a window or you’re traveling at night you can just simply take a nap. This will make the rocking of the boat seem like it’s cradling you.

There you go. Now you can go hop islands with more ease.

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Batanes hills

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I am heading to Batanes – Join me!

Posted on 02 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Destination: Batanes islands, Philippines

Date: August 21-28

What used to be a hard to reach group of islands is now within the common people’s grasp. Yep, Batanes will not be a fantasy to most of us anymore. So why is the northern tip of the country so hot in the eyes of many? Simple. Just look at this.

Batanes hills

Batanes hills by ourawesomeplanet

Batanes can only be reached by plane and fares can be so mighty expensive. But good thing came a new airline which can offer promo fares. I got mine for P2,794.00 RT for what used to be a 10K regular fare! Only draw is that I booked mine in the months of rainy season but who knows sun might join me then :)

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Philippines: What to do when it’s raining?

Posted on 15 August 2011 by Dreidel Regala

Philippines is a tropical country. It’s hot and humid most of the time which makes beaches and sun activies a popular retreat. But the country also gets the other side of the weather wheel. Rainy season in The Philippines happens between June to September (but could sometimes go until November) which is exactly the opposite to Europe’s and America’s summer time (and vacation time).

So is there anything to do during the rainy season of Philippines? Answer, absolutely! You won’t have to soak yourself up at the sofa at home or skip your vacation time until next season because there are still tons of things to do.

For a certain group of people the rainy season is their favorite. They pack their gears and boards then head to the nearest (or maybe biggest) wave they can find. Yup, the stoked surfers wish there’d be massive sea rumblings to create their ride. Beginners prefer the La Union and Zambales coasts then eventually head on to Baler, Aurora Province or the monster Siargao island.

Another great water activity that feeds on massive flow is white water rafting. You get splashed and thrown as you maneuver your way through the rapids. Visit Kalinga or Cagayan de Oro and get your adventure. And when your at it do check other possible activities in the area (like in CamSur) where you could also find a place to wakeboard, jetski etc.

Did you know that The Philippines is made up of a lot of Islands (7,107!)? And like having different tongue dialects is not enough, the food also varies! Every province has their own specialty to offer and to which a stranger must try. Go food tripping to the province of Bacolod and taste their Inasal chicken, have a hot La Paz Batchoy soup in Iloilo, eat the sweetest Mangoes from Guimaras, divulge yourself with the tastiest Lechon from Cebu, or head to the culinary capital Pampanga. Whichever it is you prefer just don’t forget to grab a balut!

There are several festivals going on around the country all throughout the year, and fortunately some do fall on the rainy months! The Pintados festival happening on June 29 in Leyte is one of the most colorful ones with participants decorating themselves with body art. Another popular one is the August Kadayawan festival of Davao. Food feast, souvenirs and a lot of performances happening so it will be everything fun. Bacolod also has its own version with the MassKara festival in October. This is a great opportunity to eat the yummy Inasal chicken while you’re watching the entertaining performances of masked dancers. And if you want to see giant “higantes” paper-made puppets head to the Higantes festival in Angono Rizal on November 23.

And finally take a plane to the northernmost tip of the archipelago – Batanes. While the rest of the country is raining, the people in Batanes consider the rainy months as their summer. See beautiful hill landscapes, stone houses and a different culture in this interesting part of The Philippines.

Well there you go. The rainy season isn’t so bad after all. Get yourself up and make your adventure count under the rain.

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