Years ago I watched a Filipino movie called Batanes: Sa Dulo ng Walang Hangan – because Ken Chu, one of the Taiwanese stars of F4, was part of the cast. While I was paying more attention to the movie’s plot, I remember I was also mesmerized by the views of Batanes that the movie had to offer. But back then, I was resigned to the fact that though it looked beautiful, I would just admire Batanes from a distance.
Until a couple of years ago, when Philippine Airlines had a seat sale and D and I were lucky to have been able to secure round trip plane tickets to Batanes. Lucky days!
Batanes is a group of small islands located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. If one looks at the Philippine map, they have to magnify the view as they’re quite easy to miss. They’re almost equally distant from Taiwan and from Luzon. The airport is at the province’s capital, Basco. Back when D and I flew there, there was only 1 flight thrice a week by Philippine Airlines. The plane was small, and it was a turbulent ride from Manila. I was amazed at how the flight attendants seemed so calm through the turbulence – they said they’re used to it. On the way to the hotel, I was told by our driver that during the rainy season, the pilots may even make a call to turn the planes back to Metro Manila as landing on the runway could be risky. Maybe that’s why there was a seat sale at the time we went because it was the month transitioning from summer to the rainy season? Anyway, just for trivia: before climate change, the usual path of typhoons that pass through the Philippines is through Batanes. That’s why the locals built their homes in such a way that they could withstand the storm.
We stayed at the Bernardo’s Hotel in Basco. I booked this hotel after seeing a travel review about it on tv. It’s a few meters away from the Chanarian Beach. They have a restaurant called Casa Napoli, which serves pizza baked in a brick oven.
First thing we looked for after we checked in was a place where we could rent a motorbike. We were only staying for a couple of days, so we needed to cover the most that we could. We would also be missing the daytours to Sabtang Island the next day, so we figured driving around Basco and Mahatao would do. We were able to rent one for 500 pesos a day and off we went, determined to be pleasantly surprised with what we would discover.
We drove to the Basco Lighthouse. We also passed by an honesty store, and then rode for hours of just spectacular seaside view. There are no words…
Next stop was the Valugan Boulder Beach. This is one rocky beach, and quite a sight to behold – in fact, I don’t recall seeing any space with just sand. D and I ended up walking far away from each other because we were preoccupied finding our balance as we stepped through the rocks.
Rakuh a Payaman, more commonly known as the Marlboro Country of Batanes, means ‘wide pasture’. This is a favorite tourist spot, with its rolling hills and magnificent view of the sea. Reminded me of Victoria’s 12 Apostles. D was so fascinated by the view here that he suddenly declared that Batanes is already his number 1 travel destination in the whole world.
Last stop was at the quaint Mt Carmel chapel. What better way to cap the trip saying a prayer of thanks for having been given the chance and the means to visit this beautiful place.
Overall, we were very much impressed by Batanes: its beauty, cleanliness, simplicity, and its people. The only downside during our trip was at the time, the whole of Batanes had scheduled power outages during daytime hours. We were told it was because the electric company was doing repairs when their facility was impacted by a recent typhoon. But this does not change our positive impression of the place – we’d go back in a heartbeat. Hopefully next time, we can do it on the cooler months. I heard it could get chilly there in December. That would be awesome to experience.