Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Batanes, Beautiful Island

Long ago, flying to Batanes would be such an ordeal because only Philippine Airlines flew there--once a week! If you chanced upon bad weather while were there, you could get stranded for a week, maybe two.  Now, PAL and Skyjet both fly two flights a day, making the island more accessible.

It's not cheap though at about P15,000 roundtrip--and that's just the flight. You will need a local tourguide to show you the sights, arrange a vehicle, and also some meals.

Batanes is very different from any other province or island in the Philippines and it's worth seeing and experiencing at least once in your life.

I thought the kids would get bored just sightseeing and looking at beautiful vistas, but they were actually taken in by the scenery and would spontaneously plop down on the grass and not want to get up.

The good thing nice about the tourism in Batanes is that they've created a few days' worth of "must-sees".  Any google search will bring up the "standard tour" that tourguides follow, and would go something like this on the first day:

A visit to Mount Carmel church is usually the first stop on the first day. This is the Chapel built by the Fundacion Pacita (Abad family) people. It's perched on a hill with a commanding view of what else, Fundacion Pacita!

The interiors of the chapel are painted by a scholars of the Pacita Abad foundation.  Read the details of the chapel here.

From Mt. Carmel chapel, we headed to Fundacion Pacita. We wanted to have coffee and also check out the accommodations. One of the guests enthusiastically showed us her room. She told us she just got back from visiting Basco town, where we were staying--and here we were doing the opposite: visiting Fundacion!

From Fundacion, we were shown an old tunnel which we were told was an old Japanese hideout. I didn't even know such a tunnel existed when I visited Batanes in 1995.

Any kind of digging underground holds so much mystery, but no other information was offered except that it was used during world war II.

From the tunnel, we headed to Valugan Bay. This boulder beach looks exactly as it did twenty years ago. 

We bumped into the photography tour group of Mandy Navasero here. She has been taking groups to Batanes for many years now--and from just the gorgeous Batanes shots from my point-and-shoot, it's no wonder why!

Then we were off to Vayang hills which has one of the best views of the islands. It was beautiful all around.

This was getting to be a habit

And finally after Vayang, we ended up at the lighthouse on Naidi hills.  Right in front of the lighthouse are three structures, one of which is Bunker Cafe, where we had dinner on our first night.

We had fish with mango, a chicken dish and something else, I forget now. We were more captivated with the view. Comparing again almost 20 years ago, when the only thing people ate was flying fish and vegetables, this was pretty good. 

It's unrealistic to expect spectacular food in Batanes when life here is not easy. The weather can be unpredictable, and many basic things need to be shipped or flown in from the mainland. Food and fuel are not cheap, and even tour services cost much more than tours in other parts of the country.

But things are still authentic and simple, with hardly any commercialism around. 

I hope with the influx of tourists because of the regular flights, Batanes will still manage to stay true to itself.

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