Travel dates: July 1 to 6, 2018
The place is in so much hype, in the circle of full blown travelers and casual tourists.
Hefty priced airplane tickets. The frontier. The resilient island, leeway of typhoons and strong winds.
Welcome to Batanes, dubbed by the local tourism board as “The Northern Paradise.”
This is a trip that all three of us has planned intensively. Originally, we should be going as five people, but two of our friends have to back out. Budgeting this trip became harder, but because of the wonder that is the social media and of other helpful blogs, it was easier and cheaper to travel to Batanes than what I expected. Accommodations booked through Facebook, helpful tips asked from online friends, reservation of guides and standardized fees were referred from travel blogs. And of course, thank you to spreadsheets and online storage, our itinerary has been completed. Group trips are fun when everything is planned and everyone is a team player.
Our flight is in Clark was at 10:45 AM on a Sunday, and we originated from Valenzuela and Caloocan City. Good thing the P2P service is available in Trinoma as early as 4am, as per the research. We arrived at the mall at around 3 in the morning, and found out that they have an earliest trip, which is at 3am. The conductor offered the ride which has just made a roundabout to the mall’s lounge (we were in the Landmark side, the terminal of P2P buses), but we passed on it, since we were still waiting for a friend, so we rode the 4AM bus. It was very early considering our flight was almost at 11AM but it’s better than missing it. The bus took off at the exact time, and about an hour and a half went by, we arrived at the Clark Airport.
Taking the flight in Clark was a first. It was no match to NAIA in size, but it is still a decent airport. Food stalls are inside the boarding area. We had seen a 7 Eleven outside the airport, but never noticed any other restaurants in the area.
Our flight was on time, thankfully. We arrived at the small but elegant Basco Airport around lunch, and was picked up by someone from our accommodation, the Den Den’s Guesthouse, via tricycle. It was quite a surprise when only minutes passed before we arrived in our home for four days. The town proper of Basco is near the airport, so all transient houses are nearby.
Since it was past lunch time, and we’re quite hungry, we go around the perimeter of the municipal center of Basco to find a place to eat. We found a karinderya, with the only available food was menudo. It was priced at 90php. Pretty decent, but not sumptuous. After eating, we tried contacting the tricycle terminal of Basco and the tricycle driver who brought us to the inn, so we could settle on our first region to travel Batanes, the North Batan.
After readying ourselves, finally, the sight-seeing starts.
We did not want to waste the day so we started in north Batan, since going around would only take us for half a day. It is a perfect introduction for our Batanes adventure.
We were first welcomed with the Basco Arch, the perfect warm-up, the foreshadowing of this awesome trip.
Then we went to Tukon Church or the Chapel of Mt. Carmel. The little chapel is a stone church. The feature of the interior is the ceiling full of wooden planks, probably since they were fixing the structure. Outside is a sight, where the greenery cannot be missed. I made my first wish in this chapel, a known tradition for whenever one would visit a church for the first time. The stop is a great sign for the whole trip.
Next stop, the view from PAG-ASA weather station. Sadly, we were not allowed inside the station itself, so we just feasted our eyes with the view from up there. This is also my second time in visiting a PAG-ASA Weather Station, first was in Aurora, during our Baler trip, wherein we were able to go inside the office. The famous hotel in Batanes, Fundacion Pacita, with its signature red roof and stone foundation, can also be seen afar. It was the home of a local artist, as I read in a magazine during our flight beforehand.
I never imagined that this island was included in the second World War, that is why the Japanese tunnel was quite a surprise. But hey, the Spanish had the means back then to step on the other islands in the Philippines first, so I had toned down my surprise a little bit.
One would be able to pass through the tunnel. A headlight is handy during the trip since it was dark, and inside could be a perfect photo op with the lights on. Sadly, I realized the notion while I was inside. I forgot my headlamp back at the guesthouse. However, the tunnel is still a treat. We emerged to the other end of the tunnel and was mesmerized by the sweeping hills. I wonder, how did the soldiers even survive in the hills? Since predominantly Batanes is a grassland, with few trees in sight. It must be hard to camouflage.
After our short visit in the tunnel, we proceeded to one of the highlights of the northern tour, the Valugan Boulder Beach, one of the unique beaches in the world. The boulders were from Mt. Iraya’s eruption a long time ago, and a perfect place for a sunset, in which we had just realized the next day. This was the place where I tried doing long exposure shots, my dream to capture the flowing motion of the water between the boulders. I had just acquired some cheap filters and a mirrorless camera just for the trip. With utmost joy, my head repeatedly said that travelling to Batanes is worth it.
We wasted, preferably enjoyed, our time by the beach. Sure, the sand can’t be seen, and it was difficult to trudge through boulders, but it was a unique experience to see such giant stones along with the strong waves, a triple whammy with the gusty wind. Batanes is the “Land of The Wind”. A highway of typhoons, no wonder it was a point of reference for oncoming weather disasters. A certain movie of Hayao Miyazaki reminded me of this beautiful place.
After the boulder beach, we bound for Vayang Rolling Hills, one of the magnificent sights to see when you travel to Batanes. The sun is about to set. It was a perfect moment for us. Sunsets always had that kind of power to me, to reflect and to reassess everything that is and will be happening in my life, sort of a meditation. There are few people around, in fact it was just the four of us who were standing atop the hills, before the other tourists arrived. At this point, I hoped all my family and friends would have the opportunity to see the beauty there is, to be astounded by the impact this place had on us.
We finalized the day with our arrival to the famous lighthouse in Naidi hills. It was too cloudy so we haven’t seen the sun finally setting. We were holding on the rails of the lighthouse as to not be swept away by the gushing wind. The clouds are in motion, the waves too, as if saying that we should go home and finish our tour, as it started to drizzle.
As I closed my eyes, words reverberate in me. Here we are, at last.