Batanes: Home of the Ivatans

Batanes is a chain of small islands in the northernmost point of the Philippines. Of these islands, only three are inhabited: Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. These three (3) islands comprise six (6) municipalities collectively known as BISUMI: Basco (the capital), Itbayat, Sabtang, Uyugan, Mahatao and Ivana. Although described as having no real ports, the island chains of Batanes boast small beaches and coves which serve as anchorage for the locals’ small boats.

Inhabiting Batanes are the Ivatans, their name derived from the language they speak: Chirin nu Ibatan or simply Ivatan, an Austronesian language spoken exclusively in the Batanes Islands which is characterized by the dominant use of the letter “v”, as in valuga, vakul and vanuwa.

Also unique to their culture is their limestone houses patterned after the Spaniards and adapted to stand the onslaughts of the notorious Batanes typhoons. Ivatan stone houses — called vernacular houses — are typically windowless cube structures with walls as thick as one meter with thatched roof made of cogon grass.

Where to go in Batanes

Tour destinations in Batanes are subdivided into four (4) clusters:

  • North Batan Island (Basco)
    • Mt. Carmel Chapel
    • Radar Tukon
    • Idjang Viewpoint
    • Fundacion Pacita
    • Japanese Tunnel
    • Valugan Boulder Beach
    • Vayang Rolling Hills
    • Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills
    • Sto. Domingo Church
  • South Batan Island (Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan)
    • Chawa Viewdeck
    • Mahatao Pier
    • San Jose Borromeo Church
    • Diura (Fishing Village)
    • Fountain of Youth
    • Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)
    • Imnajbu Point
    • Old Naval Base
    • Alapad Rock
    • Song Song Ruins
    • San Jose de Ivana Church
    • Honesty Coffee Shop
    • Famous House of Dakay
  • Sabtang Island
    • San Vicenter Ferer Church
    • Savidug Village and Savidug Idjang Rock Fortress
    • Sabtang Vernacular Houses
    • Sabtang Lighthouse
    • Limestone production
    • Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
    • Chavayan Village
    • Nakabuang (Morong) Beach and Ahao Arch
    • Vuhus Island
  • Itbayat Island
    • Chinapoliran Port
    • Sta. Maria Immaculada (Itbayat) Church
    • Lake Kavaywan
    • Mt. Karoboban Viewpoint
    • Torongan Hills and Cave
    • Paganaman Port and Lagoon
    • Rapang Cliffs and Stone Bell
    • Kaxobcan Beach
    • Mt. Riposed
    • Nahili Votox Burial Site
    • Komayasakas Cave and Water Source
    • Manoyok Sinkhole
    • Sarokan, Pevangan and Do’tboran Caves
    • Agosan Rocks
    • Port Mauyen
    • Island hopping (when weather permits):
      • Siayan
      • Dinem
      • Ditarem
      • Yami (Mavolis)

Optional activities

Mt. Iraya Hike (North Batan)
Duration: 3hrs to 4 hrs
Highlights: At 1,900ft ASL, Mt Iraya offers a stunning view of Basco and a wide array of endemic flora and fauna.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1000/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1500/pax for 2 pax

Mt. Matarem Hike (South Batan)
Duration: 1.5hrs to 2hrs
Highlights: An extinct volcano, Mt. Matarem spans the municipalities of Mahatao, Uyugan and Ivana. At the summit, you’ll have a commanding view of Sabtang.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1300/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1800/pax for 2 pax

Hiking/Walking Tour
Duration: 4hrs to 6hrs
Highlights: Hike along the Basco-Mahatao Trail, stopping by Racuh-a-idi Spring of Youth in Diura Fishing Village for a cold, refreshing dip. Then continue on to the radar station, Fundacion Pacita and the wind turbines
Rates/Fees:
PHP800/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1200/pax for 2 pax

SCUBA Diving
Duration: 2hrs to 3hrs, depending on the dive location and number of dives
Highlights: Explore the rich marine life of Sabtang: Pavona coral fields, Trevallies Lair, Canyons, etc.
Rates/Fees:
PHP3000/pax for a single dive, or
PHP2500/pax for 2 dives or more

Fishing/Boating
Duration: Minimum of 1hr
Highlights: Experience “mataw” fishing with local anglers using nylon line and hook.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax/hr for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1000/pax/hr for 2 pax

ATV Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: Explore Batan at your own pace.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax for halfday, or
PHP1000/pax for whole day

Bicycle (Motorbike) Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: A visit to Batanes is not complete without trying out one of its iconic symbols, the bicycle. Tour Batan Island on two wheels, either self-powered or motorized. Travel from the heart of Basco to the southernmost parts of Batan.
Rates/Fees:
Bicycle: PHP100/pax/hr
Motorbike: PHP250/pax/hr

Contacts:

BISUMI Tours and Services
Ryan Lara Cardona <+63915.803.4582>
bisumitours@gmail.com

MarFel Lodge
<+63908.893.1475>
<+63920.976.4966>
<+63917.857.4493>
<+63917.883.3249>
marfellodge@gmail.com
http://marfellodgebatanes.com

Dive Batanes
Chico Domingo <+63939.935.1950>

Ivatan ATV Rentals
<+63998.551.9656>

Basco TODA
<+63929.703.8404>

Casa Napoli Pizza
<+63999.990.7553>

Rapang (Itbayat) Guide
Jose Valiente <+63949.620.0184>

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A kiss to build a dream on

The Kissing Rocks of Chavayan Village in Sabtang Island is relatively unknown to many. This imposing rock formation is a sight to behold. The wooden contraption in the foreground is used to tow fishing boats to shore.

The Kissing Rocks of Chavayan Village in Sabtang Island is relatively unknown to many. If you look closely at one of the rock formations, you’ll see an outline of puckered lips, delivering a kiss.

The wooden contraption in the foreground is used to tow fishing boats to shore.

Enduring Symbols of Batanes

Chavayan Village, Sabtang, Batanes

Chavayan Village, Sabtang, Batanes

Here, this is King!

When we talk about who’s King of the (Philippine) Road, the jeepney comes to mind. But here in Sabtang, the lowly tricycle underwent a ‘fashionable’ transformation: An open sidecar with thatched roof! This ‘design’ is slowly spreading across the entire Batanes isles, with Basco adopting the concept one traysi at a time.

In Sabtang, this tricycle is King!

In Sabtang, this tricycle is King!

I saw the signs!

Touring Batanes is indeed a visual feast!

To sum it all up: BATANES IS:

A miniature of the Mahatao Church.

A miniature of the Mahatao Church.

This bull’s for fighting

The Racuh a Payaman, popularly known among visitors as Marlboro Hills, is one of many communal pasturelands in Batanes.

The Racuh a Payaman, popularly known among visitors as Marlboro Hills, is one of many communal pasture lands in Batanes.

Livestock raising is one of Batanes’ major industries, apart from farming and fishing. Cattle, goats and carabaos, sometimes horses, freely roam the countryside–by the hundreds in some areas. That’s one reason why communal pasture lands, the most popular being the Racuh a Payaman or vast (racuh in Ivatan) graze lands (payaman) dot the Batanes landscape.

As in Masbate and Bukidnon, Batanes also boasts a rich ‘cowboy’ tradition; and in Brgy. Sanakan in Sabtang, instead of having a rodeo, bullfighting is one of the highlights of the local fiesta.

Each time they butt heads, a loud 'THUD' can be heard throughout the 'arena'.

Each time they butt heads, a loud ‘THUD’ can be heard throughout the ‘arena’.

I know, I know…. I also thought the ‘bullfighting’ the locals were talking about involves a matador. I was mistaken. Instead, their version of a ‘bullfight’ features two, well, raging bulls egged to fight each other until one quits or runs away.

The bull-fight ‘arena’ is set against a backdrop of the raging waves of the Sabtang-Batan Channel, away from more populated ‘centro’ (Oh, by the way, the term ‘populated’ is a misnomer in Sabtang, as the island municipality has only about 1,500 residents–men, women and children–as of the last Census of Population).

 

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