Jun 26, 2014

BATANES : FALUWA and SABTANG TOUR on Day 2

If I need to mention the highlight of our Sabtang tour, it must be the thrilling experience of riding a Faluwa boat going to Sabtang Island. Faluwa is a sturdy traditional Ivatan boat built without outriggers to withstand the often rough and turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea. It is no ordinary boat ride. Back then, the thought of riding a Faluwa scares me hence the thought of skipping Sabtang Island from our itinerary always crossed my mind. But on second thought, the stomach turning boat experience is one I have to endure, to claim the bragging rights: I've indeed experienced BATANES.
FALUWA BOAT RIDE, BATANES

Our day started really early; We're done with breakfast by 5:30 AM and on the road by 6am. Sitting at the back, I opened the window on my side and turn my face into the cold, chilly wind as our van travel along narrow coastal roads, while occasionally extending my hands outside, holding a GoPro to capture the stunning vistas in almost every direction. Blowing of horns is a matter of necessity here due to several blind corners that may conceal oncoming traffic.

I envy those motorbike riders behind us for the reason that I feel it's the best way to see Batanes without obstruction. Next time, I'll be in one, but with an experienced driver in tow, so I can concentrate on filming the scenic views. :)

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At Ivana Port going to Sabtang Island, Batanes

At the Ivana port, townsfolk and tourists alike were readying to board the Faluwa.You can easily distinguish which is which. Those donning neon orange vests like us, hurriedly look for seats at the back while the locals prefer to stand in front and enjoy the stomach turning ride that includes the occasional splashes of waves thrown their way. Our group took the front seats and seeing how calm the faces of the locals while the Faluwa gyrated to the waves gave me a good sense of security. It's like them saying "this is nothing but normal my dear". 

Faluwa Ride to Sabtang Island, Batanes


After 30 minutes, Sabtang island came into full view with this lighthouse prominently standing to welcome us. 
Sabtang Lighthouse, Batanes

On Sabtang Island, population is even smaller than on Batan Island but stone houses are still in abundance. The island also boasts of spectacular rolling hills, white sand beaches, beautiful coastal roads and rock cliffs. We also saw from a distance a 3000 yr old fortress carved into the mountain used by warring tribes in the island.
Tricycle at Sabtang Island

Although we didn't have to utilize a tricycle during our Sabtang tour (although I feel it will be a lot of fun riding one), it's interesting to see how they use indigenous materials to build its side car.
Coastal road at Sabtang Island, Batanes

Instead, we found ourselves cruising along the coastal roads of Sabtang Island on board a van with the doors open (upon our request) to fully enjoy the scenic views that surround us, as we hop from one place to the other.

STONE HOUSES AT SAVIDUG AND CHAVAYAN VILLAGE

BATANES and stone houses have become synonymous with each other and it's here on Sabtang Island where you'll see them in abundance. Ivatan stone houses are designed to withstand harsh elements and are made of limestones and corals with roofing made of cogon grass.
Savidug Stone Houses, Sabtang Island, Batanes
Stone Houses at SAVIDUG
Old Beaterio at Savidug, Sabtang, Batanes
OLD BEATERIO AT SAVIDUG

Stone Houses at Chavayan Village, Sabtang, Batanes
STONE HOUSES AT CHAVAYAN VILLAGE



Chavayan Village CHURCH, SABTANG, BATANES
CHAVAYAN VILLAGE CHURCH


If you're intrigued how the traditional Ivatan headgear called VAKUL is made and how you'd look like wearing one, visit the Sabtang Weavers Association here in Chavayan Village.
VAKUL HEADGEAR, BATANES


CHAMANTAD-TINYAN VIEWPOINT

If Batan Island has Racuh-A-Payaman aka Marlboro Hills, Sabtang Island on one hand has Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint to show off.  

CHAMANTAD TINYAN VIEWPOINT, SABTANG ISLAND, BATANES
CHAMANTAD TINYAN VIEWPOINT

You need to follow the foot trails to get to the viewing area where a beach cove is hidden between rolling hills or you can choose to frolic around and then reenact one of the famous scenes of the Sound of Music. :)
BEACH COVE BETWEEN ROLLING HILLS




Rocky cliff coupled with strong wind prevented us to go down a bit further, but that didn't stop us from admiring the place any less.

MORONG BEACH/NAKABUANG BEACH

You've probably seen this natural rocky formation called Nakabuang arch on travel magazines that is widely associated with Batanes. This iconic beach is located in Sabtang Island. The white sand is fine and the waves are tolerable enough for a swim.  

MORONG BEACH / NAKABUANG ARCH, SABTANG ISLANG, BATANES

There's also a restaurant in this area where we had a filling Ivatan lunch as part of the tour.
Morong Beach Restaurant, Sabtang, Batanes
lone resto at Morong Beach
After a satisfying lunch and an awe-inspiring experience despite the short stay, everyone needed to be at the port by 1pm to catch the Faluwa ride going back to Batan Island. It's possible to book a home stay at one of the stone houses at the Chavayan Village. Immersing oneself to the charm of spartan living is probably the most ideal way to experience Batanes and I'll do that next time I have the chance to visit this place again.

Stay tuned for more Batanes posts to come. If you visit Batanes, don't skip Sabtang Island for fear of riding a Faluwa otherwise you'll blow your chances of catching a glimpse of Batanes in it's most unadulterated form.

Jun 3, 2014

BATANES : Stunning SOUTH BATAN on Day 1

A tour of South Batan marked our Day 1 in Batanes. By 9am, after checking in at Batanes Seaside Lodge, a knock on the door signaled that our tour guide has arrived and ready to pick us up. Wearing a welcoming smile and a pleasant vibe, he introduced himself as Mr. Ryan Lara Cardona, our pointman while in Batanes. I knew then, we're in good hands. We hop in the van and met the rest of the group, a friendly duo and a newly wed couple, who we'll be spending our time with while exploring Batanes.

The weather was perfect, the location dreamy and at every turn, our eyes feasted on the stunning panoramic vistas of the ocean and the hills while navigating the rugged cliff roads of Batan Island. Suddenly, fresh crisp cold air filled our lungs, and a feeling of exhilaration became everyone's mood during the entire tour.

Follow my narratives as I chronicle the stunning sights of South Batan that put us all in awe of BATANES.

CHAWA VIEWDECK

Also known as Mahatao Viewdeck, this spot offers the perfect vantage point to have a spectacular view of Batan Island facing the South China Sea. You can go down the cliff using the concrete stairs, dip your feet in the waters or you can try fishing. They also said, you can witness a beautiful sunset while on this viewdeck.
Chawa Viewdeck, South Batan, Batanes

MAHATAO BOAT SHELTER PORT

From the road, I peek down into this interesting port seemingly hiding from the whole scene. We learned that this port is where inter-island motorboats and fishing vessels dock to escape from inclement weather.
Mahatao Boat Shelter Port, South Batan, Batanes

TAYID LIGHTHOUSE (a.k.a. Mahatao Lighthouse)

This hexagonal lighthouse perfectly resting on top of a hill was built in 2000 but is still not functional due to incomplete facilities. However, it has become a popular tourist attraction in the area, a perfect addition to complement the stunning view of the rugged mountain cliffs facing the South China Sea with grazing cows around, a sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean and a beautiful landscape of labyrinth-like hedgerows when you turn your gaze around.
Tayid Lighthouse, South Batan

MAHATAO TOWN PROPER

At Mahatao Town Proper, we saw the San Carlos Borromeo Church, declared a National Cultural Heritage Site that was first built in 1787 and had endured several renovations. There lies as well the oldest Spanish lighthouse (the uppermost photo of the collage) that we could've missed if not pointed out by our guide.
Mahatao Town Proper, San Carlos Borromeo Church, Spanish Lighthouse

HOMORON WHITE BEACH and BLUE LAGOON

It's a short strip of white sand beach on one side and a concealed blue lagoon on the other side where locals and tourists alike can enjoy a dip. Just be mindful that although it may look calm at the moment, the waters can turn rough, without warning.

HOMORON WHITE BEACH, Batanes

RACUH-A-PAYAMAN (Marlboro Hills)

This is probably the best spot to have a breathtaking panoramic view of the Tayid Lighthouse on your left, Mt Iraya on your right and the Diura Beach below. I can just lie here all day and marvel at the beauty of nature at its finest. It's also a communal pastureland where livestock come to graze.
Racuh A Payaman (Marlboro Hills)

IMNAJBU POINT/ALAPAD HILLS/ALAPAD PASS

They refer to this spot as Imnajubu point or Alapad Pass. The road cuts through a small hill forming what they call Alapad Pass and revealing a rugged sculpture along the roadside and a beautiful seascape when you pass through the winding road. It's an interesting attraction you shouldn't miss.
Alapad Hills/Pass, Batanes

HONESTY COFFEE SHOP

It's been featured countless times in local magazine shows and to be actually here sipping the instant coffee I made and bought seemed surreal. It's actually a sari sari store, but without a shopkeep. You take whatever you want and drop your payment in the designated payment box. Honesty is the norm in this quaint province and that admirable trait goes beyond this cafe. It's the same way everywhere in Batanes.
Honesty Coffee Shop, Batanes

HOUSE OF DAKAY

House of Dakay or Vahay ni Dakay is the oldest surviving stone house in the Batan Island of Batanes. Built in 1887 and remained standing even after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake leveled the town of Ivana in 1918. It has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Building. That's Lolo Francisco in the photo below, the current occupant of the House of Dakay.
House of Dakay, Batanes

We're done with South Batan by 5pm. Our Day 2 itinerary involved SABTANG Island and you can expect more stunning sights to come on my next post. Cliche as it may sound, South Batan tour of Batanes took our breath away.

Day 2 Itinerary : FALUWA RIDE and SABTANG TOUR

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