batanes… not the movie

Batanes has always been one of my “must see” destinations. But after two years or so of dreaming and planning, I never found the time to book a flight to the northernmost island of the Philippines. So when Brownie aka Julia invited me to her hometown to attend her wedding, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Not only was I going to witness the marriage of one of my oldest (not by age) friends, but also get to discover one of the most beautiful and picturesque islands in the Philippines.

So on Labor Day, I set out for Batanes. Armed with my aging DSLR, my Lomo and my Holga, as well as a few rolls of film, I excitedly left Manila for a new adventure.

The flight didn’t take long. It was approximately an hour and fifteen minutes from the domestic airport to the Batanes landing strip. And thanks to Brownie’s perfect planning, our hotel (Shanedel’s) had provided a shuttle for our group to our residence for the next few days. So after settling in and taking a short nap, Kan and I headed out to discover the Basco, the capital of Batanes, as well as the largest and most populated town of the islands. The town seemed devoid of people, when we were navigating the streets… but we later discovered there was a feast in another town, thus the shortage of people loitering the streets.

After grabbing a bite to eat, we decided to head up to the lighthouse on the hill, to check out the view and “watch the sunset”. It was a good 20 minute hike from the plaza, but it was the best sunset I ever saw. But instead of narrating the rest of our day’s exploits, let me illustrate them via my gallery.

Day two offered a full set of activities. We all woke up at 5:30 to get ready for the Batan Island tour. We drove through…or I should say around the island, literally, stopping at several locations and points of interest. Along the way, we visited Lola Florestina Estrella, resident of the oldest standing (131 years and counting) Ivatan stone house; the Honesty Coffee Shop where visitors drop their money for purchases made in a makeshift piggy bank, as no one else is there to collect your money; the rocky shores of Valuga Beach, strewn with large volcanic rocks spewed from a volcano; and numerous other sites.

[see more of day two]

Day three was the wedding day. So instead of exploring the island a bit more, we decided to rest and get ready for the celebration ahead. At about 3:00, all dressed in our formal gear, we braved the afternoon sun and headed over to the picturesque chapel on the hill, built by the Abad family, to attend Julia and Andrew’s union.The chapel was beautiful, the ceremony was laced with comedic bits but solemn, nonetheless, smiles were abundant, and the music provided by Noel Cabangon set the perfect mood for a wedding. Even the local residents couldn’t help but flock to the ceremony to witness the first grand occasion on the island… and biggest thing to happen since Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gomez filmed “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit”.

After the lovely ceremony, we all hoofed it to the Abad residence for cocktails, followed by the dinner and party at the Fundacion Pacita.

see day three’s events

Day four — our last real day for any exploration. Naturally, we all wanted to make the most of our trip, so once again, we got up at the crack of dawn to make our way to Ivana and catch a boat to Sabtang Island. The ride was a bit unnerving, as the waves were huge and our engine was smoking all the way, but once we got our feet on land, we soon discovered that the queasiness was all worth it.

We first headed over to Savidug, to check out some Ivatan houses in the area and quickly made our way to Chavayan for more sightseeing. But along the way, we just had to stop for some photo ops along the gorgeous coastlines and striking scenery.

In Chavayan, I had the lucky opportunity to take a few snaps of the locals, including a very shy lola in her vakkul, the local headgear. And after a bit more investigation, we all headed to one of the local beaches for a short dip and some lobster lunch. The water was pretty cold, and unfortunately, it started to rain. But all in all, the experience was still all worth it.

Fearful of the rain (and its effect on the already ginormous waves), we all decided to head back to the port and back to Ivana. After another short nap, we headed over to the Abad residence (again) for our last night of fine food, wine and partying.

Once again, Noel Cabangon (as well as a few other guests) provided the musical stylings for the evening, with intermittent comedy adlib by Jimmy Javier and Sen. Noynoy Aquino.As the evening wore on… and we stuffed our faces with food and drink, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that when I woke the next day, I would be leaving such an island paradise. But with another swig from my beer bottle, I told myself to enjoy the moment and bask in the fact that I could always return to Batanes!

more of day 4

Some fun facts:
  • Batanes has a population of about 15,000-16,000
  • only the islands of Batan, Itbayan and Sabtang are inhabited by people
  • Batanes is the northernmost and smallest province of the Philippines
  • Batanes is composed of ten islands
  • the islands are surrounded by the South China Sea and the Pacific ocean
  • Batanes has a crime rate of 0%
  • there is a delicious pizzeria on the island! Check out Casa Napoli along Abad st.
Some things to remember, when visiting Batanes:
  • bring cash! no establishments accept credit / debit card payments
  • there is an ATM. but according to residents, it is usually offline
  • be prepared to stay an extra few days, if you decide to visit during the rainy season
  • flights to and from Batanes are limited
For more info, you can visit Batanes Online. The website, however, is a bit outdated.

a few shout outs:

thanks, brownie for inviting me to YOUR beautiful island ^_^

thank you tito butch and tita dina for your gracious hospitality, and unending generosity

thank you to the basco lighthouse and special tree stump for the perfect location >_<


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