Mabuhay!

With arms raised and wide-open, I greet you in Filipino that gestures “Welcome!” – though this greeting literally translates to “Long live!”

You will find here some select photos from my occasional travels and a bit of information about the places that I deem useful. You may also leave a comment if there is anything in particular that you wish to know. I’ll try to answer to the best of my knowledge.

Of Rolling Hills and Winding Roads

Making Vayang Rolling Hills as your first destination in Batanes will set the bar really high on what to expect for the rest of the tour. I’ve heard of the famous green meadows of Batanes before that’s why I just couldn’t wait to set my foot on the ground. And when the reality of standing right there in the middle of verdure has finally started to sink in, I thought that’s all there is to these verdant pastures. Well, I thought wrong! As we would discover in the next couple of days, this eye candy turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg!

Batanes For Two In Numbers

As a lot of people have already asked me left and right how much it would cost to pull off a 4-day, 3-night Batanes getaway (and that I had to explain the same things repeatedly), I’ve decided to finally make a detailed summary of all our expenses once and for all. Our itinerary only included Batan and Sabtang Islands; I have no idea about Itbayat for now (but I’m definitely going back for Itbayat really soon). Please do note that the following prices may not be the best deals out there since we did not actually plan while keeping an optimum budget in mind. Heck, we never really had a plan to begin with! It was only an overnight decision to go some place and more like we dared ourselves to head for as far as Batanes. And we did it! With wide satisfied grin on our faces! Not bad for first timers, huh?

Airfare

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E-receipt from PAL for MNL-BSO round-trip tickets for two

I booked our MNL-BSO round-trip tickets using the Philippine Airlines app (myPAL) on Android (I don’t think it’s available on iOS, though). Again, the rates I got aren’t probably the best deals. Also, our schedules were not that flexible so we could not really go for the lowest fares available on certain dates. Anyway, I think we still pretty much got a fairly good price for our plane tickets. When I browse through the upcoming flights now, a single round-trip can cost you as much as Php 12,000!

Accommodation

We were totally clueless about the place so I simply relied on a booking app (Agoda) to recommend the best places to stay in Batanes. The Shanedel’s Inn and Café boasts of its front-seat location to a spectacular view of sunset over the Port of Basco at Baluarte Bay — definitely, I’m sold! Just look at these unfiltered photos I took from the veranda using a not-so-high-end smartphone on different exposures. Our air-conditioned room, big enough for three, had 1 queen-sized bed, 1 single bed, TV, and a private bathroom with hot shower.

Fees

Be prepared for some charges, especially if you’re on DIY. We had to shell out some cash for the following mandatory fees and tour needs (not wants):

  • Eco-tourism fee – collected at Basco Airport upon arrival – Php 350
  • Environmental fee – collected upon entry and registration at Sabtang Island – Php 200
  • Catering – even if you’re not part of a group who availed a tour package, you will be counted as a visitor in Sabtang Island and they will make a reservation for you and will be eating lunch together with other tourists before you leave Sabtang and return to Ivana in Batan. Our lunch (2 pax) comprised of sweet and sour fish (3 pcs), grilled pork cuts, sautéed vegetables, camote fries for dessert, a bowl of soup for each, a platter of rice, and a pitcher of iced water. All of that for Php 300 per pax.
  • Ferry – all tourists join the regular Ivana-Sabtang ferry trip along with local commuters. You will have to pay Php 200 per pax for a two-way trip.
  • Terminal fee – for PAL, we had to pay the terminal fee of Php 100 at Basco Airport before boarding our return flight.

Tour

IMG_6171Since we were on a semi-DIY, we met our tour guide, Kuya Lito, through referral. He decided on our itinerary, took care of all the island-transfer coordination, and charged us as follows:

  • Day 1: North Batan Tour – Php 1,000
  • Day 2: Sabtang Island Tour – Php 1,000 (This tour fee goes to Kuya Jimmy, Kuya Lito’s most trusted buddy and counterpart in Sabtang Island. Kuya Lito had already arranged our visit in Sabtang with Kuya Jimmy the night before, including our lunch reservations. All we had to do the next morning was to hop on the boat and look for Kuya Jimmy’s cab# 32 upon arrival in Port of Sabtang.)
  • Day 3: South Batan Tour – Php 1,500 (The increase in price is understandable when you get there. All of the places are just so darn beautiful you will forget about the price difference.)
  • Day 4: Kuya Lito was so kind that he offered to take us to the airport early in the morning for free. 🙂

Others

Other items we spent on (of course, these boil down to personal preferences):

  • Tricycle – we hired one of those lined up at the airport (like taxis) to take us from the airport to our inn.
  • Jeepney ride from Ivana back to our inn in Basco after the Sabtang Island tour. The 30-minute ride was so airy it made me doze off.
  • Breakfast at the inn – no free breakfast but we wanted to try it. Food was great but we decided we could very well do without it.
  • Lunch – after completing our itinerary in Day 3, we decided to treat ourselves to a sumptuous meal at the Harbour Café restaurant just a block away from our inn.
  • Meals/snacks/refreshments – we also had breakfast and dinner at a nearby canteen; snacks and refreshments in Sabtang and Basco town.
  • Souvenirs! Who wouldn’t want to bring home a “Gone to Batanes” shirt? Regular size shirts cost Php 180 while kids size shirts start at Php 120. Wallets, keychains, ref magnets, and other small items, prices start at Php 50.
  • Internet – at the moment, there is no internet service provider in entire Batanes. Facilities were ruined after super typhoon Ferdie (Meranti) hit the province exactly a year ago. So even if you’re on data plan, you cannot use it since there is no able ISP in the area. Three households in Basco have private satellites and they offer wi-fi access starting at Php 100 per 70MB data valid for 1 day.

Here’s our expense table. So all in all, each individual spent almost Php 20,000 (USD 400) for this whole trip.

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I really don’t know how it compares to tour packages or other DIYs and I don’t think I would still want to know. All I know is that Batanes is absolutely worth every peso you are willing to shell out for your dream vacation. So don’t buy that latest smartphone just yet; pack your bags and head on to Batanes instead!

Batanes Travel Tips

Disclaimer: The following tips are solely based on personal encounter in the 4 days that we sojourned Batanes Islands. This post primarily intends to briefly inform prospective visitors to the islands on what can ensue during their stay so they can come prepared and avoid any potential inconvenience. If there’s anything you find offensive or you don’t agree with, do let me know so I can rectify if necessary. Additional inputs are most welcome; please leave a comment at the bottom of the post. Lastly, I guarantee that everything you find here is written out of goodwill and sheer wonder.

Batanes Tip No. 1: Wear lint-free shoes or bring tweezers.

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The fabric of your favorite shoes will act like loops of a Velcro fastener where dried seed heads scattered across the grass can hook onto. And you’ll definitely be walking on a lot of grass. And by lot, I mean LOTS of grassland! The seed heads themselves are not pricky and itchy; they’re actually soft. But it’s just really tedious to remove them one by one.

Batanes Tip No. 2: Unless you have wished for some serious tan…

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Don’t go out there without any PPE (sunblock, long sleeved shirt, arm warmers, etc.). As for me, I didn’t wear any because I simply wanted to feel Batanes all over me haha! And so my sun-kissed forearm now pales in comparison to my natural complexion as seen on my legs. This is a week after we returned from our trip. And yes, I was wearing a watch, and it’s only now that I got to appreciate that I do have a fair complexion like everybody says.

Batanes Tip No. 3: Don’t get a van. Hire one of these instead.

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90% of the time, you’ll be traveling along the coastline. And if you just let yourself be confined inside the comforts of an air-conditioned van, you’ll be missing out a lot of the breathtaking views while on the road. Strictly speaking, the cab in the photo is found in Sabtang Island and we toured the whole island with it on Day 2, providing us the luxury of front seats just like in a theme park ride. I don’t think I ever saw an air-con van in Sabtang though. In Batan Island, there are vans provided by some local inns offering tour services. But we still went for (and would highly recommend) the thrill of a tricycle ride braving the twists and turns of the hill-crossing roads of Batan. Go for “air-continuous!” It’s one surest way to enjoy Batanes to the fullest. (Special mention to Kuya Jimmy of cab# 32 for his well-rounded tour service and extra patience while waiting for us to satisfy our photo ops.)

Batanes Tip No. 4: Believe what your tour guide says.

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Always believe in your tour guide when he recommends some changes in your itinerary based on the current weather conditions. He knows the place better than any of you in your group (unless one of you is also a local). And he is smarter than any weather app you have in your smartphone. Surely, you don’t want to end up stranded for another day in Itbayat Island because the regular (but limited) boat trips between islands are canceled due to inclement weather. And then you’ll be forced to rebook your return flight because you cannot make it back to Basco until the next day. Kudos to Kuya Lito, who is currently fascinated by the GoPro, for optimizing and completing our itinerary despite the afternoon shower in Day 2 (he canceled the tour) and the early morning drizzle in Day 3 (he pushed for the tour but he came prepared, raincoat and all). He was also the one who coordinated everything (island transfer, endorsement to Kuya Jimmy, food reservations, etc.) for our Sabtang Island tour in Day 2.

Batanes Tip No. 5: If you’ve got long hair, put on something to secure it in place.

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Wind causing camera shake in photos? Only in Batanes. It can actually whop your monopod off your grip if you don’t hold onto it firmly. Caps with visors won’t do. Knitted bonnets and beanies are probably the better options. Here are sample windy photos of us from different locations.

Bonus Tip: If there’s only two of you or you’re traveling solo, go for semi-DIY instead of joining a tour package with a group.

Good morning, Batanes!

There is a unique surge of incredible surreality the first time we laid our eyes on the unspoiled greenery of Batanes Islands. It’s as if the plane had purposely taken us to a quick aerial tour before finally making a touchdown (we got the entire air traffic all to ourselves, anyway).

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Landing at Basco Airport from Manila via Philippine Airlines

And here’s my friend striking a pose beside the Bombardier Q400 that brought us here in these beautiful islands of Batanes.