Saturday, March 1, 2014

Batanes - Last Frontier of the North

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The province of Batanes is located in the northernmost of the Philippines, and its smallest province, both in terms of population and land area. Batanes is a group of inhabitant, namely, Batan, Itbayat, and Sabtang Islands. With the uniqueness beauty of the Province, it is known as the Last Frontier of the north.


Geographically, it is on the channel where Pacific Ocean meets South China Sea, looking into the globe / map its situated south of Taiwan and north of Luzon.

All flight lands in Batan island, city Basco. Before landing, this is a peek into the plane windows to spot the natural beauty of one of the islands of Batanes,



We took SkyJet airline from Manila to Basco.





It is one of the only two flights to Basco currently available. We were glad to choose this flight, because despite of being a domestic flight with 1 hour 15 minutes journey, they still provide some refreshments:



Their seats have adequate leg rooms:



And they boast of their Royal British Engines - preferred plane of the Royal family - according to their inflight magazine.



Landing in Basco Airport,



Upon arrival at around 8 am, we checked in at DDD Habitat Pension House, its a typical hometel in Basco, nothing fancy basic facilities. Only good point is its cheap price (as low as 600 php per pax per night), and its location which is walking distance to the market.

While waiting for the start of our tour (11 am), we had a walk along Abad Street, where the wet and dry markets are situated.

The only fresh fish available during this season (February) are these Flying Fishes.



Some dried fish hanging in the market, with some local produce: fruits and vegetables.



We hired our driver/guide for our 4 days tour of Batanes. Others would normally hire a guide and a driver separately, but to save costs we just had a driver which is capable of telling us some information.

Itinerary for our first day covers northern Batan Island. The first place we visited is the Mt. Carmel Chapel, which is situated on top of a hill,



Our next stop, was nearby at PAGASA "Tukon" Radar station - its currently under construction. It was as a United States weather station on a hilltop. It offers a magnificent 360deg view of Batan Island.



This is a panoramic view from the radar station -



From another side, you can see the Fundacion Pacita - its the only high end - accommodation in Basco.



This hotel is owned by the Abad clan (named after Pacita Abad - national artist), we were informed on that day - Florencio Abad (the Secretary of Philippine Department of Budget and Management) is staying here - and for privacy of the place, outside visitors are not allowed to enter.

Next, we visited the - Basco Idjang - a rock formation on a hill which serves as natural fortress, since its facing the West Philippine Sea (aka South China Sea).



A few miles down the Idjang Hill, is the WWII Japanese Hideout or Tunnel.

Entrance to the tunnel -





One of the exits of the Japanese tunnel - have to do a duck walk to fit into this hole.



At foot of mountain, we stopped by the Boulder Beach in Valugan, this side of the island has spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.




The smooth stone spewed by nearby Mt. Iraya in 400 AD is found here.

Going back to the Plaza, Capitolio - we had short snack at SDBC canteen.



Food here are meant for the students and faculty members, so the food prices are very cheap.

Few meters from canteen is the Sto. Domingo Cathedral, were we had a short stop.



It is noticeable that the cathedral is newly renovated, due to the destruction of the typhoon - Habagat on August, 2013. This shows the resiliency of the Ivatans (natives of Batanes), in recovering quickly from calamities.

Riding straight pass the Cathedral, we drove up to Vayang Rolling Hills - where the view is simply breathtaking





These are seemingly endless waves of rolling hills. It boasts of the perfect combination of landscapes and seascapes.



The site provides the best vantage point where you can see the three islands of Batanes.





 



At the same mountain range, we went to Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills. Naidi is an old Sitio derived from the Ivatan words, "Na" meaning Past, "Idi" which settlement or community.



Climbing up the lighthouse, it is where we see the view of the whole town proper.






Breathtaking view of Basco atop the 66 feet high lighthouse.



Across the lighthouse is where we had our dinner - at the Bunkers.



This concludes our first day in Batan Island. Watch out for the succeeding trip report of our 2nd and 3rd day in this wonderful province of Batanes.
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