Breathtaking Batanes: The Island of Sabtang

It is a place so untouched, you feel like you've been taken a few years back in time when life was so simple;  A time when the village people got their food straight out of the fish nets and used wood for cooking;  A time when the virtue of honesty was at its strongest and served as the fundamental guide for everyday living.

I almost regret not scheduling an overnight stay on Sabtang Island.  Nevertheless, our one-day experience on this island of roughly 1,465 people* is one of the most unique we've had.

And it started right away when we boarded the faluwa--a kind of boat they use to transport people and goods from one island to the other--at the Radiwan Port in Ivana.

I'm used to riding pump boats but this was pretty amusing because we shared the ride with animals, motorcycles, and even tricycles.  You will notice that the faluwa doesn't have the usual outriggers we're used to seeing and has a bow designed higher than the normal boats.  These features make the the faluwas much more suited for rough seas because they pitch and roll with the waves.

Savidug stone houses
The boat ride took only 30 minutes (but was enough for me to doze off a bit haha) and before we knew it, we had already arrived at the island of Sabtang.  Our first stop:  the village of Savidug known for its stone houses.

We were greeted by women selling fresh coconut juice by the side of the street. (And man, were those coconuts sweet!)  After consuming our refreshments, we walked a few steps further and saw more of the famous Batanes typhoon-proof houses. Each structure was made of thick stone walls and cogon roofs.

A model for disaster-preparedness.  Batanes is almost always the first province in the Philippines hit by typhoons yet they have the least casualties.  Thanks to these weather-proof stone houses that have been protecting them from disasters for centuries.

View from the inside of an abandoned stone house.

And if you want to really immerse in the Ivatan way of living, you could stay a night in one of the traditional houses.

Culture over luxury.  For the genuine local experience, you could stay overnight at a traditional Ivatan home for only Php150 (USD 3.30) per person per night.

Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
Google "Batanes" or "Sabtang Island" and images from the Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint will mostly likely be one of the first images that will come up.

It's not surprising, though, as it is a favorite spot for taking photos.

And you know those coconut husk-like wigs we see so often in the pictures?  They actually have stalls in this area where they rent them out for picture-taking.

"Kanayi" is the vest worn by Ivatan men to protect them from the rain, wind, and sun.  "Vakul", meanwhile, is the headgear used by the women for the same purpose.

When in Batanes.  You CANNOT go to Batanes and not have your photo taken in either a kanayi or a vakul.  I have my own version with the headgear for women but since I control this blog, I get to decide whose photo I post! Hahaha.

This NatGeo-ish photo by the boyfriend though, I don't mind posting ;p

Chavayan Village
The first sight that welcomed us was the hut of the Sabtang Weaver's Association.

Here, you can see how the kanayi, vakul, and all the other cogon-based products of the Ivatans are made.

Family affair.  The Ivatans learn how to weave at a young age and their skills are passed on from generation to generation.

Further down the road were more stone houses.  The alleys in Chavayan, though, are narrower and the houses, closer to each other which gave the feeling of a closely-knit community.

And I loved how everything in this village is so raw and hand-made.  Like this wooden bench...

...and this painted street sign.

After reaching the end of the road, we were ready for our next stop: LUNCH!

Morong Beach
When our tricycle driver slash guide said we were going on a lunch with a view, he wasn't kidding.

The beach was so inviting, I would've jumped had we brought extra clothes.  Good thing our hunger was so overpowering I didn't have time to dwell on it haha.

While we enjoyed our lunch, the guides had their own break too.

Typhoon-proof tricycles. Yep! The Ivatans have pretty much thought of everything!

After filling our stomachs with some local dishes, we decided to take a short stroll by the beach.

After a few minutes, we headed back to our tricycle so we can make to the port in time for the 2:00pm boat ride back to Ivana.

The Conscience Store
Before we boarded the faluwa, we made one final stop at the Conscience Store.

The concept of this store is similar to the more popular Honesty Cafe.  There's no one manning the store so each customer would have to compute their purchases on their own and then leave their payment on the cashier. 

It is a concept crafted around the virtue that the Ivatans are most known for:  HONESTY.

And it was a good conclusion to our day trip to Sabtang Island.  Not only had the experience reminded us of how things simple can be, it also made us realize that we can always be good people should we choose to be.

Coming up next:  The Island of South Batan!



  1. Detailed and engagiNg. I like the photos. :)

  2. Detailed and engagiNg. I like the photos. :)

  3. Hello, Koryn! I read the previous post, too. Looks like you escaped into the simple and laid-back but fascinating world. The quaint boats, lovely stone buildings with thatched roofs, the rolling hills, the dynamic boulders at the sea, the chapel, the museum…everything is impressive. Osaka area of Japan is completely different world from it. Regarding your comment, to feel cool at that Ikoma Mountaintop Amusement Park (Ikoma Sanjyo Yuenchi in Japanese) is a good idea but no no in the daytime since there’s almost no place to hide from the sizzling sun. The rides are not so scary that little children can enjoy. I’ve been surviving unusually scorching weather since late July. Mornings and evenings would be cooler late August.


  4. Hello, Koryn. The terrible heat wave from late July passed away and our normal summer has come back. It rained last two days but till Saturday it will be fine. From Sunday to Thursday, it will be mostly cloudy with occasional rain. According to one-week weather forecast of Osaka, the highest temperature will hover around 30 degrees C (29-33) and the lowest 22-24. I think breezy summer clothes are okay, but you should bring some summer cardigan or jacket plus one waterproof item in case of rain or for temperature difference between morning/evening and afternoon. In trains or at some restaurants, I need a summer cardigan when air conditioning is heavy. This is an English site. It is a little different from the one I saw in Japanese though. Hope your happy landing and exploring.


  5. Wonderful photographs of an interesting and unique place on our wonderful planet!
    Regards from Germany,

  6. Love your photos!!! As always :) My gosh, I haven't blogged about my trip there and it's been almost two years already!


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