Breathtaking Batanes: The Island of South Batan
This is the trip that made me realize that sometimes, we have to disconnect to stay connected--connected with ourselves, with the person beside us, with nature, and the things in life that really matter and bring us unadulterated joy.
For someone who's active on social media, I was actually happy that the whole time we were in Batanes, we were hardly able to go online because of the poor signal in the province.
There were times when we would sit a good 20 minutes just staring at the sloping emerald hills, the blue skies, and the goats and carabaos that peacefully grazed the lands.
On our third day, we explored the island of South Batan. And like all the other places we visited in Batanes, each location we stopped at took our breath away.
Alapad Hill and Rock Formation
If you are a hardcore Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta fan, you would probably recognize this place. Located in the town of Uyugan, this was used as the location for their movie Hihintayin Kita sa Langit ("I Will Wait for You in Heaven") and on this very spot is where they shot that famous scene where Richard swept Dawn up in his arms and twirled her around. That scene became so famous that this hill was dubbed by the locals as the "Dawn Zulueta Hill".
But even without the popularity of the film and that scene, Alapad Hill is definitely one of the "must not miss" places to visit Batanes because it gives you a perfect 360 panoramic view of the sea, the Old Loran Station, an abandoned US navigational facility, and the Alapad Rock Formation.
|The Alapad Rock Formation.|
The town of Ivana
Ivana is home to yet another popular icon in Batanes: the HONESTY COFFEE SHOP.
|The Honesty Coffe Shop. Not your ordinary cafe.|
This is no ordinary cafe. As the name connotes, all transactions conducted inside are hinged on honesty. When you enter the small store, you will notice that there's nobody manning the place. Customers can help themselves with the snacks and drinks that have been laid out, after which they are expected to pay for the items by dropping cash into a wooden "payment box" at the counter.
In an interview with The Philippine Star, 77-year-old owner and retired schoolteacher Elena Gabilo says that this system has been working well for the residents of this coastal village as visitors for years now. (Read full story here.)
After going around the cafe for a bit, we headed to our next stop: the SAN JOSE DE IVANA CHURCH AND RUINS.
Of all the churches we visited during our trip, this one is my favorite. Because while it looks grand from the outside, it is actually quite intimate inside.
And this church has actually been declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2008.*
Racuh A Payaman, hailed as the Marlboro Country of the Philippines, is quintessentially Batanes. There are endless rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Even the place where we had lunch offered a breathtaking view.
And when we started walking down the hill, every step was accompanied by "oohs" and "ahs" and "Oh my God, ang ganda". ("Oh my God, it's so beautiful.")
At one point, I just sat down, put my camera and phone away, and marveled at scenery around me. It was at that very moment that I was extra grateful to have lost connectivity from the outside world and to have been given the opportunity to appreciate with undivided attention the beauty of this work of God that is, in every sense, larger than life.
The Tayid Lighthouse of Mahatao
Kuya Toto, our tricycle driver cum tour guide, had a hard time uprooting us from Marlboro Hills. But he insisted that we go to our next destination while the afternoon sun was still up.
And when we reached the Tayid Lighthouse, I understood why.
The scene was just postcard perfect--with the lighthouse set against the deep blue ocean and the bright blue sky with the afternoon sun casting just the right amount of warm colors on the white tower.
We were told that the land beside it was privately owned and I couldn't help but think how lucky the owner is to have this as his backyard:
Diura Fishing Village
After the Tayid Lighthouse, we were supposed to head back straight to our apartment. But I think Kuya Toto felt and appreciated how much we have fallen in love with Batanes that he decided to take us on a side trip to the Diura Fishing Village in the town of Mahatao.
Just like the faluwa that took us to Sabtang Island the day before, these fishing boats don't have outriggers and have bows designed higher than the normal boats. These features make the them much more suited for rough seas because they pitch and roll with the waves.
In Diura, we met Kuya Toto's brother who catches and sells dorado or dolphin fish, a sought-after seafood in Batanes.
|Several dried dorado or dolphin fishes.|
TRIVIA:You cannot actually buy dorado in the village because their community is engaged in communal fishing.
When we went back to the town proper, we were contemplating buying some dorado, but since it was sold at Php1,000 (USD23) apiece--YES, P,1000!--and we were trying to stick to our budget for the trip, we opted not to.
But while we weren't able to bring with us one of Batanes' most sought-after seafood, what we brought home was something much better--the serene kind of joy that you only get when you are disconnected from the world, and the experience of having been able to genuinely appreciate nature's raw beauty without distractions.
Read my other post on places to visit in Batanes here: