Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Conquer Ilocos Region For Two Days

In only 2 nights / 2 days I have created my own version of the Amazing Race in Ilocos. Could you imagine yourself visiting (and enduring) two provinces and nine towns in 2 days? Here is what I did. Alongside with my best friend Elmer, we had what we call the test of endurance as we traverse the Ilocos Region. See map and itenerary below.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Coming In and Out of BATANES - Day 5 - Leaving For Home


It was time to go back to normal life, time to go home. Fortunately, the sun was shining and the aftermath left no traces of Helen's rage. Our hotel confirmed that the flight to Manila has resumed. Ron almost jumped for joy, and I was so amused of his childlike behavior.

As I stepped out of the hotel, I recalled every moment, faces and places I've been and I felt contented I have finally came upon and explore this divine island, though worried it would some take time before I could get back. But one thing is for sure, I WOULD DEFINITELY GO BACK TO BATANES!!!

Coming In and Out of BATANES - Day 4 - Dark Nights with Ron

Never had it occured to me that I won't meet or bump into somebody in every place I visit. Like here in Batanes, I was able to meet Ron, an executive from Quezon City who came in the same flight as mine, checked-in the same hotel as mine, and like me, wanted to be alone and away from Metro Manila for a while. According to him, this is the first time he'll be taking his off on a far away land alone. At least, he tried though.

I would admit I felt a little worried of what's going to happen that night Helen struck the whole island. Coconut trees swung heavily in the wind's direction. Tall waves gushed violently on the shore. It was serene, except for the sound of the billowing wind and roaring splash of sea water towards the shore. But it wasn't eerie at all. It felt so blissful. Nowhere in the world you can feel this kind of strange emotion.

Day 4

It was scheduled for my trip to Sabtang but the weather was not permitting. Ron and I had no choice but to sit down together in the hotel veranda and talked about our job, personal lives, and travel plans. That morning, though a gloomy day in Basco, we managed to keep ourselves busy by walking around the town checking out places which might contribute in make this day eventful.

A small carinderia provided us with a starter meal - lugaw with egg. Not much to offer, we left the place after eating and checked out the only Internet shop nearby which unfortunately was closed that time. Ok - so we have to move on. This time, Ron was becoming anxious that the bad weather might persist we may not be able to fly back to Manila the next morning. He was so apprehensive he was practically asking every Ivatan we met along the way about the weather conditions. But that was ok, everyone here greet everyone they meet even if they don't know ech other.

Noticeably, there are only a few original stone houses left in Basco. Most houses were altered by modern materials built other than the traditional Ivatan method. As we moved on, I felt I was in a ghost town - so peaceful and quiet only a few people were out on the streets. Here the students still go to school on storm days and farmers tend to their land to check on their crops.

Lunch at Pension Ivatan was delightful we managed to find a rare delicacy which is truly Ivatan - the coconut crab. It was my first time to see and taste it and I would truly recommend that you should try this. It would cost you but truly worth it.

Had a little siesta back at the hotel. The weather seemed to improve from last night but still we had no electricity. Again, Ron and I decided to go back to town and look for some souvenir items. There are a few stores where you can buy vakul - Ivatan's native hats, among others.

Then there is this Italian Pizza restaurant called Casa Napoli (sosyal ang Basco, ha ha!) which serves the best native Italian pizza I have tasted in a lifetime. All ingredients are fresh and delicious and native and much to my delight. The tomatoes on top tasted so good! Now that complimented the storm and the best conclusion to what seemed to be a horrible day of wind and rain and night of inevitable darkness.

After that hearty meal, we headed back to the hotel, packed our stuffs keeping our fingers crossed for the resumption of flight back to Manila the next morning. Then Ron and I slept so soundedly in our separate rooms.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Coming In and Out of BATANES - Day 3 - Enduring Helen


So far, I had spent such an amazing tour of nearly half of the island of Batan and I know I had so much to tell everyone already.

Electricity didn't went out last night. I later learned that electricity on the island was equally distributed among the barangays and brownout was scheduled on a regular interval because one of the three power generators was under repair (maintenance was being conducted by DPWH for over a year already, according to local Ivatans).

This morning, watching the news and the updates for typhoon Helen, it was Signal No. 2 in Basco, Cagayan and the rest of Northern Luzon. All flights to and from Basco were cancelled! I checked the weather outside from my window and, to my surprise, it was sunny! Huh! Is this what it was like in Batanes on a typhoon signal no. 2? I already loved it here!
Diura Fishing Village

My tour guide wasn't available to take me to the rest of southern and middle parts of Batan but he managed to get a reliever, who was there to pick me up at 9:00 am.
Our first stop, Mahatao and Diura fishing village. To get here, you must hike for about 30 minutes from the main road to get to the site. The natives in this part of Batanes have their own architectural style - different from the most popular stone houses. Here, their house were made of cogon, divided into two separate sections, the dining and living areas. Original inhabitants in this village used to have stone houses but most of them never stood that long and was destroyed by tsunami. Left along the trail were remains of the old stone houses where the original Ivatans first lived.
Mahatao Fountain of Youth
As we hiked further, I was able to take a dip in what they called the "Spring of Youth". According to an old folk tale, there came a man and a woman from nowhere seeking help for their very sick child. No one was able to help and cure the child until they came upon this spring, took a few sip, then miraculously their child was healed. The story was astonishing I took some water to drink and it tasted so good - well, generally the water here in Batanes is safe to drink.

Diura Fishing Village
We have reached the end of the trail and going back to Diura I decided to take a walk down the rocky shore where corals and other sea creatures are all visible. Quite amazing!


It was almost noon and there was a need for us to rush to the next stop - the Racuh-A-Payaman or what is famously known as Marlboro Country. It rained so hard as we neared the site but alas, it stopped as we entered the most photographed place in Batanes. Truly, I felt I was somewhere not in the Philippines. The wind felt so cool as it brushed my skin. The picturesque landscape and sea waves below - seemed like I was looking at a postcard though it was real.

I still managed to take some photos and videos of this part of Batan Island, enjoyed the fresh sight and breathe the smooth cool air. But the rain clouds were fast approaching that we needed to go back to Basco. Helen, the thyphoon, was cool enough to let me enjoy Batanes that she held her might for a while til that evening - when she landed Batanes and her rage were felt all over the island.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coming In and Out of BATANES - Day 1 and 2

As of the time of this writing, there are no available flights to take you to Basco, Batanes. Luckily, I was able to purchase a round-trip promo ticket via Asian Spirit (now ZestAir) for travel to July last year. Frequency of flights then was MWF.

The time of my Batanes visit was quite odd. It was the season when most thypoons hit Northern Luzon - particularly Batanes. This will be just one those off-the-beaten-track journey I have to endure and enjoy.

Knowing the odds, I scheduled my arrival on a Monday and departure on Friday.  This is more than enough to visit Batan and Sabtang islands.

Prior to my departure, I arranged my accomodation and tour package online via Batanes Cultural Travel Agency. Package includes airport transfer, accomodation, tour vehicle (tricycle), boat rides to and from Sabtang, and municipal permits and fees. Total cost was P6,000 - normal budget for a solo traveler on a strict budget like me.


I arrived in Basco before noon. The weather was fine - sunny and windy. The air was cool and fresh. And the valleys are in deep greens. What a sight to behold! I had lunch in Batanes Seaside Resort where I was also booked for P400/night non-aircon (P800/night for aircon room). I started my tour of the northern part of Batan Island. Here you will see the Basco marker, Radar Tukon (Pagasa weather station), Fundacion Pacita, Idjang (stone fortress up the hill), Valugan beach, Naidi Rolling Hills with nice view of Mt. Iraya, Basco Lighthouse, Basco Cathedral and plaza. Price of the tour starts at P1,600 and can be arranged through your hotel.

My tour finished right after sundown. Back in the hotel, electricity went off and the whole place turned dark and silent except for the relaxing sound of the waves and slashing coconut leaves swaying rapidly with the wind.

Basco welcomes you to Batanes
Radar Tukon
Idjang Hills
Fundacion Pacita
Fundacion Pacita
Valugan Boulder Beach
Naidi Hills
Naidi Hills
Naidi Hills
Naidi Hills
Naidi Hills
Basco Lighthouse
Basco Lighthouse
Sto. Domingo Church - Basco Cathedral


I can see heavy rain clouds coming from the west that morning and I knew it will reach the island in a couple of hours. This time, I was scheduled on a southern tour of Batan. We started the tour by dropping by the Mahatao view deck. It rained so hard and we waited until the rain was gone. Off on the road to Mahatao Town proper, we managed to drop by the white beach with natural stone curvings and majestic twin hills view, and the San Carlos Borromeo Church. I was so astonished by the "BLOW UR HORN" marker at the side of the road I had to take picture while sitting on top of the marker.
Mahatao View Deck

Mahatao shore below the viewdeck

San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao

Mahatao beaches

Mahatao beaches

Twin peak in Mahatao

Blow Ur Horn road signs

Next stop, the town of Ivana - the point nearest to Sabtang. People going to Sabtang take the boat from Ivana Port. Here is where the very famous Honesty Store is located. Also you will find the House of Dakay (now a World Heritage Site), the oldest standing Ivatan house.
Ivana Rock Formations

House of Dakay

San Jose Church - Ivana

Honesty Coffee Shope

Moving on to the next town, Uyugan, where hills and seascape are sights to behold. Truly a work of wonder, the Scotland of the Philippines really got what it takes to be called as such, and even more.

Native Ivatan house in Uyugsn

View from the cliff - Uyugan

View from the cliff - Uyugan

View from the cliff - Uyugan

Song-song (ghost town) - Uyugan

Me wearing a Vakul

The last stop of our tour is the Itbud town. Here is where you will find the old Dekey-a-Kanayan Loran Station - an old weather and radar station built by the Americans during WWII. And the relaxing view of the sea and white beach in Imnajbu, the last stop for all forms of transportation here in Batanes. Beyond Imnajbu, left is a trail for farmers to walk up and down the hill to market their goods. Quiet noticeably is the serene atmosphere in this small barangay inhabited by around 300 people only. The church, schools, and even the barangay hall were open - yet no one was around!

Dekey-a-Kanayan = Itbud

Cliffs - Itbud
Empty with people -  Itbud Town

The past two days were blessed with very good weather, thus very fulfilling. But that second night I heard from the news that typhoon Helen, with strong winds reaching more than 100kph, was headed directly towards Basco and will reach the island the following morning. Perfect timing! Next - Day 3.


Related Posts with Thumbnails