OHT Goes to Batanes: Exploring North Batan (Day 1)

Batanes may be the smallest province in the Philippines, but its whimsical beauty consisting of iconic lush rolling hills, pristine waters, rich history, and welcoming locals are what make the island big as a tourist spot.

tukon2

Naturally, our wanderlust (plus, those inviting postcard-worthy photos and blog posts) had us lured to Batanes, and Our Hungry Tummies went home filled with beautiful memories to share with you all.

North BatanMount Iraya makes the most stunning backdrop!

OUR HUNGRY TUMMIES’ JOURNEY TO BATANES

  1. Taking advantage of a cheap promo flight from PAL via Traveloka, the fare cost only Php 12,815 (approx. USD 245.63), and that was for 2 adults already. On top of that, each of us had 10 kg of baggage allowance. Such a steal!
  2. Instead of coming from NAIA to Basco, we traveled from Clark Airport. But first, we went to NAIA 3 Bay 14 to take a P2P (Point-to-Point) bus going to Clark Airport.
  3. At 2:00 AM, we rode the first trip of Genesis P2P Bus.
  • Genesis P2P Bus’ one-way fare (from NAIA Terminal 3 to Clark Airport) was Php 350 (approx. USD 6.71)  per head.
  • The bus was so clean and had convenient features like USB ports!

Genesis Bus P2P

Below is the Genesis P2P Bus schedule with complete fare matrix for your reference:

Genesis Bus Fare MatrixSource: Genesis Transport Service Facebook Page

  1. We left early in the morning to avoid the traffic jam. But to our surprise, it took us only 1 and a half hours to get to Clark Airport (We arrived at 3:30 AM)! Our flight was at 10:00 AM, so our fear of getting stuck in Manila traffic had us waiting at the airport for long hours! No regrets, though—when flying, it’s better to be extremely early than sorry.
  1. After a short flight, we finally arrived at Basco at 11:50 AM. It was raining when we landed, but we had a smooth flight, despite the weather.

Basco Airport

BASCO AIRPORT

Upon landing at Basco Airport, we could already see how green Batanes was. The airport was small and had the cozy touch of that famed Ivatan architecture with its stone walls and woods.

Basco Airport

Despite the cold and wet weather, JR and I received such a warm welcome from the locals there!

We were picked up by a van for the airport transfer provided by Nathaniel’s Lodge, our chosen place to stay at.

WHERE WE STAYED

In Batanes, homestay is the most popular accommodation option for tourists. But for privacy, we went for Nathaniel’s Lodge which was just a few minutes away from Basco airport.

Nathaniel's lodgeBicycles owned by the lovely staff of Nataniel’s Lodge

We booked our room through Agoda and chose their Double Room with Breakfast which was Php 8000 (approx. USD 153.34)  for 4 nights. Our room had an air conditioner, bathroom, and TV — that was good enough, since we were planning to be outside most of the time.

(As I was writing this, I just realized we didn’t take pictures of the room!)

The lodge offers tour packages if you want a hassle-free traveling. Since we wanted to explore Batanes on our own, we decided to have a DIY motorcycle trip instead. However, we encourage travelers to support the tours offered by licensed tour guides/companies as a way to help the local community 🙂

To make the most out of each day in Batanes, we asked them to serve our breakfast at around 6:00 AM, or earlier if they could. Our daily breakfast was the usual combo of a fried viand like hotdogs and Spam, eggs, and rice – paired with a cup of hot instant coffee.

Nathaniel’s Lodge

Address: Nunez Street, Barangay Kaychanarianan, Basco, 3900

Phone: 0915 897 3200

Website: Nathaniel’s Lodge

HIRO’S CAFE

With hungry tummies, JR and I hurried outside the lodge to eat lunch and found Hiro’s Cafe.

hiros

Owned by Aling Lydia, Hiro’s Cafe is a small food house that serves authentic Ivatan cuisine and more. The simple cafe setup of tables, monoblock chairs, curtains, and leafy decors up the ceiling gave the dining place a comfy homelike ambiance. Having the whole place to ourselves allowed us to roam around Hiro’s Cafe and take pictures.

For our first food trip in Batanes, we excitedly tried out the interesting traditional Ivatan dishes in their menu: Luñez and Uved/Oved. We also ordered a unique dish called Octopus Sisig in Capsicum.

LUÑEZ

lunyis

Price: Php 175 (approx. USD 3.35)

Luñez is the Ivatans’ take on our usual pork adobo. Instead of drenching pork with soy sauce, they season the meat with rocksalt and fry these in their own fat until they’re golden brown. Surprisingly, we found it savory but not too salty. The pork wasn’t tender enough, though.

UVED/OVED

uved

Price: Php 150 (approx. USD 2.88)

The cafe’s Uved/Oved was made of grated corm (from the bottom part of a banana tree), rolled into meat-like balls, fried, and covered with oyster sauce. It was sweet because of the sauce, and it didn’t taste like anything more than meaty despite the corm ingredient.

OCTOPUS SISIG IN CAPSICUM

octopus

Price: Php 200 (approx. USD 3.83)

Octopus Sisig in Capsicum was our favorite. We ordered it because it sounded fancy—but actually, it was just grilled octopus, cupped in bell pepper and topped with melted cheese. The octopus was very tender and went nicely with the bell pepper. We loved it!

A typical restaurant is never left without staff to watch over the place, in fear of thieves or customers running away from their bill. Here, we had to call the server (who was in the kitchen most of the time) to pay for our food! Right at the start, we were opened to the Ivatan homegrown character – honesty.

If you’d like to go on a gastronomic adventure of authentic Ivatan cuisine, surely there are more restaurants that offer better options, but Hiro’s Cafe is the perfect place to start.

 

Hiro’s Cafe

Address: Abuyo St, Basco, Batanes

Phone: 0918 803 9107

Facebook Page: Hiro’s Cafe

 

WANDER AROUND BATANES BY MOTORCYCLE

People say that Batanes is best enjoyed by riding a bike or motorcycle around. So shortly after our lunch, we asked around the town for motorcycle rentals.

Luckily, we stumbled upon a merchandise store that offered such! (Sadly, I can’t recall the name of the store, but its incredibly nice owner’s name was Jerome.)

For Php 1000/day (approx. USD 19.17) rent exclusive of gas, we paid Jerome Php 4000 (approx. USD 76.68) for a 4-day rent. Plus, he allowed us to bring it to Sabtang Island (our Sabtang Island trip will be posted soon)! Our gas expense was Php 100/day (approx. USD 1.92).

Motorcycle Batanes

BEFORE GOING ON A MOTORCYCLE TRIP IN BATANES, YOU SHOULD:
  • Bring your driver’s license. It’s required for renting motorcycles.
  • Bring a raincoat. We’re lucky that our whole Batanes motorcycle drive wasn’t interfered by rain, but just be ready at all times.
  • Wear sunblock!
  • Study the area first. Before we began, we marked all our target landmarks on Google Maps for us to know all the routes and to make it easy to follow our itinerary.
  • Ask! The friendly locals will gladly help you.

 

North Batan Map

Study the area first. Before we began, we marked all our target landmarks on Google Maps for us to know all the routes and to make it easy to follow our itinerary.

 

PLACES TO VISIT IN NORTH BATAN

Welcome to Basco

With our rented motorcycle, we set forth to these must-see destinations in North Batan from 2:00 PM onward.

  1. Tukon Church

 

tukonchurch

Mt. Carmel Chapel, more famously known as Tukon Church, exudes a unique romantic charm with its rocky facade, inspired by Ivatans’ traditional stone houses.

Situated on the top of a hill, the almost 11-year-old chapel (it opened on May 3, 2008) offers a breathtaking sight of the majestic Batanes landscapes, making it not only a popular tourist destination but also a favorite place for weddings.

Sadly, the chapel was damaged by a typhoon in 2016, so we couldn’t see its beauty at its best. Nonetheless, it was worth the visit as the scenery outside was stunning.

  1. PAG-ASA Radar Station

 

pagasa1

If you want to have a bird’s-eye view of the island, try to visit the PAGASA Radar Station (a few minutes away from Tukon Church). We were impressed by the marvelous scenery: Tukon Church, Basco Lighthouse, and other landmarks on a vibrant blanket of rolling hills.

  1. Fundacion Pacita

 

fundacion1

Considered as one of the most gorgeous boutique hotels in the country, Fundacion Pacita has that vintage and vernacular design and offers a luxurious stay for tourists.

The hotel is located on a cliff, overlooking the divine natural beauty of Batanes: the hypnotizing horizon, glittering ocean, and rolling hills.

Galerie Du Tulaan

Adding to its charm is its Galerie du Tulaan, the hotel’s own art gallery showcases the artists and their arts that promote Ivatan culture, history, and heritage. One of the artists behind those works at the time was Victoria Abad Kerblat.

(They also have their own cafe, Cafe De Tukon, which deserves a separate blog post. Stay tuned for our upcoming food review!)

  1. Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel

             tunnel

This historical man-made network of tunnels served as a military bunker for the Japanese soldiers during World War II. The Japanese forced Ivatans, including their children, to create this.

Though it’s a nice historical site, I didn’t have the guts to explore the inside and rely my life on a flashlight (just look how dark it is there). The tunnel was also very wet so JR and I decided it wasn’t a good idea to crawl in the mud.

Note: If you plan to go inside the tunnel, a licensed Ivatan tour guide is required to accompany you

Jr and I were supposed to visit Valugan Boulder Beach after Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, go to Basco Lighthouse, then lastly enjoy the sunset at Vayang Rolling Hills.

However, the beach was too far and we were already exhausted. We decided to rest at the lodge for a while then skipped to Basco Lighthouse to watch the sunset at around 6:00 PM.

  1. Basco Lighthouse

Basco LighthouseClimb the stairs of Basco Lighthouse for a 360-degree view of Batanes

Our Batanes trip wouldn’t be complete without going to Basco Lighthouse. We savored the scenic panorama of the sea, Batanes Isles, and Mt. Iraya, and it was a truly romantic moment when the twilight warmed up the whole view.

Basco Lighthouse

sunset2

HUDZAN’S CAFE

This was another change of plan. Instead of Casa Napoli for dinner, we opted for Hudzan’s Cafe which we passed earlier while looking for motorcycle rentals. We stopped by and made reservations for our 7:00 PM dinner.

hudzans

Hudzan’s Cafe is a family-owned restaurant. Outside, we were greeted by a graffiti-like doodle of the cafe’s name and their menu written on a board using colorful chalk.

hudzans1

Aside from a bowl of rice good for 2 to 3 persons (Php 100, approx. USD 1.92), here are what we ordered:

 

SISIG

hudzans3

Price: Php 150 (approx. USD 2.88)

The serving is good enough for 2 hungry tummies. However, the taste was just okay—the usual flavor and texture of most sisig we had. It was not so bad, but not really special either; another you-get-what-you-pay-for meal.

 

PAYI

hudzans2

Price: Php 165 (approx. USD 3.16) per 100g

Many travelers recommend trying out Batanes’ Payi (lobsters), so we made sure to order one at Hudzan’s. We were so excited when it arrived at our table cut open and bathed with melted butter!

It wasn’t as remarkable as we thought (maybe our expectations were too high). It tasted like a big buttered shrimp. Make sure to check the weight of the lobster to estimate the actual price. Ours was around 300g which cost roughly Php 500 (USD 9.58).

Overall, the food in Hudzan’s Cafe is all right—honestly, it wasn’t something that we would keep coming back to. However, we appreciated its homey vibe, as if an accommodating family had cooked for us. If you prefer those kinds of restaurants, give this one a go!

Hudzan’s Cafe

Open: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Phone: 0929 158 2468

Facebook Page: Hudzan’s Cafe

Reservations are advised on peak seasons

 

CONCLUSION

After dinner, we returned to Nathaniel’s lodge to rest. We felt tired—the worth-it kind of tired—and genuinely happy.

Our DIY motorcycle trip was amazing—we enjoyed the freedom of going anywhere we wanted to! Our Hungry Tummies highly recommend it!

There wasn’t much to rave about the food, but that was totally compensated by other things.

With all the magnificent sceneries and experiences that Manila doesn’t have and the friendly, polite Ivatans who always cheerfully greeted us with their big smiles, North Batan showed us the beauty of Batanes in its own heartwarming ways.

Though there was a bit of spontaneity and a little worry about the rain, we felt very proud that our North Batan travel had gone so well. We both fell asleep right away. A much-needed rest before another day of adventure.

sunset2

 

Have you been to North Batan? Our Hungry Tummies would love to hear about your trip and recommendations in the comments!

 

We'd love to hear from you!