Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BATANES - THE HIDDEN PARADISE ( Part 2 ) Home of the Winds

Ask a Filipino if he had been to Batanes. More often than not, his answer will be no. Due to the remoteness of Batanes from the capital city of Manila, not too many Filipinos have had the chance to visit this enchanting islands. Batanes is about 660kms from Manila but it is ONLY about 190kms from Taiwan.

Being in Batanes is like being in another country. The landscape and even the weather is very distinct from the rest of the country. A leisurely trek on the grassy hills rewards hikers a grand view of Basco Bay. Batanes is the place to commune with nature, to soak a few moments of solitude and to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manila. A refreshing contrast to other city centers, Basco ( capital of Batanes ) has neither a mall or Starbucks coffee shop ---- yet. The pseudo- commercial center is a small lane filled with tiny groceries , supplies stores and ukay-ukay stores. Only a couple of jeeps and automobiles exist here. Tricycles, bicycles and scooters are the main transport mode within the town.

HOUSE OF DACAY - one of the oldest vernacular house in Batanes. It is owned by Lola Florestida Estrella, who calls herself " lady Mother ". The house of Dacay is a UNESCO heritage building. This house was built in 1850 and is one of the five houses that survived the strong earthquake in 1887. You can still find many of the old Ivatan  stone houses in Batan, some intact and still being used, while others are abandoned and in ruins.

The stone houses of Batanes are another source of fascination to astound any traveler. Houses with gray meter-thick stone walls reinforced by plastering of mud, sturdy low slung wooden doors, and thatched cogon grass are the traditional dwelling places. Ivatan houses are made this way to cope with the onslaught of typhoons that pass their way.

RACUH A PAYAMAN is a pasture overlooking farm fields and the Pacific Ocean which is also known as the " MARLBORO COUNTRY "

.... even the most inexperienced photographer can probably come up with awesome photos just because the place is incredibly beautiful by itself. It made me wonder if there was such a place like this that still exists in the Philippines.

Racuh A Payaman translates to a 360-degree scenery of what they call Marlboro country got me misty-eyed. Think of soft rolling hills of pasture land meeting the sea.

Somebody wrote in a magazine that if you're looking for God, you will find him in Batanes.... I completely agree!!!


This is a store owned by Elena Gabildo that is run on sheer honesty.  Believe it or not, there is no one minding the store. Instead, a clear plastic jar is left on the counter for customers to pay for their snacks. Soft drinks, instant coffee, candles, biscuits noodles and other snacks are available here. The buyer simply gets the goods when the shopkeeper is not handy, and leaves behind the exact amount. If you have change, well just get it from the cash box.... I am not kidding!!! Goods were on the shelves with a sign that says: " TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND PAY FOR THEM ".... the prices are posted on a wall. This is one of the many things that make Batanes a unique place to visit......

Batanes is definitely for nature lovers. If you have an inordinate liking for city life, for the night life offered by five star hotels and posh watering holes, you can shelve your decision to tour Batanes. For sure you will be bored to death as entertainment in this extraordinary place would have to be a simple basketball game in the town plaza and dining out in town means a truly native adobo, egg omelet or a serving of pancit canton washed down by soda or mineral water bought from a nearby sari-sari store.  However, if you find pleasure from nature derived entertainment, you will surely be thrilled by Batanes. You can hike to the top of tall cliffs that drop off to the sea and watch as the sun slip into the azure blue water of the sea.


It is the only church in Batanes with a separate campanille built in 1784 by Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas.


is the oldest bridge built by the Spaniards in the entire province still used up to now.


It is the oldest church in Batanes. The church was established in 1783 and dedicated to the Immaculate Concepcion. It is one of the first limestone buildings built during the Spanish regime.


Compared to the other provinces that I have visited, Batanes does not have many restaurants, bistros, or cafes to dine in... Except for the lodging places which have cafes or restaurants. They have local " canteens " that sell " lutong bahay " viands and snacks such as spaghetti, pancit, ginataan which can cost somewhere between 50 PHP to 70 PHP per meal.

Other Ivatan food that are a must-try for tourists are the yellow rice ( rice with turmeric or ginger ), and the much talked about coconut crab ( tatus ). It is the largest living arthropod in the world and it is a type of hermit crab that is famous for its ability to crack the coconuts with its strong pincers in order to eat its contents.

The price of these crabs are more expensive than the regular crabs ( alimango )... it costs 1200 PHP a kilo... but it is WORTH THE PRICE !!!  The perfect size to order if you like to try it would be around 800 grams... They resemble half crab and half lobster on its front part, but its back is similar to the back of a spider. When you squeeze the sac... all the crab fat ( or aligue ) will come out. The fat of the coconut crab is incedibly creamy and has the slight coconut aftertaste.

The meat and the fat of the coconut crab tastes like coconut... Actually this crab was introduced to me by a good friend of mine in the early 80's. Mel would share his loot of coconut crabs which he orders from one of his friends from Dinalupihan. It would be brought to my house in cages... and Mel would teach me how to keep the crabs alive till it was time for me to eat them.... I would buy fresh grated young coconut  ( niyog ) from the wet market and feed it to the crabs.

There are many ways to eat these coconut crabs but the best way was.... simply steaming the crab. Once it is cooked you have to serve it with hot rice. Scoop the fat of the crab and mix it with the rice and squeeze some lemon ( calamansi ) on the crab fat/ rice mixture... It tastes so good!! I wanted to bring back some crabs for my kids--- since they have tasted it a long time ago... but the guide who I talked to told me that it is not allowed to be taken out of Batanes.. It has been declared an endangered species.

Here are some of the food I have tasted in Batanes..




IVATAN ADOBO ( LUNIES )    ---  In Batanes-- they usually use LIEMPO for their Ivatan Adobo.  while dry and a little too crunchy, the Ivatan Adobo Style ...  was good!! It is a must-try for those people who doesn't have high blood..

I am just too overwhelmed with all the beauty that was in the island, everything was just heaven on earth. Batanes was simply awesome!!! My camera never stopped clicking the poetic images of this exciting place ! Against every pattern, hue or vista, there was a resonance of the sea. Indeed, the waters stretched endlessly, powerfully magnificent.

Pasturelands as far as the eye can see, undulating emerald hills, boulder strewn beaches, and the changing colors of the seas from turquoise to lapis lazuli blue. The Ivatan historic stone houses built to stand the lashing winds from the North----- this is BATANES.... the Paradise of the North!!!!!!

I would not recommend Batanes for  families with small childrenas most of the sights are not really child friendly or interesting for children. It would be best for adults who are looking for a change of scenery or a new adventure.

( May God be good to you - Goodbye ! )


  1. awesome landscape and sunsets!

  2. hi, such a wonderful description of basco. i have a question, did you notice butage gas on the groceries or supply stores there? thanks!

  3. ...written with romance in mind...romancing batanes...

  4. Endangered species yet they serve them as food? lol

  5. nice :)

    thanks for considering our province.