I remember myself being giddy and restless on my seat as I look outside the window admiring the view I’ve been coveting to witness with my own eyes for years. Our plane started the descent and the hefty clouds parted revealing a vast, rugged verdant landscape with long and winding pavements on the edge. I was mouthing prayers of gratitude as we safely landed with a fair weather in the island. It took me some time and pinching before I could even believe myself that I was there. It was only when we were there on top of the iconic Basco lighthouse waiting for sunset to conclude our North Batan tour on Day one that I had it all soaked in. Finally — the dream of visiting Batanes is a dream no more but it still feels like it.
North Batan: The Start of Something Beautiful
North Batan Tour gives you a glimpse of what Batanes has in store for you. It walks its visitors down its history, culture, heritage and its naturally captivating landscape and beguiling seascape. The points of interest are seated around the busiest town and the capitol of the province, Basco. Since it is just around the town with the places to visit situated some few kilometers away from each other, North Batan can be explored in just half a day by land.
Pre-North Batan Tour
You may opt to go on a North Batan tour upon arrival at Basco since the attractions are just around the town and the only flight to the island arrives as early as 8:30 in the morning. In our case, we opted to go on a trip in the afternoon as the weather was really nice that day. The sun rarely showed up in the past few days according to our tour guide, Paul Alcantara of Naidi hills Tour Services. We were blessed enough that it did.
Our lovely hosts, Ate Julie and Kuya Bert of Baletin Hometel in Brgy. San Antonio in Basco, let us checked in as early as 9:00 in the morning. That allowed us to take some rest and even freshen up before the tour. They even offered us breakfast upon arrival.
Before we started the tour, we dined al fresco for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Port of Basco. The weather even got better as we savor the food on our plate.
The North Batan Tour: Places to Visit
We wasted no time. We hopped on the ride of our choice – the Ivatan tourist tricycle, then proceeded with our North Batan Tour.
Take note though that the tour guides would often ask you the ride that you prefer. It’s either a van or a tricycle. As for us, we chose the Ivatan tourist tricycle to soak in Batanes’s fresh air. They would only accommodate two tourists per tricycle. Since we’re three in our group, we went on a tour with two rides.
Mt. Carmel Chapel (Tukon Church)
The first destination is among the famous wedding location in the province – the Mt. Carmel Church locally known as the Tukon Church. This church that was built in 2008 is the only one in the province with its structure coming after the traditional Ivatan house. The stone church sits peacefully atop a hill in the municipality of Chanarian. A fun fact: an Ivatan named Isabel Algabre donated the piece of land where the Mt. Carmel Chapel is established.
PAGASA Tukon Radar Station with Liveng (Hedgerows) Viewing
The Radar station offers a panoramic view of Batan island’s rolling hills surrounded by the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. It is also quite a spot to enjoy the view of Mt. Matarem and an overview of the Mahatao hedgerows locally known as Liveng.
Liveng is characterized by farmlands atop the hills divided by tall shrubs. Apart from division, the shrubs also serve as fences to keep the animals like cows from going to someone’s land; and even as wind breakers to prevent the devastation of their farms. These farmlands are often planted with root crops like garlic, onions, purple yams and sweet potatoes – the main products of the province.
Fundacion Pacita (Cafe de Tukon)
Fundacion Pacita was once an art studio of the renowned Ivatan artist, the late Pacita Abad. Now a hotel, Fundacion Pacita is probably among the best places to stay in North Batan as it brings one closer to nature as you wake up in a gallery-like suite with Ivatan aesthetics nestled atop a hill, away from the crowd, opening up to the sky that meets the sea.
As of time of writing (September 2023), the management only allows the tourists around Cafe de Tukon unlike before where they can walk around Fundacion Pacita itself. This is to give privacy to the guests as it is now a hotel.
Didawud Idjang (Fortress) Viewing
From where we stood, we saw a distinct rock formation that was actually made of volcanic magma. That was Didawud Idjang. Didawud Idjang is believed to be among the tribes’ old settlement in the island. It also served as their fortress during tribal wars. However, at around 1789 under the Spanish Governor Joaquin del Castillo, these tribes were asked to move to the town where they’re introduced to religion.
We did not actually go to Didawud Idjang as it is nestled on the farther side of the mountain. We only halted midway down to Basco and only viewed it from afar.
Dipnaysuhuan World War II Japanese Tunnel
Beneath the lush, stunning and scenic landscape of North Batan lies a haunting vestige of the past – a Japanese war tunnel. Like any other Japanese war tunnels around the Philippines built under the Japanese occupation as part of their military strategy, the Filipinos, in this case, Ivatans, dug and carved them from the earth themselves in force labor. The Japanese paid them Mickey Mouse money – a currency of no actual value.
Dipnaysuhuan tunnel has five discovered exits. Some are low beam, thick-walled (about a meter thick), narrow exits. The said tunnel is just one of the many Japanese Tunnels in the island. Ivatans believed that there were more but only some have been discovered.
You may also want to read: Ilagan, Isabela’s World War II Japanese Tunnel
If you are claustrophobic, attempt not to get inside as it my trigger your phobia. There are no lightings installed and some exits are about a meter of low-beamed and narrow tunnel which would require you to duck. These however are optional. You may always go back to your point of entry.
Valugan Boulder Beach
This place is locally known as Chanpan but is popularly called as Valugan which means East. This boulder beach a testament to the volcanic history of Batan island, specifically its now seemingly asleep active volcano – Mt. Iraya. It features massive boulders and rocks that were spewed out by Mt. Iraya during its past volcanic eruptions circa 1945. The smooth, round boulders caused by the waves cover the three-kilometer-long beach kissing the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Tourists would often come to this spot to witness dramatic sunrises. Ivatans would come here to gather the boulders that they’ll use for their houses in this beach.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church(Basco Cathedral)
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church or the Basco Cathedral is the very first church built in Batanes. It was constructed during the annexation of the province under the Spanish empire around 1783. The church was originally built with light materials and cogon roofing. It has withstood and witnessed several natural calamities and wars overtime. These events themselves made the Ivatans consider reconstructing it with concrete materials.
Vayang Rolling Hills
Batanes has been renowned and characterized by lush rolling hills surrounded by the hues of the vast oceans. Among those rolling hills is that of Vayang’s that opens up to the West Philippine Sea. Vayang rolling hills offers the view of other islands of Batanes like Itbayat, Dinum island, Ali other idjang or old settlement and another boulder beach called Chadpidan from below.
Basco Lighthouse at Naidi Hills
After a day of soaking in a lot of sun, we then spent the rest of the afternoon waiting for sunset at the iconic Basco lighthouse standing proudly and beautifully atop Naidi Hills. This lighthouse isn’t only serving as a light beacon but it is also a first-class seat to a gorgeous sunset at the West Philippine sea.
The last two destinations are among the best places to watch the sunset from Basco town. It offers an overview of the bashful Mt. Iraya with the quite town of Basco below. If you get blessed, Mt. Iraya may reveal itself and its peak that is often shrouded with clouds.
What to Remember for your North Batan Tour
- The LGU Tourism Office strictly prohibits DIY tours in the island province ever since they reopened during the pandemic. Tourism officers or staff usually welcome the visitors by the airport’s arrival gate and would know if they have booked from DOT accredited tour operators or not. If it’s the latter, they would then assist the tourist in booking.
- Wear comfortable footwear. You’ll be walking a lot in this tour.
- Use sun protection. Wear sunscreen or bring hat or umbrella with you especially if it’s a sunny day. Umbrellas may be of use as well just in case the weather unexpectedly changes.
- Bring drinking water in reusable bottle.
- Bring cash. Most establishments only accept cash basis transactions. The tour has attractions with souvenir shops or stores and you may want to buy a few.
- Wear modest clothes or bring a scarf (for women) if you’re wearing sleeveless clothes or blouse. Ivatans are very conservative especially as regards their churches.
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