The Batanes Dream: How To Make Your Batanes Dream Come True

The Batanes Dream: How To Make Your Batanes Dream Come True

There could be no better place to spend your new summer than to explore the beauty of nature, culture and people of Batanes. One of the best place to spend time for yourself, your partner and family.

Batanes Island, Philippines is unlike any other place in the country. Visitors to Batanes are greeted by the visual image of a wild smattering of islands in the north where cliffs meet the sea on pebbled shorelines; and goats and cows are sent out to pasture among green hills.

Batanes, Philippines has been described as looking more like the Scottish Highlands than the Philippines. There are no swanky hotels, no chic restaurants and sometimes, there isn’t even electricity. But these are not shortcomings. Instead, these factors only add to the rustic charm of Batanes island, Philippines.

Aside from the beauty of the natural surroundings, those lucky enough to experience the wonders of Batanes, Philippines end up raving about the freshness of the cuisine. Nothing fancy, for sure, and yet incredibly good. Evening entertainment consists of identifying the constellations in the heavens over a cold bottle or two of beer.

HOW TO GET TO BATANES?

There’s only one way to get to Batanes for now and that is by plane. There are only two flights available per week.  Seair’s schedule for Batanes flights ensures that it fits the schedule of travelers perfectly. The Tuesday and Saturday flights give visitors the opportunity to enjoy Batanes for four-days and three nights without missing more than a day’s work. Flights run anywhere from 6,000 pesos up to 14,000 Philippine pesos depending on the season and the date when you booked your flights. I suggest that you take advantage of the Philippine Travel and Tour Expo as SEAIR sells discounted flights to Batanes during the entire duration of the travel fair.

Any other things that I should take note of?

While SEAIR continues to provide fast and reliable flights to Batanes, certain conditions prevents them from carrying as much cargo as they wish to. In the effort to ensure enjoyable journey to Batanes, here are a few reminders as part of their policy.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) rules and SEAIR contract of carriage state that:

1.1 Section 5-A: For domestic flights, the maximum weight per checked baggage is ten (10) kilograms and the maximum size is fifty nine (59) inches (length x width x height) unless otherwise provided in SEAIR’s regulations.

1.2 Section 6: In cases of overweight baggage, a passenger shall pay a charge for the carriage of baggage in excess of the free baggage allowance at the rate provided in SEAIR’s tariffs and regulations. Baggage in excess of the free baggage allowance will only be carried on the same flight at the discretion of SEAIR subject to space and weight limitation and payment of required charge(s).

1.3 Section 9-A: Each passenger may carry on, without charge, only one (1) piece of carry-on baggage plus an additional hand bag or laptop provided that it does not exceed the dimensions of 54cm x 38cm x 23cm and does not weigh more than seven (7) kilograms. If you intend to carry more than 10kg of baggage in your flight to Batanes, we cannot assure that you can take them with you in your flight. Any excess baggage may be carried on the next available flight. SEAIR will transport excess baggage solely based on check-in sequence.

Alternative Ways To Get To Batanes

The cost of airfare to Batanes is much more expensive compared to other places in the Philippines. The main reason – it is hard to get here. Only certain types of aircrafts are rated to land in Basco airport. These aircrafts must be able to land in an incline runway and also stop within a very short distance. Batanes airport is a one way airport that can only accomodate small planes. Airbus or Boeing jet planes cannot land here. Most aircrafts that can land in Batanes seat about 30-50 people. In simple terms – since fewer passengers can fit in a plane, the passengers have to pay more;  in contrast to flying to Hong Kong – an Airbus can easily fit 200+ passengers!

An alternative and cheaper way to get to Basco, Batanes would be to charter a private plane from Tuguegarao province. There are several plane companies that offer flights to Basco from Tuguegarao such as CHEMTRAD and Sky Pasada. Another alternative way to reach Batanes is through a vessel named M/V Ivatan Princess.

Sky Pasada has a satellite office just beside Basco Airport

more more options

another option

Where Do I Stay In Basco, Batanes?

And so the hunt is on for our accommodations. There are several lodging houses in Basco town that I have inquired about but only a few have websites.  Most of them only have contact numbers. So it’s very hard for me to picture the rooms and the place itself. The twin sharing room rates can go as low as Php500 per night on a fan room and Php950 per night on an air-conditioned room. There are some lodging houses that caught my fancy and at this point these were my choices:

  • Fundacion Pacita – offers high end accommodation in Batanes. Located at Brgy. Chanarian-Tukon, Basco, Batanes. All Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge rooms have air-conditioning, hot & cold water, mini-bar, private toilet and bath and view decks. Room rate includes a set breakfast, round trip airport transfers, and a three hour Cultural Heritage Tour. The admins however require a minimum of 2-night stay. Daily rates start from P6300 for the Terrace Suite Garden to as high as P13,500 for the Luxury Terrace Suite.
  • Batanes Seaside Lodge and Restaurant – easily accessible as it is located along the highway going to other towns. It also is a few steps from the cleanest beach where a cost-free early morning or late night swim can be enjoyed. Amenities include cable TV, air-conditioned rooms, hot and cold shower, free WIFI access and has its own restaurant. They have their own transportation for guests’ airport transfers. It also offers guided tours to all the beautiful spots in the island. Packaged tours and accommodations can also be availed from this hotel. Room rates starts at P1300 for single occupancy to as high as P2300 for a family room. This was the hotel where we decided to stay at since they have most of the required factors we have for our accommodations.
  • DDD Habitat, Inc. – place to stay in Basco, Batanes located along Llopes St. Barangay Kayvaluganan. Offers fully air-conditioned rooms, cable TV, free WIFI access and packaged tours. Room rate starts at P1200 good for 4 persons.
  • Batanes Resort – does not have its own website, I used SEAIR’s list of accommodations for reference. This local government-owned and newly-renovated Batanes resort has 10 stonehouses with two rooms, each able to accommodate three people. Located on the mountain slopes, every room gives a spectacular view of the sea. Modern comfort includes air-conditioning, hot and cold showers, and a standby generator. This Batanes hotel is only 10 minutes away from Basco. Expect to see basic Ivatan fare on the menu, consisting of turmeric rice, dibang, arayu and venes. Rates start from P1,000+ per person, per night for double occupancy. No phones here, but your mobile phone should work. Batanes Resort is located at Kaychanarianan, Basco, Batanes. To book, contact their booking office at Tel.: 078/ 533 3444, 533 3456 and in Manila at Tel.: 927 2393.
  • Pension Ivatan – offers innovative packages starting off with the Irresistable Batanes packages, where visitors can get discount on room rates applicable to group and individual bookings. Rates are net inclusive of all applicable taxes and charges. Make your reservations early since this promotional package is also subject to room availability.
  • Ivatan Lodge – this lodge does not have its own website as well, I used a blog to give you an idea of what this lodge has to offer. Located at National Road, Kaychanarian, Basco, Batanes. According to the blog, Ivatan Lodge is a government-run place. It caters to the budget-conscious travellers. It has everything backpackers usually look for in a place – cheap, clean, and safe. There are a number of fan rooms and 2 airconditioned rooms on the 2nd floor. Safety is not a problem as there are staffs on duty during the day and a security guard at night. Room rates start at P300 for single occupancy and P1000/night for their air-conditioned rooms good for 3 persons.

What are the things to do in Batanes?

The art of jumpology. The “ART OF JUMPOLOGY” according to many photographers is an art where a person capture the speed of the human body as it make it leaps from the ground upwards. Do this when you are in Batanes or else…your travel is not complete.

Pedal attractions in Basco. While most of Europe is having this gaga thing on the use of bikes instead of car during their tours this can also be done in Basco, Batanes. Remember the Dawn Zulueta commercial on PH care, it is very nice to do this activity in Basco. Although there is no bicycle lane it is still safe than biking in Manila.

Do cartwheels in Marlboro Country. You can see cows and horses everywhere. The view is great, but be careful if you do the cartwheels. You just might accidentally land on their fecals.

Hop the islands aboard a faluwa. Only 3 of the 10 islands comprising the Batanes are large enough to sustain communities, while the rest can be experienced by boat. Sabtang Island is a highlight among the islands; it was named one of the country’s 12 best destinations by the Department of Tourism for its white beaches and deep canyons. Itbayat Island and Mavudis are other points of interest.

Ascend Mount Iraya. The highest point in the province at 1,517 meters, this dormant volcano is great for trekking and mountaineering. While there are no clear paths along the rain forest surrounding the volcano, the summit can be conquered in 3 hours with the aid of a guide.

Satisfy the pilgrim in you by visiting San Jose Church. This church stands out from all the rest in the province by not being designed in the espadana style; rather, its crenellated bell tower resembles a fortress. Other churches worth visiting are the San Carlos Borromeo Church and the Basco Cathedral.

Dine sumptuously on lobster.  Another delicacy is coconut crab, which is larger and more elongated than ordinary crabs.

What Are The Things That I Should Bring Along For The Trip?

As far as money is concerned, there are a few money changers in the area as was told by most of the Coron vacationers. Probably because foreigners frequent the place than Filipinos. Only one bank has ATM so I’d rather withdraw here in Manila, kesa duon pa maabala. The other must-bring things for the Coron trip are as follows:

  • credit cards (if any) aside from enough moolah’s
  • OFF lotion – to protect yourself from mosquito bites
  • aqua shoes – for stoney lakes and sea urchins
  • snorkeling gears or goggles at least
  • water-proof or underwater camera of course!
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The Next Pitstop: Oh Yeah! Surfin’ LU On July 2010

Billabong Surf School photos courtesy of Ivan Henares

Learn To Surf In San Juan, La Union

I have always been dreaming of at least trying one extreme adventure and surfing is actually one of them in my wish list; and I heard that the hobby has a strong tendency to be quite addicting. Admittedly, it’s quite impossible for me to become a surf expert myself however it would be an entirely different experience to get STOKED once in a while!

STOKED Pronunciation: (stōkt), [key] —adj. Slang
1. exhilarated; excited
2. intoxicated or stupefied with a drug; high

Whether going to La Union to beach bum, surfing lessons or a veteran surfer yourself, La Union offers fine white sand beaches with surf breaks from the South China Sea. About 10km north of San Fernando is the small town of San Juan, which is becoming popular with surfers. Activity seems to centre on the popular La Union Surf Resort where according to research, the Surf School offers surf classes at Php400/hour per person. This rate is inclusive of the surf lessons and the surf board rental.

Aside from surfing, there are also other things to look forward to in La Union. If you’re architecturally inclined, the St. John the Baptist Church, finished before 1707, was severely damaged during the November 14, 1707 earthquake, was rebuilt and restored in 1895.  The adjacent bell tower is a new construction. Other Spanish colonial structures in town include the old tribunal, brick houses and a ruined Spanish watchtower.

The Surf School photo by Markus Hidalgo

HOW DO I GET TO SAN JUAN, LA UNION?

Directions to La Union from Manila:
La Union via SCTEx is about 5 hours with NLEX Dau exit then entering SCTEx then Tarlac, Pangasinan via MacArthur Highway. In Rosario, La Union, turn left on a fork (where the right fork leads to Baguio via Kennon Road)

La Union from Baguio is just an hour via Naguillian Road.

How to commute to La Union by bus:

From Manila, board bus bound for Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Vigan (Ilocos sur), Abra, La Union, Benguet, or Ilocos Sur and drop off in La Union (request the conductor to drop you off near the town or resort). Bus lines operating bus routes passing by La Union are Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit, Partas Transit, Maria De Leon, Viron Transit, and Panther. No updated information on bus fares to La Union.

WHERE CAN I STAY IN SAN JUAN, LA UNION?

Aside from the accommodations being offered by the Surf School, I have found several other resorts scattered within the proximity of the school. Thanks to Backpacking Philippines who provided all the necessary information on going about in La Union. You can also check out Biyahero‘s post about San Juan, La Union.

San Juan Surf Resort
Urbiztondo, San Juan
Email: admin@sanjuansurfresort.com
Phone +63.72.720.0340
Official Website: http://www.sanjuansurfresort.com

Monaliza Surfing Center
Urbiztondo, San Juan
Anthony Luebben +639052444201
Official Website: http://monalizasurf.multiply.com/

Sebay Surf Resort & Entertainment Center
Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Tel. No.: +63.72.888.4075
Fax. +63.72.700.0849
Email: sebayresort@yahoo.com.ph
Official Website: http://www.sflu.com/yabes/sebay/sebay.htm

Las Villas Resort
Montemar Village, Ili Norte, San Juan
Tel. No.:+63.72.242.3770
Fax: +63.72.242.3769

Little Surf Maid Resort
70 Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
Tel. No.: +63.72.888.5528; +63.72.888.5538

Sunset German Beach Resort
Montemar Village, Ili Norte, San Juan
TeleFax: +63.72.888.4719

Puerto de San Juan Resort Hotel
Ili sur, San Juan
Tel No.:+63.72.607.4328; +63.72.607.4355; +63.72.607.4377; +63.72.242.5471; +63.72.720.0185; +63.72.720.0255 to 56
TeleFax: +63.72.720.0184
Email: psj@puertodesanjuan.com
Official Website: http://www.puertodesanjuan.com

NorMi2’s Beachfront Resort
LANDLINE: (072)720-0519
CP NOS:0927-449-6934(Globe)
0928-4231-476(Smart)
Official Website: http://normisresort.multiply.com/

Surfer’s Inn
0926-7195369 or 0920-7776264
Official Website: http://surfersinn.multiply.com/

surfin's LU photo courtesy of Markus Hidalgo

ALOHA! SURFERS ETIQUETTE

The Manila Surfers Association does not want you to just have fun out there in the line-up. They want to make sure that we are having the best possible time in a responsible manner. Please check out these tips from writer Rebecca Heller of http://www.wahinesurfing.com/learn/etiquette.asp. Maximize your stoke by knowing the general rules and guidelines of surfing.

Check out the following often unspoken rules and etiquette surfers, especially beginners, can keep our squeaky clean image in and out of the water.

Don’t drop in. The person furthest out from shore and closest to where the wave is breaking has the right of way. If you are further out on the shoulder and the person on the inside is catching the wave, pull back. As a beginner, pretty much consider anyone up on a wave having priority over you.

Queue up. At point or reef breaks where there is a centralized take-off area there is an unofficial line. Kind of like Disneyland, wait for those who were there before you to go, then it is your turn. Once you have taken a wave, or even attempted a ride, give those closer to the peak a chance. Let a couple waves go by before you try again. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.

Paddle straight out at a beach break, avoiding the peak of the wave and the take off zones. This is easier said then done, since the take-off spot at a beach can shift around. This also means you may have to paddle out through the white water rather than the unbroken sections. If a surfer is coming down the line as you are paddling out try to gauge your speed and paddle behind them. At a point or reef, try to paddle around the break.

Location. Location. Location. Stick to spots that support your ability level (i.e. beginners, don’t paddle out at Pipe). Surfing at spots that are too difficult put you in danger as well as those around you. That being said, more advanced surfers shouldn’t get pissy with those trying to learn at well-known beginner breaks.

Don’t ditch your board. When you are turtling or duck diving hold tightly onto your board. Don’t just let it go haphazardly with the wave as you will knock out surfers behind you. Remember you have a ring of destruction around you equal to the length of your leash! If you can’t hold on – let’s be honest sometimes the wave will rip the board out of your hands – try and yell “Board!”

Beginners are invisible. When more advanced surfers see beginners flailing around looking like they don’t have it all under control yet, they will ignore you. Thankfully they will avoid you, but they will also ignore you. Meaning, they will take off when you are going for a wave assuming that you are unable to catch it. Don’t get upset, you probably weren’t going to catch it anyway. Hopefully, when they see you catch one they will pull back and give a cheerful hoot!

Respect your elders. They have probably been surfing the break you are at since before you were born. Give ’em some space and their fair share of waves; hopefully they will do the same for you. Don’t be afraid to ask advice, more surfers than not will be flattered and eager to tell you what they know. Plus, they have a lot to teach you; if they give you some advice (kind or unkind) take it.

Support others. Help others, give encouragement, and don’t drop in on them. Beginers are the minority out there so give a little love to the others out there. Give ’em a smile when they paddle out a hoot when they catch a good wave. Compliment them. There is no greater buzz than someone telling you, “Nice ride.”

Share waves. Once you get good enough to catch most of the waves your try for, share, especially if you are on a longboard as you will be further out than the shortboarders and able to catch more waves. Let others have their turn, especially those who aren’t as good as you. Even if you were snaked all the time when you started, don’t return the favor. Surfing shouldn’t be a hazing process.

Localism sucks. But unfortunately, it does exist. Know something about the surf spot where you are going out. It is best to go with someone who has surfed there before. Bad behavior should not be condoned, but should be avoided, especially by the beginning surfer.

Surf with Aloha. If you are a beginner, or even a veteran surfer, have the right attitude. It’s all about having fun, communing with nature and goofing around. Leave any grudges or bad attitudes at home and surf with aloha, peace and love.

Pick up after yourself. And finally, the best etiquette is always to leave the beach as you found it. Don’t litter whether you are on the beach or on the street. Join an ocean conservation philanthropy like Surfrider Foundation. We only have one ocean so treat it with respect.

VA Birang Guest House In Coron, Palawan

The Birang Guest House or the Lovely Orange House, served as our home away from home while at Coron, Palawan on Feb 9-12, 2010.  It is located near the Pier, beside IJC Oil  in Barangay Tagumpay.  The guest house can easily be spotted because it’s the only seafront house painted in bright orange color. I found this guest house while searching through several other blogs about Coron accommodations.  The moment I saw the pictures of the place from one of the blogs, I fell in love with it. Aside from the fact that it’s nestled on a seafront area, the guest house is newly-built and well maintained by the house keepers. It was in fact my first option the first time I was travelling to Coron in October 2009. Unfortunately the guest house was fully-booked at that time so I decided to try Darayonan.

What I loved most about the guest house is the breezy homey atmosphere it gave us during our stay. Aside from the fact that the owner, Virginia Birang,  gave us very competitive rates for the entire duration of our stay.  It was I should say, a relief from the gruesome condition of Coron at that time – the fact that the town suffered from electricity blackouts from 6am until 5pm every single day since January 2010. I wasn’t able to suffer the effects of the blackout because of the breeze coming from the Coron Bay during the day. Every morning, I get a chance to see fishes swarming near our place. It was the kind of  feeling that you could only achieve at pricey accommodations.

The guest house features several amenities such as a kitchen where you are allowed to cook your own food. What we did was we bought food from the market and let the housekeepers cook the food for us, of course with an extra charge for the cooking. It indeed saved a couple of pesos for us because of this idea. Moreover, we get to eat expensive crustaceans at an affordable price! Just see the picture below and you’d know what I meant. You’d just have to wake up early and go to the market to be able to buy the freshest catch offered at cheap prices.

The rooms, 6 in all,  offer a spectacular view of the Coron Bay during the day and a magnificent blanket of stars at night. We stayed at the second floor where the breeze is cool and the views, just amazing! The housekeepers religiously clean the place from time to time so you can be assured that the entire place including the bathrooms remain clean. The inside of the guest house features warm shades of wood and kawayan colors, which complement the orange color of the house. The have a total of 3 common/shared bathrooms that have showers and water heaters. One amenity that is rare to find in Coron town. Birang Guest House was one of the accommodations that I was satisfied with staying in terms of location, rates, cleanliness and customer service. Staying in this guest house is really a value for money especially when you are travelling on a budget. I highly recommend this place for family out of town trips as well because of the fact that you could rent the entire house, if it’s available.

Birang Guest House does not have any website yet at this time. However, you may contact Virginia Birang @ 09209048280 for your inquiries and reservations.

let's eat!

one of the amazing views from the 2nd floor of Birang Guest House

another view from the other side of the 2nd floor

our room at the 2nd floor

the living and the dining area at the 2nd floor

the view from our room

chilling at the terrace of the 2nd floor