Friday, February 6, 2015

Our Batanes Adventure Day 1: Batan Island

At the pre-departure area, we were interrupted with an announcement that our flight is slightly delayed due to Haze above Basco airport affecting the visibility of the runway.  Well, at least its not cancelled!

A sigh of relief came in to us when they finally made the call for boarding.  We were ushered to the bus, and then taken to the plane. I took the opportunity to catch up on sleep the entire ride.  I was so tired that I didn't even notice the biscuits being distributed.  I was awakened by the announcement alerting everyone that we are about to land.  I can see portions of Sabtang Island from my window.

As the plane moves forward, we entered a cluster of clouds experiencing a slight turbulence.  Now, I'm awake.  All I see from the window is my side of the wing with the landing wheel lowered.  I can feel the plane turning around as the clouds cleared.

The captain announced that we have to go around due to poor visibility and that they will update us in a few minutes.  After circling around the open sea, I saw the familiar coastline below; this would now be our 2nd attempt to land.  We were again engulfed in clouds as we descend.  We were shaken a bit as the plane makes another turn, but as we escape the clouds, the runway showed itself behind us.  There's no turning back now.  If I can see it from my window, I'm sure the captain did too.

We circled again taking the same path as the 2 previous attempts, we slowly descended until we were below the cloud cover and the runway was in view.  I was so thankful the moment the wheel touched the ground.  The passengers can't help but applaud the captain for landing us safely.

Basco Airport was small, simple and uncomplicated.  Porters were polite and would not impose.

Just as I opened my phone, I received a text fro Ar. Alan confirming our arrival.  They were actually expecting us on the 2nd flight, but there's only one scheduled that day.

With a few minutes to spare, Ar. Marc, Ar. Ana and me played with the displays in the arrival area, taking photos of anything that speaks Batanes.

It didn't take long until we were united with the group, all 7 of us including Ar. Joseph.  As soon as we settled ourselves in the Van, we were off to our first destination.

1. Tukon Chapel

It was drizzling that morning, contrary to the previous day.  Armed with our hoodies and jackets, we went up a flight of stairs leading us to the Tukon also referred to as Mt. Carmel Chapel.  In spite of the rain, and overcast sky, the mountain views of Batanes were just so amazing.  I can't help but continuously say "wow" the entire ride.  Everywhere you look seemed like a painting for your eyes to feast on.

Beautiful Batanes, Rain or Shine!

2. Radar Station

After a few photos, we were off to our next stop, the PAG-ASA, DOST Radar Station.  What started as a drizzle became stronger when we reached the area.  We were forced to take shelter on their covered porch.  When the rain subsided a bit, we took photos and proceeded with the tour.

Imagine us landing over this thick haze over Sabtang!

What looked like a giant golf ball from a distance is actually is the northernmost weather station n the country.

3. Fundacion Pacita 

Our next stop is Fundacion Pacita, a private mountain resort dedicated to the world renowned Batanes artist, Pacita Abad.  Our access was limited because of a wedding reception scheduled the same day.  Just the same, we were able to see the beautiful gardens the resort is known for.

A Private Mountain Resort Honoring the late artist Pacita Abad.

The resort is known for their beautiful gardens and topiaries, complimented with a beautiful scenery.
4. Japanese Tunnel

Our guide and host then took us to see, and actually go inside the Japanese Tunnel.  The narrow corridors leads to different exits.  There's one that would steep downwards that we did not explore, instead, we continued our way being led by the light from an opening on another end.

Entrance of the Japanese Tunnel
5. Vulugan Beach

The wind was cold and blowing hard when we reach Vulugan or Boulder Beach.  The entire stretch was covered with the same boulders used in building their stone houses.  Making your way to the water can be a challenge as you hop from one steady stone to another.

Valugan Beach

It was past noon when we went back near the Airport to have lunch at Ivatan Pension.  They specialise in grilled seafood and meat.  Try to order in advance to avoid the long wait especially during lunch hours.

Chicken Tinola in Yellow Ginger abundant in the island

The Filipino Platter that easily serves 6 people, even more.

6. Capitol Park and Basco Church

After lunch, we took off to see the rest of the attractions North of Batan.  While still in Basco, we made a stop to see the Capitol Park and the Church.

Basco Church

7. Rolling Hills

We continued the tour taking the narrow roads leading to the Rolling Hills.  As we move higher, the winds became stronger and stronger, to the point that we have to close the windows of the van to avoid getting swept of the road. As we tried to take the narrow trail on foot leading to our destination, standing becomes a challenge that we contented ourselves behind mounds that sheltered us from the gust.

The Rolling Hills.  The strong wind can literally swept you rolling down if you come close to the edge.

8. Basco Lighthouse

Our next destination would have to be the most popular attraction in Batanes, and in Basco.  It's the lighthouse. It overlooks the ocean and the town.

The Basco Lighthouse and bay.

Inside, is a souvenir stand that sells the cheapest items.
Buy here, because it will just get more expensive on other stops.

9. Pasalubong Shopping

A few jump shots later, we went back to the Town of Basco to get souvenirs.  A tip to would be visitors, located inside the Lighthouse tower is a small souvenir stand.  They make the small stone house models on site and items here are cheaper than those you will find at bigger shops and stops.

10. Chanarian Viewdeck

After the town, we headed southbound making a stop at the Chanarian Viewdeck.  We would have wanted reach the end of the stairs to the water level below, but the waves crashing hard on the cliffs scared us.

I only reached that landing, because this scared me!
11. White Beach

Our last stop for the day was white beach.  During the summer months, it's a nice place to go swimming white white crushed coral sand bordered by limestone cliffs on both ends.  During our visit, the waves would set you rolling just by sitting on the shore.

11. Kidpidan Beach

By this time, all the activities during the day is taking its toll on us.  I can't help but doze off every time were in the Van.  It was just timely that our host Ar. Joseph brought us to their beach house at Kidpidan Beach to rest just before dinner to meet their family.

The main hut has beds and extra mattress and hammocks below.  Beside it is a shed that houses a videoke machine and a store that operates similar to the Honesty Store.  I think i still owe them a bottle of coke and 2 San Mig Lights.

The toilet comes with a bidet hose.  Something you would not expect in a place like this.

My view from the hammock!

Kidpidan Beach

I was so tired that afternoon, that I fell asleep the moment i laid my back on the bed.  I didn't even notice the family of our host arriving.

The Barsana's! Our gracious host.

We were humbled by the graciousness and generosity of the Barsana family.  We were so surprised with amount of preparation they exerted for our dinner.  The steamed Lapu-lapu looks too good to eat!  I kept coming back for serving s of their version of Adobo.

Nana, at 92 years old, the matriarch of the family was also present sharing her secret to staying and feeling young, a shot of Brandy daily!  I guess that explains why some people act immaturely when they had too much to drink.  I honestly think, its living a happy life.  Nana, laughs a lot sharing her stories.  We wanted to hear her sing, but unfortunately, she had to leave early for her medicines.

Ar. Joseph's mom belted out popular female songs, garnering the highest score at the Videoke machine.  Joseph's wife Wendy also came, but it was their 3 year old son Jason's antics that kept us entertained throughout the evening.

We would have wanted to stay longer, but we need to prepare for an early trip to Sabtang, hoping that the waves, weather and coast guard permits the trip.

We retired at Villa Bella for the night.  Villa Bella, is the Barsana's ancestral house built in 1898.  Two rooms are being rented out for tourists.  The Living areas are filled with photographs providing a glimpse of history and heritage of the Barsana.  The first Ivatan Governor of the province is their great grandfather.

I t was a long day for us.  I fell asleep waiting for my turn to shower.  Actually, I really have no intensions on taking a bath that night because of the cold weather.  Also, I needed to recharge, because I only have one full day to explore the province.

If you think our flight going to Basco was scary, wait for the entry about or trip to Sabtang!

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