The 5 Things You Shouldn't Do in Batanes

Ahhh.. Batanes. An item in everyone’s bucket list. A much-desired destination. A dream for every traveler, a mission for every wandering soul.

With its stunning landscapes, chilly winds, charming structures, and fascinating people, Batanes is definitely a place you need to visit at least once in your life. I went here last year, and I fell in love. When I left back for Manila, I got heartbroken, and I have never recovered ever since.

But even with its breathtaking mountains, vibrant greenery, and soothing sights, Batanes is not perfect. It’s the Northernmost province of the Philippines, a challenge to visit (hello, scariest flight ever!) and far from being modern. Surrounded by seas, life for both locals and tourists can be rough. But these imperfections shouldn’t stop you from loving Batanes. Instead, these should make you love it more—admire it, appreciate it, and replicate it in you. Below, I have a couple of ideas how.

The 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Batanes:

1 | Complain about inconvenient transportation

Your 84-seater plane should've been an indication.
In case it’s not instantly apparent, Batanes is not a modernized province. Just look around: the houses are made of stone, the roofs of dried cogon; farmers walk to their lands every day for hours, carabao in tow; there are no jeeps, only tricycles, personal cars, and bikes; and most of all, children without their own cycles walk to their schools. Therefore, hearing people complain about the inconvenience makes me roll my eyes (one time they almost got stuck there permanently). Why the hell did you go to Batanes and not, ummm … Hong Kong?

Furthermore, Batanes is bordered by treacherous and vicious bodies of water (Balintang and Bashi channels, South China Sea, Pacific Ocean), so expect boat rides—to Sabtang Island, for instance—to be nasty (and memorable). Expect headaches, seasickness and vomiting. Speedboats? Nuh-uh.

Passengers of the boat to Sabtang resort to talking each other (instead of vomiting). Photobombing c/o taho.

What to do instead: embrace the inconvenience. Embrace the culture, the mode of living, everything. If you keep an open mind, steel your heart, and change your mindset, Batanes is going to be one of the most life-changing trips you will ever take. Leave behind all thoughts of the comforts you had back home, and allow yourself to see Batanes’ real beauty.


2 | Expect luxurious accommodations

Marfel's Lodge
If you’re used to having staycations in Manila, chances are you will be disappointed with the hotel choices in Batanes. No 300-thread count sheets and fluffy duvets. No proper front desks, and obviously, phones connecting to reception. No room service! And absolutely no bidets.

More than that, the real “challenge” is to sleep in the stone houses, where the thin bedding practically takes you straight to the ground. What a bad way to sleep!


What to do instead: appreciate the fact that Ivatans built these homes themselves. Just imagine doing all the hardwork to have a shelter, a protection from furious rains that bombard the province almost year-round—and not hiring a construction company, complete with an interior designer. Even better, think of this: when a supertyphoon ravages the house, they have to build it AGAIN.

As for accommodation choices, be a little adventurous and try the homestays. They are generally clean and safe—and cheap, as low as PhP400/night! Ivatans are very friendly and honest—their warmth is instantly felt with the simplest smile or wave. I highly recommend Marfel’s Lodge if you’re looking for a homestay. It has several rooms that can accommodate solo travelers, couples, or families, as well as a common living area, bathroom, dining room, and kitchen.

You don’t need the hospitality of a hotel. The warmth of the locals is enough.


3 | Look for fast Wi-Fi

I thought my Facebook friends would love this... but I wasn't able to upload it until I got back to Manila. 
Texting and calling in Batanes is already challenging—what more do you expect for Internet?

Relying on your mobile data, you’re lucky if you can upload live Facebook updates, especially when in transit. Hotel Wi-Fi is almost just as bad. How can you upload your epic selfie at the Basco Lighthouse then? Or your jump shot at Marlboro? Or your look-away photo at the Valugang Boulder Beach?!?!

YOU CAN’T UPLOAD THEM. PERIOD. CAN’T YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU GET HOME?

shot from the top of the Basco Lighthouse, uploaded 1,463 weeks later
shot from the Valugang Boulder Beach, uploaded 2,568 weeks later
shot at the Chamantad -Tinyan Viewpoint, uploaded 5,679 weeks later

What to do instead: turn off your phone and actually talk to your friend, husband, wife, mother, siblings, father, fiancé, or whoever is with you. Have sex. Whatever.

Go to the common area of your homestay and hangout with fellow travelers. Know their stories. Swap itineraries. Give and ask for tips.

Talk to locals. Ask what they do. Learn something only you would know.

our "neighbor" at Marfel's, who celebrated his birthday in Batanes!
the kindest kids I've ever met: the kids from Mahatao

weavers of Sabtang
Watch the stars at night instead of waiting to fall asleep by playing online games and viewing memes on Facebook.

Have coffee outside your homestay, smell the fresh air, enjoy the chilly breeze, embrace the fact that you’re in Batanes—the most-coveted local destination—and not in your boring room in Manila.



4 | Compare local dining to Manila’s flourishing F&B scene

When I went to Batanes, there were only 5 legit restaurants—one of which, I don’t even know the name of (the restaurant where you go for lunch in Sabtang).

Food from the unknown restaurant in Sabtang. The veggies were the sweetest ever.
I highly doubt that you will see Instagrammable dishes here, except if you dine at Fundacion Pacita, the most “modern” restaurant and the one closest to Manila’s standards. Here, you can enjoy Western plates that would blend well with the most carefully-curated feeds, but then again, you’re not embracing the local culture. Personally, since I love taking food photos myself, I tried my best with what can be achieved (as other tourists hurled mad stares at me, LOL).

Expect the bill to take forever to get to you, as well as the change. No hipster decors. No knickknacks that can be made into props. No restaurant Instagram account where you can check out the menu.

Hell, they don’t even have enough rice.

What to do instead: eat like a local. Rice, being hard to harvest in stormy Batanes, is expensive. No problem! Feast on root crops instead. Camote, ube, gabi, ginger—name it, they have it, and in almost every dish! Try the uvud balls (banana pith) and vunes (dried gabi leaves). Coconut crabs! Lobsters! Kinilaw! Seaweed soup! Their local version of adobo! Everything you’re not familiar with, try it! Taste their vegetables. Free of any harmful chemicals, they are so delicious and sweet!

Take food photos as souvenirs, not as items to schedule for your Instagram.


5 | Try to find perfect beaches like Boracay’s

If you think you can take Insta-worthy photos of yourself dipping into the water, doing crazy poses—you’re wrong. Unless your skin is made of polar bear fur, and you are, ummm, Michael Phelps, then you can’t.

The water is, number one, very cold. You can probably swim, but for a few minutes only. Number two, the waves are very strong—so your tour guides would generally not recommend you to play in the water. So, sorry beach bums, no sunset silhouettes here.

care to swim?

What to do instead: revel in the moment. Listen to the waves. To the sound of them crashing on the rocks, and against each other. Close your eyes and feel the wind. Reflect. Be thankful for all that you have. Be grateful for the person with you. Don’t look for anything more. You’re in Batanes, for heaven’s sake.

Perfect spot to reflect: the Valugang Boulder Beach

~*~
In closing, I would also like to remind first-timers that you need to expect the worst weather, and be prepared for it. Bring jackets, bonnets, scarves, anything to keep you warm and dry.

Marlboro: it rained, we almost didn't go, it stopped, then it rained again.
But up we went and it was the best moment of my Batanes trip (I literally CRIED. Bye.)
BEST TIP OF ALL (for girls): don't wear heels. Look at the heights you have to climb. ;)


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