Like Maria von Trapp I feel like singing “….the hills are alive with the sound of music” once we started our tour of Batanes, Philippines an archipelagic province in the Philippines.
It is situated in the Cagayan Valley region and is the northernmost province in the country. It’s small, both in population and land area.
Accordingly, Batanes, Philippines has a population estimate in 2020 of 17,875 with a land area of about 85 square miles.
The island group is about 101 miles north of the Luzon mainland. It is only about 120 miles south of Taiwan. The entire province is listed in the UNESCO tentative list for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
There are 10 pieces of volcanic islands in the Batanes group.
They were formed after great underwater volcanic activities millions of years ago.
And the magic and beauty that were made we were lucky to behold. The capital is the town of Basco which is where the airport is located. It is in north Batan, in the shadow of the active stratovolcano Mt. Iraya.
The Beauty of Batanes is Something to Behold
Before enjoying the surreal beauty of the hills, enjoying the sunrise in Valugan Beach is a must. It is a glorious welcome to the beauty of God’s creation in the smallest and least inhabited province of the Philippines.
The traditional houses of the Ivatans, as the locals are called, are made of thick limestone and thatched with cogon grass roofs.
They are constructed with cobbles and mortar. They’re made to be strong as the province is often visited by typhoons.
One such house is the House of Dakay. It is was built in 1887 and the oldest surviving stone house in Batanes. It actually survived an 8.3 magnitude earthquake in 1918 which leveled the town of Ivana.
The province is nearer Taiwan than Manila. Which is why when one turns on the radio, you get clearer signals from Chinese channels than from the local radio stations.
The Best Island in the Philippines – Batanes
by Wil Dasovich
Published on Youtube on Oct 6, 2016
Batanes Island! One of the most beautiful islands i have ever traveled to here in the Philippines. On this day the #vlogsquad goes on another adventure to one of the best spots in the Philippines. we explore the coasts and landscapes of Batanes. Amazing views of the beach, lighthouses, rolling hills, and everything else makes this place a must visit travel spot! Vlog 210
The Vayang Rolling Hills in in Batanes Philippines are Indeed Alive
The Vayang Rolling Hills is the spot where I want to run free as I sing the Sound of Music theme song. The hills are indeed alive. It’s prettily crumpled landscape offers layers upon layers of greenery.
The cows and goats are grazing peacefully. From afar, it seems the animals will fall off the hills. They look like hanging in there while actually they are not.
They look like they were plastered there to make it picture perfect. It was so majestic and the sunset punctuated the beauty of the place. From the hills, you can also get a view of the Chadpidan boulder beach.
This beach is facing the West Philippine Sea and lines the western coast of Basco.
The wind is so strong on top of the hills. I can only surmise they are coming from the West Philippine Sea below. Staring down from the cliffs can be overwhelming. The view of the majestic Naidi lighthouse can also be seen from there. The lighthouse used to be the site of American period telegraph facilities.
Visiting Racuch a Payaman or Marlboro Country
In south Batan is another fantastic verdant rolling hills. Known as Racuch a Payaman or Marlboro Country. Yup, like Marlboro the cigarette. I can imagine the advertisement of long ago for the cigarette.
The cowboy looking so cool and suave riding a horse in Marlboro country. Instead of horses, the ones aplenty on the hills are cows and goats hanging (looks like) like pendants of the hills.
The hills are a marvelous place to just sit back and savor the beauty of the surroundings. Or you can lie down and enjoy the clear, blue sky. You can also hear from up the hills the continuous beating of the waves from the Pacific.
The sound can actually transport you to dreamland. From Marlboro Country, you can have the instagrammable view of Tayid Lighthouse to the left, in between is Diura Beach and there’s Mt. Iraya to the right.
If you want to take a dip, the Homoron Blue Lagoon and Maydangeb White Beach are there for the taking.
Getting Sea Sick visiting Sabtang Island
We went to another island, Sabtang. I was seasick the whole time. The waters are so turbulent, it was no less frightening. The reason for the rough waters is the clashing of the currents of the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.
What makes it all the more scary is the fact that the boats have no outriggers. It’s like they will capsize anytime. The 30 minute ride was taking forever. However, it was an experience I will never forget.
Honesty is still the best policy in Batanes. There have a Honesty Shop. This is a sari-sari store (convenience shop) where you can get what you need and then just drop your payment in a designated box. This rather unusual request fot payment, however, is because there is no one manning the store.
Batanes Philippines Amazing Crime Rate of Virtually Zero
The province is proud to have a virtual zero crime rate. We had our instant coffee there before boarding the faluva, the bigger traditional boat, before our journey to Sabtang Island.
We need to keep warm as it was a cold morning. The boats are leaving only from 6-7 in the morning. Braving the angry waters of the clashing seas was worth it. For here, we have another stunning island before us.
Going up the Tinyan viewpoint will bring you to yet again rolling hills with a view of the rocky cliffs rising from the slopes of the hills. However, it frames the dreamy vista of the Chamantad cove below.
Sabtang has an incredible landscape. In Chavayan village, we had the chance to try their traditional headgear, vakul, which is designed to protect the wearer from sun and rain. It is made from vuyavuy palm fiber.
Batanes Philippines was a Relatively Harsh Natural but Beautiful Environment
Due to its relatively harsh natural environment, the variety of ingredients and dishes in the province are limited. Since it is near the vast oceans, seafood is a staple. Here you will find the blue coconut crabs. However, they are already a threatened species.
The trip will not be complete without giving thanks to God for this rare opportunity.
We dropped by Tukon church, which is inspired by the traditional Ivatan stone houses.
It sits on top of a foothill. It is interesting to know that tukon means “mountain” in the Ivatan dialect.
If only we had the budget, we wanted to stay in Fundacion Pacita. The quaint hotel is on top of the hill with a view of the mountain, the sea and the sky. The hotel resembles a gallery as it was the home studio before of the internationally acclaimed artist Pacita Abad.
Her artworks are all around. Good thing, going around the place is not prohibited even if we are not guests. Therefore, we just have to be quiet in consideration of those who paid to stay. Thus, I can’t burst into my “….the hills are alive” song no matter the urge to do so.
Gigi Galang is an HR and insurance practitioner. Bitten by the travel bug; she writes to express herself; a self confessed fashionista; and a book and coffee lover. She is an upcoming writer traveling the world and writing of her travels. We’re wondering where her next destination and story will be about.