North Batan

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Batanes comprises of ten islands along the Luzon Strait. Upon landing in its capital Basco, you get to taste Batan first, one of the three biggest islands in the province. As the national road follows the coastline, you are definitely in for a feast of photo-worthy panoramas. Protected landscapes and seascapes welcome you in Batanes. Every turn is a view that feeds your eyes with God’s goodness, His creation. North Batan will serve as your appetizer as tour packages normally start from here.

Day 1 for most visitors is a trip to North Batan. Since I arrived in Batanes without a fixed schedule, this was Day 4. My new friend, another solo traveler and I opted to see North Batan on our own. We hired a trike for the usual route – tricycle drivers know where to take you if you say you want to see North Batan. You may download or ask a copy of the itinerary from certified tour guides or your host in Batanes before hand.

That morning Joseph was our driver, escort, tour guide and storyteller. We started early so we could catch the sunrise in Valugan Boulder Beach. Rocks spewed by Mt. Iraya, now a dormant volcano and polished by the Pacific Ocean tides create the shoreline. We each found a perfect spot, a boulder to sit on and be mesmerized by the strong waves. Towards the smaller multi-colored rocks were some fishermen preparing their single boats to ride on the water and to catch dorado, the dolphin fish.

Next the tour takes you inland. One stop is Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge. It was once the home-studio of internationally acclaimed artist Pacita Abad (1946-2004). It was then converted into a boutique hotel, offering the utmost privacy and service for the guests and supporting an arts and culture foundation. Hence, it justifies its five-star rate.

Another stop is a walk through the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, a five-door tunnel that the Ivatans dug for the soldiers during the Japanese Occupation. It helps if you bring your own torch. As you exit through a tiny low hole, climb over the top of the hill and you get a view of Tukon, Basco and beyond.

Other hilltops lay the PAG-ASA Radar Station and the Tukon Church a.k.a. Mt. Carmel Chapel. Even though it’s relatively new, this chapel that the Abad clan had built and opened in 2008 has earned its fame. It highlights Ivatan craftsmanship with its traditional stonewalls, hardwood interiors, stained glass windows and the murals on the ceiling done by the Pacita Abad Center of the Arts scholars.

Heading back to the town proper, you may hike on Vayang Rolling Hills and Naidi Hills overlooking the merge between South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. You may have to share a seat with a cow or two, but no worries…there’s space aplenty! Moreover, Basco Lighthouse stands tall on Naidi Hills and nearby are ruins of the old American telegraph bunkers. It is an ideal place to watch the sunset. And if you made reservations, dinner is set in the Bunker’s Café at sundown.

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