The attractions on Southern Batan are mostly spread out along the scenic National Road that follows the island’s coastline. Before we toured the lower half of Batan Island, we had lunch at Octagon Bed and Dine. A few minutes away from the center of town, Octagon’s dining area has a view of the ocean, and seemed to be a popular stop for the guided tours.
Aside from several benches that offer a great view of the hills and the ocean, Chawa View Deck also has stairs that lead down from the cliffs for a closer look at the waves crashing onto the rocks below.
From the View Deck, we took the route that followed a clockwise loop around Batan, going to the east on an inner road, then following the coastal highway down south, then back up to the western side of the island. Along the way, we encountered the iconic, and, with the blind curves, necessary road signs.
Tayid Lighthouse, which tourists and bloggers simply call Mahatao Lighthouse, can be reached by a short hike from the main road. From there we saw a splendid view of the surrounding pasturelands, Mount Iraya, and the Pacific Ocean.
Rakuh A Payaman, which also became known as Marlboro Country, is a vast windswept communal pastureland. That day, the wind was so strong that we almost didn’t dare use our smartphones to take pictures. When we did, we made sure we gripped them nice and tight.
In Imnajbu, Alapad Hill offers a dramatic view of the coast and a fantastic rock formation. Imnajbu’s old LORAN station of the US Coast Guard is currently being renovated, and will eventually serve as the local branch of the National Museum.
In Ivana, we got to enter the famous Honesty Coffee Shop, which is popular not because of some specialty coffee (although, that would have been nice too), but rather the principle behind the establishment: the store has no shopkeeper. Items for sale, ranging from instant coffee to bath soap and souvenirs, are on display and tagged with respective prices. Customers pick what they want, note down what they’re getting on a logbook, and leave money in a box.
Near the church, we found one of the Spanish-era Lighthouses in Mahatao which date back from the 1700s. While not so high, it was originally visible to fishermen out on the sea before the number of structures increased around it.
As amazing as Batan Island was with its majestic hills, soaring cliffs and rugged coasts, we were equally impressed by the Ivatan people we’ve seen and met. The principles behind The Honesty Coffee Shop are not an exception but rather a way of life. Bicycles are simply parked by roadsides, unlocked and unchained.
There may be very little traffic in the island, but when vehicles do meet on one-lane roads, courtesy was observed. Wherever we went, we were greeted with smiles and nods, even by men busy digging by the roadside. Outside the Mahatao Church, a little girl approached Kitty simply to ask for her blessing, and nothing else. It was an absolute joy, and a great honor to be among resilient, goodhearted people who didn’t get hardened by their harsh, windswept, beautiful land. With the Ivatans, Batanes truly deserves to be called the Paradise of the North.
Our reco: Getting to the attractions on Southern Batan involves going through scarcely populated (and even unpopulated) stretches at times. You won’t see a lot of roadside stores, so make sure to bring along snacks and water.
Up next: Fundacion Pacita.