BATANES ADVENTURE PART II: SOUTH BATAN

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.

IMG_7254IMG_7248 Lunch done, we made our way down the coastal highway and into our South Batan adventure.

IMG_7257 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.

IMG_7281IMG_7296 IMG_7315 IMG_7317From 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.

IMG_7326 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.

IMG_7343 IMG_7344 IMG_7347IMG_7363 IMG_7367IMG_7339Rakuh 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.

IMG_7405 IMG_741420141205_141802 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.

20141205_144355IMG_7441 IMG_7448 IMG_7439IMG_7454We explored the Song-Song Ruins, and walked among the remains of stone structures that used to be houses before a tsunami destroyed the settlement in the 1950s.

IMG_7472 IMG_7462In 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.

IMG_7494 IMG_7496 IMG_7501The Ivana Church with its unique crenellated bell tower, and the Ivana Seaport are both a few steps away is from the shop.

IMG_7503 Another attraction in Ivana is Vahay Ni Dakay or House of Dakay, a traditional ivatan house of stone, lime and thatch built in 1887, and declared a Unesco World Heritage Building.

IMG_7521 IMG_7526 The Homoron White Beach is a beautiful, secluded spot surrounded by hills and coconut groves.

IMG_7544 IMG_7548 IMG_7558 IMG_7565 In Mahatao we visited the Carlos Borromeo Church, which has been declared a National Cultural Treasure.

IMG_7573Immediately beside the church is the Maywang A Libro Du Vatan or The Batanes Blank Book Archive. Guests can write messages in any of the books here.

IMG_7589 IMG_7592 IMG_7597Near 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.

IMG_7601As 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.

IMG_7508 IMG_7510 IMG_7584There 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.

20141205_154304Our 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.

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