Sightseeing at Valugan Bay
When you’re in Batanes, always expect the unexpected. This small region is governed by the weather and the people’s strong belief. So whatever plans you’ve layout here, prepare to change it, as every turn on its winding roads, every change in the wind’s direction and the changes in the tide of the sea holds a few surprises. This we learned in extreme ways during our stay in the region.
Ivana Port to Sabtang
We were supposed to go to Sabtang Island this day, but when we got to the Port of Ivana, only a bleak and desolate atmosphere greeted us along with the pounding waves along the port. We waited for a while there but to no boat came. Judging by the strong wind and the seas, there won’t be any trips going there.
The Honesty Coffee Shop
At the Ivana Port, you’ll also find the infamous Honesty Coffee Shop. Why is it called “Honesty”? Because there’s no one manning the store. The the owner of the store drops by occasionally through out the day, the shop is open to everyone with all the goods laid out before you. Every item is properly tagged with its corresponding price so you would know how much to pay. Coffee and cups are also there with hot water thermos to go along with it. There is a drop box where you’ll drop in your money. Now it’s up to you if you pay you or not. Let’s leave it to your conscience. It’s only in Batanes where you can find a coffee shop like this. If someone would set-up something like this in Manila, it would have been looted in seconds.
The Church of Ivana
If you suddenly felt you needed to confess for your sins (for stealing that item at the coffee shop), there is the San Jose Church just across the street. You won’t miss the yellow facade. The foundation of this church dates back to 1785 but built in 1814. You can go at the back and climb the bell tower where you’ll have a nice view of the port and the sea.
Roadside and craggy hills
And since we won’t be able to go to Sabtang we had to change plans and instead, decided to go to Valugan Bay and the Crystal Cave in Mahatao. So back to the road again we rode a jeep to the nearby town. What I like about the roads here are they are all by the cliff side, giving you amazing views of the sea. Just don’t look down on how high your vehicle will drop if it veers of its path. But don’t you worry, driving here is quite safe. Bicycling here is very ideal, and if you’ve got lot’s of time just walk around end to end. For sure you won’t get lost in this sole highway.
Cliffy shores of Batan Island
At some points on the road you’ll be able to spot some view decks where you can alight and just enjoy the view. There are also stairs going down to the rocky shoreline. If by some reason you decide to commit suicide by death through waves pounding against sharp rocks this is a perfect place. So be careful if you have no intentions of dying while you enjoy the view.
The octagonal Mahatao Lighthouse
In Mahatao there is also another lighthouse. In contrast to Basco Lighthouse with its cylindrical shape, this one is octagonal. I don’t know what the advantages of an octagonal lighthouse is but it looks picturesque as well up that hill. I heard that the ground floor of this lighthouse would be turned into a coffee shop and bookstore as well. That would be cool. I wonder how it turned out.
The road to Diura
While we were waiting for a ride on a nearby town, we ran into a guy named Tony Bobony, who we met at the Laoag Airport who was also stranded with us. It turns out he knows one of our travel buddy and now he saw us again. Small world huh. Well he is a native of the island and he was kind enough to give us direction going to Valugan Bay. Around 15-20 minutes of our trek two boys on a bike came by and told us they were asked by their uncle, Tony to accompany us. As if the world isn’t small enough, the owner of Dulce’s Canteen, the place where we regularly eat, is a sister-in-law of Tony’s sister.
Emerging from the Crystal Cave
Now with a guide in tack, we were able to find the fishing village of Valugan easily. This is where you’ll find the famous pebble beach you have seen in a lot of pictures of Batanes. Also here you’ll find the Crystal Cave. The cave is pretty small and can be hard squeeze into. Pretty ordinary aside from the crystalline walls. ANyways, it was a nice hike along the bay. Also surprising, that an eagle suddenly sprang out so close behind us with its gigantic wingspan. It was amazing and I was too slow to capture it on cam. It flew high up in the sky, then another eagle came by and they seem to be fighting. Protection of their territory I guess. That’s national geographic predators live for you.
By the end of the day we went back to the hill where the Basco lighthouse is located and enjoyed the sunset. Hoping by tomorrow, our plans to go to the remote island of Itbayat would push through.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.