The Cliffs of Itbayat
Batanes is made up of 3 major islands, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat. Batan, the easier and safer place to go around Batanes has the main city of Basco, the gateway to the region. Sabtang, the island we were supposed to go to earlier but was put on hold because of the weather is one of the closer islands to Batan and can be reached in less than an hour from the port of Ivana. The other island, Itbayat is one of the farther islands up north and can be reached by boat in 3-4 hours or by a small plane in an hour. Since the plane’s schedule is unpredictable and fare is very expensive we opted to take a boat. No this isn’t a big boat but a tug cargo boat and I can’t imagine we’re crossing the seas where the Pacific Ocean and the China Seas meet on it.
Passengers and the navigator
And so we were there at a port in Basco watching countless luggages, drums of supplies, furnitures, canned goods and ice creams (?!) being hauled inside the feeble looking boat. Just by the Looks of it, it seems to weigh tons with all those supplies, and we’re not even inside yet! Are those guys sure this boat could handle all of us. So we boarded, crossing by the roof then sitting by the covered section of the boat. There was water already sipping under but we’re still heading towards the open sea.
This must be one of the most venturesome boat ride I ever had. As much as I try to sleep my way on this journey, we seem to be crossing a lot of huge waves that our boat kept jumping about like a smooth stone thrown skipping over still waters. There was a tarp covering on our side of the boat to avoid the splashes and the water from coming in, but at one time I was leaning and resting my head on the side of the boat, a sudden gush of water came in under the tarp. It splashed in making me half wet and even reached my camera bag. Good thing it was semi-waterproof and didn’t penetrate inside. What’s worse, there was this girl beside us who kept puking through out the journey. My diver friend, who’s also a very good swimmer was on the side of the boat where he could clearly view the sea. He later told us he was so nervous throughout the journey as he have never seen swells as high as 2-3 story building.
Itbayat fishermen by the cliffs
When we got near the island of Itbayat, I was stunned by it’s monumental cliffs. The island is huge but with no shoreline! All cliffs but above are some greeneries and trees. The sea by this time have calmed down, suddenly you’ll see a lot of Dibang (flying fish) jumping out of the water who seemed to welcomed us beside our boat. There were numerous caves as well on the walls in varying sizes. There were some fishermen by the cliffs and I saw some divers who only use some planks of woods as their fins.
Time to disembark
At the port, disembarking is not as simple as going down the boat. You have to synchronize your jump with the waves. As you see, the platform is higher and you could only reach it when the waves go higher. But don’t worry, there are port men by the platform who’ll catch and support you when you jump. Just be careful, a wrong jump could send you splashing down the sea water.
An Itbayat Port
With no shoreline in Itbayat, the local government constructed these ports. There’s a machinery on top which can pull-in heavy or large items like cars or trucks. Ingenious, but it was kinda exhausting going up the stairs. Haha.
This is our home in the island, the one and only guest house in Itbayat
So from the port we walked our way towards the nearby town center of Itbayat, which is about 10-15 minutes away. All I could say is the environment is raw and ruggedly beautiful. It’s like a cross between middle earth and the sound of music. Imagine the place as giant bowl, where the cliffs are the edges of the bowl and as you go down further it deepens into wild forest. Shortly we found ourselves at the town. we asked around where we could stay and we were led to the island’s one and only guest house. It has three rooms with double beds, basic toilet and kitchen. And the place again is Open. No one is manning the small house, there was just this guest book where you have to log your names in. We weren’t alone as another guest was also there at that time. We soon found out he was a local congressional candidate campaigning by himself, named Nick Abad. What a cozy place we’ll be staying.
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.