In a span of a decade, I can say I am seeing how Batanes transform. Recently, accommodations are on the rise to cater to the increasing number of tourist in the country’s smallest province up north. While new ones are being built or old homes converted into homestay, a long-time establishment asserts its place in Basco. Pension Ivatan, a small hometel with a restaurant known to serve Ivatan cuisines is already considered an institution. I have seen the trend of dining options come and go in Batanes but this is one of those that has stayed ever since I remember.
In 2006, Tess Valiente, a Tuguearao native with Pampangueño roots was married to an Itbayat native Raffy. Pension Ivatan was also born in the same year with the vision to offer the best of Ivatan Cuisine in Batanes. Tess brought her entrepreneurial skills to Batanes having owned and managed her Ybanag restaurant, Kusina Cagayana in Tuguegarao since 2001. She researched and learned the ways of Ivatan cooking from the elders. Tess later added delightful twists to the recipes, slightly refining the flavors, by using premium ingredients sourced outside the island while still retaining the essence of Ivatan Cuisine. Wanting guests to get a delicious introduction to the flavors of the islands, Tess created the Ivatan Platter, a dish sampling of native Ivatan favorites all in one platter. Until today, the offering is synonymous to Pension Ivatan.
From Hometel to Boutique Hotel
I first discovered Pension Ivatan when I was waiting for my flight back to Manila more than five years ago. I tried their tasty and savory luñis (Ivatan’s version of adobo). Their resto was conveniently steps away from the airport. In the several times I had visited Batanes, I had the chance to stay at their small hometel built like one of those Ivatan stonehouses.
Of course, Tess’s dream is to make Pension Ivatan even better. In two year’s time, she had her restaurant temporarily relocated while the construction is being done on their property near the airport. After all the hard work and much like birthing pains of a new endeavor, the new Pension Ivatan finally opened this May 2017.
The new Pension Ivatan is an eye-catching two-story building near the airport. It has elements inspired by the Ivatan stone houses and a large lighthouse bas relief on its facade. The second floor houses 11 spacious rooms. I was able to check them out and liked the use of different pastel colored walls, simple yet elegant design accented by paintings. The wall lighting kept to the theme. In estimate, the smallest room they have is around 30sqm. The bathrooms are also large with strong running water. Deluxe rooms have their own blowers and make-up mirrors. I stayed at 211 near the balcony and I enjoyed the space sans the LCD TV that’s still on the way from Manila.
The rooftop isn’t finished yet which would then be their grill dining area. For the moment, the views of Basco and Mt Iraya greets the visitors at the rooftop.
Still the Home of Ivatan Cuisine
On the first floor is the restaurant area for Pension Ivatan. They still serve their all time favorite dishes but on a more upscale setting. Their dining area is now air-conditioned and I like their choice of wooden furnitures. Breakfast buffet is also offered. I really enjoyed their crispy longanisa which they make in-house for breakfast. Food offerings for the buffet changes daily.
Pension Ivatan have really stepped up to become an upscale boutique hotel. Somehow the word “Pension” no longer fits them but I guess its a way to look back at its roots. Like Batanes, this establishment has changed for the times. But despite the change of appearance it still has the old favorites in its heart – Ivatan cuisine and the people’s warmness in its service.
Contact: 0939.957.0222 / 0995.209.1805
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.