I could feel the heaviness and strain in my body already. I’ve been hiking almost daily around Batanes for the past week. My stamina is dipping. Trudging early morning on the grassy slopes of Mt Riposed in the dark, I told myself I have reached my quota for challenging tramps such as this. I deserve a pat for having finally visited Rapang Cliffs the day before. While I want to explore more, Itbayat can really drill a hole on your wallet if you’re travelling alone. While I welcome my guide, Jojo’s suggestions on other places to visit. I had limited budget. So why not end my Itbayat sojourn at the island’s highest point.
Standing at around 750ft (229 meters), Mt Riposed is the imposing mountain southeast of Itbayat island. The highest on the island. It is still a low mountain though compared to others in the country. Unlike its northern counterpart, Mt Karoboboan whose summit can easily be reached by a drive, Mt Riposed requires some trekking.
Jojo was at Nanay Cano’s gate by 2am as expected. We decided to start early as the hike here is a lot longer than that of Rapang Cliffs. If buy chance we’ll be back early, I would be able to catch the boat going back to Basco that morning. I enjoyed the long drive south to Barangay Sta Lucia where Mt Riposed is under. The roads were conveniently paved, drift air cool and the island quietly in slumber as we rode along. The moon slowly setting behind us.
Sunrise and Wild Horses
We left the convenience of the main road for a rough and bumpy dust road. Here, I appreciate Jojo’s driving skills again. The advantage of going here by motorbike, we can go farther and cut-off a little of our trek time. Jojo knows this place well. His relatives have a farm here where he occasionally visits to feed the chickens and cattle. Even in the dark, Jojo knows the trail while I only see silhouettes of slopes in the darkness. The grassy trail was damp and at times slippery. My Keen Uneek footwear was not fitted for this hike. As soon as water or light mud gets seeps through, the footwear gets slippery at the foot rest. It’s better to have a closed shoes here or the classic Keen with toe protection. Jojo showed me his worn out Nathaniel rubber shoes and says he’s foot wear also needs to be replaced.
My GPS tracker says we it took us almost an hour to hike the 1.85 km trail to the overlooking cliffs at the other side of Mt Riposed. It was fast I thought but we didn’t go up the mountain summet. We went around it. Dinem Island looks bigger and closer from here. From this point, the cliffs stretching to the Pacific Ocean looks like giant fingers. As the light was slowly illuminating the scenery, we saw horses congregating at the ridge below. I asked Jojo if they would flee from my presence and he told me that I just proceed slowly.
I walked slowly and quietly, observing how they would react to my presence. They looked at me but carried on eating grass and grazing slowly. They don’t see me as a threat being on my own there while Jojo was away watching. The horses were beautiful to watch. Roaming wild and free in this vast Itbayat grounds. There were about eight of them here but there were others on farther slopes. I stayed there for a while, occasionally taking pictures until the sun has finally risen.
In truth, Mt Riposed was not my main purpose for this trek. It was the rock formation they call, the Tayawun Rock, a scenic outcrop jutting out from the sea. A photo I saw from Godwin Hernaez facebook and I got fascinated to see it for myself. Jojo was the said guide and does know how to go there.
Coming from the ridge with the horses, we continued south. We passed by an idjang (fortress) and continued into a low forest. I could not find a trail but Jojo makes some with his bolo. We were descending the cliff through this forest. I was careful as there were some thorny plants and we were walking along sharp limestone rocks. I breath a sigh of relief when we reached sea level. There was no beach, only boulders. Then I finally saw Tayawun Rock, framed by the cliffs. It does look impressive seeing it with my own eyes but I was a little dismayed by the trash drifted on the rocky shore. Particularly water bottles. Maybe some coming from Taiwan based on the labels. But I could see potential in this place if ever they decide to develop it as an attraction.
Jojo says this site was being considered as a port but it would take a large amount of resources to develop the area. As I finished shooting I asked where our trail would be going back. Jojo pointed to the cliff wall. What the hey! I thought but still went on to climb the rocks. It wasn’t as tough as I thought. Sometimes I surprise myself on what I can do. When we reached the higher ground, the whole scenery looks better. Tayawun Rock looks neatly cut from one side. I’m guessing that this used to be part of the nearby cliffs but may have naturally eroded years ago.
On our way back I hear Jojo tell me he spotted a couple of boats that has left Basco. I could make out the white one but could not see the other. Batan Island was seen clear that day. I could catch the boats back to Basco just in time. We hiked back to his motorbike and drove back to the town center. I’m glad I was able to tick this off my list but there are still a few more places in Itbayat to visit when I get back. I checked out of Nanay Cano’s lodge and was able to board the boat back to Basco.
Tayawun Rock at the slopes of Mt Riposed is at baranggay Sta Lucia, 10km from Sta Maria centro. A guide here is a must as the area is so vast it’s easy to get lost. I highly recommend Jojo Labrador (+63920.660.3801) a highly experienced guide familiar to photographer quirks. If he’s not available, he can recommend the other four guides on the island who are also highly capable.
Fees: Guide fee is Php 1,000 per group of 1–4. It is cheaper to go by group as individuals would have to pay full amount. A separate transportation fee of Php 500 for a single motor bike per person. Going and return from Mayon Centro, Itbayat.
Tips for hiking Mt Riposed and Tayawun Rock:
- I recommend mornings to catch the sunrise and the light is less harsh
- Hike back and forth can take 5–6 hours depending on the pace. It is possible to hike early morning and be back in town by 7 or 8am to catch the boat back to Basco.
- Wear good footwear. Flip-flops are not recommended.
- Bring torch or flashlight for early hikes.
- Bring at least 1 liter of water and trail snacks
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.