This is the second part of my post on my visit to the northernmost inhabited island of the Philippines, Itbayat Island. For the first part, click here.
Our dream and eagerness to visit the island-municipality of Itbayat, Batanes, together with the cooperation of the weather, was realized. Itbayat can be reached by means of sea or air. Travel by sea will take you 2.5 to 3 hours from Basco Port to Chinapoliran Port and fare is Php 450 per way. On the other hand, Itbayat is just 12 minutes away from Basco via plane with fare at Php 1,800 per way.
WHAT TO SEE: Islands, Caves, and Mountains
Itbayat is the northernmost inhabited island of the Philippines and being on the island makes you closer to Taiwan than in mainland Luzon. The island is one of the world’s largest uplifted coral reefs and offers, aside from a picturesque view and cold weather, different kind of adventures such as trekking, island hopping and caving. Mt. Karoboban is the highest peak in the island which is about 280 meters above sea level. The mountain served as an old settlement for early settlers of Itbayat.
Torongan Cave, on the other hand, is the most ancient dwelling place in Batanes, believed to be the first landing place of the Austronesians from Formosa, 4000 years ago. A short trek from the road will lead you to the cave having a window to the ocean. Another trail going up will take you to Torongan Hill where stone boat-shaped burial markers are found. A great panoramic view of the island can be seen from here. Kuya Jojo, who served as our guide, also showed us the place where the locals catch the famous coconut crab.
From Torongan Cave, you can go down south to Lake Kavaywan located near the Itbayat Airport. Going to the lake, you can pass by the small villages of Yawran and Raele. Interesting to note in Barrio Raele are the vernacular houses with thick walls of stone and lime and several layers of cogon for the roofing. Raele’s St. Joseph Church was under renovation during our visit.
During the orientation of Nanay Tina, she mentioned a mystical place in Itbayat and believed to be haunted by ghosts. The legend states that the hole was once a place where witches were thrown as punishments according to local justice system during the ancient time. The place is called the Manoyok Sinkhole which serves as a giant drainage of the town. It was explored by a German national in 1993 and found out that the hole is 45+ meters deep.
Other exciting destinations to check are the Rapang Cliff with a stone bell and Nahili do Votox which we never tried to explore since we need to spend longer time on the island because it requires another whole day of trekking to the destinations. As per the guide, Rapang Cliff is comprised of forest, natural cliffs and rocky hills where natural bonsai arius trees abound. Fascinatingly, a natural bell which is a flat stone that when struck produces a sound resembling a bell can be found in the cliff. Nahili do Votox is another ancient settlement with boat-shaped burial markers.
The island has also other caves such as Northern Sarokan, Eastern Sarokan, and Pivangan, of which as per Nay Tina, are not that big and long but offer a great site to see some stalactites and stalagmites. Going to Mt. Karoboban will give you the opportunity to see the other uninhabited islands on the northern part of Itbayat: Siayan, A’ li, Misanga and Mavudis. Agosan Rock Formation, a breeding site for endangered species of birds, can be found on the northernmost point of the island.
Don’t leave Itbayat without dropping by the Sta. Maria Imaculada Church located at the heart of the town. The church was built by Father Vicente Araujo from 1853 to 1858. The façade of the church is simple yet it has a unique charm that made me consider it as the best church in Batanes. I wasn’t able to check out the interior of the church since no one was available in the area that time and all doors were closed.
WHERE TO STAY: Cano’s Lodge
We have no idea where to stay in Itbayat, thanks to a friend who featured Cano’s Lodge. From Chinapoliran Port, we hailed a tricycle to bring us to the lodging house. Nanay Tina was surprised when we arrived since we weren’t able to inform her, due to the network outage of Smart in Basco for how many days, that we will be visiting Itbayat. She welcomed us and immediately offered coffee to beat the cold weather. We noticed an interactive map of Itbayat Island in a frame suspended inside the bahay-kubo.
Nanay Tina started to discuss and explain the destinations on the island and she willingly answered every question we’ve asked her. We found out later that Nanay was the former Municipal Tourism Officer of Itbayat.
Overnight accommodation rate is Php 200 per head per night. We stayed in the room on the left side. It has 5 beds and we were the only guest on that day. The room has its own well-maintained bathroom and toilet. We enjoyed our stay in the lodging because Nay Tina was very accommodating: checks on us every time, ensures that we closed the door for mosquitoes not to get inside the room, offers us coffee, and even shared a coconut crab for free. I will definitely stay here when I get back to Itbayat.
Travel Guides and Tips
1. If you are going to utilize the sea transport system, the best time to travel is 3 days before or after the full moon for a calmer sea.
2. Bonamine is a friend for the 2.5 to 3 hours travel by sea to Itbayat, plus the plastic bags, just in case.
3. An entrance fee of Php 90 per person must be settled on the Treasurer’s Office before visiting the sites and attractions.
4. Bring warm clothes like jackets even it’s not within the cold months.
5. Wear light and comfortable clothes during trekking.
6. Bring a lot of water supply because the water in the island is not potable.
7. Power supply is only available from 6:00AM to 12:00MN.
Food, Tour Guide and Vehicle Rental Rates in Itbayat Island
Food is being served by different canteens. When we stayed at Cano’s Lodge, our meal was served by the Itbayat Caterer’s Cooperative at Php 200 per meal. Other canteens available are Laura’s Carinderia, Danevelle’s Canteen, Jesser’s Canteen and Yvette’s Canteen.
Rate for tour guide is Php 1000 per day per group; no matter what time of the day you will start the tour. On our case, we arrived in Itbayat around 11AM and had lunch at 12NN. We started the tour around 1:30PM and still paid the whole rate for the guide. If you will be staying for 3 days on the island, it is better to hire the guide on your second day for you to enjoy the guide fee. For the visit to Rapang Cliff, Eastern Sarokan Cave and Nahili do Votox, you need to hire another guide (Php 1000 per group) who will tour you around since the local guides are not allowed to enter the area because it is a private property.
Tricycles can be hired on your visit to the destinations and standard rate is Php 1500 for the whole day. If you plan not to visit all destinations, they also charge per destination per way:
Centro to Barrio Raele Php 200
Centro to Barrio Yawran Php 150
Centro to Torongan Cave Php 200
Centro to Mauyen Port Php 250
Centro to Valanga Port Php 100
Centro to Chinapoliran Port Php 100
Centro to Paganaman Port Php 100
Centro to Mount Reposed Php 200
Centro to Mount Karoboban Php 200
* Rates provided by Kuya Jojo Labrador
Faustina Cano – 0919-3004787/0921-5673409
Maria Gordo – 0928-9982738
Jojo Labrador – 0920-6603801
M/B Itransa – 0920-8493946
M/B Ocean Spirit – 0917-8018574
Northsky – 0918-5833666