Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Batanes Tour Day One: Northern Batan and Mt. Iraya

Last time I posted about our accommodations at the breathtakingly beautiful Fundacion Pacita. Today I'll feature how the first day of our Batanes tour went. If you plan a similar tour, be sure to wear light clothing and sturdy slipper or tennis shoes, and bring face towel. 

We arrived Friday morning in Batanes. Day One of the Tour--covering the northern half of the main island of Batan where the airport and our hotel is located--started at 2 pm. The sun was at its peak and having forgotten to bring sunblock, I gradually took on a darker shade by the time we returned to Manila.

The first stop: the charming Tukon (Mount Carmel) Chapel located in the hotel grounds. This is where Julia Abad got married.

Next stop: the Basco PAGASA station. School textbooks during my time describe Batanes as typhoon-ravaged, but per our guide this is no longer the case. Many times Batanes remains sunny despite being classified under typhoon signal number 3.

We also took time to visit a network of passages which sheltered the Japanese during World War II.

Our next stop was the Valugan Boulder Beach' located east of the island. The beach is not apt for swimming. We returned here on the third day to witness the sun rise.

The artist community is alive and well in Batan. Below is the Yaru Nu Artes Ivatan (Ivatan Cooperative Gallery). 

I scored some neat souvenirs here, where I got to meet the artist who made them. She shared with us that Ivatan houses are traditionally painted blue and some have no doors.

Below is one of the many paintings displayed in the gallery. Flying fish is mainstay of Ivatan cuisine.

We managed to squeeze in a short stop at the Hall of Justice of Basco.

At the town center is a statue of Kenan, a datu of Sabtang Island, who was executed by the Spaniards for defending his people's rights and freedoms

The artistic community is alive and vibrant in Batan, as shown in the murals along the streets of the capitol.

We also dropped by the first church in Batanes, the Santo Domingo Cathedral (Basco), dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. It is named thus in honor of the patron saint of the capital of Batanes, Basco.

Our penultimate stop took my breath away: the Rolling Hills of Vayang.

Out here the carabaos and cows reign, sure-footed as they traipse along  the steep hills.

Mt. Iraya is everywhere in Batan, customarily cloaked in its cloudy veil. 

Another view of Mt. Iraya and the hills, this time with the sea.

Our last stop was the Basco Naidi Lighthouse to view the sunset.

This is where we had dinner, just in time for the approaching dusk.

At this point Mt. Iraya lets loose her veil of clouds.

Our dinner view. After a bit we call it a day.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Amazing Batanes: Our Rooms at Fundacion Pacita

Going to Batanes has always been part of my travel wishlist, so when my friend invited me to tag along with her, I readily said yes. This is the first part of my series on Batanes, the smallest province of the country and located at its northernmost tip. Being constantly ravaged by typhoons, travel by sea and air is quite a challenge, thus its relative isolation for some time. Of the ten islands comprising the province, three are inhabited: Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. I was able to visit the first two. Basco, the capital, is located at Batan.

Mt. Iraya greeted us shrouded in clouds upon landing in Basco Airport. Mt. Iraya, a dormant volcano, reminds me of Legazpi's Mt. Mayon.

We arrived in this teeny airplane, just a few months after the resumption of Philippine Airline flights  to Batanes. I was worried strong winds would prevent us from taking off in Manila, but the flight to Basco was uneventful.

The excitement won't let up when we landed. I've been quite to a few airports in the country, and the Basco airport has its own distinct charm.

The arrival area was abuzz with people, but civilians were there to greet and assist us. 

Relics of the not-too-distant past provided us a peek of how the Ivatans, the people of Batanes, lived.

We passed through a narrow, winding trail for our ride from the airport to our hotel, Fundacion Pacita, owned by one of the prominent families of Batanes. I'll write about the hotel grounds later. For this post I'll focus on our beautiful hotel rooms. 

We got the Mountain View Family Suite at Fundacion Pacita which has a private porch with swinging bench.

I love how the owners made sure there are plants all over the grounds, some with lovely blooms.

We had this picture-book pretty cerulean blue bench all to ourselves.

This is where we waited for the sun to rise.

Time to enter the suite.

This is where my friend slept. The suite featured two queen-sized bed.

We shared a toilet and bath. Note the wooden toilet seats.

This served as our informal dining table.

I spent two nights here on this bed.

I woke up to this awesome view.

Room 4, aka Terrace Suite Garden, was my favorite. I love the contrast between the salmon pink cabinet with the avocado walls.

I wanted to take these pillow cases home. Beautiful!

I love the attention to detail evident in the suites.

Wooden chairs in the same shade of blue in every suite.

I enjoyed my stay at Fundacion Pacita, the only drawback being the lack of TV or phone signal, but this is only minor for me. I could stay a week here, truly an escape from the madding world.

I'll post pictures of the our tour next.