The Rugged Beauty of Itbayat, Batanes

The Rugged Beauty of Itbayat, Batanes

Few months before our Batanes trip, my delusional friend aka Tahimik Na Manlalakbay has been telling me that we should explore the northernmost, UNinhabited island of Batanes, which is Mavudis. We had 10N/11D to spend in Batanes, we had plenty of time. But as much as I love off the beaten paths, I would never brave the crashing waves of Pacific ocean and China sea on a small boat just to camp in an uninhabited island. But somehow, my friend has a death wish so I drafted an itinerary and researched the “how to get there” details of Mavudis Island. Fortunately, the cost to go there is out of our budget so we decided to content ourselves with the northernmost INhabited island of Batanes instead, which is Itbayat. Some would skip traveling to this part of Batanes because its way too far and the waves are deadly. I was never worried however, about the waves. What concerned me most is getting on and off the boat at Itbayat port. I’ve watched youtube videos, I read blog post after blog post to prepare myself for what’s coming. But nothing could have ever prepared me for what I experienced during our travel to see the rugged beauty of Itbayat. This is the island of the extremes.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

First off, I was wrong not to be worried about the waves. I know that there will be big waves but I thought it was something that I can handle. I never thought it was as crazy as what we experienced, I swear it was like a movie scene. The waves are enormous! That’s the reason why their boats called “Faluwa” have no outriggers, so it can ride the big waves. You can’t even stand to puke because the boat is rocking so hard. You just have to sit beside the railings and puke to your heart’s content for almost 3 hours. It’s not just us by the way, even the local passengers are throwing up. I even remembered our boat stopping for about 30 minutes in the middle of the ocean to help out another smaller boat. The waves got worst because we were pulling another boat. I can still remember that miserable feeling of forcing yourself not to puke but everyone is doing exactly the opposite, so might as well stop trying and just join the club.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

I was still throwing up when they finally anchored our boat, I gathered myself quickly because I was eager to finally be on land. But unfortunately for me, Im on a Faluwa and I’m in Itbayat port. There is no docking area in this part of the world, we have to jump off from the boat to the port so we can carry on with our lives. I was nervous but I’m confident that I can jump off the boat just fine. The craziest part was the jumping back up on the boat on our way back. You see, I cant jump high enough. Once you jump up, two crews on the boat will pull you up to help you get on the boat. When I jumped, they took hold of my arms and tried to pull me up but they had a really hard time pulling me up because well, I’m heavy. So, I ended up hanging on the side of the boat for awhile screaming to let me go back down, but they can’t or else I will fall. Another crew eventually helped and they were able to pull me up and everyone tried to ask me if I was okay. I rushed inside the boat, hoping that the sea will swallow me whole because I was too embarrassed for myself.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

Despite all my hellish Faluwa experience though, the Ivatans (natives of Batanes) are the kindest and the warmest people I have ever met. The boat crew were so kind and helpful to us. They will help you in every little way they can. And it’s not the kind of help that boat crews give to the passengers. No, its the kind of help and kindness that you would expect from a friend. Like holding and tying your hair up while you puke, or holding down the back of your shirt while you bend over the railings, or holding you steady because of the rocky boat, or letting a child unrelated to them, take a nap in their arms because of a drained energy from puking and because the child’s mother is also busy throwing up. Seriously, despite our misery, watching the kindness of these strangers still warmed our heart. It’s the craziest boat ride I ever had, I tell you. We even swore that we will never go back to Itbayat ever again until they start chartering a flight from Basco to Itbayat. There was actually one previously but it was no longer operational when we were there last year.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

When I think about Itbayat now however, I’m starting to think twice about what I said, about not coming back unless there’s no available flight. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m willing to go through all that hellish Faluwa ride again just to spend a few days in Itbayat again. I don’t know, maybe I’m just saying this because I terribly miss Batanes, Itbayat most especially but you can’t really blame me because the beauty of this place is something that will tug at your heartstrings. It’s something that no photos no matter how beautiful can do justice to. It’s something that cant be told about or cant be appreciated merely through photos or words. It’s something that can only be felt when you’re actually there, living like a local. When I say Itbayat is so beautiful, I do not just refer to the beauty of Itbayat as a place, I’m talking about how beautiful life is in Itbayat.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

Maybe because it’s so remote and so far from the metro cities, you will be forced to live with the bare necessities which in result forces you to see and appreciate the beauty of life. No cellphone signals, no cars, no loud music, no computers or gadgets. Literally nothing. Children actually go to the park, climb trees and play. The town is so small, and everybody knows everyone. When we came back to Basco from Itbayat, Basco actually felt like a city because Itbayat was so remote and isolated. This island is said to be closer to Taiwan than to the mainland Philippines. The supplies in this island like rice, food and drinking water, etc. are still all shipped from the main island of Batanes which is Basco. This is the reason why the prices of the goods here are slightly higher but still reasonable and cheap.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

Garlic is the main produce of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

We stayed at the most beautiful vernacular hut which I dearly loved and which I still dream of up to this day. It felt like we were in Greece, it’s almost empty except for our beds with mosquito nets. It has a huge window with a rocking chair where we usually sit and watch the whole town come to life. The church bells would wake us up at 5 am and we would watch the church goers clad in their white dress or shirts slowly make their way to the church which is just two houses away from us.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

rugged beauty of Itbayat

In the afternoon, we would watch the children play in the park and we would admire them when they stop in the middle of their games whenever an elderly would pass by to give their respect, by doing the “mano” gesture which is common to the Filipino culture. We also met the kindest strangers in this town. It still warms my heart when I recall those encounters with “Ate Magdalena” and “Kuya Jojo” whom we met in different occasions but who turned out to be cousins and who treated us like family. I don’t know how many times I have said this by now, but Ivatans are just the nicest, most genuine, kind and generous people I have ever encountered. So when you visit Batanes, please don’t skip Itbayat. Stay there for a couple of nights and experience living like a local. I promise you, its an experience like no other.

rugged beauty of Itbayat

You might also want to check out other tips and stories that I wrote about Batanes here.

Share

Leave First Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Leave a Reply

I’d love to connect with you
Stay in touch

%d bloggers like this: