“Witnessing the spectacular landscape and seascape leaves profound effect on one’s psyche. Whenever we travel, I learned that it is not what you see outside that makes the difference, but how it makes you feel on the inside that matters most.”
Uplifted Coral Reef. Contrary to what few Filipinos usually know, Babuyan Island is not the Philippines’ northernmost town but the Itbayat Island. It is closer to Taiwan than Luzon. It is one of the 10 islands of Batanes and one of the 3 inhabited (Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang). With land area of 8,313 hectares, Itbayat is one of the largest uplifted coral island in the Pacific Ocean. A famous example of coral island is the Maldives.
Pray for the Good Wind. Out of the 7 days in Batanes, we spent one day in Itbayat island. We were supposed to travel to Itbayat on the later part of the tour but we took advantage of the good north wind to allow us safely to go up north. So, after the 1st day’s North Batan tour, the next morning 5:30am we boarded the vessel to Itbayat. You can also check the vids of our Batan Tour, Sabtang Tour and Batanes funshots..
Timing is Everything. Getting on board is a challenge, timing is important as you have to jump on board or jump out of the boat once the sea level aligns with the pier. Few people share stories of how the island people travel in the mercy of the sea and wind. When there is storm, the sea level would go way low that the boat disappears from sight. How are you supposed to ride the boat huh? Jump down 10 feet? No wonder even few Ivatans have not traveled to Itbayat yet because of the extreme sea travel experience.
- Agony in the Sea. Afraid for our lives, the boat ride from Batan island to Itbayat island was the longest 2-hour boat ride I ever had. Out there! in the open sea! Oh my! Whenever I think about the huge dark blue waves, it still scares me. I can still remember how the sea carried the boat high and low, right to left, left to right. Still makes me dizzy imagining it.
Important. Remember to take a dose of anti-nausea like Bonamine before the boat ride. Travel light and don’t take breakfast yet. Once aboard, the crew will hand plastic bags to passengers. There’s a 75% chance that you will use it when you vomit on every twist and turn. Trust me, you don’t want to meet your breakfast again once they are inside those plastic bags.
When Pacific Ocean meets West Philippine Sea. It was really tough faring the seas from Batan to Itbayat knowing that this is the point where the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) meets the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Ocean. And when two giant bodies of water collide, expect that all sort of s#%*! happens. Sea adventure with the mega waves; the answer is to lie down and sleep the nausea away. When you’re inside the boat, you’ll notice there are few areas to sit on and in the middle is a huge platform to lie down. Do what the locals do, lie down. In spite of all the agony in the sea, don’t be discouraged. Sure, you probably will develop thalassophobia but once you land to Itbayat island and explore its beauty, you will wish to stay longer. You will forget the seasickness, agony and all. We did. Plus, you can brag to your friends that you’re one of the few people who traveled to Itbayat by sea. Few have traveled to Batanes; fewer have traveled to Itbayat Island.
- Trek to Turungan Cave and Turungan Hills. “Sabi nila minor trek lang, malapit lang, pati-una pa ako nung simula…yun pala gagapang na ako pabalik”. When Ivatans tell you it is near, it is not the usual “200-to-300-meters-near” that we know. To the Ivatans, “near” means “1-to-2-kilometers-near”. Blaming my self, I am not used to long strenuous walk and never hiked for the longest time, but you know, the trek felt so difficult that it felt good and makes me proud of myself. More than that, the reward is to experience going inside this megalithic Turungan cave with enormous stalactites and stalagmites. We have to take great care climbing down and up the rocks to make sure we return in one piece. So there’s fear, there’s amazement, there’s hesitance. We just moved and followed Kuya Pepe, our guide’s instructions. The Turungan Cave is believed to be the most ancient dwelling place in Batanes.
The Turungan Hills is an awesome area where stone boat-shaped burial markers are found and believed to be the burial ground of the ancient settlers. Standing on the viewing deck, you can view the southern sea and the Dinem island on the horizon. On clear days, the island of Batan is visible too.
- Simple Culture Nestled Within Spectacular Landscapes and Seascapes. In Itbayat, everything is extreme. Extreme weather, extreme wind, extreme land forms and sea forms. In contrast, life is simple and expect that only the basic and important things reach the island. Don’t expect to find soda or junk foods in the local store. If you are thirsty, sure there’s water and if you’re hungry, sure there are crackers and biscuits, but don’t expect more. No wonder the Itbayat people are healthy , they focus on what’s important and necessary only. Also, electric supply in the whole island shuts down at 12am and resumes the next day 6am so charge your gadgets and batteries accordingly.
- The Ivatans are honest, hardworking and independent people. Their life is simple yet rich in culture and values. I have high regard for them and I am happy to have known them as fellow Filipino. I would like to thank Nanay Canao and Kuya Pepe for taking care of us while we were in the Itbayat island. Thank you for your hospitality, kindness and sharing your time with us. Mabuhay po kayo!
Keep safe in your travels. God bless! – K