Time seemingly stands still in this part of Batanes. Untouched by modernization, Sabtang has kept its rustic charm making it all the more a perfect place for an escape from the busy urban life.
Compared to Batan (where Basco is), Sabtang immerses you with the feel of old Batanes – complete with stone houses and cogon roofings. But going to Sabtang and coming back from the island, is not for the fainthearted because of the dreaded faluwa ride. Before even flying to Batanes, I’ve been going through a good number of travel blogs and other online related articles to prepare and psych myself up. But you will soon realize that the boat trip, no matter how daunting, is well worth it.
So, best to get your lenses and phone cameras ready because Batanes is so picturesque! And in my case, I also have my Transitions EXTRActive Adaptive Lenses with me to shield my eyes during my trip to Sabtang.
Seeing spectacular Sabtang
We were brought to Port of Ivana where the faluwa boats are docked. This is where our travel to Sabtang begins.
Dubbed as a “hellish ride”, you will soon learn to have a love-hate relationship with this 40 minute boat trip. You see, a faluwa doesn’t have outriggers for the simple reason that it will only be challenged by the ferocious waves. I kid you not when I say “ferocious”. According to Ivan and Edgar who both have been to Batanes numerous times already, riding the faluwa and crossing the rough waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China and the Pacific Ocean) is not something one easily gets used to. Traversing it is literally like riding a roller coaster. In fact, the boatmen will tell you right off the bat if it is safe to travel to Sabtang or not as they already know the temperament of this part of the sea.
As advised, my husband and I popped a pill to counter motion sickness. But to our surprise, the sea was unusually calm throughout the duration of the trip to Sabtang. Ivan and Edgar were just as equally surprised, too! Very very rarely does this ever happen. I was delighted in a way because of it, but disappointed at the same time because I somehow wanted to go through the so called “hellish” ride since I didn’t know when I will ever be back in Sabtang, let alone Batanes. But nonetheless, it was an awesome experience riding the faluwa.
A round trip transfer per person is Php150. Before boarding, you will be given your own life vests.
- Get the earliest trip
- Take the front seat
- Look away
- For safety, take Bonamine or other meds meant to counter motion sickness
Here are the places you should look forward to seeing when in Sabtang.
If Batan has Honesty Cafe, Sabtang has a Conscience Cafe.
This cafe is managed by Rev. Fr. Danny Cruz who used to teach at Poveda. Just like the Honesty Cafe, the Conscience Cafe has no one manning the establishment. Just get the item you wish to purchase and drop your payment.
And every time you buy from the Conscience Cafe, you help a student go to college.
We even saw a cute trike with cogon roofing fronting the school when we were having our quick coffee break! Cute!
Even under the shade, looking into sunny areas, the lenses of Transitions XTRActive maintain darkness to provide comfort for added protection.
Within the same area, you will also see the Tourism Office. This is where you register and pay the required Environmental Fee.
Moving on… We headed to Chavayan. A small village in Sabtang with narrow streets and stone houses as old as 100 years.
Unlike Batan, in Sabtang you will see more of what I call “miniature” Ivatan stone houses with cogon roofing. These structures are made with stone to withstand the typhoons that often hit Batanes.
Considering that I only stand a mere 5’3”, I amusingly feel quite tall when standing or walking by the short doors of these stone-houses. They’re just about my height!
The weather during our visit to Sabtang was just perfect. Not too sunny and not too windy at all. And because I was using my Transitions XTRActive Adaptive Lenses, my eyes were perfectly protected from the UV Rays and glare of the sun outdoors, making me enjoy the view even more.
The photochromic technology that Transitions Lenses use allows the lens to adapt to varying light intensity levels right away or when moving between environments.
We also saw a sweet and accommodating Ivatan lady! She patiently waited (with a beautiful smile) until we finished taking her pics. She caught my heart!
You can also have your photo taken using the vakul and kanayi for a mere Php 20.00.
Vakul is a traditional all-weather headgear worn by women to protect them from sun and rain made from shredded dwarf palm leaves. I felt like singing Livin’ La Vida Loca(L)!
The Kanayi (vest) on the other hand is worn by men.
Morong Beach (Nakabuang Arch)
Morong Beach and the Nakabuang Arch are synonymous to one another. The Nakabuang Arch is a natural formation that has become popular to tourists visiting Sabtang.
When we were at Morong Beach, it was nothing but clear skies and sunshine! The beach is perfect for those who want to while away the hours or simply lay back on the sand and just watch time go by.
Before reaching this area, you will have to drive along narrow coastal roads then walk up to reach the hills. This viewpoint will provide another “WOW!” moment as you take in the majestic view while hearing the waves from Chamantad Cove.
Bring out your camera again because you’ll be doing a lot of snapping in between oohs and ahhs as you behold this magnificent sight!
This is also a nice spot for those who want to simply “take 5” and bask in the sun with a freshly opened coconut in hand which can easily be bought at the store nearby. They also sell some delicious Kamote Chips which everyone enjoyed munching on.
This is the first church you will see once you arrive at the Port of Sabtang . San Vicente Ferrer Church was originally built by the Dominicans as a small chapel in 1785, but in 1844, another church was built made from stones and lime.
In 2008, the National Historical Institute declared the church, convent and the site of the beaterio as a “National Historical Landmark”. This century-old church is dedicated to (you guessed it!) San Vicente Ferrer.
Sta. Rosa de Lima Chapel
This pretty chapel which can be found in Chavayan Village is the only remaining church in Sabtang Island. It was declared as one of the 12 best places to visit in the Philippines in 1994. And now, I can fully understand why it is so. I reveled in its rich culture and was in awe of its captivating beauty!
‘Twas a peaceful weekend getaway in harmony with nature. Truly, the hills are alive in Batanes! I imagine Julie Andrews would sing her heart out just like in the “Sound of Music” once she sees breathtaking Batanes. I hope this is the first of many visits for me.
I’ve got the sun on my face, the wind on my back and Transitions XTRActive Adaptive Lenses to help me appreciate this beautiful province in the best light! What more could I ask for? Thank you Batanes, you were breathtaking!
I just have to warn those who are active online and love to engage in social media… Cellphone/data signal is extremely spotty to non-existent in Batanes. If you are the type of person who loves posting real time (like me), this will prove to be quite a challenge. But hey, disconnecting temporarily from the online world never hurt anybody, right? Think of it as a much needed “retreat” and you won’t feel so bad.
How To Get There:
SkyJet Airlines flies from Manila Domestic Airport (NAIA Terminal 4) 4x a week (M-W-F-Sun) from Manila to Basco Batanes. Other destinations are: Busuanga (Coron) and Caticlan (Boracay)
Twitter and Instagram: skyjetairlines