We love to share the beauty of Batanes with everyone because it is truly one-of-a-kind. When Batanes opens once again, we're positive that it will regain the spirit of hospitality in the islands. Nathaniel's Lodge is hopeful that everything will be back to normal that's why we've compiled a list of things we'd tell any Batanes traveler to make your trip worthwhile.
1. Get off the Beaten Track
Batanes offers a standard itinerary for tourists to make your trips hassle-free. It does cover a lot of must-see places in Batanes but it won't hurt to add a day or two in your vacation to visit less-frequented places or do other activities.
Our top suggestion is to brave a 4-hour boat ride to visit Itbayat island, the northernmost inhabited island in the Philippines. What makes this island charming is its remoteness which truly gives you a glimpse of the Ivatan way of life. Other than that, there are also unique geographical formations in Itbayat that can only be seen there like the Torongan Cave, Rapang Cliffs, and the Stone Bell.
If you do not have enough time in your hands to visit a different island, you can also try hiking at Mt. Iraya, Mt. Matarem, or our ancient hilltop fortress called Idjangs. All of them can be found in Batan Island. Of course, pre-planning is needed for a hiking activity like securing a permit at the local DENR office and booking an accredited guide but having an overlooking view of the island all to yourself is a rewarding and unique experience.
2. Savor Ivatan Cuisine
In every travel, trying local delicacies is a must-do. Batanes cuisine is not as popular as other provinces but what makes it special is its fresh and organic goodness. Since Batanes is far from the mainland, locals rely on agriculture and fishing for their daily consumption. Although the transportation of ingredients is easier compared to before, these skills are still passed on which is why Ivatans still know how to provide food on their plates. This ensures that every food served is a nutritious meal.
Ivatan food is also a celebration of camaraderie. The best example is a vunung (pictured above) — in every communal activity or event, townsfolk gather round to prepare the ingredients of every meal. Food wrapped in kabaya leaves are distributed to the people afterward and people can eat together while merrymaking and socializing.
To eat an Ivatan dish is not only to taste the flavors but also to taste the hard work and the bayanihan of the locals in preparing every dish.
If you are looking for restaurants that offer Ivatan cuisine, we recommend Beehan, Ulaks Grill, and Pension Ivatan which is just a walking distance away from Nathaniel's Lodge.
3. Immerse in Ivatan Culture
If you look closely, Batanes is rich in preserved culture and history. The province of Batanes can be considered a living museum in itself! You can still see well-maintained and habited stone houses scattered in the islands.
Batanes also has a good share of traditions that still exist up to this day. Yaru, or communal labor is still participated by different generations of Ivatans. A good example of this is changing the cogon roof of the stone houses. We also have fishing rituals to ensure good catch and gain the favor of the añitu (spirits).
Despite the modern advances that reach the islands, Ivatans have a strong sense of cultural awareness which strengthened our heritage.
4. Appreciate the Batanes Art Scene
Without a doubt, the beauty of Batanes inspired a lot of Ivatan artists. Unknownst to many, Ivatans are very artistic and they made the islands their very own muse. Most of the local artists feature Ivatan living or the islands' landscapes in their works.
There are several art galleries in Batanes that feature their works like Galerie du Tulaan and the Raywen Hamyan Gallery so do drop by in your free time. But the artworks are not exclusive to the galleries, you can find artworks of Ivatan artists all over the islands! Upon arrival, you can already see murals at the airport, there are also benches in the Basco Plaza that was decorated by Ivatan artists featuring their unique styles. You can even spot some masterfully-made paintings at Nathaniel's Lodge. Indeed, art is everywhere in Batanes.
5. Make friends with Ivatans
Ivatans are very warm and friendly. Past travelers can attest to the kind nature of our locals. That being said, there's no reason not to make friends with the community whether it be your tour guide, hotel staff, or other Ivatans. There's no better way to know about the place by talking and socializing with the locals, right? To help you get started, here are 5 essential Ivatan phrases you can use to strike a conversation. Who knows? Maybe you can start a budding friendship in the north!
6. Support Local Businesses
The rise of tourism in Batanes opened a lot of business and employment opportunities in the province. Only Ivatans are allowed to own a business in Batanes which solidifies the fact that the revenue is given back to the community.
Not only will the business owners benefit, their employee, and their service providers suppliers as well. This will create a ripple effect on the economy of the province. To learn more about how you can support local businesses, you can read our blog post here.
7. Travel Responsibly
There's a lot of ways on how to become a responsible traveler but the most important thing to remember is to do something that will benefit the culture, the environment, and the community. It seems like a complex topic and a big responsibility but little steps can go a long way whether it be minimizing waste or conserving resources. Remember that the island is not just a place where people come and go, there are also people living there. So before leaving the islands after an exciting Batanes trip, also leave a positive impact so we can all preserve the unique beauty of Batanes.
Of course, this does not only apply to Batanes. If ever you find yourself traveling again, we wish that you apply some ethics when visiting a place.
Visiting Batanes is definitely exciting. Our goal is not just to showcase the picture-perfect sites to our visitors but to create holistic and meaningful experiences so you can see the real beauty of Batanes.