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Batanes Islands - Philippines Travel Guide
The Philippines is blessed with over 7,000 islands, each offering a unique haven for local and foreign tourists to explore. One of such islands are the Batanes group of islands in the northernmost tip of the country. And who would even think that time would come when this remote islands constantly besieged by typhoons would attract popular interest among tourists?
Batanes towns are idyllic pictures where time seemed to have stopped. Of interest are Sabtang and Itbayat accessible by boat from the capital town of Basco. Sabtang is a 30-minute boat ride while Itbayat will take 4 hours. If you have extra cash, charter planes are found at Basco airport that will take you there in 30 minutes. If you do decide to take a rough sailing, brace yourselves because the Batanes seas can be very playful.
Reaching Sabtang or Itbayat, you will notice its rustic tone and will remind you of the panoramic sceneries you see in the movies and postcards. They are often compared to the Scottish Highlands or the Emerald Isle of Ireland. The lush hills, the steep cliffs, and magnificent rock formations surrounded by deep blue waters where the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet is truly breathtaking.
Another island is the Batan—a haven for hikers and adventure-seekers. Some of the places to visit are the “Marlboro Country”—a long stretch of hills for grazing farm animals, “Ghost Town”—ruins of houses destroyed by years of violent storms, and the “Radar Yuron”—an abandoned weather station on a hilltop that offers a magnificent 360-degree view of Batan, Mt. Iraya, the South China Sea and the Pacific.
Another curious aspect in Batanes is the discovery of ancient burial sites marked with stones laid down to the shape of the local boat, tataya. The first site was unearther in Ivuhos in 1994. Two of the burial sites found between 1995 and 1996 yielded skeletal remains of a juvenile and an adult.
Historically, the only known boat-shaped burial makers are the Vikings of the 8th to 12th centuries AD. Archeologists are yet to find connections between these two ancient burial traditions, but the similarity at the least suggests a parallel evolution of maritime societies.
The islands are also home to old churches worth visiting: the Santo Domingo Church in Basco, San Jose de Ivana and San Carlos Church in Mahatao, and the San Vicente Church in Sabtang. These churches are all made of massive lime and stone constructions with original baroque architectures.
Hobbyists also come to the islands for birdwatching during the months of September and October during which a host of migratory birds fly down through the islands from China.
Batanes is such a unique place that it has been declared a heritage site by UNESCO and therefore it us protected by strict provisions from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. No one is allowed to take from the islands plants, animals, shells, dead corrals, even colored rocks found on the beach without securing a permit from the DENR.