How I Travelled Solo in Batanes for 5 Days with Only ₱8,000 Budget

Contributed by Inspiring Grateful Travels

I have been solo travelling to Asian countries since 2014, and it never entered my mind to travel solo in my own country because I usually prefer to travel with my family or friends. Until now. Until Batanes. What a first! What an amazing first! I will definitely go back!

Also read: Filipinos’ Guide to Travelling Solo for the First Time

I want to go back right now.

No words.

BATANES was a blessing. It was so amazing. Beautiful!

What an amazingtacularisticzingnesswowza experience.

Like I said, no words to clearly explain what I felt about Batanes.

DIOS MAMAJES, BATANES! I am truly grateful.

FYI: This post is a bit long as I summarised everything all in one write up. I hope you enjoy my experiences and pictures (Some taken by me, new people I met, and tour guides). I learned a lot from this trip and I hope you have grateful realisations of your own through my Batanes experience.

Flight to Batanes

Arrival in Batanes through SKYJET!

Your BATANES dream trip, will it be cheap or expensive?

It all boils down to the price of your flight.

I always wondered why roundtrip airfares for Batanes are more expensive than other Asian flights. Whenever I would try to play around booking dates through SKYJET or PAL, the cost would always be ₱10,000 or higher.

 After reading a lot of information online, I would always ask why is the average cost around ₱8,000 to ₱18,000 for a an hour flight?

After being in Batanes for 5 days and talking to a few people about it, I understood why. They are trying to control the number of tourists that come in and out of Batanes. Food, electricity, and water are hard to replenish and there are barely enough home stays or hotels that can accommodate a number of tourists.

Given what happened to Boracay and other popular tourist sites in the Philippines, I am sure that the Batanes government and its people are trying its best to maintain the Batanes beauty and culture by controlling tourists. After being there, I can’t imagine hotels popping up from left to right just to accommodate a booming number of tourists.

I was lucky enough to get my roundtrip flight for ₱564+. People I met in Batanes were surprised and teased me for it actually.

So how did I do it?

When I saw the SKYJET announcement last August 2015 for a ₱988+ Batanes sale, I tried my luck. When I checked the website, there were no ₱988+ prices popping up, only ₱3,000+ above. I even read comments on FB that they could not find seat sales either but I still tried.

From my special techniques in Cebu Pacific Piso Sales, I didn’t give up. They don’t show all seat sales all at once, you have to keep on refreshing and the number of persons booking should only be 1. If you are travelling with someone, have him or her book in another device. I kept on refreshing booking dates that I was available until the prices change. After 10 minutes, I was lucky enough to get 5 days, 4 nights with a ₱88+ price per way. I booked it immediately.

Also read: 8 Tricks to Successfully Grab Cheap Promo Flights in the Philippines

I am very grateful for this flight because given the blessing of a low price, the perks are great too! All seats on the plane have LEG ROOM! More than enough LEG ROOM! They also have snacks (ensaymada and water). The seat is comfy and the flight takes 1 hour and 10 minutes only. This is MORE than what I get from my more expensive Cebu Pacific or Air Asia flights.

Just some tips

  1. When there is a seat sale, keep refreshing. Do not give up! And be grateful that you’re going to get that seat sale. Those low costs will come up!
  2. Be sure that cheap seats will pop up during lean months (July to October). I was very lucky that during my time in Batanes (September 2015), there was no typhoon, it did not rain that much, everything was green and the weather was perfectly hot. And there were a few tourists only! We were able to enjoy the tourist sites all to ourselves! (Pwede mag drama at mag soul searching!)
  3. When going to Batanes, ask for A/B/C seats so you can see a good view of Batan Island. When going back to Manila, request for D/E/F seats to say your heartbreaking goodbyes to Batanes.

If I get the chance to book another ₱564+ flight, I will definitely go back with my mom and if luckier, with my sisters.

Accommodation: Marfel’s Lodge

Outside Marfel’s Lodge Extension

When reading Batanes travel blogs, you’ll always find Marfel’s Lodge as a popular accommodation. It is very cheap and it is very homey. I availed a fan room for ₱400 per night. It was very simple. I had a bed, cabinet, small table with drawer, and a fan. They also provide you with toilet paper and a towel. FYI, they do have air conditioned rooms for ₱1,000 per night. The bathrooms are shared. For the showers, there is a tabo and bucket so you can do it Ice Bucket Challenge style. There is also a shower but it takes time for the heater to take into effect.

My room at Marfel’s Lodge Extension

Marfel’s Lodge has 4 home stays in Basco. I only got to visit 3 – The Annex, where my new friends stayed at, The Extension, where I stayed at, and The Original, where we helped some tour mates get to after dinner. The Extension was a minute walk from the airport while the Annex was around a 10 to 15 minutes walk.

Common Room at Marfel’s Lodge Extension

They have free water. You can freely cook in their kitchen and use the refrigerator. There is also a small honesty store where you can buy snacks and drinks. You just have to list down the item in a notebook and put your payment in a small container.

The place was great because you can freely talk to the staff and guests at the living room. Everyone is very nice and accommodating. Jim and Jayann (Extension staff) were always there to answer my queries.

I met the very popular owner, Ate Fe, twice. She was always praised in travel blogs. When I met her, I already felt the motherly vibe from her. She was thankful that I chose her home stay as my accommodation in Batanes.

Marfel’s Lodge Annex! This is the lawn where we star gazed at night!

During my last night in Batanes, I stayed with my new friends at The Annex for our last bonding time. Ate Susan (Annex staff) provided us with a mat to spread out on the big lawn so we can watch the stars. This was so exciting! As we were lying on the mat and seeing a good number of stars, we requested if the bright lights of the house can be turned off. When Ate Susan turned off the house lights and the STREET LIGHT (Yes she turned off that too!) THE VIEW WAS AMAZING! When the lights were turned off, I felt like the whole night sky turned on its stars! Amazing feeling! Grateful feeling!

After a few minutes, we asked Ate Susan to turn on the street light because it was really dark on the road and it might be too dangerous for some of the motorists. Even if the street light was on, the night sky view was still amazing. Ate Fe, who was on her daily night checks per home stay, was surprised to see the house lights off. Nag-s-star gazing pala daw kami. She stayed with us for a while to talk about her family and Batanes tourism.

I really recommend this accommodation. The staff and owner are very nice and accommodating! And you can do star gazing freely! Amazing stay! Thank you, Marfel’s Lodge!

For inquiries:
Website – marfellodgebatanes.com
Contact # – 0908-893-1475
Email – [email protected]

Exploring Batanes

A stone house in Batan Island

We went to different tourist sites of two Batanes Islands – BATAN and SABTANG. Sites below are arranged alphabetically per island for easy reference. I’ll just be providing short descriptions for some sites as you can find history and other information online and other sections of this post is already long.

In some of the sites I will be showing a collage of when my Lola was in Batanes in 1995, that was 20 years ago (I miss you, Lola). Seeing the pictures, you can somehow see that it is still the same. No commercial establishments, same view, and same vibe. Kudos to Batanes for keeping its natural beauty the way it should be.

Batan Island tour sites

1. Alapad Hills and Rock Formation (South Batan)

Sea view at “I-Dawn Zulueta mo ako” Hill

This is where the Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta Movie happened! THIS IS MY FAVOURITE. The view was just so amazing. If I could camp out at the hill, I definitely would.

Alapad Rock Formation

2. Basco Cathedral (North Batan)

3. Basco Town (North Batan)

We visited an art gallery here and the famous Abad Street where all supplies can be bought.

Art by Ivatans
Batanes Magnets at the Art Gallery

4. Blank Book Archive (South Batan)

Writing some messages at the Blank Book Archive

This place is really interesting. It is a library full of blank books where anyone can write anything they want. What I did was reply to a message someone wrote and I myself wrote a message to someone and wrote my number. Let’s see what happens.

5. Blow Ur Horn (South Batan)

Blow UR Horn sign at Cliff Roads

6. Boulder Beach in Chanpan Valugan (North Batan)

Lola and her friends at Boulder Beach. 1995 & 2015 shot.
Walking through steady rocks at Boulder Beach

7. Chawa Viewing Deck (South Batan)

Do you see her?
Where the cliffs meet the water. Breathtaking!

8. Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge (North Batan)

Most expensive hotel in Batanes! ₱7,000 to ₱10,000 per night!

9. Honesty Coffee Shop (South Batan)

Outside the Honesty Coffee Shop being honest

I really admire the Ivatans for coming up with this. Growing up in Manila and living in our metropolitan world right now, I sometimes lose hope in the Filipino culture but coming to Batanes and seeing establishments like these give me hope. May chance pa ang mga Pilipino. So this shop is a store where no one is manning. You just choose items which you want to buy, list that item, and drop off your payment in a box.

10. Mahatao Boat and Shelter Port (South Batan)

Fishing Boats at Mahatao Port

11. Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse (South Batan)

Wow! Amazing lighthouse view!
Sea of green

12. Marlboro Hills ‘Racuh A Payaman‘ (South Batan)

Sea view at Marlboro Hills

13. Mt. Carmel Chapel (North Batan)

Famous chapel for Batanes weddings
Imagine looking at that view before and after getting married at Mr Carmel Chapel

14. Naidi Hills Lighthouse (North Batan)

Lighthouse at Naidi Hills
Sunset View at Naidi Hills

15. Spanish Lagoon and White Beach (South Batan)

Lola at the Spanish Lagoon. 1995 & 2015 shot.
Favourite – Spanish Blue Lagoon!

16. Vayang Rolling Hills (North Batan)

New Zealand? NOPE.
No words for this view. Spectacular!
Best spot at Vayang Rolling Hills

17. WWII Japanese Tunnel and Hideout (North Batan)

Outside the Japanese Tunnel
Inside the Tunnel. Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider Feels

Sabtang Island tour sites

1. Ahaw and Morong Beach

Beautiful, beautiful morong beach!

Tip: Do an overnight stay in Sabtang because a half day tour isn’t enough. I was really sad that I didn’t get to enjoy Morong Beach. We had to leave immediately because the boat ride back to Batan had an earlier departure. This beach was so beautiful.

Limestone Arc at Morong Beach
Sun kissed at Morong Beach

2. Brgy. Chavayan Stone Houses

Wearing Vakul at the Chavayan Stone houses
Sabtang Weavers at Brgy. Chavayan

3. Brgy. Savidug Stone Houses

Savidug Stone Houses. 1995 & 2015 shot.
Old Beaterio House near Savidug Stone Houses

Also read: Classic Ivatan Houses You Must Visit in Batanes, Philippines

4. Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint

“Middle Earth” of Batanes! Amazing, amazing view!

Walk to Greatness
I can stay and watch this view all day!
Middle earth” at Sabtang Island

Faluwa boat ride

Port at Batan Island

After reading lots of blogs, I was kind of scared about this. A 30 minute ride on rough seas? People vomiting a lot? Mahiluhin pa naman ako. But lucky for me, the sea was bearable. The waves were not that strong and I was able to get off the boat, motion sickness free. I still drank Bonamine though just to be sure. But it was a great ride overall.

White Beach near Sabtang Port

Bisumi Tours and Services

I explored the Batan and Sabtang Island tour sites mentioned above through the travel package from BISUMI Tours and Services. Please see tours, itineraries, and prices as follows:

BISUMI Travel Package

Listing of sites is according to tour itinerary

North Batan Island (12:00NN to 6:00PM) – Lunch– Mt Carmel Church

– PAGASA Tukon Radar Station

– View of Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge

– WWII Japanese Hideout/Tunnel

– Boulder Beach in Chanpan

– Basco Town Tour (Art Gallery & Abad Street)

– Basco Cathedral

– Vayang Rolling Hills

– Sunset Viewing at Lighthouse in Naidi Hills

₱1,000
South Batan Island (9:30AM to 5:00PM) – Cliff Roads– Chawa Viewing Deck

– Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

– Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse

– Spanish Lagoon and White Beach

– Lunch

– San Carlos Borromeo Church

– Blank Book Archive

– Honesty Store

– Alapad Hills and Rock Formation

– Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Hills)

₱2,000
Sabtang Island Tour (6:00AM to 2:00PM) – Cliff Roads– Faluwa Boat Ride

– Ahaw (Natural Limestone Arc Formation)

– Morong Beach

– Brgy. Savidug Stone Houses

– Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint

– Brgy. Chavayan Stone Houses

– Sabtang Weavers Association

– Lunch

– Faluwa Boat Ride

– Bisumi Souvenir Shop

₱2,000
Includes:– Tour Guide/Photographer/Historian 😉

– Air conditioned Van Transfers

– P100 worth of items at BISUMI Souvenir Shop

– All Fees/Permits

– Pick up/Drop off at Accommodation

I learned about this travel agency through popular travel bloggers like The Poor Traveler, Pinoy Adventurista and Travel Junkie among others which had relatively good reviews.

As much as I wanted to save on costs and do a DIY, I was a solo traveller and I wanted to meet new people. BISUMI offered shared tours with a guide. For DIY, it would just be me and the tricycle driver dropping me off at the tourist sites, I wouldn’t expect him to say much about the place or take my pictures because all I am paying for is the transportation. With a shared tour, I am sure that I would have company to take my pictures, have great conversations with and that I would learn more about the culture from the guide.

Hazel, Sherly & Nicole! Really sweet girls I met from BISUMI tours 😉

If you’re going to read lots of Batanes tour travel blogs, I am sure that you will always stumble upon these: Ryan Cardona and BISUMI. BISUMI (named after 6 municipalities in Batanes) is a popular travel agency in Batanes that offers affordable shared tour packages. This agency is owned by Sir Ryan. To be honest, when I availed the tours, I really expected him to be our guide. After all his praise online, I really wanted to learn a lot from him – his story, his success, and his way of guiding us in Batanes.

After the 3 day tour, visiting the BISUMI office for payment and going to the BISUMI souvenir shop twice, I didn’t get to meet him. But things do happen when you least expect them to, I got to meet him at the Basco Airport! When I saw him, I approached him and thanked him for the tour. We chatted a bit and we went our separate ways for pre departure process. He was really nice and handsome! HAHA! Surprisingly, we were seated on the same row for our flight to Manila. I was so happy because I knew I was going to take the chance and ask him questions. We talked about our tour and how it went, how he started as a tour guide, Batanes culture, BISUMI, his family and others.

With Sir Ryan at NAIA 4!

This is very interesting and refreshing. Aside from owning BISUMI tours and services, he also opened a Souvenir Shop and I asked him how he came up with it. He said that during his tours, he would always bring souvenir items that are used as prizes. He would ask questions after the tours to see if his guests pay attention to what he says. He said that more than the majestic views of Batanes, he wants his tourists to learn and be knowledgeable on the Ivatan history and culture. He wants to add meaning to his tours. He wants to show what kind of people the Ivatans really are.

And that there is an example of HEART and PASSION for what you do! We need to add PURPOSE in everything that we do!

Love! Love structure outside San Carlos Borromeo Church

For the past few years of travelling, I notice people who just take pictures of tourist sites and go. Some do not even try to get to know what they are taking a picture of which is really sad to see. When travelling, let us try to be grateful for their culture and appreciate their beauty. Just my two cents, we should travel to learn, not to post pictures on our social media sites.

The most important thing that I should share about our conversation is this,

I asked him: Given all your success/achievements so far, what advice could you give in general?

He said a lot so here are some key takeaways:

#1 is to stay humble. Always be thankful for the past because without the past, we cannot reach where we are now. We are not in the present that we are currently meant to be in if not for the journey we took to get there. Be grounded and always be a man of value.

#2 is to yearn for growth. In our lives, we are always met with that decision to stay or move on. If you feel that you have accomplished more than enough in a certain chapter, it’s time to challenge yourself to take the next step. Always grab any opportunity to grow.

Thank you Sir Ryan for our conversation and I wish you all the best!

So since it wasn’t Sir Ryan who guided our tours, here are reviews of our tour guides:

Kuya IAN – He was our guide for the North Batan Island tour. Kuya Ian is very reserved and quiet. He simply introduces tourist sites and takes our pictures when we ask him to. He has a lot of input when we ask him questions. He told a lot of interesting stories too about past tours and upcoming ones. For me, he lacked energy, spirit and I felt that at some tourist spots, he showed that he was in a hurry to go to the next one. I felt like he didn’t let us take our time except for the last site (Sunset viewing at the Naidi Lighthouse). Overall, Kuya Ian was very nice and he answered our questions well. I liked some of the pictures he took too.

Kuya Ian taking pictures at Vayang Rolling Hills and telling us Batanes stories at the Naidi Lighthouse

At the end of the 3 day tour, I didn’t mind that we didn’t get to have Sir Ryan as our tour guide. This is solely because of Kuya ART. He was our tour guide for South Batan and Sabtang Island. I advise you 120% sure, request for KUYA ART when you avail BISUMI tours and you will not regret it! He is amazing PROMISE. He will make your Batanes experience truly worthwhile. I’ve been on a lot of shared tours with guides (both in the Philippines and abroad) and it’s very rare that I see a guide with a lot of passion. I saw this in Kuya Art. He had high energy, high spirit, and full of passion.

Kuya Art, You’re the best! Thank you for our worthwhile and engaging Batanes experience!

Alam mo yung PUSO? Mararamdaman mo talaga na may PUSO siya sa ginagawa niya. As extravagant as the views of the tourist sites were, Kuya Art made it more amazing than it should be. He explained well, he answered all our questions and he really added value to the tours.

He allowed us to take our time in each tourist site. He helped us all the way and was very accommodating. He always asks if we were okay especially after the tiring hikes. He takes good pictures as well (Favourite niya, Panorama). He knows where the picturesque spots in each location are and he even suggests, directs poses for you. He learned from past tours and he said that he is still learning. He takes his time taking pictures for each person of the tour group not missing out on anyone ever. Hindi siya napapagod kahit sobrang init na! All out pa rin siya sa pag picture! He makes sure that there is no dead air, in the van or at the tourist sites. He made us laugh a lot. He has a lot of energy, a lot of spirit, a lot to tell, and most importantly, a lot of heart.

For inquiries:

Ryan Cardona – 0919-279-5963; [email protected], www.bisumitours.com

Walking shot!

Food and pasalubong

1. Bisumi Souvenir Shop

As part of the BISUMI package tour, we are entitled to ₱100 worth of items in this shop. You can buy shirts here at ₱250 and even buy personalised shirts which can be done in 10 minutes. There are normal cotton shirts and dri-fit shirts. From all the food products I bought, I loved the Gabi and Kamote chips! They were light and sweet. You can also buy Bukayo, Turmeric products, Carrot Cookies and Peanut Bars, among others.

2. Casa Napoli

Pizza, Chicken & Spaghetti at Casa Napoli

You have to take a tricycle to get here or a bike if you’re fit. This is not in the Basco town proper. We ordered cheese pizza, spaghetti and chicken with fried sweet potatoes (Imagine MOJOS but made of KAMOTE). Food here was just normal for me, nothing really special.

3. Jino’s Pizza

After our North Batan Tour, most of us were encouraged to eat here. This is owned by an Ivatan woman and her Italian/French (I’m not sure) husband. The pizza was really good! Thin crust and very tasty! This place is near the Naidi Lighthouse.

4. Octagon

This restaurant is a two-minute walk from Marfel’s Lodge Annex. Its view is the Batanes black sand beach and sea.

5. Private Ivatan House

Ivatan Food

To start off our North Batan tour, we ate Ivatan food at this private house. They served the food inside what looked like Banana leaves? This was Ivatan cuisine. I liked the Turmeric rice. It was really yummy. I was not too fond of the Uvud Balls but the rest were okay.

6. Paulvana’s Canteen

Lunch at Paulvana’s Canteen

We had our lunch here during our South Batan tour. From all the lunches during our shared tours, this was my favourite! Everything was so good and refillable! I really loved the Kamote fries.

Free day

Sunrise at PAGASA Radar Station

If you have a free day to give, I suggest that you go back to your favourite places during your shared tours if you availed any.

For my last free day, we woke up at 4:30 AM and took a tricycle ride to PAGASA station. We watched the sunrise there. And the view was just so amazing. The weather plus the view was really magical. We just stayed there, talked, and enjoyed the view until 8:00 AM.

From 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM, we went to the Spanish Lagoon and White Beach. We just waded our feet in the water and enjoyed the great view.

Clear Blue Water at Spanish Lagoon
White Beach near the Spanish Lagoon

After that we went back to the BISUMI Souvenir shop to buy more pasalubong and spent some time with Kuya Art and Ate Cris. After, we explored Abad Street and bought a few items for lunch. Thank you Nicole and Sherly for the lunch! After lunch, we rested for a bit. At 4:30, we were supposed to go back to Vayang Rolling Hills for my final sunset but it rained. So we just went to the Basco Viewing Deck and Casa Napoli.

View of Basco Beach from Basco Viewing Deck

I ended my last night in Batanes at Marfel’s Lodge Annex for some amazing STAR GAZING.

If you’re not on van tours, getting around is fairly easy. You can contact BATODA (Official Tricycle Group in Basco) and they can just pick you up and drop you off wherever, whenever. Just ask your accommodation for the contact. Uphill roads cost more and there is a maximum rider of 3 people per tricycle. Our tricycle driver during our free day around Batan was Kuya DALE, contact him at 0929-341-0941.

Good company

For all the people I’ve met, cheers to more travels!

Availing BISUMI tours was one of the best things I did in Batanes because this is where I met the coolest people. I shared laughs and conversations mostly with 3 girls (Sherly, Hazel & Nicole). They have been officemates for about 6-7 years already. They were really cool and very sweet. Even though the 3 knew each other and knowing I was a solo traveller, they didn’t make me feel out of place and really welcomed me. They shared their respective stories and travel experiences which I really learned a lot from. I am very grateful for the bond that we shared and I don’t think my Batanes experience would have been of value and worthwhile as it was without them.

We met a lot of people along the way whether at tourist sites or at an accommodation or wherever. Everyone was so nice, funny, and friendly. The Ivatan vibe of all smiles and friendliness really catches on to its tourists. What they say really is true, Arrive in Batanes as a Tourist, Leave as a Friend.

More Batan Island Views!

You know me, I always ask questions that engage some lessons. So here are just some of the things I learned from all the people I met in Batanes:

  1. Before starting a relationship, love yourself first. You have to be grounded, confident, and strong.
  2. Do things that interest you. Do not compromise your ME time to satisfy others’ whims.
  3. Keep travelling! As much as worrying about the future is important, we also need to reward ourselves from time to time.
  4. Be thankful for the simple things. Happiness can be found in the simplest of things. As they say, simple is best.
  5. At work, do not be afraid to take vacation leaves. Your overall rating should not be based on attendance. If you know you’re a hard worker and you can produce quality results, you deserve some time off.
  6. Keep learning. Gawin lahat ng may PUSO.
Because simple is best

Batanes

All I can say is when you see her, you’ll fall in love.

When you leave her, she’ll break your heart.

I am very grateful for the money that I paid for these amazing travel blessings:
Skyjet Flight (Includes NAIA 4 Terminal Fee of ₱200) ₱564.80
Bisumi Travel Package (North Batan, South Batan and Sabtang Island) ₱5,000
Basco Airport Terminal Fee ₱100
Accommodation at Marfel’s Lodge (4 nights) ₱1,600
Food

Tricycle Rides

Pasalubong

Others

₱1,000+
Estimated Total ₱8,300

 

Also read: Why You Should Go and Visit Batanes Now

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