Batan. Batanes Group of Islands (Part 2 of 2)

If the sites in North Batan are amazingly beautiful, South Batan is equally breath-taking. The island is both a natural and cultural jewel.

An Ivatan Greeting
An Ivatan Greeting

South Batan Tour includes visits to old Ivatan stone houses, a couple of old Spanish churches, viewing decks for natural sights, a vast green pasture and undulating hills, a shelter port and an honesty coffee shop.

The South Batan Tour started at around 9am, leaving Basco town proper taking the national highway to the town of Mahatao. Mahatao is about 4.5kms south west of Basco. Before reaching the town, there are several stops that include

Paderes Point and Cliff Road

A stunning view of Mt. Iraya and the waves approaching the shorelines of Basco
A stunning view of Mt. Iraya and the waves approaching the shorelines of Basco

Chawa Viewing Deck

A common road sign on Batan Island. This one is near the Chawa Viewing Deck
A common road sign on Batan Island. This one is near the Chawa Viewing Deck

Where the sea meets the rock cliff is truly amazing. From the Chawa Viewing Deck

Where the sea meets the rock cliff is truly amazing. From the Chawa Viewing Deck

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

The Boat Shelter Port was built to protect the falowa (boat) from the destructive waves
The Boat Shelter Port was built to protect the falowa (boat) from the destructive waves

Viewing the port from the cliff road makes one think that it resembles a marina yacht club. The motorized boats have no outriggers, and they are designed to adjust to the direction of the waves. Boats in the shelter port found peace because of flat water. Outside the seclusion, one can hear the angry sound of the crashing waves. From this port, we headed down to the town proper of Mahatao.

Bikes placed orderly near the Mahatao Church
Bikes placed orderly near the Mahatao Church

San Carlos de Borromeo Church or the Mahatao Church is a cultural treasure in Batan Island. This present structure is made of stone and lime with a Baroque-styled interior. The earliest known version of the church was in 1787.  A stronger and much better church was built 86 years after. It had a fair share of Philippine history, having mentioned as being ransacked by the Katipuneros in 1898 where some valuable parts of the holy icons were stolen.

Rock Formation near Mahatao
Rock Formation near Mahatao
Old Spanish bridge of Ivana
Old Spanish bridge of Ivana

We head on to the town of San Jose de Ivana or simply Ivana. We passed by an old Spanish bridge made of stone and lime and which is parallel to the concrete bridge. The old stone bridge is still in use today.

House of Dakay
House of Dakay

We stopped at the House of Dakay. This is a must visit place to take pictures of the finest example of an Ivatan stone house. This was built in the 1700’s and may be one of the oldest functioning stone house in Batanes.  It is said that the house of Dakay is the most photographed house in Batanes as well.

House of Dakay. Made of stones and lime. Cogon-roofed.
House of Dakay. Made of stones and lime. Cogon-roofed.
San Jose de Ivana Church
San Jose de Ivana Church

The Church of Ivana is an imposing structure as it sits on a hill in front of the port which is a jump-off point to Sabtang Island. San Jose de Ivana Church is centuries-old and is said to be one of the best preserved churches not only in Batanes but in the region.

Honesty Coffee Shop
Honesty Coffee Shop

A few steps from the church is the famous Honesty Coffee Shop. Crime rate in the island is very low. This concept shop of the Gabilo couple is unique because it is banking on the honesty of the customers. There are no store attendants, only a basket jar and a box where one puts the money equivalent to the total amount of what he or she gets from the display.

Food items, beverages and souvenir items are on display. If you visit the Honesty Coffee Shop, try to check if some Pan de Coco are on display. It’s one of the best we tasted.

Eerie testament to a village engulfed by a tsunami
Eerie testament to a village engulfed by a tsunami

The ruins of Songsong. Clusters of old stone houses, abandoned and left in ruins. Songsong was hit by a tidal wave in the 1950s and has become a ghost village since. Songsong is located in Chapidan Bay halfway between Uyugan and Itbud.

Ivatan Stone House
Ivatan Stone House

A new village near the ruins has some stone houses as well.

Hihintayin Kita sa Langit
Hihintayin Kita sa Langit

Alapad Hill and Rock Formation. Most tour guides will mention about a 1991 Carlos Siguion-Reyna movie which is an adaptation of an Emily Bronte classic novel, Wuthering Heights. The movie was starring Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta and yes, it is titled Hihintayin Kita sa Langit.

A road runs through it. Alapat Hill and Rock Formation
A road runs through it. Alapat Hill and Rock Formation

Some scenes from the movie were taken at the Alapad Hill. The spot is amazing. The winding road cuts through the awesome rock formation. Rock cliffs vis-a-vis grassland facing the sea and its crashing waves.

Lunch near Marlboro Hills
Lunch near Marlboro Hills

From the scenic hill, we head up north and had our lunch at a rustic shack near Racuh a Payaman. I remember the huge lapulapu fish salad that was prepared, as well as some vegetable dishes.

View from the Shack
View from the Shack

The shack has a great view of Racuh a Payaman.

A view from Racuh a Payaman
A view from Racuh a Payaman

Hedgerows dividing fields of green grass. Wind blowing and howling as the lush greens bow and bend with it. The vast pasture facing Mt. Iraya and the Pacific ocean, it is truly postcard-perfect.

Rock formations, cliffs, edges of hills, greens and rolling fields of amorseco
Rock formations, cliffs, edges of hills, greens and rolling fields of amorseco

Racuh a Payaman is said to be a public yet protected piece of land. It is that part of Batan Island where most visitors get one of the best frame or composition for a photograph.

A lovely sight to behold
A lovely sight to behold

Racuh a Payaman is what they called as Marlboro Hills or Marlboro Country. Several wild cattle and goats graze on the land. It has a western ranch or cowboy country feel to it just by simply staring at its awesomeness.

Marlboro Hills. Marlboro Country. Racuh a Payaman
Marlboro Hills. Marlboro Country. Racuh a Payaman

From the hills of Marlboro, we moved on to Diura and visited the old fishing village. We head back up, westward and visited the lighthouse. From here, the view was breath-taking.

Mahatao Light house near the fishing village of Diura
Mahatao Light house near the fishing village of Diura
A view such as this can't be found anywhere else in the country
A view such as this can’t be found anywhere else in the country

We stayed for a while and marveled at the beauty that unfolded in front of us. This side of the island is so beautiful.

A view of Mt. Iraya and the eastern coastline of Batan Island.
A view of Mt. Iraya and the eastern coastline of Batan Island.

The tour van took us back to Mahatao, turning right at the highway junction back to the town of Basco. Reaching Mahatao, we have ‘circumnavigate’ the southern part of Batan Island, completing our tour of the culturally and visually rich island that is Batan.

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