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March 15, 2017

Sabtang Island, Batanes: Exploring the Best Heritage Island in the Philippines! (Photo Essay)


March 15, 2017

Sabtang Island, Batanes: Exploring the Best Heritage Island in the Philippines! (Photo Essay)

by Juanico Fernandez

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Vast green grasslands as far as your eyes can see, towering limestone cliffs, crystal clear waters, and beautiful landscapes that look out of this world. With access to all of these and more, it’s not hard to see why Batanes is on every Filipino's bucket list.

Sabtang Island is the southernmost municipality of Batanes and is the smallest of the three major islands, the others being Batan and Itbayat.

Bashi Eco-Tours & Adventure
Batanes, Batan - Sabtang - Itbayat
Mobile: +63 999 990-7547
Guide: Kuya Roger

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Sabtang Island is a well-know destination in Batanes, famous for its picturesque landscapes and breathtaking views. It’s also home to the most well-preserved villages and culture among the three inhabited islands.

 

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Just 25 mins. away from the main town of Basco, Ivana Port is the starting point for your unforgettable journey to Sabtang.

 

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Fare starts at P100 per person one way. It’s best to catch the first 7 am boat ride to Sabtang for a much smoother ride.

 

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To get to Sabtang, you first need to brave the rough waves in a faluwa,  a boat native to Batanes that is built without an outrigger or katig. It’s capable of riding the waves instead of going against them.

 

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It takes roughly around 30-45 mins. to get to Sabtang Port depending on the weather. It was particularly gloomy when we arrived, so the waves were calmer than usual.

 

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Just a few steps away from the port is the San Vicente Ferrer Church, a century-old church built by the Dominicans in 1785. Locally known as the Sabtang Church, it is now officially a National Historic Landmark.

 

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We requested for a local pick-up truck with cogon roof so we could enjoy the cool breeze and the amazing views. Before we embarked, we first had to pay a P200 environmental fee at the nearby Tourism office.

 

East Sabtang Tour

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The first stop in our East Sabtang Tour was the Savidug Village, a small barrio located beside a stony beach. It is one of the 26 Barangays in Batanes.

 

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Savidug is home to the Sinadumparan type of stone houses, one the three types of traditional houses in Batanes. Sinadumparan stone houses have two sloped cogon roofs and most of them have identical stone walls.

 

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Despite the meter-thick stone walls, some of these century-old houses were still no match for the super typhoon that ravaged Batanes a few years back.

 

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The sturdy stone walls provide shelter against strong winds and heavy rains that often hit the region, making the stone houses a perfect symbol and icon of the Ivatans.

 

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On our way to the next stop, we passed by what used to be one of the 17 ancient Idiangs scattered on the island.

Idiangs were ancient fortresses manned by a chieftain and its tribe to defend against invaders. They were only decommissioned when the Spanish came and encouraged the tribes to start a village or town.

 

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Riding at the back of the cogon-roof truck gave us a sense of adventure as we travelled along the winding roads and scenic views.

 

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Tricycles with the same cogon-roof designs are also available for rent for smaller groups who want a faster and cheaper way of touring the island.

 

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Past the fields and mountains, tourists will then be treated to a breathtaking view of Sabtang’s most incredible landscapes.

 

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The Chamantad-Tinan is a stopover and viewpoint for tourists, which showcases Sabtang’s very own rolling hills and rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

 

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Tourists can easily spend most of their time here taking pictures while enjoying the wallpaper-like views.

 

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Nature really knows how to show off!

 

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There is a small cluster of the shops by the road selling different kinds of souvenirs, food, and products.

 

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We also got to try some of their local root crops like the ube and kamote donuts, which were naturally sweet but not overly so like the ones you find in Manila.

 

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Another amazing landscape surprised us as we headed further down east to our next destination.

 

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The last stop in our East Sabtang Tour was Barrio Chavayan, another iconic place that is totally distinct from the rest of the island.

 

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Built inside a cove and surrounded by jagged mountains, this ancient fishing village is probably the most well-preserved village in the whole Batanes region.

 

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Famous for its rows of old stone houses, narrow streets, and not to mention having no signal at all, Chavayan village made us experience how it felt like living back in the old days.

 

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With no cell signal and commercial buildings, the quiet people of Chavayan live a very simple life.

 

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Another sight to behold in Chavayan is the only remaining Chapel with a cogon roof in Batanes.

 

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Chavayan is also home to the Sabtang Weavers Association, an organization of local women who weave the iconic vakul.

 

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Vakul is the Ivatans’ traditional headgear worn by women to protect themselves from the wind and rain. It takes roughly around three weeks to make a vakul and costs around P400 pesos each, but you can rent one for only P20.

 

West Sabtang Tour

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On the other side of Sabtang lies a more remote destination for tourists who simply want to enjoy nature at its finest.

 

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The ride to the west side of Sabtang is a treat in itself, with less uphill routes and more coastal roads.

 

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The coastline in this part of the island is lined with beaches and surrounded by turquoise waters on the right and green cliffs on the left side.

 

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Sadly, most of the beaches are rocky and are constantly battered by big waves, so tourists are advised not to swim.

 

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Luckily there is a sandy beach called Morong Beach where tourists can get up close and personal with the coast without getting their feet cut by the sharp rocks.

 

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Ahaw is a natural stone arch located in Morong Beach and is the most photographed spot in the West Sabtang Tour. Because of its sandy beach cove and calmer waves, the place is ideal for picnics and camping.

 

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Tourists can opt to have their lunch over at the Pananayan Canteen just beside Morong Beach.

 

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After the long day, we were treated to a sumptuous meal overlooking Morong Beach. Lunch meals cost P300 per head.

 

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Of course, we ordered fresh buko, which is what the island is also known for.

 

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After our lunch, we headed straight towards Sumnanga Barrio, a small fishing village located at the tip of the west cove.

 

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Mahi-mahi is a staple in this part of town. Hence you will see a bunch of them being dried under the sun for preservation purposes.

 

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The town itself is surprisingly small and extremely quiet, it almost feels like a ghost town. Our guide told us that the village folks were either busy working in their farmlands or out fishing.

 

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Overall, we loved our short but meaningful trip to Sabtang Island, which is why we think this is the best island in Batanes. Having been to all the three major islands, it felt like Sabtang was a balanced mix of Batan and Itbayat--simply the best of both worlds.

The Chavayan Village was our favorite area in the whole island; it made us feel like we were living in a different period.

Sadly, we only had half a day to tour the island, so we were in a hurry to do both the East and West Tours. Ideally, you need to at least stay overnight to do both tours, but we still enjoyed ours. The island is very accessible so a half day tour is completely doable. We just wish that they had more available boat trips in the afternoon for tourists to maximize their day.

Despite the gloomy weather, Sabtang still managed to win our hearts and captivate us with its charm. The friendly locals and rich culture were more than enough for us to label Sabtang as the best island in Batanes. The breathtaking views and magnificent landscapes were just the icing on top.

We highly recommend our guide, Kuya Roger from Bashi Tours. He was very knowledgeable and accommodating throughout our 6-day tour. There were no dull moments when we were with him, and it made our Batanes trip extra special.

Bashi Tours
Bashi Eco-Tours & Adventure
Batanes, Batan - Sabtang - Itbayat
Mobile: +63 999 990-7547
Guide: Kuya Roger


Live an Awesome Life,

Nico of Team Our Awesome Planet


Disclosure: We paid for our own tours and fees. Our flight to Batanes was a project sponsored by Philippine Airlines. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. 

P.S. Did you know that Batanes' Protected Landscapes and Seacapes are part of the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Checkout what's inside our Travelon backpack for survival tips on your Batanes adventure!

Basco, Batanes

  • Travelon bag to keep your valuables extra safe!
  • A lot of cash!
  • Water bottle
  • Sunblock and hat
  • Camera to capture the memories. 
  • Power bank
  • Insect repellant for those nasties!

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