Beyond the Crashing Waves: Island of Sabtang

Have you ever experienced catching your breath because you saw something that made your heart skip a beat? Scientifically, they call it premature ventricular contraction (PVC); some people call it palpitation; while others metaphorically call it falling in love. I am not exaggerating when I say that Sabtang made my heart skip a bit, the island really gave me PVC literally and figuratively. How many times? I lost count. IMG_3611 (2)Just the thought of this stunning scene – the beach in front of Chavayan Village, I’m catching my breath again. 

The second day of our Batanes exploration was focused on the very unpretentious yet magnificent island of Sabtang. Geographically, the island is located south of Batan and is just around 30-minute-boat ride from the latter. Excited for yet another remarkable journey, the four of us got up early and headed on to our service to Ivana Port where we would take the boat ride to Sabtang. IMG_3254 (2)While waiting for the boat to take us to Sabtang (l-r Hazel, Glaiza, Me and Joycee).

This article is part of a 3-blog story on our Batanes adventures. Please click on the link below for the first part.

Day 1: North Batan Tour 

Day 2: Sabtang Island Tour

Day 3: South Batan Tour IMG_3251Two large oceans split Batan and Sabtang islands – the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea (aka South China Sea) and this division also happens to be the place where the two met. So dear friends I was not overstating it when I said Sabtang made my heart skip a bit because even before I landed my feet on its land, my heart was literally having a drum roll on the boat ride crossing that path of wave collision. It was fun though, thanks to the spirit of my girls, we just resorted to shouting and enjoyed the frequent 40-degree turn of the fiber-glass boat where we were boarded as if we were riding the Anchor’s Away in a theme park.IMG_3259

The Sabtang Lighthouse

We were greeted by the Sabtang Lighthouse upon arrival as if congratulating us for making it in its territory in one piece. Part of the three lighthouses that were built in the early 2000’s accross Batanes (2 of which are in Batan – one in North and the other in South), the Sabtang Parola is founded on a privately owned land thus tourists can not get in the area. IMG_3284 The story of how the person was able to own the land is intriguing as he was alien to the land and was only able to acquire it at a drinking session with the Ivatans. Stories had it that the locals of Sabtang gathered together so that he could not do anything detrimental to the land. There is actually a law stating that no alien can own a land in Batanes unless he/she marries an Ivatan and even if the marraige gets nulled, the land will still remain a property of the latter. Batanes is part of the UNESCO’s Tentative List of nomination to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site which are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage.

Tubho Tea at Sabtang Tourism Office

We then proceeded to the tourism office of the island to register where local tea called Tubho was being offered for free- a very warm welcome effort indeed!

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IMG_3317A common scene on the roadside of Sabtang.

All set to our itinerary, we went to our first stop, the Morong Beach and there, I caught my breath once again because really who will not do when you see these?

The Morong Beach

Boy, the water was so clear with rock formations that seemed as if they were really positioned there complimented by blue skies adorned by cumulus clouds that just made it an almost perfect view! This is one of the beaches of Sabtang that is relatively calmer than the others. The kids in us fought the urge to jump at sea due to time constraint and just resorted to playing on the beach with the waves crashing on our feet.IMG_3361 (2)

The Nakabuang Arch

Also known as the Mahayaw Arch, this rock formation is naturally carved by geologic forces together with the sea. And like falling in love, it tickled the kid in me and had me imagine it as a castle of mermaids when it was still underwater or perhaps and more realistically, a home of corals and schools of fish as nice as the Tubbataha reef! Haha! This now serves as cooling shade of tourists and locals alike under the scorching sun. IMG_3396

The Traysekubo

Following the concept of the usual tricycle of the Philippines, the Traysekubo is the main mode of public transportation in Sabtang. Attached to a backbone motorcycle is a sidecar with cogon roof that looks like a kubo thus the name – Traysekubo. Okay, don’t blame me, this bike is not Suzuki. Haha! IMG_3408

The Savidug Village

Savidug is one of the villages that is still home to the very remarkable Vernacular Houses of Batanes. Trying not to mind the scorching heat of summer, we roamed around it freely with a can of coke in our hands. IMG_3445

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St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel IMG_3459

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The Vernacular Houses of Batanes

Vernacular architecture is a category of architecture based on local needs, construction materials and reflecting local traditions. It tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural, technological, economic, and historical context in which it exists. IMG_3460

The Stone Houses of Batanes are made of boulders and sea sand with cogon grass roof designed to withstand the varying weather of the province. We were lucky to do the tour with a local who just came back to relive Batanes again and she shared that in the past a family owned more than one stone house.

IMG_3453 (2)Yes, one family have three of this in their compound. 

Usually, a family would have a set of stone houses with three units, one holding the living room and dining areas, the next would be the bedroom or sleeping area and the third – the bathroom. Houses were designed that way for safety purposes against fire and natural calamities. IMG_3428

Having seen a lot of old houses made of adobe rock that are Spanish in nature, I never expected the houses to be neat looking. I was looking forward to see a line of houses with stones bejewelled with naturally formed moss and I was glad I was wrong. The houses looked as if they were new and they’ve been standing there for such a long time already! IMG_3437

Chamantad-Tinan Cove

A cove at the southernmost part of Sabtang is considered as the most scenic spot of the island and I can’t agree more. It is like the Vayang Rolling Hills stitched closer into the sea with a cove of white sand beach and sharp rocks. Getting lost in thought in this place is easy as it offers you a very serene feeling of just being there; just letting you be one with it; with the strong winds embracing you and yet taking all your worries at the same time.  And just like falling in love, it does teach you to appreciate the simple details of life and for once, you feel contented. IMG_3522

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Chavayan Village

I have come to appreciate a particular place because of its character, its history and its culture that are all dependent on the people that inhabit it and Chavayan through its simplicity exudes that spendid character that makes you come back to the days when life was just – yes, simple. IMG_3649

For someone as talkative as me, it’s very rare to become speechless but I was when I saw Chavayan and so let the following photos give you those words that I can’t seem to find to describe this gem. IMG_3689A row of stone houses in Chavayan

IMG_3669 Corals and sea sand glued together to form an Ivatan stone HouseIMG_3671 IMG_3683 Bicycles are everywhere in Sabtang IMG_3659

Since it is really difficult to bring food in Sabtang and Batanes as a whole, they even get their rice from mainland Luzon mind you; Ivatans have their way of preserving food. Above is a row of corn being dried. Below are Flying Fish marinated in salt and vinegar hung under the sun for a day which is also called as Dibang or day old fish.

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The Rosa de Lima ChapelIMG_3708

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Chavayan Drama Theater

I am actually surprised to see this! I wonder what they present in it and would love to see it myself! IMG_3658

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With that one short visit in Chavayan, we were reminded of how things were and how those things are still possible now. The power of how love can be maintained and how it can last forever, so yes forever is real.

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The Lunis (Batanes Adobo) and Turmeric Rice

The second meal that offered us a local Batanes food was served at a hut overlooking a beach where we had the Batanes version of adobo or Lunis and Turmeric Rice. Unlike the usual Filipino adobo, Lunis is a pork rendered in its own fat with only salt to add taste to it. Our hungry stomach did not complain with our plate carrying the right amount of sweetness, saltiness, a tang of ginger and the generous carbs that only rice can offer. IMG_3740

The sea was calmer on our voyage going back to Batan and the ride was smoother than the first one. I must say though that the boat was overloaded with over 90 passengers compared to its 80 capacity. Despite of being afraid and there went my PVC again, all passengers just came to an agreement to trust our boat operator because really trust is all part of the journey.

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The day tour in Sabtang was no joke, we immediately rested upon arriving in our room at around 3:00 PM and had that warm shower that we so deserved. I think I wasn’t able to mention, the winds in Sabtang were no joke, very few photos gave us good hair day shots, maybe none at all! Haha! But oh well, we invaded Sabtang so who cares?

So on to my palpitations, I don’t really mind having it again so as long as it’s because of an adventure as beautiful and exciting as Sabtang. Maybe I’ll have to pass on PVC because of love for the meantime. Haha!

The third day is all about South Batan!

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