Bowing to the weather in Batanes

As soon as we drove off in the jeep from the Ivana port, the thunderstorm that the weather websites were predicting finally arrived. The weather effectively killed off any plans for more sightseeing around Batan island. That and the queasy feeling we got from riding the boat from Sabtang.

The weather in Batanes is pretty hard to predict, owing largely to its remote location. It can be raining pretty heavily in Manila, but it’d be bright and sunny in Batanes. The typhoon that was ravaging the rest of the country that weekend was already on its way out when it entered the Philippine area of responsibility for the second time. It was too far to affect Batanes with heavy rains, but it still made an impact with the strong winds that blew through the town.
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Sabtang Adventure

We woke up early the following day for our trip to Sabtang. Tita Remy has arranged for the jeep to pick us up at Novita house at 5:30 am, for the ride to the Ivana port, where we would ride a faluwa to Sabtang. At 5:20am, the jeep was waiting outside the gate. Because there aren’t that many people in Batanes, public transport aren’t as regular as it is in Manila, so we either take this jeep to Ivana, or wait until several hours later for the next one.

The streets of Batan island were dark, specially in areas where there aren’t any houses. Road improvement were ongoing, and the roadworks were marked by lanterns strewn along the cordons that line the pavement. Soon we were rewarded with a gorgeous pink sky that marks the start of a new day. This beautiful sunrise raised our spirits, taking it as a sign that we’re going to have another sunny day in Batanes.
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Exploring Batan Island

We made our way out of the Dornier 328, eager to set foot in Basco. We marveled at the fine weather, a stark contrast to the thunderstorms has forecasted. The sun was shining brightly and the sky a beautiful shade of blue, dotted with white fluffy clouds. We went through the small terminal building, which looked more like a resort villa than an airport.

There we met with Tita Remy, the caretaker of Novita House, our home for the next four days. The province of Batanes is a protected zone, and each tourist are required to pay environmental protection fees as they arrive and depart in Basco. The fee upon arrival is Php 50, while the fee when you leave is Php15. Up until recently, flights to Basco are few and far between, so locals who are flying in from Manila usually bring home a lot of goods for resale or for the family’s own stock (much like Filipinos flying to the US with balikbayan boxes full of Lucky Me instant pancit canton and Purefoods corned beef). Unloading the baggages took longer than usual, which is pretty absurd considering that it’s a pretty small aircraft. Soon enough our bags are out and we made our way to Novita House.
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Flying in to Batanes

The flight out of Manila was scheduled for 5:50am. I still had work Friday night, so I was hurriedly finishing work-related things online. To my surprise, most of my travel buddies are also online on Plurk, which of course, made it hard for me to concentrate on my writing! Flying at 5:50 am, meant having to be at the airport before 4:50am, which in turn meant leaving the house at 3am. Rather than to sleep and risk oversleeping and missing the flight, Eric, Gail and Melo opted to pull an all nighter.

My travel buddies
My favorite travel buddies: Dino, Marc, Eric, Melo, Gail and Karla

What I love about early morning flights is the traffic-less EDSA. Living in the north, travel time to the airport during rush hour can be terribly time consuming — it can take from one to two hours to get from my house in Quezon City to one of the airports in ParaƱaque City. Before the traffic starts, travel time can be cut to almost 30 minutes.

Using the old domestic terminal can usually be an ordeal: it’s too small, too cramped and too many people are using it. Thanks to the opening of the new NAIA Terminal 3, the number of passengers using the old domestic terminal has significantly gone down. Now, only two commercial airlines use the old terminal, one of which is Seair.

Manila Domestic Airport

The pre-departure lounge was almost empty — a world of difference from the last time we used the terminal last June, when it was packed to the seams. We sat down, chatting amongst ourselves to pass the time while waiting for the flight to be called. The clock ticked past 5:50 am, and still no call. Soon enough, there was an announcement: flight DG601 bound for Basco was delayed. We were dismayed, but the announcement didn’t really come as a shock; for days we’ve been monitoring the weather in Batanes, and it was anything but sunny. We thought of possible places we can go instead, if flying to Basco wasn’t feasible. Melo wasn’t hearing any of it, and went to inquire among the ground staff. It seems the flight was only delayed because the airport office in Basco only opens at 6 o’clock in the morning. The people in Manila have to confer with its Basco counterparts before allowing the plane to fly.

My first views of Batanes and our landing at the Basco airport

Soon enough Seair flight DG601 was called — but for Boracay! It was an honest mistake on the part of the announcer, but it was indeed for the flight to Basco, Batanes. Within minutes we were onboard the Dornier 328 plane. It was my first time to fly north, and it was interesting to see how different the view from the plane was from all the flights I’ve taken going south. After reading through two Inflight magazines, the fasten seatbelt sign flashed — we are on the final descent to Basco. I eagerly looked out the window to see mountainous islands, the green stretching as far as the eye can see. I can see small roads hugging the sides of the mountain, small communities, and even smaller patches of beaches. We’re in Batanes!

Batanes: Where Jesus is Lord!
Welcome to Batanes, where Jesus is Lord!

A huge thanks goes out Seair, who provided our transport to Batanes. A shout out also goes out for Mr. Patrick, Seair’s VP for Marketing, and his assistant, Leo for making this possible. Thanks guys!

Travel Expenses: Batanes 2008

Hola! I’m back from Batanes. I’ve yet to finish working on my photos for posting, so I’ll start off with our travel budget. Predictably, the most expensive part of Batanes travel is the airfare. Good thing Seair helped us out in that one! It also helped that we were traveling as a group — big expenses like vehicle rentals and accommodation are divided 7 ways! This is definitely the cheapest trip I’ve had this year.
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