Batanes, comprising 10 islands in the Luzon Strait in the north of the Philippines between Luzon and Taiwan, beckons local and foreign tourists anytime of the year
The island province, the country’s smallest, in terms of population and land area, is the only province in the Philippines which experiences four seasons: autumn from September to November; winter from December to February; spring from March to May; and summer from June to August.
The other provinces enjoy only two seasons: rainy, from June to October; and dry, from November to May.
Tourism officials say Batanes, which they describe as “home of the winds” considering it is swept luxuriously by the winds, is the “purest cultural destination” in this Southeast Asian archipelago, both for local and foreign tourists.
Its isolation from the rest of the islands of the country has enabled Batanes, 669 kms by air from Manila, or one hour and 17 minutes by airplane, to develop its own culture.
The island group is 162 km north of the country’s main island of Luzon and 190 kms south of Taiwan, separated from the Babuyan Islands of Cagayan Province in Luzon, by the Balintang Channel and from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel.
The Ivatans, the people who live in three of the 10 islands, are known for their frugality and humane lifestyle, according to tourism officials – traits validated by recent visitors from Region 2 to which Batanes belongs, the other provinces being Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in the fertile and lush Cagayan Valley.
The provincial capital is Basco on Batan Island and the only other inhabited islands are Itbayat and Sabtang.
The northernmost island of the province, making it the northernmost in the Philippines, is Mavudis (Y'ami) Island. Other islands in the chain are Misanga, Siayan, Ivuhos, and Dequey.
Batan, the seat of the provincial government, is where Mount Iraya is and has on its plate the Valugan Boulder Beach, known for its weathered rocks and pebbles skirting the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Itbayat is the home of the volcanoes considered by officials as the foundation of the island: Mount Riposed, which has a panoramic view of Itbayat and Mount Korobanan.
It is also here where the Nahili do Votox – an ancient settlement with boat-shaped burial markers, similar to those sites for the Vikings in Europe – is found.
The third inhabited island, Sabtang, was declared in 1994 by the Dept. of Tourism, as one of the 12 Best Destinations in the Philippines.
Its shores boasts white sand beaches as well as rock formations while a natural coral condition is found in the island’s Duvek Bay.
Ivatans, who have been observed by visitors to be trustworthy, polite and peace-loving, take understandable pride in the landscape of their province, what tourists can experience here and the food tourism officials in the region say which makes up “delectable dishes (which) are definitely worth every cent.”
Officials say the location of Batanes, where the Pacific Ocean meets the China Sea, explains the teeming marine life of the islands.
Officials tell tourists and other visitors a Batanes sojourn would not be complete without tasting the local cuisines, which include fresh lobsters, coconut crabs, the Ivatan cuisine which includes “uvod” made of mixed deboned fish and core of banana and steamed with local herbs, yellow rice cooked with yellow ginger, and “dibang” or flying fish.
Some, who had previously visited the province from the other parts of the country, have described the group of islands as a “photographer’s heaven” – given the pleasant locals to traditional stone houses to the panorama of landscapes and seascapes “which try to tease the lenses of cameras.”
Batanes also takes pride in its steepes, cliffs, hedgerows and terrains of what some have described as an island paradise which can be experienced in bicycles -- one of the basic means of transport here -- which can take a visitor to different breathtaking sights.
One tourism official has said there is a new kind of fun, excitement and relaxation in Batanes, where time seems to stand still any time of the year. (Simeon Dilan/PNA)