Pull-out time from Novita House was scheduled at 6am, but when the 3.5 of us got there at 5:45am, we found everybody else not ready to go. Some of them have just woken up, some of them were just taking a bath or brushing their teeth. Needless to say, we pulled out of Novita House at 7am. Our tour guide, Ate Remy, kept saying we needed to go and kept talking to someone on the phone – someone who was in the boat at the port in Ivana, saying that we were on our way and that they should wait for us.
Our driver drove really fast, as fast as one can drive through the winding roads of Batanes, from Basco all the way to Ivana. When we got there, we found the other passengers looking at us warily. We made them wait for us for more or less an hour.
I read other blogs about other travelers being late and being left behind by the boat and I feel very fortunate that ours did not leave without us.
Our faluwa (boats without outrigger) was piloted by a very adept man wearing a BCTA tshirt and our boat was very spacious, as there were only our group and a handful of other tourists. The ride from the port of Ivana to the San Vicente port in Sabtang took less than the average 45 minutes because the sea was wonderfully and surprisingly calm. I fell asleep! We were very fortunate to have had really good weather during our entire trip to Batanes.
We were in Sabtang fifteen minutes before eight in the morning and boy, was the sun bright and scorching hot!
We were picked up at the port by our jeepney and brought to the Municipal Tourism Information Center to register (P100 each)
While everyone else went up the building, Lia and I stayed in the jeepney and took photos of whatever was close.
Sabtang is a 6th class municipality in the province of Batanes and has a population of 1,465 as of the 2007 census. It is the only town in Batanes that has preserved the traditional Ivatan stone houses. It is politically subdivided into six (6) barangays: Chavayan, Malakdang, Nakanmuan, Savidug, Sinakan and Sumnanga.
In Sabtang, a school building and a heritage building, which used to be the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War, are being used to accommodate some of the province’s guests.
I could not leave Lia alone in the jeep but could not take her either so I was not able to take a photo of the San Vicente Ferrer church.
After completing registration, we proceeded with getting to know the island.
SAVIDUG VERNACULAR HOUSES
Only about three kilometers from town center, this village abounds in traditional houses. According to the provincial government website, Savidug is where the endangered black-faced spoonbill was sighted years ago, the number of the bird worldwide is not more than 2000.
The beautifully preserved village of Savidug still has its traditional lime and stone houses with roofs made of cogon grass. These stone houses are built and designed to withstand typhoons. The houses are designed in a way that one house has the living and sleeping area, another adjacent house has the kitchen and still in another, the bathroom. This is most evident in the stone houses that are no longer inhabited and one can see through the ruins of the house its general lay-out.
Because the members of our group were not interested in the idjang, the Savidug Idjang was also bypassed. Ate Remy, our tour guide, said it was near the traditional lime kilns.
TRADITIONAL LIME KILNS
We stopped by this vast field to look at the traditional lime kilns. It was very windy so we had some fun taking photos.
CHAMANTAD-TINYAN SITIO VIEWS
A most spectacular place to find oneself in, this place was absolutely (and literally, as it was very very windy) breathtaking. It wasn’t just the view, it was also the grandeur of it all. This was definitely a favorite.
Getting the view of the beautiful beach below the cliffs requires going down the steep hill from where the road and arch is, then going up another steep hill and then going down another hill. (Well, isn’t it always that way? *winks*)
We stayed longer than we expected here despite the scorching sun.
CHAVAYAN TRADITIONAL IVATAN VILLAGE
On our way to Chavayan, we were greeted by this stunning view. This was not included in our itinerary but we simply had to ask our jeepney driver, who was very hesitant to do so by they way, to stop so we could take photos.
Chavayan is probably the most pictured village in the entire province. The entire village of Chavayan consists of old well-preserved Ivatan houses neatly huddled against the foot of a majestic mountain.
If your schedule allows it, find a way that you stay overnight in Chavayan. They say the waves lull you to sleep here, and since there is no cellphone signal, there will not be much to distract you with. According to the provincial government’s website, the best place to stay is at Harold Gabotero’s house.
We spent quite a considerable amount of time in this village, which has been nominated as a UNESCO site.
While in Chavayan, we made our contribution to the local economy by buying the famous traditional headgear for women called Vakul from the local women’s cooperative, which produces the item.
A group of local women gather daily in the shop, located just in front of Harold Gabotero’s house, to produce the Vakul. We got the regular sized Vacul for P500 and it now hangs in our living room, and bought little versions of it too to give to friends. Our friend Maya also bought a pair of beautiful sandals that we were told was waterproof.
“Vakul” is a headgear made out of Philippine Date Palm or Voyavoy leaves which is used to protect the Ivatans from rain, wind and sun. Vakuls are worn by women whereas the “Talugongs” are worn by Ivatan men.
The Chavayan church is the only remaining church in Batanes roofed with cogon grass and is ten meters away from the beach. It stands on the “other end” of the village and has towering cliffs over it.
We were hungry by the time we were done buying all kinds of souvenirs and going around the little village many times.
LUNCH BY THE PORT
We took the road back to Sinakan to have lunch by the port. Lunch there was at P300 per person but it was totally worth it! I had thought of requesting to have our lunch by the beach but was told by our very kind tour guide that she wanted the other caterer to have some business as she has not had one yet that time. (There are only two caterers on Sabtang, one at the port and the other at the beach.)
Lunch by the port was not bad! The place was homey and windy. Our little toddler fell asleep on the trip back to the port and we were able to make a space for her on the bed in the hut right next to where we were having lunch.
NAKABUANG BEACH AND NAKABUANG ARCH
The group wanted to swim at the beach and we were told we could do that at Nakabuang. However, we wanted to be able to get on a faluwa back to Batan by three in the afternoon. The jeepney ride from port to beach was about twenty minutes. We left the port at one and we only had enough time at the beach to take photos.
The swimming would have to be done at some other beach at some other time.
We went back to the port and made it on time. While we were there waiting, it started raining. The rain fell really hard for a few minutes but stopped by the time we were in the faluwa and headed back to Batan. The ride back was still uneventful though slower than our trip that morning. We all fell asleep. It was a wonderful, beautiful day indeed.