Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 3-2 : Itbayat Native Village

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Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 3-2 :  Itbayat Native Village
Riding into the sunset at Valanga Port, Itbayat.
Batanes Islands - Day 3 : 16th March 2015
Trio Ride : No Cycling, boat trip from Batan to Itbayat and then
a motor-cycle & motor-tricycle tour of Itbayat (Santa Rosa>Torongan Caves>Yauran Native Village>Lake Kavaywan>Itbayat Airport>Valance Port>Paggaraman Port>Santa Rosa.)
Distance: Boat Trip- approx 45km.;  Itbayat Motor Tour- 17.36km.  
Time : Boat Trip - 6:10am to 9:00am; Itbayat Tour - 9:30am to 5:35pm
Time Taken : Boat Trip - 2hrs. 50mins; Itbayat Tour - 8hra 5mins. (including hikes to Torongan Caves, visiting native village & ports).

Route Recommendations :
1. The boat trip from Batan to Itbayat takes about three to hours on a calm sea. During rough seas it could take more than that. There is a daily boat between the islands, but the schedule boat trip may be cancelled if whether is bad/stormy. The fare one way is 450PHP
2. The boats (called Faluwas) does not provide much seating and be prepared to sit/lie on the floor mats provided.
3. Take sea-sick tablets if one is prone to sea-sickness.
4. Itbayat Island is the largest of the Batanes islands, the island is very hilly. We did not cycle here but I have included a route map for those keen to cycle there. Much of the roads are gravel or laterite tracks, so be prepared with suitable tires.
5. Points of interest that should not be missed includes:
    - Torongan Caves (some hiking required).
    - Yauran Native Village, see life of the original natives of the Philippines.
    - seaports (view the steep ramp access and the sunsets).
    - Itbayat has the most remnants of Spanish culture & architecture and has many stone houses with thatch roofs for which Batanes is renown for.
    - stopping to interact with the locals, they are really warm and helpful.
6. Electricity supply for the island is cut from midnight to 6:00am.
This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

Large cavern of the Torongan Caves.
In the morning, the faluwa boats had taken us from Batan to Itbayat where we had then checked into Cano's Lodge, our stay for the night at the island. Soon after breakfast we left on the motor-bikes to the Torongan Caves where we trekked down to view the caves.
We are back in Cano's Lodge for lunch, and will continue to view south Itbayat after that.


Motor Tour Route : Santa Rosa>Torongan Caves>Yauran Native Village>Lake Kavaywan>Itbayat Airport>Valance Port>Pangaraman Port>Santa Rosa.
We decided not to take our bicycles along and went on a motor-tour of Itbayat. In the morning we explored the central area of the island before heading for the south after lunch.

Lunch finished and stomachs happy, we are hitting the road again, heading south to take a look at the Yauran native village and after that a couple of ports there.
Siew Yung is riding pillion with our guide Jason; she getting used to it and Jason is proving to be a good guide, knowing the routes well. Ong and me are in the motor-tryicycle, alternating between riding pillion and sitting in the cab.

Once out of the towns, most of the roads are untarred usually of laterite or gravel construction.

The loose gravel roads are tough on the tricycle engine; at steeper slopes as the vehicle roaringly strained to go up, the rider will shout "Lean forward, lean forward!" to shift the centre of gravity forward to ease the strain on the engines. Rider, pillion and cab passenger will all lean forward; we took to crouching/squatting on the floor as it was easier than sitting and leaning forward. We must have looked funny to the locals; the above photo is a enactment of how we did it.... funny yah?
After a while, it became natural to us, without any shout from the rider, we automatically leaned and crouched as we approached steep slopes.

Within twenty minutes we were at Yauran where the houses were nestled at the hillside and valleys. It is a village of natives descended from the earliest inhabitants of the Batanes. Even at present, they still live in an almost similar manner as their ancestors.

A typical native house consist of thatch walls and roofs. The thatch are made from dried coconut leaves almost similar to attap except that attap is made from nipah palms of the mangrove swamps. The enclosed section are the bedrooms (one or two). Cooking and eating is carried on outside. A wooden sled dragged by a carabao is the means of transporting goods.
The architecture design of these houses pre-dates those of the Spanish-era stone houses as the aborigines has been around even before then.

The oldest residents here are octogenarians, still walking around bare-footed.
Many believe that these natives are linked with the Yami, in fact they speak a tongue closer to Yami language.

The children run around happily, their toys being anything they could grab, sticks stones, etc. They were most glad to see us, strangers who were a distraction from their normal life.

Unable to play with his friends, this boy was sulkily paring taro yam. Well... some things are the same all over the world.
The natives live off the land, i.e. plant their own food, fish for fishes, and breed some pigs and carabaos.

Most of the houses single-storey, this double-storey one belongs to the local rice dealer.

Some vestiges of modern life is creeping in - a large speaker plays out music for the whole village to listen to.

(Photo by Siew Yung)
Things are so natural here, a beautiful spider with it's elaborate web is left undisturbed.
The simple way of life makes me yearn for my younger days back in my kampung.

(Photo by Siew Yung)
This little piglet is tied to a post; I do hope that it is a pet as it is just to cute to eat.
Time to leave, bye village, bye spider and bye pig, I hope you won't end up at the dining table.

We went south, almost to the southern tip of the island. There we were shown Kavaywan Lake. This was the dry season, not at it's maximum size the lake did not look like much; so I imagined how it would look like when full with water, with a calm surface reflecting the green hills, that would have been a sight.
This is the only lake in the Batanes, so Jason was rightfully proud to show it to us.

What we did next was real fun; on the motorcycle and motor-tricycle, we raced down the runway of Itbayat Airport. The airport was then closed as planes seldom land here, so it was safe fun.
Zooming down the runway made me wished that we had brought our bicycles along and rode down that air strip; that would have been something to tell friends back home!

5:00pm - We head back north, riding faster now as we want to visit a couple of ports before the sun sets. Yes it's from the airport to the sea ports.
The road here has newly built rubble walls stretching to the horizon on both sides, probably in future they will call this The Great Wall of Itbayat!

Our approach towards Valanga Port was quite surrealistic.
In the orange glow of the sunset with the shimmering sea ahead, there was Siew Yung in her orang T-shirt complementing and completing the scenery.

Valanga Port is the same as the other ports of Itbayat, a steep ramp leads down to sea level. This makes me wonder how the explorers of old, Yami and Spaniards alike, managed to surmount the steep cliffs and built a civilisation at the top.

Over at Paggaraman Port, on one side we viewed a boats moored in a calm blue see...

... and on the other side watched the sunset beautifully.


This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

To see more photos for the day, Click here.

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  1. thanks for this detailed post. i will use this as guide on my trip to itbayat this year. bookmarked.

    1. Hi Trekero,
      You are most welcomed and am glad my blogs were helpful.
      Batanes is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world.
      Will visit again.

      the AhPek Biker