Sabtang is one of the islands in Batanes known for its unique cultural heritage. If you are a true adventure lover, then a tour of the Sabtang island is a must for you. In 1994, the Philippine Department of Tourism chose Sabtang as one of the 12 best destinations in the entire archipelago.
Our adventure began when we left the port of Ivana, the 45 minute faluwa ride was quite rough but we were mersmerized by the island’s beauty, it’s rugged but majestic terrain and the steep cliffs made us feel like we were in a foreign land.
Sabtang Island compare to Batan is less modern, in fact, It is the only town in Batanes that has preserved the traditional Ivatan house made of lime and stone. The heritage houses can withstand the strongest of winds during trying typhoons. If you find a windowless stone house, that means that it faces down wind of the strongest blowing wind. Sabtang is a municipality in the province of Batanes that is politically subdivided into 6 barangays which includes Chavayan, Malakdang (Pob.), Nakanmuan, Savidug, Sinakan (Pob.), and Sumnanga.
One of the most interesting sitio in Sabtang is called Chavayan, Its a small community where Ivatan Stone Houses and the Ivatan culture is pretty much intact. I met an old lady who manufactures Vacul – a cultural headgear which is hand woven mostly in Chavayan. Vacul is made from Vuyabuy – a palm tree that is indemic in Batanes. Vacul is a proctective head gear used by farmers to protect them from too much sunlight and heavy rains as well but for tourist like us, it’s a perfect souvenir.
While walking around the small Barangay, we suddenly felt parched so we looked for a small sari-sari store to get some thirst quenching soda. I was amazed when I saw a battery operated radio transistor in the sari-sari store, the lady said that listening to old shool AM music is their past time, tuning in to a filipino radio station was a bit hard since the radio picks up Taiwanese radio stations most of the time.
It’s almost lunch time when we left Chavayan and after the short heritage tour, we found ourselves in the beach area called Nakanmuan for our alfresco lunch.
Typically, Batanes offers it’s tourist an irresistible Ivatan meal which includes steamed Lobster, Nilagang Baka with fresh vegetables, fried fish and served with a long grain steamed rice but our tour guide in Sabtang served us a different set of delectable seafood menu for only Php250.00 per head.
Manong Romy’s wife prepared our food right beside the Nakanmuan Arc and It was probably the best lunch I’ve ever had in Batanes. Imagine yourself dining in front of a beautiful white beach with your friends feasting on a coconut crab, beef soup, steamed sigarillas and fried fish plus a fresh buko juice… It was priceless.. It was flavorgasmic!
After almost half day of touring the island, it’s our time to leave but while we are walking towards the port, we realised that the boat that was supposed to bring us back to Batan was not there and suddenly, heavy rain poured as if we were not being permitted to leave. We waited for about an hour for another passenger vessel while observing the gigantic waves.
Finally, we were able to secure a seat on a boat that was seabound but it took time before we could get inside the boat since the big waves were preventing us from even stepping on to the ladder. After loading of the passengers and the baggages, we finally began braving the big waves. It wasn’t my first time to experience challenging waves and I already got used to it but I still got dizzy because of the smell of the gasoline.
It’s amazing to see the locals looking unaffected by the huge waves, I think the big waves for them is not something extra ordinary and some of them even find it exhilirating. The boatmen looks just fine as if we were just touring in a tamed lake but the uneasiness is still eminent in most of the tourists eyes. Good thing Dino of Columbia Sportswear brought a set of Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks – an ultra lightweight watertight dry bags which made our Cameras and gadgets safe from splashing salt water.
It took us more than an hour before we reached the port of Ivana but the experience was really worth the hassle. Sabtang is a unique island where you can find different kind of seascapes; from reefy shore to fine white sand beach fronts, the islands never ending surprises will make you think of coming back.