Thinking of a place to go this summer? Why not try the unique eco-cultural experience of the time-warped Batanes group of islands where you can get a glimpse of the Philippines of old?
Flying to Batanes is now made more affordable and convenient as the Batanes Cultural Travel Agency (BCTA) offers lower airfares starting March 15. One way ticket starts at P6,200, much lower than the usual airfare to the countryâ€™s northernmost frontier. What more, passengers can now enjoy shorter travel time at 1 hour and 10 minutes to Batanes in the comfort of a 94-seater jet.
A province of 11 islands and a population of 15,000, Batanes has fast become the favourite travel destination of people who are looking for a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Batanes offers travellers breath-taking landscapes and seascapes, which has been nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Not a few describe the islands as one of the most beautiful corners of the world.
Spanish influence is still much evident in the inhabited islands of Batanes, with centuries-old churches built by the Dominicans and the limestone houses that have withstood strong typhoons.
Some of the notable churches are the San Jose Obrero Church in Ivana, Sabtang; San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao (1873); Sto. Domingo Cathedral in Basco (the oldest built in early 18th century); and, Sta. Maria Immaculada (1845) in Itbayat. Also worth visiting are the church in Chavayan, the only one in Batanes which still uses a thatched roof, and the church of Itbud.
A visit to the villages gives one a glimpse of the limestone technology introduced by the Spaniards when they arrived in the province at the turn of the 18th century. The Old Spanish Bridges in Mahatao and Ivana as well as the iconic vernacular houses made out of limestone, stones, corals and a thatched roof, are scattered in the three inhabited islands of Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat.
Walking through the tiny villages of traditional stone houses amidst the quiet narrow streets of Savidug and Chavayan in Sabtang island, makes one feel like being transported to another world where time just stood still.
Everywhere in Batanes is picture-perfect, with some corners seemingly cut out of the movie scenes of The Lord of The Rings — villages nestled between the tall lush mountains and cliffs on one side and a sweeping view of the sea on the other. Truly, travellers cannot have enough of the beauty of Batanes. You have to go there to experience it for yourself.
BCTA flights (Manila-Basco-Manila) started accepting bookings on March 01. Flights will be Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays starting on March 15. For reservations please call the following hotlines: (02) 635-4810 / 546-1197 / 998-4303 / 475-5267 / 475-5260 / 0917-8112282 / 0999-8894106 / 0908-2309419 / 0922-8213717.