Route: Basco Town Proper – Naidi Hills – Vayang Rolling Hills – Valugan Bouklder Beach – Tukon – Mahatao Town Proper – Tayid Lighthouse – Mahatao Town Proper – Basco
Total Time: 8 hours
Saddle Time: 5 hours (approx)
Batanes welcomed me with a perfect weather. It was sunny but cold January morning, the sky was blue with patches of pearl white cotton clouds and the wind was blowing in subtle speed. What an awesome day to bike around the island!
I planned to tour Batanes on my own and with the help of Ate Fe Fiterio of Marfel’s Lodge, I was able to rent a decent mountain bike. It was a 26″ wheelset MTB in a small white Canondale alloy frame and Shimano Acera groupset, not the best specs but in generally good condition for Batanes’ terrain. I wanted to bring my own but it would cost me more than my airfare so I opted to rent in the island for P500/day.
Actually, there are cheaper bikes for rent, some at P300/day or P50/hour. These are lady bikes or generic mountain bikes that are good only for short distance biking on flat terrain and paved roads. The one I got was perfect for long epic rides, it could survive the trails and steep uphill without punishing your body.
The tour of Batan Island is divided into North and South, I decided to follow the same itinerary. On my first day, fresh from an hour flight from Manila, I chose to focus North which covers the attractions in the town of Basco. Here’s the diary of that joyful ride.
0900H Hello Basco!
At around nine in the morning, after a quick rest at Marfel’s Lodge, I bid Ate Fe goodbye and started my own tour of Batanes, excited to all the surprises the day would bring me. I was really clueless of the route, the best route actually. I tried to search for detailed tourist road map complete with all the attractions of Basco online but the resources are scarce. So I only relied on the one made by Ferdz of Ironwulf which I found helpful enough.
0915H Naidi Hill
I had no idea where to start my journey and it was the lighthouse in Naidi Hill that first came into mind, as if it has a magnet that attracted me. So I biked my way from Kaychanarian in the town proper to Naidi Hill, excited to see the lighthouse upclose.
After battling the ascending road towards the hill, I have reached the beautiful lighthouse in Naidi Hill, overlooking the rolling hills of Vayang, the entire town of Basco and the roaring West Philippine Sea. I timed myself, it was just 15 minutes ride from the town proper.
1000H Vayang Rolling Hills
I continued biking on an ascending paved road and chose the left dirt road on a fork road, the way to the rolling hills of Vayang. More harder ascends welcomed me until I reached the rolling hills.
The panoramic view of Vayang awed me, I couldn’t believe everything. I was surrounded by verdant waving Earth with only the cows as my company. I closed my eyes and let the cold wind soothe my flesh. Aaah! Batanes!
1120H Valugan Boulder Beach
After spending some time in Vayang Rolling Hills, I went back to the saddle to continue my journey and in less than half-an-hour, I was already facing the eastern coast of Batan. Locals call the place Valugan Boulder Beach.
The sea on this side of the island is no different from the west, harsh and roaring. But the scenery is totally different – no lighthouse, no rolling hills, no cows. The spot provides a view of towering Mount Iraya on the north and the endless horizon of the Pacific Ocean from a beach carpeted by big rocks. I used to see this scene only in pictures until this very moment. Surreal!
1250H Japanese Tunnel
From Valugan Boulder Beach, I chose the access road from La Fuente Street to Tukon Hill. The road surprised me with steep ascent, probably the reason why it is quite unpopular. On the way up, I passed by the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, a five-door tunnel unwillingly built by the Ivatans during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines to serve as shelter house for the Japanese soldiers. It is an elaborate tunnel complete with series of chambers, a bunker, reservoir and ventilation system. I have read that the tunnel was dug in part by kids, two of them are still alive as of this writing.
1320H Tukon Hill
I continued to pedal up the ascending road, occasionally getting off my bike to walk. After a few minutes, I emerged into spot that offers a panoramic view of Tukon Hill with its waving terrain carpeted by verdant grass. It was a picturesque sight! The bewildered me just sighed in amazement, embraced the wind and seized the moment. Ah! Batanes! Who wouldn’t fall in love with you?
I passed by the road to Fundacion Pacita, stopped at PAGASA Radar Station and then to the beautiful Mt. Carmel Chapel before descending to the National Road.
1430H Mahatao Town and San Carlos Borromeo Church
In less than five hours, I already covered all the attractions of North Batan. But I still have more time to spare so I decided to turn left at the crossroad from Tukon towards the town of Mahatao which is already part of South Batan Tour. The coastal road ascended gradually to the view deck before reaching the town proper.
The town proper of Mahatao is just a small coastal area marked by old stone houses and the century old San Carlos Borromeo Church, a cultural icon and heritage of Batanes as recognized by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Built in 1873, the present structure has an espadaña-style façade similar to Basco Cathedral. It has an attached convent that currently houses the Blank Library. The front of the church is a huge garden where the oldest lighthouse in the island stands. The oldest lighthouse is just a stone pole, not the common tower with keeper’s house that we expect.
1510H Tayid Lighthouse
I had a short rest at the Mahatao Church’s garden before pedaling up to Tayid Lighthouse.
Another icon of Batanes, the imposing Tayid Lighthouse stands on a hill connecting Tukon and Racuh a Payaman or Marlboro Hills. It is located above Diura Fishing Village and offers a 360-degree view of the island, overlooking Mount Iraya and the town of Basco and Mahatao with its seemingly endless rolling hills.
I was the only one there when I arrived so I had the lighthouse all to myself. I took my time, wandered and circled around the lighthouse several times, lay down the grassy ground and enjoyed the moment. I used to see this lighthouse only in pictures but this time it was real! Oh, what a sight!
1545H Mahatao Cemetery and Boat Shelter
The ride from Tayid Lighthouse back to the town of Mahatao was a joy ride. It was a three-kilometer of downhill road, a reward for pedaling up to the lighthouse. In no time, I was already back in the town. I decided to go back to Basco since I already covered all, and even more of what I have planned for the day. I dropped by the cemetery and Mahatao Shelter Port before taking the ascending road to the view deck and back to Basco.
1630H Back to Basco
I made it back to Marfel’s Lodge in less than an hour from Mahatao. My camera and phone batteries were almost empty. It was too early for sunset o I had a short break at the lodge while charging my gadgets.
1700H Back to Naidi
Shortly after a quick rest and charging of gadgets, I went back to the saddle and pedaled back to Naidi Hill for the sunset. The ride was only fifteen minutes from the town, so I was already at the lighthouse before sundown, perfectly on time for one of the most anticipated scenes in Batanes. I waited and slowly, the sun succumbed to the day painting gold to the earth before masking it in darkness. The lighthouse, overlooking the western sky and the sunset, surely never missed even a single of this ephemeral view ever since it was erected. Oh how I wish I was a lighthouse… how I wish I was the lighthouse in Naidi Hill.
The golden hour! It marks the end of the day for the island. For me, it was the icing on the cake… a dessert… the last high note… an exclamation point! What an awesome way to end an awesome day in an awesome place! To think that tt was just my first day! I was already fully saturated with beauty and joy and amazement. The beauty and joy and amazement unique to my newest favorite place on the planet – Batanes!