The Remote Chavayan Village, Batanes: A Trip Back In Time

The tiny village is located on Sabtang Island, part of the Batanes region of the Philippines and permanently locked in ages gone by. There is only one road in and out of the village, which is nestled on a thin strip of land between the mountains and the sea.

Cliff-side road on Sabtang Island, Batanes, northern Philippines
Given how fast our driver was going I thought these were one-way roads….but I was mistaken. This cliff-side road on Sabtang Island is literallythe only road in and out of Chavayan. This small traditional village is surrounded on all sides by either cliffs or water.

This small barangay (Filipino term for a village) has become one of the must-visit sights when visiting Sabtang, however it hasn’t been tainted by tourism yet. For starters there is the fact that most of the visitors to Sabtang are native Filipinos exploring the farthest reaches of their country. A very minimal number of foreigners make it all the way up here, which is one of the reasons that I really enjoyed my trip. As many of you may already know, when traveling I prefer to go to more remote locations where I am not surrounded by white people. Another big factor of why tourism hasn’t ruined this village yet is the low numbers of visitors. We visited on a Sunday but between my tour group and the only other one, there was a grand total of about 15-20 people.

Welcome to Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
The entrance of Chavayan village

Chavayan is an old Ivatan village that is most known for its stone houses, some of which are over 100 years old now. This style of construction was introduced by the Spanish when they arrived in the last half of the 1800s and quickly proved perfect for the region, which is prone to strong winds and frequent typhoons. Their roofs are made of thatched cogon (a tall type of grass found throughout Southeast Asia) and are replaced every 25-30 years, depending on the thickness.

Sabtang Weaver's Association headquarters in Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
Support the locals and buy a handmade souvenir from the Sabtang Weaver’s Association

In addition to making roofs the Ivatan people also make a variety of additional items out of the local grasses and palm trees. In fact one of the first things visitors will notice right at the entrance of Chavayan is the Sabtang Weavers Association building. Inside are a variety of examples of their handiwork, most notably the valkul, a traditional Ivatan headdress. They cost around ₱175 (just under $6USD) or you can use them to pose for photos for only ₱20, as we did.

Trying on valkul headgear at Chavayan traditional village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
A vakul is headgear designed to protect the wearer from sun and rain. They are made from abaca fiber of the vuyavuy palm and come in different styles for men and women.

After posing for a couple quick photos we each went our separate way and explored the barangay. It is not big, and basically consists of houses built along two small parallel “roads” — which is in reality just one road shaped like an upside-down U. Take a look  

Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
The main (and by that I mean only) road through Chavayan
The houses of Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
All of the small houses in Chavayan are picture-perfect 🙂
Pinned in by mountains on one side and ocean on the other, these small fields are all the residents Chavayan village on Sabtang island have
Behind the village there is just enough room to grow corn before the steep mountain slopes begin

Chavayan Theater in Chavayan village, Batanes, northern Philippines
Chavayan Theater is the only source of entertainment in town other than the sound of the waves
Local man sharpening a metal rod for use with his traditional Ivatan spear gun in Chavayan village, Philippines
Local man sharpening a metal rod for use with his traditional Ivatan spear gun, laying on the ground next to him

The population of Chavayan is less than 250 people but they have managed to preserve their way of life really well. Thanks to the mountain nestled against the backside of the village there is no cell service in the village either, further keeping the area locked in a time long gone. None of the locals spoke any English — in fact they have a completely different dialect from Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines — but in having some of the others from my tour group help translate I found that each of them were very friendly and happy to talk about life in their village.

Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
The Chavayan church can be seen in the distance
Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
Chavayan Church is the last remaining church in all of Batanes that still has cogon grass roofing
Chavayan village on Sabtang island, Batanes, in the northern Philippines
One of the few houses in town that wasn’t made primarily of limestone

Leaving Chavayan village on Sabtang island one of the guys bought a goat, which we took back to Batan Island with us on the ferry
On the way out one of the guys bought a goat, which we took back to Batan Island with us on the ferry

Reportedly there are one or two homestays in Chavayan, for anyone looking to stay overnight. They cost around ₱150/person ($4USD), or so I was informed. If interested ask your tour guide or inquire at the Sabtang visitors center when first arriving on the ferry from Batan Island.

We were also told by our tour guide that Chavayan was under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however I have been unable to confirm this online. It could be true, but it also wouldn’t be the first time that a tour guide has given less than accurate information.

See More     Exploring Batanes, Northern Islands of the Philippines

Visited any cool traditional villages during your travels?

About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

10 thoughts on “The Remote Chavayan Village, Batanes: A Trip Back In Time”

  1. Very well illustrated… Help the villagers by buying souvenirs from them… 🙂

    Pretty Vakul models! But we’re missing the basket to match the vakul. Thanks Derek… 😉

    • Thanks. Unfortunately more and more of these traditional villages are becoming modernized and historic cultures and traditions are being lost. Such a shame, and all in the name of “modernization” ugghh. That is exactly why I try and seek out places like this, to see them before they disappear forever. Thanks for reading Alok 🙂

      • Is it possible to live in this place or one very similar? I am serious, I am already retired and have been married to a Filipina for 10 years.

        • Good question. I know that foreigners can live in Batanes, although I am not sure if this one small village is specially protected or not because of its unique history and cultural importance. Hopefully your Tagalog is better than mine as well, because there are not many English speakers up there 😉

          Let me know what you find out though, James. Would be very curious to know the answer. Best of luck!

Leave a Comment

Previous

FriFotos: Scenes Of Passion At Prambanan

FriFotos: Impressive Flames And Unparalleled Fun At Burning Flipside

Next