When visiting the Batanes island chain in the far northern reaches of the Philippines, one island in particular stands out: Sabtang. This island is only home to 1,500 people but is well-known throughout the country for its white sand beaches, old stone houses, and Mission-style churches.
Thankfully the weather was slightly better today and these photos turned out better than those from Batan Island
After disembarking from the ferry all visitors are required to sign in at the Municipal Tourism Information Center and each pay a P100 tourist fee. Turns out that this list is handed off to the Philippines Coast Guard, who will be at the port that afternoon checking names off the list as they board the ferry to make sure that no one has overstayed their welcome.
Batanes locals are the Ivatan people and in addition to speaking Tagalog they also have their own dialect, Ivatan. Foreign visitors need not worry though, as some of them do speak English also.
Our next stop was the Chavayan barangay, which can only be reached by traveling along a narrow, winding cliff-side road on the eastern side of the island full of blind corners and hairpin turns.
Upon arrival the one-lane road forms a U through the heart of the village, which is delicately nestled between a narrow beach and the steep slopes of the inactive volcano that dominates the island skyline.
We were informed that the traditional barangay of Chavayan, one of Sabtang’s must-see destinations, is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however I have been unable to corroborate this online. I suspect it could be an example of incorrect information spouted by a tour guide, which happens from time to time, either purely by accident or by locals wanting to make their region more appealing. However that does not diminish the appeal of this small village.
Morong Beach, also known as Nakabuang Beach, is the most recognizable place on Sabtang and therefore also the most common tourist destination — all due to the stone arch you see pictured below.
There are a couple huts located next to the beach that serve as a great lunch destination for local visitors — or if you visit as part of a tour then have no fear as these tables will be full of food by the time your group arrives.
A few panoramic shots of Morong Beach from different angles
Sabtang Island is so gorgeous that trimming it down to just these few photos was tough. The next time you visit the Philippines, make sure to add Batanes to your list!