Our Batanes tour will not be complete without experiencing the 45-minute falowa ride to Sabtang Island. Sabtang is one of the municipalities of Batanes Island Group and is divided into 6 baranggays which include Chavayan and Savidug. Noticeably more rural than Batan, Sabtang Island has preserved the traditional Ivatan stone houses and even the culture.
Falowa Ride to Sabtang
From Batanes Seaside Annex where we stayed, we traveled for around 30 minutes to Radiwan Ivana Port. Arriving at the port, there were already many people waiting for the ride. You can notice really huge water breakers at the port which is made of approximately 50 bags of cement per piece as we were told.
Falowa ride to Sabtang costs PHP 150 /head. Big boats can accommodate 60 passengers whereas smaller ones can have 40 passengers. Some goods can be loaded as well, even a motorcycle and a cow. Falowa is the only means of transportation in Batanes to get to the other islands like Sabtang. As Batanes is known for really strong waves, the falowa is uniquely designed to be oval in shape for it to glide with the big waves. It also does not have an outrigger or “katig” for it can be just destroyed by the strong waves.
Falowa ride to Sabtang can be as early as 6:30 AM. There is no definite time when the boat will leave. It waits for the right number of passengers before it sails. If you stay near the front, you can get wet. I’ve experienced a lot of boat rides before but it’s my first time to get somewhat dizzy during the entire falowa ride.
As we arrived in Sabtang Isalnd, we first went to their tourism center where we registered. Visitors must pay an environmental fee that costs PHP 200. You can also take a restroom break here before your Sabtang tour starts.
Our Sabtang Isalnd tour then starts at Savidug Village where traditional Ivatan houses made of stones are preserved. Walking through the narrow alleys with the sight of these cultural treasures is surely a one-of-a-kind experience for me.
Traditional Ivatan houses are made of stone bound by lime with cogon grass roofing. The stone walls are really very thick. Typically, different parts of the house are built separately, they don’t combine it into a large one. This is because the house can be easily get burn with its cogon grass roofing. So you’ll see a stone house designated to be a kitchen or living room only.
We also noticed some destroyed stone houses. The Ivatans did not reconstruct the ruins anymore and consider it as a living memory and inheritance from their ancestors who built it centuries ago.
Walking around, we visited the village’s small chapel, St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel. Beside the chapel is an abandoned priest’s house. You can get inside it and take some photos. Be extra careful when you get inside for the floors are dilapidated already.
While we headed our way to our next destination after Savidug Village, we passed by Savidug Idjang. Idjang is a stone fortress where the ancient Ivatans lived before. The structure of Idjangs served as protection for the Ivatans during tribal wars. No one will be able to enter the fortress unless a rope ladder is lowered from above. Also in some Idjangs, they will throw stones at enemies trying to climb.
Tinyang Viewing of Pacific Ocean
From Savidug Village, it only took as 15 minutes to reach Tinyang Viewpoint where you can get a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. But before you can spoil yourself with that amazing scenery, you have to trek a little and climb a few rocky hills. I’ll definitely won’t forget that wonderful leisure walk and climb on a bright sunny day with the cool wind playing around.
From Tinyang, it took us 20 minutes to reach Chavayan Village. The road going to the village is quite rough. Like Savidug, Chavayan was able to preserve that traditional Ivatan houses made of stone and cogon grass roofing. These dwellings were designed to withstand heavy storms since Batanes lies along the so-called typhoon belt.
Sabtang Weavers Assoication can also be found here where they make “vakul”, a traditional gear for women used as a protection from the sun and rain. Another version is also available which is designed for men. Vakul is made from Philippine date palm which is abundant around the place. It is actually made even in the household. Since originally made here, vakul is much cheaper in Chavayan than the ones you can find in some souvenir shops in Basco. A vakul costs around PHP 400- PHP 500 whereas the small one used for house decoration costs around PHP 150 – PHP 300.
Morong Beach and Mayahaw Arch
Ending our Sabtang tour is a refreshing visit at Morong beach which is 45 minutes from Chavayan village. The place is famous for Mayahaw Arch, a natural rock formation. The beach is a long stretch of white sand with small shells. If you really wanted to swim, you have to get a little farther away from the shore that is quite rocky.