What was once a hangout of a child is now the most famous view deck in Palawan’s growing hotspot, frequented by tourists
Whenever you search for photos of San Vicente, Palawan, chances are you’ll find this photo:
It’s often mistaken for Long Beach, but it’s actually called Irawan Beach. The place where this quintessential San Vicente photo is taken from? It’s on top of a boulder that’s up a short hill… and it’s called Bato ni Ningning.
Named after a television show it was in, Bato ni Ningning is perched on top of a hill in Brgy. Alimanguan, the northernmost barangay of San Vicente.
Getting to Bato ni Ning is a 47-minute drive from the airport or a 22-kilometer drive through paved and dirt roads. It’s best to take a guide with you and rent a motorbike to get to the hotspot.
Once there, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Brgy. Alimanguan, with Irawan Beach right in the middle. Simply pay the Php20 entrance fee, stand atop the boulder, whip out your camera, and either take a selfie or replicate that photo of San Vicente you always see online.
Get there SkyJet Airlines (Flyskyjetair.com) flies direct from Manila to San Vicente four times weekly. Flights are to increase to six times weekly beginning October 27, 2019.
The Island Borne of Fire’s blanket of adventures—some known; others not so—is for all sorts of enthusiasts. Dash curates.
It’s not very easy to find a place in the Philippines that’s conveniently located that can satisfy those wanting to either dive into the waters off the coast, tear up roads and trails, or take to the skies onboard something they can barely control. But we’ve found one: Camiguin, off the coast of Northern Mindanao.
Camiguin, once only accessible either by a chartered flight to the island or multiple transfers, but now at only over an hour’s flight away—thanks to SkyJet Airlines’ launch of direct from Manila flights—is a unique province with more active volcanoes than towns. The tiny island they call the “Island Born of Fire” has something that most places don’t offer: challenging mountain treks, colorful reefs, and an entirely different way to see it all from up high or ground level.
We’ve scoured the
island as much as we could to give you a list of things you can do based on how
gutsy you and whoever you’re traveling with are.
Hike up the Old Volcano Walkway
This “walkway” zigs and zags up the side of the Old Volcano, and is an exhausting hike even though you’re only walking up the side of a dormant volcano. You’ll need to wear something dri-fit or bring an extra shirt if you’re doing this early into your day around Camiguin. The highlight? The life-size statues depicting the Stations of The Cross.
The Walkway is about 17 minutes from the airport. Environmental fee: Php10 per person.
Snorkel Mantigue for giant clams, sea turtles and table corals
The reefs off the southern shore of Mantigue Island (formerly called Magsaysay) are perfect for anyone who wants to see underwater creatures in their element. You’ll see large table corals and several schools of fish, and if you’re lucky, a sea turtle. There are four giant clams that are at least half a meter wide somewhere within the snorkeling area that’s a quarter the size of the island.
Port to Mantigue Island is 25 minutes from the airport in Mahinog, followed by a 15-minute boat ride to the island.
Zip line over a lagoon
It may be another zipline, yes, but the Camiguin Zipline sprawled above the Taguines Lagoon in Mahinog is the only one of its kind on the island. It’s a 45-second ride from their 742-meter-high platform with views of the sea and Taguines Lagoon. You’ll then take a short (10-20 seconds) zipline back to the restaurant—the latter part of the ride will have you glide within five feet of the water’s surface.
Camiguin Zipline is at J&A Fishpen, about 30 minutes from the airport. Fee: Php350 per person.
Hike Binangawan Falls 2
The trail to Binangawan Falls 2 will take you at least 45 minutes through the side of a mountain. Views will vary as you walk the two-kilometer trail—you’ll get a glimpse of the southern part of Camiguin and Mt. Balatukan in Misamis Oriental, and the tropical forest in Mt. Mambajao. You’ll come across birds endemic to the island if you’re lucky, but your true reward is Binangawan Falls 2, a short waterfalls hidden in the middle of the mountain.
Binangawan Falls is in the town of Sagay, about one hour’s ride from the airport. No entrance fees needed, but an accredited guide is necessary.
Trek hidden but tough Itum
One of the recently-discovered trails, the Itum trail is the most difficult yet also the shortest route to the summit of Mt. Hibok Hibok. It’s a steep incline up one side of Mt. Hibok Hibok that’s practically hidden below dense foliage, and is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be challenged with lots of transitions from using two to four limbs both going up the mountain and down to the base camp.
Should you want
to take on any of these trails (or any of Camiguin’s other mountains), you’ll
have to coordinate with the DENR office in Mambajao and get an official guide.
Call the Camiguin DENR Protected Area Management Office at +6388 387 0040 or reach out to Yvonne at +63905 357 2591 before setting up a climb to Mt. Hibok Hibok and get a list of their accredited guides. Climbs are at Php200 per person, Php50 for students.
Easy dive at White Island
Vladimir calls this one “relatively easy.” The waters surrounding this Camiguin icon are perfect for underwater photography with easy underwater terrain and a vibrant coral reef. Face the island of Camiguin and you’ll be able to find black corals and sea turtles within the small snorkeling area to your right, along with a view of Mt. Hibok Hibok. Visit after lunch if you want to avoid the crowds.
See Camiguin’s sea walls that can rival Tubbataha
Another gem that’s not too close to the mainland, Vladimir likens Jidgup shoal to the Tubbataha Reefs because of its 6-45-meter wall dives. It may not be as teeming with marine life as other dive sites, but the shoal is an excellent dive site for those who want to see eagle rays, schools of drummers, and green sea turtles.
To access any of these dive sites, book a dive with Scuba de Oro at +63917 312 7872 or [email protected]. You can also visit their dive shop at Bahay Bakasyunan, Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. Rates for dives with Scuba de Oro start at Php4,200 per diver for a group of four or more.
Bike around the island
literal. Rent a bike from the resort you’re staying or somewhere in town and go
either clockwise or counterclockwise—the island is a perfect round shape.
You’ll be back to where you started in an hour, give or take 15 to 20 minutes,
depending on how hard you push your two-wheeler. It’s the best way to see the
island in all its glory, plus it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than taking public
An even better—and dare we say, more scenic—option is to ride a mountain bike around the island. There’s a bike shop in downtown Mambajao that will let you borrow their mountain bikes for a small fee. It’s tougher on your legs (at least two and a half hours) to go around the island this way, but it’s less taxing to mother nature.
Rent a bike at Willy’s Bike Shop. Tel: +63 917 712 7477.
Who are our insiders? For hikes and trails to Mt. Hibok Hibok: Yvonne May Abao-Retes
Yvonne is the community development officer for the DENR in Camiguin. As the point-person for climbs to Mt. Hibok Hibok and Timpoong, she knows these trails about as good as their official guides.
For dives sites in Camiguin: Vladimir Elazegui
Vladimir is a PADI IDC staff instructor and has been teaching scuba since 2007. He is based on Camiguin Island at the Scuba de Oro dive center in Bahay Bakasyunan Resort. Scuba de Oro is on its 11th year producing responsible and able scuba divers. Their utmost goal is to protect this God-given marine resource—the coral reefs—to sustain the life of their ocean.
The basics Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Camiguin five times weekly. You can ride a multicab or a motorela to take you to your resort before renting a motorbike to get around the island. No need to negotiate about fares since they have it posted as you make your way outside the arrival area.
Experience all-in hassle-free tours of Camiguin by booking #DashHolidays Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179 Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Some of our favorite holidaymakers Levy Amosin, Carla Araniego, Christian Sangoyo, Celine Murillo, and Darwin Cayetano, pick the most gorgeous resorts they’ve been to that don’t break the bank and are perfect for you and your love.
Urban Sands Resort, Iloilo
Mixing modern urban sophistication and beachside ambience, the Urban Sands Resort at the heart of iloilo brings the sea closer to the city. Levy Amosin of Hugging Horizons describes it as “a paradise within the heart of the city.” Using real sand and pebbles in the landscaping, the focal point is the pool, which, according to Levy, brings a “coastal feel to it.”
Away from the usual island resorts in Bohol, Carla Araniego of Blissfulguro recommends the Loboc River Resort in Tagbilaran as an alternative place to stay while in the land of the Chocolate Hills. situated right beside the Loboc River, their cottages replicate the feel of traditional nipa houses. “Having coffee on the balcony with a view of Loboc River was the most memorable part of my stay. Away from the beach crowd of Bohol, its seclusion is perfect for those who are looking for tranquility amid the busy goings-on of city life.”
A hidden gem in the town of San Antonio in Zambales, Casa San Miguel is a rustic retreat intertwined with art and culture. Besides hosting guests, the casa is actually a local school for music. Carla recalls her stay, “waking up to the charming voices of kids having their weekly voice and violin lessons truly separate this resort from the rest.”
The Crosswinds Resort combines the feel of charming swiss-inspired chalets with the mildly chilly environs of Tagaytay. Carla says “walking along its winding roads, the scent of pine in the air, and passing colorful chalets, transport you to another place.”
Brightly painted walls mixed with vintage furniture and on point accessories are the charm of Casa San Pablo, a bed and breakfast near Sampaloc Lake. Each nook and cranny has a surprise. Somehow, the craziness of the place works with the peaceful ambiance of its location.
Best for a romantic weekend in Tagaytay. situated on the quieter side of the city, its rustic stone casitas are overgrown with vines and has open hut lounges surrounded by ponds. Overall, the place has the vibe of a secret garden and forgotten places.
Celine Murillo of Celenism.com recommends the Spanish-style villas of Sophia’s Garden Resort, an actual garden with a wonderful El Comidor restaurant that looks like it’s straight out of historic novel Noli Me Tangere.
For convenient beach camping, Darwin Cayetano of Tracking Treasure says Baler’s sand and stars Resort has huge tents. “Other than the convenience of having actual beds, the floor is carpeted it has a sitting area and every corner is Instagramable,” adds Darwin.
FarmPlate in Albay will put Old McDonald’s farm to shame with its view of Mayon volcano.
There’s a new place in the town of Daraga in Albay that’s pretty hard to beat: FarmPlate, an eco place that offers camping, activities like kite flying, carabao riding, biking, vegetable picking, and mere chilling on its cozy foliage-wrapped cottages. It’s a nursery rhyme book come to life—a red barn on a hill with expansive greens overlooking Mt. Mayon, an active volcano at the heart of Albay dubbed the Philippines’ perfect cone.
If you wish to stay for the night, rough it out at the camp
site equipped with tents and a bonfire area so you can bond over smores and
some singing under the starry night.
At day time, the hammocks will lure you to it to dose off to
clear fresh air.
Seedlings—there are pine and other backyard plants—are for sale to those who’d like a bit of the farm into their homes.
FarmPlate is at its soft opening stages—it’s a privately owned land that soft opened to the public with minimal facilities in September 2018—and will slowly be building more eco attractions best for families and groups. It will have a pool and a restaurant serving farm-to-table meals.
Get there SkyJet Airlines has regular flights from Batanes, Coron, and Siargao to Manila. It will resume its Caticlan-Manila flights in March. From Manila, take any Legazpi-bound bus from Cubao bus terminal such as Cagsawa Bus or Penafrancia Bus. The trip is a scenic 12-hour ride, or you can take the night trip. Book SkyJetAirlines.
Batanes is an island of superlatives but its natural wonders are only a portion of what it has to offer for its people called the Ivatans are what make it even more beautiful, and the chance to immerse with them the one to give meaning to your Batanes holiday.
Our featured Ivatans with model Jayanne Aldanese in Uyugan, a village in Batanes that looks like it’s from a fairytale book.
We draw attention to three Ivatans who show us their way of life, their quirks, and why to them Batanes will always be their home. More so, they give us a glimpse of the Ivatan character—respectful and kindhearted, family-drawn, God-loving, holistic, creative. The list goes on. We follow each of them for a day.
Here’s our tale.
The faithful laborer
Tess Vargas Castillejos is a retiree who is now living the life that she’s always dreamed of
When Tess Vargas Castillejos retired from her post as Department of Trade and Industry Batanes provincial caretaker in 2012, she made the big leap, switching into a full organic lifestyle. She’s turned to organic farming and gardening, which makes her feel connected and happy.
Tess has been famous for cultivating clitoria ternatea—a perennial evergreen climber that produces blue flower—and being the first in Batanes to turn this blue flower into tea. She’s also making waves as a farm-to-table entrepreneur, cooking and serving meals right at her centuries-old home. Her ingredients for cooking are straight from her farm.
Up at the crack of dawn
Tess looks exceptionally energetic for someone who only had 30 minutes of sleep—visiting friends came over for dinner and stayed until past midnight. She wakes up at 3am to prepare for her lector duties at the Sto. Domingo Parish of the Immaculate Conception Church, where daily masses start at 5am.
She gets up pretty early to start her day.
Like many Ivatans, Tess is a devout Catholic and one can tell by the religious items in her home. After the dawn mass, she heads back home for breakfast. Today, it’s chayi (local lychee) salad, lunyis (pork slowly cooked in salt and garlic and fried in its own fat), mashed
sweet potato and a mug of coffee.
Tess’s lack of sleep barely registers as she happily chats about her plants. It brings her joy knowing that whatever she cultivates will benefit the environment and her neighbors for she likes sharing her harvest.
Gather them blue flowers
Every day, Tess walks to her 897sqm farm, which she and her two staff tend. It’s where you’ll see rows and rows of bushes peppered with blue flowers. She’d pick the mature ones.
Tess and her flower pickers are able to collect seven to eight kilos of flowers a day, and such amount can be attributed to the growing demand for her tea.
Tess’s love affair with blue flowers started when her late husband, who used to gift her with blue orchids, passed away. In his passing, she found a way to cope with her loss through gardening, and found the blue flowers most fascinating.
In no time, her organic blue tea became an instant hit especially for tourists, fetching at Php3,000 (USD60) per kilo of the tea-ready dried version.
Hearty noontime meal
Harvesting eight kilos of flowers is tedious so Tess usually finishes at noontime. There are days when she eats packed lunch at her farm when her early morning check requires more farm work like clearing pathways, pruning the shrubs or spreading organic fertilizer.
Today, the task is only to pick blue flowers and produce to cook for lunch.
Back at home, Tess whips up a healthy homemade meal—beef broth with blue flowers, green rice, cucumber sesame salad and the leftover from breakfast. Dessert is boiled cardava topped with mango cream made from scratch. All these are served in beautiful plates—part of her chinaware collection. After the hearty meal, she serves us palek (Ivatan wine), which she concocts too.
Afternoon siesta, and more labor of love
Tess tends to her freshly-picked blue flowers
After lunch, Tess takes out her babies—the newly harvested blue flowers—and spreads them out on an improvised bed. This is her version of curing so that the flowers do not entirely lose their color once she places them under the sun. The process of drying blue flowers includes overnight curing, sun drying until the petals are crisp, and winnowing to remove small dirt and small particles.
In between, customers stop by to pick up their orders. A couple swings by to discuss with her their wedding’s catering arrangement as Tess also caters for intimate events. She opens her home to host private dinners but with three days’ notice.
Finally, Tess gets some shuteye.
At 4pm, she gets up, takes the sundried blue flowers back into the house, and spends the rest of the afternoon packing the winnowed flowers.
Capping the day’s work
She spends most of her afternoons picking flowers
At night, Tess’s routine includes saying a short novena prayer, preparing dinner, and watching TV or meditating in her garden. At dinner, she gives us a taste of her magic by serving us slow-cooked beef, blue rice, green rice, crispy adobong pata (pork thigh cooked adobo-style then crisp-fried) and squash soup. Dessert is millet pudding topped with cream and orange slices and it’s the yummiest that you’d have.
The well-rooted adventurer
Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney is a well-traveled Ivatan who now lives in Switzerland with her family. She never forgets home
When she was young, Carlotta Borromeo-Charbonney, Bing to family and friends, had learned to live independently especially when she went to college in Manila—hundreds of miles away from home. But when she got married, even her adventure-loving self still had to adjust to six years of traveling to different parts of the world due to her husband’s line of work. She met all kinds of people, experienced different cultures, and had a fair share of rough times that came with living from country to country. When they settled down in Switzerland was when she decided it’s time to come home to Batanes every year no matter what. Batanes is home and there’s not a single place quite as special as it.
No two days are alike
Bing loves spontaneity and does not want to confine herself to plans. Whenever she’s home in Batanes, there’s never a routine that she sticks to. There are days she wakes up late because of a previous night out or she’s up really early excited to explore the island.
Close to the summit of Mt. Matarem
Today, she’s off to an early start, waking up at 6am to prepare to hike Mt. Matarem. She boils saba banana, buys hot pandesal (local bun) and brews her coffee. On ordinary days, a steaming mug of coffee is enough for her morning fill but today is an exception for she’s set to climb the second highest peak in the island albeit not her first time to do so. She’s already summited Mt. Matarem thrice in the past years but the promise of great views from the summit always calls for one more.
Quiet island life
Bing with the love of her life—her mom
On the road, Bing talks about why she would always come back home to Batanes every year. She says it’s the warmth of her fellow Ivatans, the joy of being able to decompress and relax, and the much, much simpler way of life—a stark contrast to her life in Switzerland.
She likes to refer to herself as an island girl who will always be captivated by beautiful sunrises and sunsets, rolling green hills, the crisp mountain air. As a child, she would spend her weekends on the beach with her friends or have picnics in their farm. They would cook
root crops, climb mabolo trees to eat fruits or pick alunot (local plum).
Growing up on an island, which was once isolated with no electric supply, means they rarely got to taste ice cream. She recalls how, as a student, she would travel by foot from one town to another because transportation was almost nonexistent.
Going off grid
When she finally reaches the jump-off point, Bing gleefully walks along the first part of the trail that opens into a pastureland that leads to a section where you’ll think fairies may magically appear. She pauses to take in the view of wild trees. This part is dense with greenery, and flora and fauna. Aside from the surreal views, Mt. Matarem also gives her a chance to switch off from the world and immerse herself in the beauty of nature. As soon as she summits, she marvels at the island’s fragile beauty, making her fall in love with Batanes even more.
Ancient settlement, revisited
Sun’s up at Idjang
After a fulfilling hike, Bing grabs a quick lunch in preparation for her next activity: hiking up her favorite spot in idjang this afternoon. Bing’s grandparents own an idjang—her aunt inherited it later on— in the southeastern side of Basco, an ancient hilltop fortress once used by her ancestors to protect themselves from tribal wars and Japanese invaders. It’s one of the places where she has fond memories of growing up.
From up until where the van can manage, she takes a 10-minute hike on a trail leading to the mountain fortress. She reaches the base of the idjang—the spot they were allowed to go play and have a picnic as kids for the top of it were deemed sacred grounds.
Dinner for keeps
Bing caps her day with a nice dinner with her mother and sisters. Her mother, who is already in her nineties, regales with stories about their life during the Japanese occupation era.
One of Bing’s goals is to write her mother’s memoir thinking that it would be her way of paying tribute to how her mother gave so much to secure her future.
After dinner, Bing gets a text invite for a get-together As expected, she’s not one to pass.
Young at Art
John Lorenz ‘Vorz’ Portez is a quiet presence and one of the youngest in Batanes’ thriving art scene
John Lorenz “Vorz” Portez is a soft-spoken 20-year-old acrylic painter who dreams of following the footsteps of Austrian artist Voka and Ivatan artist Randalf Dilla. He likes exploring colors thoroughly, oftentimes resulting in dynamic, spontaneous and bold strokes reflecting in his works. He calls his art spontaneous realism and is fond of showing the depth of human emotions through portraits of Ivatan elders.
A young artist’s mornings
Vorz in his element at his home studio
Vorz wakes up towards noon and he has his reasons. After having his morning cup and the light is better is when he picks up his brush and canvas.
The Portez’s family room is Vorz’s makeshift studio. Noontime is quietest so it’s when Vorz starts painting. But his creative energy peaks at night when everything comes to a standstill. Solitude, to Vorz, is integral in his creative journey.
As a full-time painter, Vorz enjoys doing his artwork at a leisurely pace—one thing that he’s unable to do when he was in school. He went to college for two years and stopped given that the course he took—drafting—lured him away from painting.
His project for today is Mahatao lighthouse. The lighthouses in Batan Island are also among his favorite subjects because he sees them as a metaphor of hope, light and home. In his current collection are 15 paintings of lighthouses in different interpretations.
Pride and little big dreams
The work Vorz is most proud of is his winning piece entitled Abus Pandan A Saray (Walang Katumbas na Tiwala) that shows a young Ivatan taking off the blindfold of his elder in the hope of guiding the latter through the changes that are taking place in the island. This artwork is put on display at Galerie Du Tulaan at Fundacion Pacita.
Drawing inspiration from an old Uyugan house
Vorz dreams of opening his own exhibit one day at the Ayala Museum in Makati, like the other members of Yaru nu Artes Ivatan (Bayanihan of Ivatan Artists), a collective of local artists which he’s a part of.
Although a great part of his day is spent painting at their new home in Basco, Vorz still goes out in some afternoons for a breath of fresh air.
The Tayid Lighthouse—the subject of the day’s painting lessons
Back in the days when they were still renting a house in Mahatao, his break from painting would be to hang out with friends. And when he wanted a moment of solitude, he would go to the Mahatao lighthouse, White Beach, or trek Mahuruhon to gather his thoughts and conceptualize for his next piece.
His constant companions were a sketchbook and a pen. He would sketch movements, landscapes, life, ideas, and things that catch his attention in one of his many strolls.
One of his favorite stops for inspiration today is White Beach. His attempt is to capture the tumbling of the waves in his sketchbook.
With his Yaru nu Artes co-artists
His next stop will be the old Ivatan house in Uyugan, which has always fascinated him. He revels in the traditional pattern of the house but points out that the now cemented facade was once made of stone. The house has always been his inspiration whenever he wants to artistically render Batanes’ old stone houses.
When the weather is good, he would go to the Basco lighthouse after feeding their pigs. From the lighthouse’s view deck, he’d watch the interplay of sunset colors, which he would later on translate into acrylic on canvas.
Life outside art
Vorz with his dogs in their Mahatao home
Life outside art means taking care of his eight dogs and tending the backyard pigs his family raises in Chanarian. He would go to their old house in Mahatao daily to feed and play with his dogs because he couldn’t bring them to their new home in Basco. At home, he helps out in chores as any son would. After dinner, as soon as everybody retires to bed, he’d go back to the company of his brush and canvas and paint the night away.