Get to know Ivatan rockstar tour guide Ed Delfin, his aspirations for his hometown, and his favorite restaurants list
I started tour guiding visitors in Batanes in 1999. I was working on a World Bank-funded project on environmental protection and conservation at that time.
I’m more of a cultural worker than a tour guide. I’ve always been an advocate of heritage conservation. My goal is to convert as many locals into becoming heritage champions and instill in them that tour guiding is about showing the dynamics of natural environment and cultural heritage that shaped our province into what it is now today.
We Ivatans (Batanes locals) love to talk to people and share with them our culture because we’ve been isolated for too long. We’re always been eager to hear stories from the outside world—perhaps because we live in a distant land that was once inaccessible. We are also quite shy.
Batan Island is the more developed Batanes but it has retained its cultural community character. It’s the island to be if you want to see Batanes’ gentle rolling hills.
Itbayat Island is less-visited and ideal for visitors who want to immerse in Ivatans’ traditional way of life. This island has no beach; instead you’ll find uplifted corals and marine fossils on top of the mountains. Book a homestay so you’ll get to live with an Ivatan family and observe their daily life.
Be Itbayat-ready. Take note:
The waves are notoriously rough when you cross to Itbayat. Take something for the motion sickness if you get seasick easily.
In going about, expect a few tricycles and lots of walking.
And a lot of trekking too especially if you want to visit Rapang cliff.
My favorite Batan Island eats:
Vunong Dinette to experience the traditional Ivatan way of dining where food is wrapped in vunung (breadfruit leaves).
Casa Napoli for pizza, pasta and chicken. Try their local matao pizza topped with dried dorado.
Cafe de Tukon, the farm-to-table inhouse restaurant of Fundacion Pacita. Food offerings include pizza, pasta, beef and pork. Try their traditional Ivatan tea tubho.
Octagon Bed and Dine for their sumptuous Ivatan cuisines like vunes (cooked dried taro stalks) and luňis (Batanes’ version of pork adobo).
My favorite Batanes hotels:
Bernie’s Bed and Breakfast. Its architectural design is similar to the famous Fundacion Pacita but it’s relatively cheaper.
Fundacion Pacita. Aside from being the premier accommodation, it is also a social enterprise with a number of causes aimed at helping the local community in Batanes.
Bernardo’s Hotel because of its proximity to Chanarian beach.
Villa de Babat for its homey ambience.
Hillside Villa, which is one of the newest villa in Basco and located a few minutes away from the airport.
Other places in the Philippines that I love:
Coron for its limestone islands, clean lakes like Kayangan, beautiful lagoons, and the Tagbanua tribe; Kalinga because it’s pretty much like Batanes except that it it enclosed by rugged mountains; Manila for the Intramuros and Binondo walking tours—a good way to learn the colorful past of our country; Siargao for its water adventures especially surfing. SkyJet has daily flight from Manila to Coron and to Siargao. Book a SkyJet flight now.
One of the things that put us off when people visit Batanes is when they wear skimpy clothes or when they look for nightlife destinations here. Batanes is a very conservative province and tourists should try to leave their city habits and be more respectful and understanding of the values and culture of the Ivatan people. Tourists in general should be more culturally sensitive when they travel.
When I’m not busy with work, I go on nature trips with my kids or drink with colleagues. In Batanes, you’re not an Ivatan if you don’t drink. Also, I like to read, write, and engage in cultural works.
SkyJet Airlines flies daily from Manila to Batanes. Book SkyJet now.
Who is Ed Delfin?
Ed Delfin is a community development officer at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, founding president of Batanes Tour Guides and Tour Drivers Association, and cluster head of Ivatan & Itbayat Tribe National Commission on Culture and the Arts. He owns and operates Northbound Travel Services in Batanes, which reflects his advocacy on heritage conservation.
Cover photo by Opal Bala