A Trip to Y’ami: Philippine’s Northernmost Tip

A truck waits for us at the corner of Nanay Cano’s house.

It will be taking us to Paganaman Port where we will embark on a trip to Y’ami Island.   The northernmost island of Batanes, it is closer to Taiwan than it is to Aparri.  An idea I never really took seriously until an email came my way one day in March.  “He wasn’t joking”, I thought.

We had to trek down to the port with our drinking water and overnight kits.  It was a long way down.

There it was waiting for us at the landing.  The boat, also called a falowa that Nanay Cano arranged for us was unbelievably small.

Could it really bring us safely to Y’ami on treacherous waters?  The sea was calmest in May, which was why this expedition happened then.  So along with treacherous waters is scorching sun.  That boat has no cover whatsoever.  So I ask myself for the nth time, how far do I go really?  Is this so-called adventure worth the trouble?

No one spoke a word when we reached the landing.  One by one, we got on the boat with much effort.  The water was rough, making it difficult to mount.  It was the biggest fishing boat on the island, we were told, costing us a mere P6,000 for the 2-day journey.

Looking back at Itbayat.

Composed of 3 major inhabited islands, Batan, Sabtang and Itbayat, Batanes also has smaller uninhatbited islands.  These are Siayan, Di-nem, Dequey, North, Mavudis, and Y’ami (also called Mavulis by locals).  Y’ami being the farthest, we will pass all these islands on the way.

The plan was to drop off our stuff at Siayan, the island closest to Itbayat.  Because Y’ami has no water source, we will stay the night at Siayan before heading back to Itbayat the next day.

The water became quite rough at one point, I wanted to get off with our stuff in Siayan but as fate would have it, the captain (they actually call him piloto) decided that we were light enough to travel the long haul.  Stopping at Siayan would take up time (you’ll soon find out why) and he’d rather be out of the water before late afternoon. If truth be told, the rough sea exhibited how capable our captain was and that there was nothing to fear.  One of us noticed that they only have one engine.  “What happens if the engine breaks”, he asked.  They shrugged, “we will use the sail”.  Simple as that!

Am I glad there was no need for that.  Needless to say, the journey to Y’ami was grueling with me getting perhaps the lousiest seat – the middle seat with nothing to hold on to.  I slip and slide as the boat ride the waves.  The fiberglass boat is slippery when wet, leg room was limited, the sun scorching…

But the scenery along the way somewhat eased the uneasiness.

Three hours after we left Paganaman port, we see Y’ami in the distance. As we approach it, we realized that getting off was a problem.

The water was too rough for a shore entry so we anchored far from shore and waded to the island.

“This better be worth it”, my thought balloon goes.

Under those rocks we found shelter from the scorching heat of mid-day sun.
And there we had lunch.

Trekking to the other side of the hill where there is some sort of landing, albeit on sharp rocks.

The island is beautiful, pure, unspoiled.  Sadly though, we saw a baby shark with its fins cut off from a fishing boat.

Except for some fishermen (including the corrupted ones) taking a break from fishing, hardly anyone sets foot in this uninhabited island.  It is, after all, a long way from home.

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32 thoughts on “A Trip to Y’ami: Philippine’s Northernmost Tip

  1. You are really a very brave soul. I sighed a lot reading your post. My friend’s group had their Backpack Photography which include Itbayat, but I am so sure i cannot brave that 4hrs unfriendly waves. Even if i had intentions to explore unknown territories, rough waters is not for me. Sabtang and Siquijor waters are already so scary. I salute you Jenn! I noticed you only have one ‘piloto’ without any help, and you are only four in the group? I am scared even just reading this. But I agree that is the most beautiful part of the Philippines. I am sharing your trip in FB.

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    1. Hi Andrea, I don’t know if I am brave or just plain crazy. The water was not rough all the way, but the sun was. We had one piloting the boat and another guide that seems to be higher in rank than the “piloto”. He seemed like the one making most of the decisions. We were 6 in the group. I, of course, do not recommend this to everyone. It is an adventure of a lifetime and something I will do only once in my life. 🙂

      There are talks of doing the southernmost tip of the Philippines. But that being Mindanao, it would entail an even greater logistic nightmare. So we’ll see if that ever gets to fruition. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing this post.

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  2. as pretty as the sights are, i would be chicken to go with only a “flimsy” boat to use. i cannot believe you have thrown caution to the wind and decided to brave it. you are brave.

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  3. Wow! This is really quite the adventure! Very beautiful photographs! The 8th photograph down from the top really gives a feel for the huge waves. Is this to be continued? Where did you spend the night? How was the trip home? (I’m very sad about the shark.)

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    1. Hi Carol, check out my next post. It is about Siayan, where we spent the night. The ride back was uneventful. 🙂 And yes, it was an adventure of a lifetime.

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    1. Hi again! No lifejacket provided although we brought a couple of personal life jackets, we didn’t get around to use these too. Unfortunately in my country, precaution and safety measures aren’t strictly complied, especially in remote places such as these.
      We too are guilty and contribute to the non-compliance, I know… 😦

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  4. breathtaking views! that big wave was scary–no life vest?! oh, ok..you answered my question! it is not comfortable wearing a life vest but i wear it anyway, especially on boat trips like this one.

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  5. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. Ever since I came back here in the Philippines I haven’t actually visited enough places like this. Your post and images are making me want to explore more of the country riches. I would love to try trekking.

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  6. Hi JENN.. this is what im looking for the longest time, you traveld to Y’AMI island.. wow you have such a brave heart. i think no1 else able to go in YAMI except you and your company. such a pleasure reading and going through your blog.

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    1. Hi Iman, I don’t normally include costs in my posts mainly because prices do change depending on the situation, time etc… And most of the time, I forget. But at the time of this journey, which was May of last year — the plane fare (Seair) is in the vicinity of 12,000, flight to Itbayat is about P2,800 R/T. Room at Nanay Cano, I really have no record, probably P200 at night. The boat cost us P6,000 including crew and 1 night stay at Siayan. Hope this gives you a rough idea.

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  7. wow! that’s looks fun and dangerous at the same time 🙂
    i wish i also could go there, in my lifetime preferably hehehe
    the philippines is truly gifted with so many beautiful places (and people of course :D)
    I admire you ms. jenn for your courage and thank you for sharing this little peace of heaven for us, your fellow Filipinos who may not have the opportunity to visit that corner for our country.

    mabuhay ka at iyong mga kasama 😉

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  8. Hi,thank you for sharing for everybody my home sweet home. I’m cyrus youngest son of nanay cano.looking forward to go back to native land a perfect place to live….dios mamahes do tavo

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    1. Hi Cyrus… nice to meet you. Nanay Cano was the perfect host, very gracious and accommodating. Thanks for dropping by and introducing yourself. I hope to go back to Itbayat in the near future, but only if there’s a flight. 🙂 I always enjoy spending a few days there hanging out with the local folks. Take care and say hi to nanay when you see her.

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  9. WOW! Reading your adventure and seeing those beautiful photographs is really firing me up. This trip really a definition of adventure. I was wondering, how much did this whole trip costs?

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    1. Hi Vina, We spent a little less than P20,000/person for the whole trip which included a few days in Itbayat and Basco, MLA-Basco Seair flight, another flight to Itbayat, renting a boat to get to mavulis/y’ami, meals and lodging. Hope this of help. 🙂

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  10. Wow! What a breathtaking view of a beautiful island at the edge of the northern frontier- Batanes. I never thought that one day, a group of courageous adventurers will explore the island of yami. I am a native of Batanes but i never dared to explore the island. Correct me but i never thought that yami still belongs to the Batanes group of islands. Maam Jenn, with great admiration, i salute you and your group. You made us feel that Yami is still a part of Batanes and that validates our claim that Yami is the farthest island in the north, which is also claim partly by Taiwan.

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    1. Hi Johnny, thanks for the visit. I think you are mistaking Y’ami Island (also known as Mavulis today) with Orchid Island, an island of Taiwan closest to Y’ami. The confusion, I think, lies in the fact that the Taiwanese aboriginal inhabitants of Orchid Island are the Yami people. There may be have been some connection between the Yami people and Y’ami Island but I am pretty sure it is part of the Batanes group of island. 🙂 Here’s a link for reference: http://www.vistapinas.com/article/yami-island

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  11. Hi Jenn! Im happy that you’re travel was safe and worth it. I remembered my travel to Calayan island and Camiguin island (part of Babuyan group of islands) this April 2015. The waves were generally wild but hey we weathered it and got to the Camiguin islands safe and sound! I’m really interested in visiting Y’ami island but I think Im going to wear my oceanwaves phobia off first. I’m including this in my bucket list. hopefully one day I’ll get to take some photos of this breathtaking island!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have not been to any of the islands of Batanes; at my age (going 60) I think I have no chance to go there! I enjoyed the scenery in your blog! Congratulations, brave soul!

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  13. Hi Jenn,

    I wan to know how to get there. Appreciate if you can help me on how. I know everything changed since this post is since 2012.

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