Basco Jaunts: Quaint Little Café in Naidi Hills

Heard one of the bunkers in Naidi Hills is now a café.  Open only after office hours because the owners have day jobs.  So I noted to self: to have dinner there tonight.

Naidi Hills used to just be a nice spot to chill and to watch the sunset, nothing there really except for the old bunkers.

These bunkers, forever a fixture and leaves much to be desired, sits atop stunning rolling hills with equally stunning views of the town, Mt. Iraya and the bay.

They couldn’t have picked a better site for the café, finally making good use of the old bunkers.

When I returned in 2007, a 6-storey lighthouse with a viewing deck on the 5th level was a new addition to the vicinity, adding to the Naidi Hills charm.

Built next to it is an Ivatan inspired house that was a guesthouse then, a souvenir shop now.  Guess the guesthouse didn’t pan out so well.

Rows of flowers grown near the house brightens up the already pretty site.
Mt. Iraya peeking out of the clouds as seen from the plaza.

Just a short hike from the town plaza, we walked to dinner passing Sto. Domingo de Basco Church along the way.

Established in 1783, making it the oldest church in Batanes, and perhaps one of the oldest in the Philippines.

Having had our share of coconut crabs in Itbayat already, lobsters were next on our list.

Kinilaw na isda (fish cooked in vinegar), a pako (fiddlehead fern) dish, and inihaw na baboy (grilled pork) complemented the sweet lobsters, steamed to perfection.

When evening came, the mood changed.  The spotlights puts focus on the dinner tables outside and the lighthouse dramatically provides the backdrop, bringing al fresco dining into a whole new level.

Setting ambience aside, Bunker Café is a delight in the food department.  Put pack ambience and the café is definitely a winner.

A must visit when in Batanes.

Basco Jaunts: Vayang Rolling Hills

Credits: Red overlay by Kari Holts or iKari Design.

It is perhaps the most visited in Basco.  This place somewhat epitomizes Batanes in the minds of many… endless rolling hills, blue skies and magnificent views of the sea, the South China Sea.

The first time I made it here, I was mesmerized by the unfathomable vastness, how small one can feel within its green expanse.  In 1998, one has to walk up hills upon hills, no vans, no tricycles, and no paved roads.  You get there by walking on unpaved trail.

A trip to Batanes then needs at least 5 days for a complete walk through of Batan and Sabtang.  Those were the days – though I still get goosebumps, I think I like it better then. I can’t deny though that the comforts of today made it a pleasant revisit, especially on a hot summer’s day in May.

The scenery of Vayang is so immense no photo can capture exactly the true essence of the place.  Having said that, here’s an attempt on capturing even just a bit of its flavor and spirit.

Basco Jaunts: Valugan Bay

Credits:  Quickpage by Antonia Krajicek using the “4Ever” kit, a collaborative kit created by Jessica; Suede Alpha by Miss Behaving 2011.

From where we got off, I could hear the splash of the waves; the boulders hardly visible.

The sea is calmer in May.

The rambling of the rocks that hits the ocean floor becomes clearer when you are closer.

With picture-perfect spots scattered all over the islands, Batanes is easy to love.  To pinpoint one specific spot that I love the most is a tall order and perhaps impossible.

Valugan Bay though is so different from any beach I’ve seen, it has left indelible memories and has landed on my top 10 lists of favorites.

I’ve never come across any beach as dramatic as Valugan Bay.

Spewed out by Mt. Iraya and polished through time by powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean, large multi colored rocks covers a kilometer stretch of beach

Taken February 2006 when the waves were larger.

and made more mystical by the ocean mist when waves are strong.

The rambling of the rocks soothes my senses every time I’m here.

The troubles of my world easily fades into a renewed spirit as God whispers through those ramblings that everything will be as polished as those beautiful rocks.   I could sit here forever.

Basco Jaunts: Radar Tukon and its Surroundings

Basco, despite being the smallest province of the Philippines, offers some of the best scenic and cultural landscapes in the country.

Often touted as the Ireland of Asia, this so-called last frontier is blessed with endless rolling hills, rugged terrain and spectacular views of both the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  Perhaps due to its isolation, tradition and culture remain pretty much intact.

Our hired tricycle meandered through the streets of Basco, taking us to some uphill climb through scenic pastureland, the sea and many hills.

We arrived at Radar Tukon where even the locals still love to hang.

What used to be a weather station in the American era houses Basco’s radar station today.

Up in a hill, the 360° view is awesome, perhaps one of the best in the island.

Not only is it a lovely sight and contributes much to the beauty and uniqueness of Batanes,

these hedgerows are there with a few more purposes.

They are there as a windbreaker, for land delineation, it prevents soil erosion, and sometimes serves as nesting ground for migratory birds.

The Tukon Church can be seen from the Radar Station.  Although we didn’t get to see it up close, much less enter it, I believe that the interior is as lovely as the exterior.

Inspired by the Ivatan stone house, this church was a recent project of the Abads, not only to give the communities nearby a church where they won’t have to walk far, but a wedding gift as well to his daughter who got married there recently.  The church, I read, have beautiful stained-glass windows, a ceiling of angels painted by the students of the late Pacita Abad and the best thing about this church is the spectacular view of both the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean wherever one is seated.

Not far from Tukon church is a house sitting on top of a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It was once the home-studio of the late Pacita Abad, an internationally acclaimed artist and sister to current Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, now turned nature lodge.  Refurbished by Butch in her memory, the lodge is not only a pretty sight from afar.

It was in 2006 that I was there, it was still the art and culture center of the Jorge, Aurora and Pacita Abad Foundation.

Her works hanged on the walls and the design of the house, I suspect, characterizes that of the owner.  Today, I read that works of famous Filipino artists and emerging young Ivatan artists grace the walls of the rooms.

The view from the balcony in 2006.

Nature lodge aside, Fundacion Pacita is also the headquarters of the Pacita Abad Center for Arts.  The proceeds earned from the operations supports various projects, one of them is the restoration of Ivantan houses.

More of Basco in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned.

Birding in Basco

“Wanna tag along?”, invites my birder friend, Christian.  “Why not?”, I’ve never seen an owl before.  Not that I’d see it up close, I realized when we were trekking in the woods… at night, obviously, they’re nocturnal creatures.  Duh.  I’ll need binoculars and a strong light, which I am hoping Christian has.  Turns out we didn’t need them because it started to rain.  We took shelter in a house nearby and when it didn’t let up, we decided to call it a night.  Owl watching, day 1 – fail.

Basco is best known for its rolling hills.  It also is the capital of Batanes and where the airport is located.

Aside from the beautiful aerial view of its landscape, the first thing that greets you is its airport.  Small and unassuming but tastefully designed.  It has a charm of its own.  Given that the province is somewhat isolated from the mainland, making use of whatever is available has made the Ivatans quite resourceful.  They have, and I dare say, an eye for beauty… but who wouldn’t if you are surrounded with natural beauty all your life?

These ordinary bucket seats, made attractive with the play of colors, left a lasting impression.

Many accommodations are in Basco, to be close to the airport perhaps.  We stayed at Shanedel’s Inn and Café.  A simple family run inn named after its owner, Dely and her late husband Shane.  Its location plays a big factor in its popularity, particularly among regular visitors.  Even after Shane’s passing, Dely takes the role of excellent host, helping out however she can.

Shanedel’s, albeit on the tired side, still possesses captivating views.

From the veranda, on the right is Naidi Hills with the lighthouse standing tall from a distance.

On the left is the beach where locals play in the waves.

So used to it, the kids seemed unfazed but rather enjoyed the big waves.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher.  That is what C hopes to see on this trip (outside of that owl).  We woke up early to join him on another birding expedition.

The guide brought us to a private lot just 10 minutes away from Shanedel’s.  We had our sights on a bird’s nest perched on a tree, hoping it is our bird’s nest.

Birding is not for me… there was a lot of waiting and this kept me company.

Patience is a virtue.  After an hour or so there they were, first the female and not too long after, the male appeared.

Credits:  Photo courtesy of A. Carag.
My shot sans the bird.  This was a different nest — closer for a shot in my camera.
I didn’t have this.  A preferred lens for birding.

Bird watching, day 2 – success.

And with that, we celebrated with the best organic burgers in Basco. Zantan’s is a small eatery right beside Shanedel’s.

And with the burgers, I had sweet potato fries on the side and finally, halo-halo for dessert.  Stunning landscapes and sceneries up next. Stay tuned.

Useful Info:

Shanedel’s Inn & Cafe
Mobile: +63 920-4470737 
Contact: Dely Millan