You haven’t really traveled until you immerse yourself in the local culture. We asked local expert Ryan Lara Cardona of Bisumi tours to share his recommendations on where to stay, what to bring home and how to achieve the authentic Batanes experience.
When is the best time to go?
Ryan: Peak season begins in February and tapers down towards June. Sometimes Batanes welcomes as many as 200 to 300 tourists a day. The province, which is a third of Metro Manila’s land area, has seen an increase in the number of transportation services, alongside homestay and hotel accommodations. So far it’s manageable, but we all to be mindful that it’s a small area and we have to still ensure ‘high quality tours’ where guests can all enjoy the scenery without too many people in the same spot.
Homestay vs hotel?
Ryan: Definitely homestay. Hotels have the creature comforts of home, but with homestays, visitors can experience living like a local. For P1,000 a day, guests get a room, breakfast and airport transfers. This benefits locals directly and encourages the conversion of existing buildings into transient homes.
What’s the best way to get around the Basco town?
Ryan: For small groups of 1 to 3 travelers, the most convenient would be ‘tricy-cogon’ tricycles, then for big groups, there are tranvia-type vans and air-conditioned vans available. DIY-ers would go on foot or rent a bike – just be careful of narrow roads and steep inclines.
What can visitors bring home from Batanes?
Ryan: Please support local products. For traditional handicrafts, there’s the vuvud. It’s a basket made in Itbayat island and is shaped for jewelry and other small valuables. Batanes is also proud of its wakay chips and ube chips, which go well with the local turmeric tea. We also have palek, which is local sugar cane wine — equivalent of basi in Tagalog.
What advice would you give to travelers who will visit Batanes?
Ryan: Focus on enjoying the beauty of nature above anything else. Our province is nothing like you’ve seen elsewhere in the Philippines, so I suggest for you to just take a few shots then enjoy the view with your own eyes. I also ask our visitors to please respect the local people, culture and tradition. We’re an isolated area, so we can’t easily source the creature comforts that you’re used to at home. It would also be good to expect weak mobile and wifi signal — it’s a good time to disconnect and enjoy an authentic Batanes experience.
Ryan Lara Cardona has almost 10 years of experience in the local tourism industry and is now the owner of Bisumi Tours and Services that provide eco-adventure activities for visitors to the stunning group of islands in Batanes. To book or find out more information about Bisumi, visit www.bisumitours.com.