Itbayat Island | Philippines’ Northernmost Inhabited Island
Itbayat Island is largely unheard of even among Filipinos, not only because of its remoteness but also its people chose to live a quiet life.
This anonymity has never been a problem to the Itbayaten. In fact, they’ve survived in extreme but wonderful isolation since the time of their ancestors.
Inside Itbayat Island, the magic & rarity
If you ever wonder what those tiny dots are on the northernmost fringes of the Philippine map, it is actually the Batanes group of islands. One of them is Itbayat Island, the largest among the 10 isles in this far-flung province.
To visit Batanes is only a dream for many Filipinos because of the high cost of travel, let alone reaching the last inhabited island on this side of the Philippines.
Having experienced Itbayat was one of the highlights of my 2-month journey in Batanes. It was a rare moment to see for myself what life is like on an island that is so beautifully detached from the world.
Because tourists are hard to come by, they have kept their natural landscape in pristine state & preserved much of its indigenous culture. And here are what I found on Itbayat Island.
If you are thrilled by spelunking, then this island has so much to show. It has caves that lead to the sea, huge cathedral ceilings, narrow piths & deep hollows that require extreme rappelling skills.
Among the most explored is Torongan because it’s easily navigable. Other caves like northern & eastern Sarokan, Do’tboran & Pevangan.
Itbayat Island is one of the world’s largest uplifted corals & it’s surrounded by huge craggy walls of rock. The most iconic is Rapang Cliff, a towering & expansive mound of razor-sharp rocks that face the Pacific.
If you cannot trek for long hours, just drive to the edge of the island & marvel at these amazing but sometimes scary walls.
There’s more to life here than hanging on a cliff. In fact, it is laden with so many pretty landscapes that are backdrop-worthy for your sundress OOTD.
Since pre-historic times, Ivatans are known to be mighty seafarers. These are evidenced by ancient graves that are shaped like boats. You can find this on a fortress called Nahini Votox.
On Rapang Hills, there is a melodious flat rock called the Stone Bell that is being used to call the herds & droves.
Even if the island is closer to Taiwan than anywhere in mainland Philippines, Itbayat was reached by the Spanish mission. This 19th century colonial church of Sta Maria was laid in coral foundation & stands to this day as national cultural heritage.
Unlike the stone houses in Batan & Sabtang, the traditional houses of the Itbayaten are mostly made of corals, withstanding stronger storms that usually pass their island.
But even before this architectural style was used, their more indigenous homes called jinjin were made of grass. And nowhere is this still abundant than in Sitio Yawran.
Ingenious Port Design
As the island is just an uplifted coral, it doesn’t have a shoreline. Because of this, constructing a port with boardwalks that stretch to the sea is impossible. This also makes boat disembarkations double the excitement by jumping off to the ground rather than using a gangplank.
The only great way to get a 360-degree view reminder of your extreme isolation is to climb its mountains. Mt. Karoboban in the north offers a view of the islets towards Taiwan. Mt. Riposed on the southeastern side gives a commanding sight of Dinem Island.
But if you can’t anymore hike up, then just head to Varayvayan Viewpoint & you’ll still be afforded a great panorama of Itbayat Island. This is also what locals call the Grotto.
Amazing rock formations abound on the island. In fact, crossing under the rock arch as the boat approaches the island is one of the most anticipated parts. But there are times when you can’t pass through.
But I’ll let you on in a secret place where you can get a wonderful rock arch shot. This one’s barely unknown to travelers because getting there is risky. Tell your guide to bring you to Omawun Cliff. Better yet, hire Jojo because he discovered this spot.
With its very rocky landscape, obviously beaches for swimming are not possible. But don’t be sad because they have what they call Blue Lagoon in Paganaman Port.
These aren’t really lagoons but tidal pools. You can only wallow & not really swim because of the huge waves outside the pools. There’s a small beach with white sand called Kaxobcan but to get down is really difficult & the waves are so strong.
PAGASA Weather Station
Itbayat Island & the rest of Batanes lay on the usual path of storms from the Pacific. Recently, it was severed by two successive supertyphoons that wrecked havoc on its pasturelands & homes.
It might be good to visit the last weather station in the country that is perched on a hill. You can also drop by the old abandoned office near the airstrip.
I am not a trailblazer on Itbayat Island as some travelers have made it there long before I did. But if you go, like me, we will all be part of a small circle of wanderers who’ve made it to the farthest island in the north where Filipinos still stand.
Book your Itbayat adventure through Wakay Tours.
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Check-out this short video too!