Encounters in Sabtang

“You have to go there tomorrow because they’re celebrating their fiesta,” our host told us matter-of-factly as we settled at her two-storey lodge that would be our home in Batanes for the next few days. We were in no rush to plan our days, but we couldn’t blame her: Batanes had just come from a very strong typhoon, the strongest in more than 20 years they say, and our host seemed hell-bent at making us enjoy whatever sunshine we could.

She was referring to Sabtang Island, one of the only three inhabited in Batanes province. Thirty minutes by boat, she said, and more stone houses than we could count.
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Snapshots from Albay: Pinamuntugan Island and Bacacay

Although it is home to one of the Philippines’ most recognizable landmarks, Bicol still has way too many secrets. This island in Albay is one, despite being next-door neighbors with the ritzy Cagraray Island, home to Misibis Bay. We’re talking about Pinamuntugan, an hour’s boat ride from the town of Bacacay in Albay. Our stay on this island was short, sweet, and (relatively) cheap, since there’s really nothing to do here—dolce far niente, ladies and gentlemen.

TWO2TRAVEL: Bicol - Pinamuntugan Island, Bacacay, Albay
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Batanes: The perfect trip

Just like everyone else, we had our eyes on Batanes ever since we started traveling. We daydreamed about its rolling hills (and plastered them on our walls for good measure) but never actually thought we could set foot on them—not this soon, and not this time of the year.

When 2013 came, we never thought we’d finally tick this off our bucket list (we were actually hoping somebody will send us there for an assignment of some sort, so that we’d never have to worry about anything including the expenses and the weather).

But as it happened, the opportunity to travel to Batanes came in the form of discounted fares in September (50% off the year-round ticket price), so we grabbed them immediately. We booked our flight just two weeks before departure, so it never really sunk in until we were finally at the airport, and then a smug-looking attendant wearing very thick makeup told us something we never wanted to hear: our flight was cancelled.
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Guide to biking around southern Batan Island, Batanes

Just because it took us 12 hours to bike around southern Batan Island does not mean the whole thing is such a pain in the arse (well, it really was, literally) and that you shouldn’t do it. You can, and for the record, you don’t need ninja biking skills to pull this one off. The roads of Batan Island are generally good, there will always be locals around to help you in case you run into trouble, and the route is easy to navigate even without a guide.

Biking around Batan Island, Batanes - Two2Travel.com
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Biking for 12 hours in Batanes

“Bakit ulit natin ginagawa ito?! Leche!!!” I exclaimed to Owen as I pushed my bike farther up against loose gravel.

We have been at it for nearly an hour, and before this, have been biking our muscles sore for 11 hours.

Our goal was to bike all around Batan Island starting from Basco, moving south to Mahatao, taking an inland detour to Diura Fishing Village, and then going back to Mahatao town proper to push farther south to the towns of Ivana, Uyugan, Itbud, and finally make the ascent back north to Marlboro Country and emerge at Mahatao town proper again.

“Biking

But by this time, we were already so tired, we were in the middle of nowhere, it was nearing dark, and only the wind or cows or goats could hear whatever pleas we had. We had two choices: continue the hike to get back to Mahatao by nightfall (there were no lampposts and only dense forests along the way) or whimper like kids in the middle of the mountains.

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Timelapse: Breathtaking Batanes from sun up to sundown

There are absolutely no words to describe Batanes. It is, quite simply, the most jaw-dropping place we have ever set foot on.

We don’t know if any of the photos we took home will ever accurately depict what our eyes saw, but we tried, we really did. And this video, taken from Sabtang and Batan Islands during the four full days we explored Batanes, is one of these many attempts.

Locations:
BATAN ISLAND: Valugan Beach, Radar Tukon, Naidi Lighthouse, Vayang Rolling Hills, Diura Fishing Village, Marlboro Country
SABTANG ISLAND: Chavayan, Sabtang Lighthouse, Morong Beach

One day, one night one moment
With a dream to be leaving
One step, one fall, one falter
Find a new world across a wide ocean
This way became my journey
This day brings together
Far and away
~Book of Days
 

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Moody Bacuit Bay: El Nido, Palawan Timelapse

Of the six full days we were in El Nido, we had only one—yes, one—sunny day. And that was Friday the 13th.

We’ve been carelessly optimistic about this trip, having been reassured countless times that heavy rains do not usually plague this part of the country. Not Palawan, a dreamy island forever sun-kissed. And definitely not El Nido, the dreamiest of them all.

el nido palawan two2travel.com
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Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines


It was barely 6 AM and we were already running an hour late from our self-imposed call time. Luckily, we were in the province—in fact, we were in the middle of nowhere, in a small hot spring resort surrounded by dense mountains and tall coconut trees in Irosin, Sorsogon. There was no pesky tour guide to fault us for not waking up according to a printed, three-page Excel document, and our trike driver looked like he had just woken up too.

All five of us settled groggily in the tricycle, Owen and I choosing to sit behind the driver—a decision we regretted as soon as the trike picked up speed and the early morning chill assaulted us face on.

It turns out, as the tricycle made its way past the shady entrance to Bulusan National Park, our timing was just perfect. Before us was Bulusan Lake, its water reflecting the trees and the blue sky with its big, fat, white clouds, so vivid it looked like a rippling mirror. It was so picture-perfect it didn’t seem real.

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

The opaque waters became real enough, however, when we started pedaling our way across the lake. Our companions had been gone for about 15 minutes when Owen and I decided to follow, partly because we were worried why they hadn’t reappeared on the other side yet.

It turns out the part not visible from the dock was way bigger, and that there are tables on this part for picnics. We wished we had brought food with us on the way, since without anything (not even water), we didn’t get to linger long enough, which was a shame because the shady area was perfect for eating and then dozing off and then eating again.

But it was a sunny day, the air was cool, we were with friends we can race against on the placid waters (which we did), so the food (or lack thereof) was barely an issue, if at all.

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, Philippines

But the lake is barely just a tourist attraction for picnics and kayaking. Rather more importantly, it is a source of food for local people, who can be seen laying down their nets at various parts of the lake in the early morning. Local kids also swim in it without so much as a life vest, and right then we knew that the fun we were having was nothing compared to theirs.

Photos: 24 hours in Donsol

Small, quiet, uncomplicated–well, at least on the surface. That’s how Donsol in Sorsogon province seemed. Coconut trees rose above the concrete, and small fenced resorts lined up the coast, which, to anyone who didn’t know better, could easily look unremarkable.

TWO2TRAVEL | Donsol, Sorsogon

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Donsol, Sorsogon: No whalesharks — almost

“Ma’am, sir,” our Butanding Interaction Officer, Manong Henry, addressed us slowly, choosing his words carefully,”Gaya ho ng sabi namin kanina, wala pong kasiguruhan na makakakita tayo ng butanding ngayon. [Just as we had told you earlier, we cannot guarantee seeing whalesharks today]”

It was nearly lunch time. The sun was boring down on us, a group of nine on a boat bobbing off the coast of Donsol in Sorsogon. The ocean breeze was making me sleepy, and, even as our last meal was nearly four hours ago, I wasn’t feeling hungry at all. Or maybe I was, but the hunger wasn’t nearly as bad as how my heart had felt that moment, hearing the words come out of our guide’s mouth.

Whalesharks of Donsol, Philippines by Two2Travel.com

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