Heading to the northernmost province of the Philippines for the first time? Heed these tips for a conscientious trip.
1. Don’t eat the coconut crab.
The Birgus Latro, better known in Batanes as tatus and in layman’s terms, the coconut crab or palm thief, is on the list of endangered species. Thanks to the lack of information dissemination, many tour operators, caterers, and restaurants still serve coconut crabs to visitors. Don’t be that type of tourist who says, “Ooh, let’s eat it because it’s going to be extinct soon!” If they offer it to you, decline and explain that it’s illegal.
2. Take it slow.
Life in Batanes isn’t as fast-paced as Manila, so please keep your cool when the service is slow. They’re not being incompetent or doing it to irk your highbrow taste; life in Batanes is simply laid-back. It is you who needs to adapt to their culture and respect their lifestyle, and not the other way around.
3. Keep Honesty Café honest.
This café/sari-sari store is one of the most popular tourist spots in Batanes because there are no waiters or servers tending it. They rely on the honesty of the customers. According to the owners, Honesty Café‘s has been 98% honest since they started in 1995. Please don’t be one of the douchebags who would take food without paying, just to see if you can get away with it or for the mere heck of it.
4. Disconnect from social networking.
Cellphone signal is decent in Batanes, but 3G and internet connection are intermittent. The only working Wi-Fi signal I found was in Fundacion Pacita, the most expensive lodging in Batanes. There is Wi-Fi in the administrative office, but only 3 people at a time can use it. If more than three people use the Wi-Fi, the connection disappears. Just enjoy your vacation the old-fashioned way, and wait until you get home before flooding your Instagram feed.
5. Deviate from the tourist list.
There are many cafés and spots not listed in the usual tourist itinerary. Don’t be afraid to walk or bike around town to explore on your own. Batanes has zero crime rate, so the only danger you have to worry about is clumsily slipping down the cliffs.
Date of trip: April 9-12
Cost of plane ticket: ₱11,680 via Philippine Airlines
Group tour: ₱10,598 via Jeron Travel and Tours (includes complimentary daily breakfast and airport shuttle)
Miscellaneous expenses: ₱2,500