I landed in Batanes, the northernmost island out of the entire Philippines archipelago of 7,500 islands, on a perfectly sunny afternoon. Even the flight in was stunning, as the bucolic hills nearly radiated green, and the idyllic sky connected with the blue of the endless ocean.
After a pre-dawn wakeup call and the usual rigors of waiting and flying, I was pretty bushed, so I decided just to chill and take a long nap at my hotel. There’s no rush, I thought, I have four days in Batanes, so I can tackle all of the tours tomorrow. The weather outside was so perfect that I thought it would certainly be like that for the length of my stay.
It was the last I saw of the sun the whole time I was in Batanes. The rain was pouring in big gray sheets by the time I woke up the next morning, and by day two, the water-soaked island was being tussled and thrown by cyclone winds. Soon, a super typhoon would come in (but Batanes was mercifully spared the worst).
So, it’s a friggin’ miracle that, instead of being a lazy ass and taking a nap that first sunny afternoon I got in town, I actually motivated to take a tour. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful I did get out and explore that hot and dusty afternoon, not only because the weather would turn miserable (and, then, dangerous!) but because the sites and experiences that first afternoon supplied enough memories and amazing photos to last me until next year, when I go back.
My trike driver took me all over the northern portion of Batanes Island, to the Japanese Caves, a few incredible lookout points high in the hills, to the famous Basco lighthouse, and, one of my favorites, a stop at Café du Tukon.
At first, I didn’t know why we were pulling over when my trike driver stopped at the top of a cobblestone road that led down the hill. He told me that trikes weren’t allowed down there, so I was to walk the small distance to the café, guided by colorful signs.
I was definitely surprised by what I found.
The café’s grounds included carefully manicured gardens with local plants and flowers, as well as a huge round fountain, several sculptures, and sitting areas throughout.
But it was inside the modern and inviting café building that was the real stunner. Inside, they had an eclectic mix of furniture, purposely varied across bright colors, styles, and shapes. Upon finding a seat by the windows, which spanned the entire back of the building, I scanned the room, taking in the rustic brick accent walls, dynamic artwork and crafts by local Ivatan (indigenous islander) artists and craftsman, and other mixes of its heritage, travel, culture, and terrain that makes the café – and Batanes – completely unique in the world.
Speaking of the windows, the view outside dominated my attention, as it was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen – anywhere! The café was situated on a vantage point on the top of a hill with gently rolling slopes rising and falling, with cattle fences, a few dirt paths, and the full horizon of the South China Sea laid out in front of us.
THAT was the view as I sipped my cappuccino and pursued their menu, which featured farm-to-fork island delicacies that were either grown on site, supplied by local farmers or pulled right from the sea every morning.
It was a special experience, despite the relatively high price (who cares with that view?) and the fact that I only stayed half an hour because my trike driver was waiting.
My only wish was that I got back to the café to eat dinner and have more time to chill, but then the weather kept me away and then, they were closed a few days for team building exercises for their staff.
It’s ok, Café du Tukon – I’ll see you again next year!