Where to Stay in Batanes—Marfel’s Lodge

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I have heard of the beauty of Batanes over ten years ago, when I began seeing pictures of its rolling hills and clear blue sky in newspapers and magazines. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the place was, but there was a reason why I couldn’t go at that time: the huge cost of traveling there, and the weather which had been known to keep the islands isolated for weeks on end.

batanes

The beauty of the Vayang Rolling Hills in Basco, Batanes.

Indeed, Batanes can be pricey. Flights alone can set you back up to P19,000 (~$450) for a return ticket, and accommodation packages can range from P2,000 to P6,000 or more per day ($40-$140), including the meals which are usually pegged at P300 ($7) per head.

When I managed to buy a round trip ticket to Basco, the mainland, for only P2,700 ($64), I told myself that I would stick to a budget and prove to people that there’s no need to break the bank just to travel to Batanes.

I needed, then, to find a way to cut accommodation and food costs, because I was still rebuilding my travel fund after India. I did that–and more–when I stayed at Marfel’s Lodge in Basco, Batanes.

Marfel’s Lodge, operated by local resident Felomena Fitero, is located just a few meters from the airport (you can walk it in less than 5 minutes!). It’s a two-storey house comprising two bedrooms for rent, each of which can accommodate up to three persons. I was lucky that when I sent a text message to Ate Fe, one bedroom was still available. The other one was already reserved for a couple, Donna and Lloyd, who still had to arrive from Manila.

batanes homestay

You can rent bikes here for P25/hr.

If you’re budget conscious, a homestay like Ate Fe’s is the way to go.  If you don’t want to use the air conditioner, the rate is only P350 per head. Even if you want to use the AC (P1,000 per room for two persons), it would still be worth it. Why? Let me enumerate:

batanes homestay

The bedroom where the other guests, Donna and Lloyd, stayed.

There are only two bedrooms in the whole house. That means that there won’t be a lot of strangers that you have to get along with. If you’re lucky and the other guests leave ahead of you, you get the whole house to yourself, like I did for three days. Where else can you pay only P350 per day and get a whole house?

batanes homestay

This was my bedroom. I kept the windows open to help with the heat.

Each bedroom has two beds, one single and one double. The rate includes free use of towel and linen, and a complimentary roll of tissue and bar of soap. Talk about value-laden!

batanes homestay

The living room at the second floor opens up to the terrace.

At the second floor where the bedrooms are, there’s a small living area and a terrace for smokers, or for those who just want to chill out.

batanes homestay

The kitchen, honesty store, and dining area.

When you’re lodged at Marfel’s, you get to use the kitchen (left of the photo)  for a small fee. That’s right. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay P300 or more for a meal in restaurants, buy the raw ingredients and cook your own. You can find complete cooking and dining utensils here. I have cooked most of my meals, from just frying eggs, to making a pasta dinner. I just bought the ingredients I needed and put them in the fridge.

Ate Fe has a mini-Honesty Store inside the house, too. There are snack items and other food stuff there that you can use, with the corresponding prices indicated. You can pay immediately, or just list them down and pay your bill when you check out. This  was a major disadvantage for me, as I couldn’t resist having junk food, given the ease of access!

The living area is big, comfortable, and there’s a TV and stereo that you can use. Former guests of Ate Fe included a group of 11 friends (four people each in the room, two in folding beds in the living room in the second floor, and one person using the sofa in the first floor as a bed) who cooked their own meals and had videoke sessions when they weren’t out on tours.

batanes homestay

The cozy living area at Marfel’s Lodge.

Even if you’re not into karaoke or videoke, the living room is still the perfect place to relax after a long day’s tour. The sofa is very comfortable and I have found myself (and Donna, too) falling asleep while watching TV.

As if all these are not enough, there’s more!

The best thing about Marfel’s Lodge, aside from the price, is the strong Wifi connection! Not all lodging houses and resorts in Batanes have that; even the highly-priced Pacita Fundacion isn’t connected. For freelancers and budget travelers like me, Marfel’s Lodge is definitely heaven sent.

There were a few disadvantages, but nothing major.

If you get the fan accommodation, and if you were there during the summer months, it can get pretty hot in the bedroom. I addressed that by staying mostly downstairs, working on my netbook in the dining area, or chilling by the sala. That’s why if you’re not traveling solo, better spend a few hundreds more and get the AC accommodation.

Since the homestay is situated within a community–not on a bluff overlooking the ocean, for example–don’t expect nice views or total serenity. Expect seeing the locals go through their daily lives, hearing children crying, or seeing them play. In the mornings, there’s a taho (soya) vendor who passes by; why not do what the locals do and buy a small cup (P10)? It’s warm and sweet and filling.

batanes

The lighthouse at Naidi Hills in Basco, during sunset.

I can never fully articulate how beautiful Batanes is, but there’s another thing that will make me go back there again and again; Marfel’s Lodge, Ate Fe, and the kindness of the people in this wonderful bit of heaven called Batanes.

If you wish to stay at Marfel’s Lodge, book in advance to secure a room. Call or text Ate Fe at +63 908. 893.1475. Fan room is P500 (1 person), P700 (2 persons), P1,000 (3 persons). Aircon room is P1,000 (1 person), P1,200 (2 persons), P1,500 (3 persons). Updated as of 07 November 2013.

Blog-Carnival-Logo

 

This is my entry to the October 2013 PTB Blog Carnival with the theme My Favorite Room hosted by Eileen Campos of The Super Tourists.


 Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!


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Comments

  1. Donna says

    So love our Batanes trip.

    It was made fun and more convenient by Marfel Lodge.

    Love reading your post and hope we bump into each other again somewhere! :))

  2. says

    incredible scenery isn’t it? resembles the rolling hills in ireland that we see on calendars, which btw is why ireland has been in my bucket list since i can remember.

    i’d rather go for homestay than hostels. i’m too old to bunk with teenagers, methinks, although my hubby would disagree with me. plus in homestays i’d think you’d feel more connected to the place because you’re staying with a family as their guest. bedsurfing!
    Photo Cache recently posted..New Orleans: Mardi Gras World

  3. Abe D. Santos says

    I like the information you shared I may just try this next time I am in the PH. This is a hidden treasure.

  4. says

    @ Marisol: 5 days would be good. I, myself, would want to stay for two weeks next time, as long as I can stay where there’s internet like Marfel’s Lodge. :)
    @ Abe: Yes, please do. It’s a lovely place
    @ James: I doubt if I can find such cheap fares again. It was an introductory price. But I would still want to go back even if the flight’s more expensive.
    Aleah recently posted..Things to Do in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

  5. Cyrel says

    Hi Ms. Aleah! Thank you for this very informative blog. Actually we were planning to go in Batanes on October, I just want to ask if you avail any tour package? If so, how many days po yung tour package nyo? Is 3 days tour enough to see the North/South Batan and Sabtang Island? Any restaurants that are near Marfels Lodge?

    Thank You!

  6. says

    @ Cyrel: I took the 3-day tour, and yes, it’s enough to see North/South Batan and Sabtang Island. I still have to finish my posts, but I already have one on North Batan. Check it out: http://www.solitarywanderer.com/2013/07/batanes-north-batan/

    I highly recommend the restaurant just across the airport in Basco. It’s walking distance from Marfel’s and they serve really good meals. Average price is around P150-200 per dish, good for 2 pax.
    Aleah recently posted..Springtime in the Old Town Square in Prague

  7. says

    This is perfect. I was browsing the net for some diy Batanes and I saw your article. We were praying and hoping to get a go signal from my doctors. A Batanes vacation is a perfect birthday gift to myself. I miss traveling so much!

  8. Jacqui V says

    Thank you Aleah for sharing Marfe’l info. :-) I stayed there during my solo escapade last Sept 11-16. Actually it was your name i first checked in the guest register… :-) when i arrived. I had a housemate (gay) there on the third day. Funny, but we used to sleep sa sala (during the last two nights) instead na sa mga rooms namin… Ate Fe thought na natatakot kami sa rooms namin. Actually, nakakatulog kami sa sala sa kakapanood ng TV. Haha! Walang katulad ang Marfel experience namin kahit two lang kami (with Jay-Ann sometimes) Would surely go back there next year (God willing).. Thanks again!

  9. Cora Batuigas says

    Hi, there’s a promo now at PAL Php 1,500 back and forth travel period june 2014 – aug 15 2015.May i ask how much is the tour package for 2 days. Thanks for the info.

  10. says

    this is a timely post and recommendation Aleah dear since we are thinking of going to Batanes as a couple. If my former boss won’t host us, this is the place!!but as always, this is well written and informative!

  11. William M. Griffin says

    I first saw Batanes Is. in May of 1968. I have been back a lot! Now I live there! Itbud is quieter and cleaner than Basco. Better for your health. Come visit me, you mite find it better and cheaper!

    Mike

  12. Maan says

    Hi Aleah! May I know when did you go to Batanes? Im also planning to go there in May but Im hesitant because it might be rainy already (?!) Thanks!

  13. michael yao says

    Hi mam im also a soul traveler like u suppose and these article u wrote really is good makes me want to just go there now, just one thing ok lang po ba na mag isa like u said and just join a group i use to that alot the last time in Hanoi ,Vietnam.

  14. travelguru says

    Hi mam im also a soul traveler like u i suppose and these article u wrote really is good makes me want to just go there now, just one thing ok lang po ba na mag isa like u said and just join a group i use to that alot in europe and the last time in Hanoi ,Vietnam. Im doin antartic expedition now but when i go back home i back pack and travel alone i hope u blog more of your travels… its amazing too see someone like u traveling keep it up all the best and safe travels ingat po lagi ;)

  15. Cecile says

    Aleah, Thanks for your informative blogs on Batanes! i hope Marfel will be available this March. I couldnt find your reply about which tour you took and how much it cost. have youheard any other tour package since then which may be worth trying? It seems the usual 3D2N weekend is not enough for Batanes especially if one intends to tour both north and south batan? Thanks too for puting the DATE when yiu updated the price from 300-500.

  16. says

    @ Michael Yao: I was alone when I went there, so yeah, it’s really okay to travel by yourself. You’ll meet a lot of people along the way.

    @ Travelguru: Antarctic expedition? Wow I’m so envious! It’s in my bucket list, but I can’t afford it. :(

    @ Cecile: Read my other post, how to travel cheaply in batanes http://www.solitarywanderer.com/2013/06/travel-cheaply-in-batanes/ You will find my expenses there. Three days is not enough. Make sure to go for 5 days, to allot of travel time and to make sure you see both North and South Batan and Sabtang. If you want to go to Itbayat, allot 3 more days!
    Aleah recently posted..High Up in the Acropolis, the Sacred Rock of Athens

  17. says

    Hi Aleah,

    Thank you so much sa blog mo! It’s my dream na makapunta sa Batanes and I didn’t thought pede palang maging cheap ang travel mo to Batanes. Thanks to you!

    I just want to ask kung when ka pumunta ditto? I mean anong month?

    Thanks,
    Pam

  18. Mangyan says

    We’re very lucky kasi very cheap ang nakuha namin last november nagpromo ang PAL, 1800 lang ang round trip. June 20 ang sched namin and excited to see Batanes.

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