THE PROVINCE OF BATANES is the smallest province of the Philippine Republic in terms of population and land area. The provincial capital is Basco and the province is composed of the Batanes Islands. The Batanes Islands are separated from the Babuyan Islands of Cagayan Province by the Balintang Channel and from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel. Batanes is 190 kilometers south of Taiwan.
The Ivatans (descendants of Austronesians) were the first settlers in Batanes Islands. They settled on top of steep mountain areas called “Idjangs”. It was already a thriving community engaged in trade and commerce, seafarers and boat builders. In 1687, English adventurer William Dampier together with his crew of Hollanders came in the Islands and named Itbayat area into “Orange Isle” in honor of William of Orange, Batan was named "Grafton Isle" after Duke of Grafton and Sabtang Isle was named "Monmouth Isle" after another Duke.
During the Spanish era in the 17th century, Dominican Friars attempted twice to Christianize the Ivatans and urge the residents to resettle in the Babuyanes. Then in 1783, the Islands were brought under the Spanish Crown but the Ivatans remained living in the mountains. In 1790, the Governor-general of the Batanes Islands ordered that Ivatans leave their mountain settlements and live in the lowlands in order to tax more people. Batanes was then made a part of Cagayan and Ivatans were then ordered to dress like the other Filipinos, and it didn't take them long to adapt. This led to the natives’ discontent to Spanish ruling and by 1890 revolutionary uprising gave way.
Batanes regained the status as a province in 1855. However after the American colonization, the Americans annexed the province again as part of Cagayan. Then in 1909, Batanes was again established as a separate province by virtue of Act 1952. Since then infrastructures were built such as schools and roads and between 1950s and 1960s, Ivatans resettled in other parts of the country particularly in Mindanao.
Batanes province is generally hilly and mountainous situated in the vast expanse of channels and seas. The Island is rich with marine resources and rare sea corals. Land area is composed of 1,631.50 hectares or 7.10% of flat lands, 17,994.40 hectares of rolling to steep slopes and 9,734.40 hectares are very steep lands. The main island of Batan has level and nearly level lands, while Itbayat has gently rolling hills and nearly level areas on semi-plateaus. On the other hand, Sabtang has small flat areas spread on its coasts.
In terms of population, Batanes has 15,090 residents and predominant language used is Ivatan, followed by Ilocano and Filipino dialects.
Generally, climate is also similar to Taiwan which sometimes temperature goes below 13 °C. Batanes is usually swept by wind and rain but has no pronounced wet or dry season. Summer starts from months of April to June and winter from December to February. The best time to visit is mid-March to June.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY IN BATANES
The main source of livelihood in the province of Batanes are fishing and farming with major crops such as garlic, camote or sweet potato, cassava, gabi or tuber and a unique variety of white uvi. Distance and bad weather work against its economic growth. Certain commodities like rice, soft drinks, and gasoline carry a 75% to 100% mark-up over Manila retail prices.
ART AND CULTURAL HERITAGE IN BATANES
Local and foreign tourists alike are amazed with the house architectures in the Island wherein most of the Ivatan houses are built with thick walls of stone and lime that is thatched with thick layers of cogon and Faluas or sturdier sea boats are also common in Batanes. Ivatan culture is rich in indigenous traditions such as oral anecdotes and tales, legends, riddles and proverbs.
Ivatans also holds a precious poetic lyric song known as “laji” which is sung without accompaniment during important and happy occasions. Lyrics of the laji are considered the best Ivatan folk poetry. There is also a song enchanted by the Ivatans during work in the fields known as “kalusan”. A song leader starts the singing and workers follow with the rest of the song.
The entire archipelago is also rich with old structures such as churches, ruins of Songsong which is a whole town of roofless stone houses abandoned after it was hit by tidal waves in the 1950s; as well as Itbayat Burial Caves in which human remains are placed in clay jars and left in the caves.
The province boasts of its unique handicrafts such as native hats and fans, as well as dried fish, sugarcane or “palek”, and garlic produce.
The province also processed fish such as “Tinapa” and “Tuyo” or dried fish which is exported to various parts of the country.
MUNICIPALITIES OF BATANES
Batanes is comprised of one congressional district, 6 municipalities and 29 barangays:
The center of commerce and seat of the provincial government. The most populated island of the province.
This Cave is said to be enchanted and it has natural salt bed and a mouth that opens to the South China Sea.
The Island is surrounded by massive boulders and cliffs rising from 20-70 feet above sea level and has no shoreline. It has a dirt airstrip for light aircraft.
The people are hospitable and commonly greet every visitors and tourists they meet with.
Kanyuyan Beach and Port
This is located in Baluarte Bay, Basco. The port of call of the cargo ships bringing goods from Manila.
Lime and Stone Houses, Churches and Buildings
The houses were built in 1795 believed to last 60 years.
Coconut crabs abound in this island.
This is an inactive volcano standing at 1,517 meters. Ideal for mountaineering, trekking, and trailblazing.
An extinct volcano measuring 495 meters at its summit.
Old Loran Station
This used to be a US coastguard detachment.
This used to be a United States weather station on a hilltop with a perfect view of Batan Island, the South China Sea, Mt. Iraya, Basco proper, and boulder lined cliffs and the Pacific Ocean.
This is where the Philippine “Katipuneros” landed on 1898.
Ruins of Songsong
This place used to be a settlement during the 1950s. However, it was hit by a tidal wave.
The Island is one of the 12 Best Destinations in the Philippines. It has white sand beaches, steep mountains, and deep canyons.San Jose Church – This was built in 1814 with espadaña style. Fronts the Ivana Seaport and offers a commanding view of the sea and surrounding countryside due to its elevation.
Seascape and Landscape
The Island has a perfect environment which was also declared as protected.
The fishermen’s village and every mid-march a festival is celebrated and visitors are treated with fresh fish delicacies from the Pacific Ocean.
Other places to visit:
Boat-shaped Grave Markers
Chavulan Burial Jar Site
Arrangement of Stone with Holes
Paso Stone Formation
NATURAL CAVES AND HILLS
San Carlos Borromeo Church and Convent
Church of Sto. Domingo de Basco
San Vicente Ferrer Church
There are two airstrips in the province; the domestic airport in Basco, and another airstrip for light aircraft in Itbayat. SEAIR flies to Batanes from Manila three times a week. However, chartered planes can also be used.
The Batanes Multi-Purpose Cooperative now carries the MV Ivatan Princess which runs the Currimao, Ilocos Norte - Basco, Batanes route. Travel time is 18 hours.