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Batanes

Brief History

The island-province of Batanes was created by a series of volcanic activities and other geologic forces when Mt. Iraya erupted around 325 BC.

In 1782, then Governor General of the Philippines Jose Basco y Vargas sent an expedition to undertake the formalities of getting the consent of the Ivatans to become subjects of the King of Spain. On June 26, 1783, Joseph Huelva Melgarjo became the first Governor of Batanes. The new province was named Provincia dela Concepcion and Governor Basco was named “Conde dela Conquista de Batanes” and the capital town was named after him.

By 1799, the Manila government was convinced that the Batanes provincial government was unable to support itself and it was decided to downgrade it. The office of the governor was abolished and Valero Bermudez was appointed alcalde.

By 1855, the Itbayat Mission was formally recognized, the same year when the era of the alcalde also ended and the governorship was restored indicating a mode of political and economic upswing. Fernando dela Cuevas was assigned Governor.

Around 1890, a mailboat was coming everythree months increasing the contact of the Ivatans with Luzon specially Manila. The export of pork, lard and cattle increased. Galvanized iron became available.

On September 18, 1898 Katipuneros from Luzon hoisted their flag at Radiwan in Ivana. On September 20, new sets of provincial and municipal officers were elected with Teofilo Castillejos as Governor.

In February 1900, the USS Princeton landed in Batanes to begin American rule. The province became a mere township the second time under Cagayan confirmed by the Provincial Government Act No. 83 of the American Government enacted February 6, 1901. Public School system was started. General health, hygiene and sanitation campaign was launched.

Batanes became a province again by the provision of Act 1952 enacted on May 10, 1909 and Otto Scheerer was appointed Governor of the province. The Manila government erected a wireless telegraph tower and station; better roads were built and an agricultural land was converted into an airport. When the Japanese arrived in Batanes on December 8, 1941 they bombed the airport and destroyed the wireless telegraph tower. Ivatan resentment turned to aggressive resistance in 1945. After the war and the Philippines got its Independence, contact with the rest of the country increased. The airport was rehabilitated, media and the radio communications have lessened cultural isolation. Infrastructure, electrification and deep sea fishing improved and a shift to rice from root crops as traditional subsistence was effected.

OVERVIEW

Batanes is home to the famous Ivatans, who are nationally acclaimed as the “True Insulares”.

The Island Province lies at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, on a vast expanse of wild waters where the Pacific Ocean merges with the China Sea. It is made up of three major islands, namely: Batan which contains the capital town of Basco), Sabtang and Itbayat close by are seven islets including Amianan (the closes to Formosa, Taiwan). Thus, Batanes has been identified as the country'’ potential “gateway to East China”.

The Batanes Archipelago was formally annexed to the Philippine Islands under the Spanish rule on the 26th of June, 1783. The complete evangelization of the island took almost a century. Education, centered on the Catholic faith, was introduced with the religious work. Prior to the Spanish rule, the Ivatan ancestors had developed a unique culture of their own and the population then was placed at about 30,000, excluding those from Itbayat.

The Ivatan, like most Filipinos are of Malay stock. They traced their roots to early immigrants from Formosa, (Taiwan) as well as Spaniards, who came to the island in the 16th century. Being an insular people, the Ivatans have kept the purity of their gene pool. To this day, they have the features of their forebears – the Formosan’s almond eyes and the Spaniard’s aquiline nose. Their language is peppered with pidgin Spanish and spoken with the musicality of the Chinese tongue. The provincial capital itself bears the name of the official who brought the island under the Spanish rule in 1788 and served as its first Governor General (Basco).

The civil administration contributed much to the improvement of the towns by the construction of new buildings and bridges, opening of new roads, improving health and sanitation and most importantly, the setting up of a water supply system in Basco 1890. The Spaniards introduced masonry in the construction of churches, ports and bridges.

Within the first century of Batanes christianization, the need for regular communication with Manila was already felt. Local officials sent petitions to the Governor-General for government boats to come three to four times a year for deliveries instead of once a year. The economy of Batanes was dependent on regular transportation. Whenever typhoons struck, islanders suffered hunger and epidemics. Migration was unchecked as others sough work in mainland Luzon, thus the population was reduced to 8,279 in 1898.

Agriculture was promoted by the introduction of new technologies, crops, breeds of animals and in increasing the areas of arable land and grazing lands. With these improvements, trading with Cagayan, Ilocos and Manila was realized.

During the first ten years of the American regime, from 1899 to 1907, Batanes was reduced to a mere Municipality of Cagayan but was restored to its former status of a province in 1909.

The installation of a wireless telegraph station in Basco, frequent visits of ships and the construction of Basco Airport in 1935 mitigated the isolation of the province.

The Province of Batanes today boosts of undisturbed and unspoiled beauty of nature preserved by the peace-loving Ivatans. A complete ecotourism destination, Batanes offers a kaleidoscope of natural beauty and ecological attractions from its rich marine resources to its verdant rolling terrain – all ideal for outdoor sports.

GEOGRAPHY

The Island Province is strewn on a 4,500 square kilometers-expanse of territorial waters – the Luzon Strait and Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean merges with the China Sea. The area is a sealane between the Philippines and the southern parts of Japan, China, Hongkong and Taiwan.

Bashi Channel bound the islands on the north, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the North China Sea and on the south by the Balintang Channel. The islands are characterized by gently rolling hills, cliffs and black and white sand beaches.

LOCATION

Batanes is about 860 kilometers (approx. 525 miles) from Manila in the northernmost tip of the Philippine Islands. Basco, the capital town is about 280 kilometers north of Aparri and about 190 kilometers south of Taiwan.

AREA AND POPULATION

Its area is about 230 square kilometers. The inhabited islands of Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang occupy an area of 209.30 square kilometers. The other islands are Dinem, Amianan, Dequey, Ivuhos, North, Mavudis and Siayan. The 2002 census of population for Batanes registered a total of 16,467.

CLIMATE

Wind and rain constantly sweep the islands, but the notion that it is constantly battered by typhoon is wrong. If Batanes is always mentioned in connection with weather disturbances, it is because its capital, Basco, holds the last weather station in the north. It is a reference point for all typhoons that enter the Philippines’ area of responsibility. Average monthly rainfall is 450 mm. Actually, the Batanes weather is rather pleasant. Compared to the rest of the country, Batanes is blessed with cooler, balmier climate. It enjoys practically four seasons, the best one being summer (March -June).

POLITICAL SUBDIVISION

Batanes has six municipalities, 29 barangays and a lone congressional district. The six municipalities are Ivana, Uyugan, Mahatao, Basco, the capital and the island municipalities of Sabtang and Itbayat.

LANGUAGE/DIALECT

The mother tongue of Batanes is Ivatan, spoken by 93.94 percent of the total households. Ilocano dialect is also spoken. Filipino and English are also generally spoken and understood.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES

The province has a total agricultural land area of 5,438 hectares. The Department of Agriculture has identified a total of 9,293 hectares of land with high potential for agriculture development and an additional 10,687 hectares for possible expansion. This indicates that the province has a wide area for agricultural expansion in case the province would go into massive agricultural production.

Due to its terrain, Batanes is a major livestock producer with cattle as its main stock. Carabaos and goats are also popularly raised.

Another major industry is fishing. Peak months of fishing is from March to June when the seawater is relatively calm during the summer months.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Visiting the island province is best during the periods from January to June. The entire Batan Island can be toured using a jeepney at a rate of 1,200.00 – 1,500.00 per day. Boat fare to Sabtang from Ivana Seaport at Radiwan is P30.00 one way. Basco Seaport to Itbayat Island is 200.00 one way.

ACCESSIBILITY BY AIR

Batanes is served by CHEMTRAD, an air charter service. CHEMTRAD flies to Basco airline depending on charters. More information on booking may be had in the following offices and telephone numbers:

Air Transportation Office (ATO)
Tuguegarao Domestic Airport
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
Philippines
Tel. No. (078) 844-1011

CHEMTRAD Aviation Corp.
Tuguegarao Domestic Airport
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
Philippines
Tel. No. (078) 844-3113

Laoag International Airlines
Tuguegarao Domestic Airport
Tel. (078) 844-5518
Laoag City Office
Tel. (077) 772-2588; 1888;1555
Manila Office
(02) 551-4823; 551-9729

Profile

The outpost of the Philippines in the middle of a turbulent sea, Batanes provincecomprises the northernmost isles of the Philippines. The island of Y'ami is only 224 kilometers from Taiwan. The Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean and China Sea meet, separates the islands from the rest of Luzon. The three major islands of Itbayat, Sabtang and Batan, are the only inhabited islands of the small archipelago. About half of its area is hilly and mountainous.

Typhoons on a northwesterly path regularly sweep through the islands from July to October although rainfall is heaviest from August to November. Batanes, as a whole, enjoys a pleasantly cooler climate because of its greater distance from the equator. From December until February, temperatures may dip as low as 7 degrees Celsius.

HISTORY

The Ivatans lived in relatively well-populated settlements at the time western travelers visited the islands. William Dampier, an English buccaneer, visited Batanes in 1687 and found the people organized into communities built around protected settlements called idjangs, which were usually defensive positions on top of steep hills.

The Dominican friars attempted to Christianize the Ivatans as early as 1686 but the efforts were abandoned with the death of two resident missionaries. In 1718, missionaries made another attempt to bring the people of Batanes under the Cross. Missions directed from the island of Calayan in the Babuyan Group were sent to Batanes to urge the residents to resettle in the Babuyanes.

It was to the credit of Governor Jose Basco y Vargas that the islands were finally brought under the Spanish Crown in 1782. Batanes was annexed to the colony the following year but the inhabitants remained unreconciled to their loss of liberty. The islands were constituted into a separate province but it was later downgraded to the status of a town and attached to the province of Cagayan. The islands regained the status as a province in 1855 but was again reduced to a dependency of Cagayan in 1900 when the Americans took control of the islands. In 1909, by virtue of Act 1952, Batanes was again established as a separate province.

Because of its strategic location, the Batanes was one of the first points of attack by the invading Japanese forces at the start of the Pacific hostilities of the Second World War. During the 1950s and 1960s the Philippine government encouraged the Ivatans to resettle in other parts of the country. As a result of that program, Ivatan communites were established in Mindanao.

PEOPLE

Batanes, is the home of the Ivatans, a sturdy, self-sufficient people with a very strong sense of community. These people trace their roots to prehistoric Formosan seafarers that migrated or were driven to the islands. The Ivatans are closely related to the ancient people of Formosa and their languages, Ivatan and Ichbayaten, can be understood across the Bashi Channel. Filipino and English, however, are widely spoken and understood by all peoples of Batanes.

The culture, the architecture, the maritime technology, and agriculture are adapted to the weather of the islands. The Ivatan houses are built with thick walls of stone and lime and thatched with thick layers of cogon. Sturdier sea boats called faluas serve as the main mode of transport between islands. The fields are often hedged with trees that break the wind’s full fury and allow rootcrops to grow. The entire Ivatan culture is built on self-sufficiency, hence, there is no need for markets.

CULTURE AND THE ARTS

Having long been isolated from the main body of the Philippines, the Ivatan culture is distinctively rich in indigenous traditions. The wealth of Ivatan oral traditions from the sisyavak (humorous anecdotes and tales) and kabbata (legends) to the kabbuni (riddles) and pananaban (proverbs) has only recently been brought to the attention of anthropologists.

The lyric song laji is their most precious traditional literary form and sung without accompaniment during important and happy occasions. Lyrics of the laji are considered the best Ivatan folk poetry. The kalusan are working songs sung collectively by the people of Batanes. These are sung by the Ivatans as they work in the fields, row or cut timber. A vachi (or song leader) starts the singing with the prefatory lines and workers follow with the rest of the song.

The entire archipelago is a living museum in which to savor the unique culture of the Ivatans. Among the oldest structures in the islands are the whitewashed, low, well-proportioned churches, one of which is present in every town. There are also the ruins of Songsong—a "ghost" barangay of roofless stone houses abandoned after it was hit by tidal waves in the 1950s; and the prehistoric Burial Caves of Itbayat, where the remains of the dead were placed in clay jars and left in the caves.

TRADE AND INVESTMENTS

Isolated from mainland Philippines by inclement weather and rough seas, Batanes offers excellent opportunities for investments in tourism and marine resource management. The island province lies along sea lanes between the Philippines and the major economies of East Asia. It is the smallest province in terms of land area. Much of the 209 square kilometers of land is rolling, making it ideal for livestock raising, and cultivation of garlic and rootcrops. The waters around Batanes are very rich in mackerel, yellow fin tuna, dorado, grouper, giant sea snail, sea urchin, lobsters and many fish varieties. Batanes has one of the highest literacy rates in the country and its labor force of close to 10,000 is highly-skilled, highly-trained and hardworking.

Access to the islands is limited and mostly irregular. There are two airstrips in the province; the domestic airport in Basco, and another airstrip for light aircraft in Itbayat. There is, at present, only one regular passenger airline making regular weekly flights to Basco from Laoag, although chartered planes provide additional access. There are five seaports that connect the islands to the mainland, the largest of which is the Basco seaport. Chartered sea crafts from Aparri and Manila facilitate the movement of goods and supplies to and from the province. Smaller sea crafts ply the main routes between Batan and the islands of Sabtang and Itbayat. All air and seaborne transportation is possible only in good weather. The main road network around the island of Batan is in good condition. The Batanes Electric Cooperative provides 12 hours of electric service on the island of Batan while the National Power Corporation provides three hours of electricity to Sabtang and Itbayat.. Water is provided by springs in the forested hills and mountains of the islands. Communications with the rest of the Philippines is provided mainly by PILTEL, which has opened four calling stations in the province.

Eco-tourism and cultural tourism provide the most viable opportunities for investments. The gently rolling hills, sandy and stony beaches, unique ecosystems, distinctive culture, hospitable people, and cool climate provide a thoroughly different atmosphere for both local and international tourists. Additional transportation facilities, such as air connections and better inter-island ferry links and improved lodging facilities and support services, such as restaurants and souvenir shops, are areas of opportunity.

Blessed with an expanse of seas surrounding the province, fishing beckons as another potentially rewarding endeavor. Improving current port facilities from fair weather to an all weather type and providing the port with fish storage facilities will vastly facilitate the establishment of commercial fishing.

FAST FACTS

Region : Cagayan Valley
Province: Batanes
Governor: Vicente S. Gato
Capital: Basco
Income/Financial Resources (1999): P166.5 M
Income classification (1996): 5th
Expenditure (1998): P73.4 M
Population (2000 projection): 15,090
Labor Force (1998): 9,000
Land area (in hectares): 219 sq. kms.
Major dialects/languages: Ivatan, Ichbayaten, Ilocano
Barangays: 29
City/ies/Municipalities: 6 (BASCO, Itbayat, Ivana, Mahatao, Sabtang, Uyugan)
Infrastructure: Hospitals (1996): 2, Coll./Univ. (1995): 2Bgy. Health stations (1996): 6
Major products: Small-scale farming & fishing; root crops, vegetables, fruit trees; dairy animals, hogs, poultry
Natural resources: Rich seas
Indigenous people: Ivatan

Flights/Passenger Boat to Batanes (updated January 28, 2002)
source: www.batanesonline.com

CHEMTRAD

CHEMTRAD which flies the Tuguegarao-Basco route. Schedule of flights vary especially during peak season but normally flies on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Travel time is around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Fare is around P2,300 one way as of October 2002.

To confirm schedules and reservations, please call CHEMTRAD in Tuguegarao City telephone number 844.3113. Please take note that CHEMTRAD uses a 10 seater aircraft. You might be expecting a big aircraft only to be surprised when you're about to fly. Photo below features 2 CHEMTRAD aircrafts at Basco airport.

Please be informed as well that on some flights there are not enough passengers and if you really need to reach your destination, you may have to pay additional amount to compensate for the vacant seat. The positive side of it is if you're travelling as a group, you can actually arrange your flight schedule as long as you pay the full seating capacity. Its best to confirm these details when you make your reservation.

ASIAN SPIRIT

As of January 28, 2003 the Asian Spirit flight details are as follows:

Route: Manila-Basco-Manila (alternate flight via Laoag, Ilocos Norte will be available very soon)

Frequency: 3x a week (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays)

Aircraft: CN 235 (40 seater)

Travel time: 2 hours, one-way, direct flight no stop-over

Airfare: P3,750.00 plus P150 insurance = P 3,900.00 (Philippine pesos) one way only

Departure from Manila: 5am (check-in time starts as early as 3:00am, check-in closes 45 minutes before departure)

Allowable baggage: 10 kilos free. Any excess will be paid by the passenger at P40 per kilo
The Ivatan Foundation for Development Communications, Inc. (IFDCI) is the contracted sales manager of Asian Spirit in Batanes. For reservations and further information please call telephone number (02) 533-34-44 / 535-48-51 /535-48-99 or email demy.narag@batanes-ifdci.com.ph

In Manila you can call Asian Spirit sales office at telephone (02) 851-8888.

M/V IVATAN PRINCESS
An alternative way to reach Batanes is through the M/V Ivatan Princess. The boat carries around 150 passengers. Only limitation is you have to travel to Curimao, Ilocos Norte to where it is docked. For reservations, please call in Manila Mr. Antonio Castro at telephone 0917.7930102 or in Curimao, Ilocos Norte Ms. Evelyn Gonzales at telephone number (0918) 6507405.

And before you book your reservation, please be advised that weather is unpredictable especially after summer days causing flights to be canceled, take this into account when planning your trip to Batanes.

Don't go Alone, Get your Travel Guide
You might be interested to have a copy of the newly published Batanes Travel Guide. Currently on sale in Metro Manila and Batanes starting end of October 2002. It features latest lodging facilities plus their latest room rates (as of October 2002), support facilities in Batanes, getting around and lots more. If you want to know more details and where to get a copy please email: BatanesOnlineShop@yahoo.com

 

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