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by Ma
rie Angeline Liquigan

The journey back in time and space provides us an opportunity to view Ivatan culture and society in perspective. The foundations of Ivatan culture must be clearly described, albeit accurately, if we are able to comprehend its genesis. Early Ivatan culture was essentially documented by Spanish missionaries and state officials whose goal was to obliterate the indigenous culture, especially the indigenous belief system and socio-political structure. The Spanish Colonial State in Batanes, as it was in other parts of the archipelago, was motivated and dictated by evangelization objectives. It ruthlessly suppressed any Ivatan challenge to the achievement of its aims.

The Spanish Dominican friars visited Batanes as early as 1686 and1719 but formal annexation of Batanes to the Spanish Colonial State took place only on June 26, 1783. Before this the Ivatans were free. The Ivatans' world remained under Spanish influence until September 17, 1898. Formal annexation on June 26 is two centuries after the formal colonization of the Philippines by Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565. Batanes is the last territory added to the Philippines.

That the Ivatans today celebrate June 26 as Batanes Day is a commemoration of the formal annexation of the islands by the Spanish Colonial State.

An alternative date might be considered, since to celebrate this day seems to be against the history of the Ivatan struggle to be free. June 26 would be inconsistent and against the grain of the Ivatan character: first, there were the tribal revolts like the Sabtang Uprising challenging the establishment of the Spanish Colonial State in Batanes; second, the Ivatans reclaiming their freedom as they joined the Katipunan in the national effort to be free and independent; and third, the BISUMI Fighters defying and confronting the might of the Japanese Imperial Army in Batanes. This was a province-wide effort. Also in this category is the Sabtang revolt against the Katipunan Government, an event that would be repeated in the successful Metro Manila EDSA revolt against a ruler from within, in February 1986.

The freedom from Spain was short-lived, from September 18, 1898 to February 1900 -- but the Ivatan Katipunan won a glorious victory and became independent, within the Philippine Republic. This was the culmination of their participation in the quest for nationhood nurtured for sometime in Ivatan hearts.

September 18 was the day the Ivatans regained their freedom, a date akin to June 12, that celebrates the declaration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898. This paved the way for the birth of the First Philippine Republic. This would be a good chance for Batanes Day.

American influence in Batanes covers the period from 1900 to 1946, but with a horrible Japanese occupation on December 8, 1941, and ending on September 22, 1945, when US ship finally herded the Japanese Army aboard. That the Ivatans were able to re-

establish the Commonwealth of the Philippines in Sabtang from April 25, 1945, to May 18, 1945, is consistent with their character and history. Their declaring a Commonwealth of Sabtang, their raising the Philippine flag was a diplomatic and political maneuver, a heroic contribution to effecting permanently the end of the Japanese Occupation and American regime. This was a case of taking one step backward in order to be able to take three steps forward, thus successfully ridding themselves of both the Japanese and the Americans and be independent once again, at last. This was paid dearly in blood, by the cream of the Ivatan Society as they fought as a unit against their aggressor - Japan.

The inclusion of Batanes as part of the Philippines was only effected in the 1935 Philippine Constitution with the addition of the clause in the article on national territory: "all territory over which the present Government [1935 Commonwealth of the Philippines] of the Philippines exercises jurisdiction."


The Ivatans today is the synthesis of the two forces, the thesis and antithesis, briefly described above. This is Ivatan Culture as we know it now. It is no longer  completely indigenous but the indigenous culture permeates what the Ivatans are, yet the foreign cultural influences have made their mark, changing them inexorably. These have enriched them as other cultures in other lands have, even as these foreign cultures went through the crucible if indigenization.

Ivatan culture has developed into a stronger strain and a more vibrant and dynamic synthesis, even as the indigenous culture permeates and pervades their lives. The Ivatans' world view has been revised. Ivatan culture has developed and strengthened. The criss-crossing cultural threads of the cultural net symbolize this. It is no longer identical with the ancient Ivatans, from the simple to the profound, from the concrete to the abstract. The way they dress up today reflects a revised perspective, yet the kanai and vakul culture survives; the terraced human settlement protected towards the sea by precipice and the low, small thatched houses may have been replaced by the plaza complex with its stone-walled houses, galvanized or cement roofing and straight roads, yet in their fields and beaches, this type of house survives in their panyisanan "farm house", in their pangasinyan "house where salt is made", in their kamadid "house of their boats". They now believe in the Divine Trinity without comprehending the mystery (but who can comprehend a mystery?), yet they continue to placate the anyitus in more ways than one.


Cesar A. Hidalgo, "The Making of the Ivatans The Cultural History of Batanes" Cognita TRC, Pasig, Manila, 1996.

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