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Province of Batanes
Ph seal batanes.png
[[Image:Ph locator map batanes.png|250px]]
Region Cagayan Valley (Region II)
Governor Vicente S. Gato
Barangays 29
Physical characteristics
Area 209.3 km²
Total (2000) 16,467
Density 79/km²
(11th lowest)

Batanes is known as the "Home of the Winds," is the smallest and northernmost province of the Philippines. It comprises 10 main islands, 3 of which are inhabited, with Basco as the capital. The island Y’ami, lies just 100 kilometers south of Taiwan which makes it more closer to Taiwan than it is to mainland Luzon. The province is home to the Ivatans who are nationally acclaimed as the “True Insulares”.<ref name="test1">Batanes: The Land of the True Insulares </ref> The Ivatans are of Malay stock, tracing 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 culture through time.

Aside from the famous Ivatans, Batanes is known for dried fish which is the local staple of the province. Handicrafts like native hats and fans are among the more popular export-quality handicraft products of the province, and garlic from batanes is known for its superior quality. Sugarcane or palek are sold widely in the islands. Furthermore, because of its pristine environment, the beautiful seascapes and landscapes of the province have been declared as Protected Areas.



Centuries before the Spanish colonization, the ancestors of today's Ivatans lived in protected settlements called Idjangs, which were usually defensive positions on top of steep hills. The word "Idjang" was derived from the Ivatan word "Idi" or "Idian" which means home or hometown. The Ivatan tribes are farmers, fishermen, and boat-makers. In 1687, William Dampier, an English buccaneer came to Batanes with a pursuit to claim the islands for the British crown.

In 1685 Dominican missionaries arrived and attempted to Christianize the Ivatans 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.

In 1782, Philippine Governor General Jose Basco Vargas explored the area in search of tobacco-growing regions and later 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. Governor Basco was named “Conde dela Conquista de Batanes” and the capital town was named after him.

Batanes was made a part of Cagayan towards the end of the Spanish era . But during the American regime it again became a separate political unit. During the Pacific war Batanes, because of its geographical location, was among the first areas of the Philippines to be occupied by Japan.


Map of Batanes

The Batanes island group is the smallest province in the Philippines in terms of population and land area. The capital of Batanes, Basco is 280 kilometers north of Aparri, Cagayan (the tip of main island of Luzon) while it is only 190 kilometers south of Taiwan. Batanes lies in the vast waters of the Philippine Sea where the Pacific meets China sea. An area that for generations is almost isolated from the rest of the Philippines. Batanes consist of 10 tiny islands and islets namely: Batan, Sabtang, Itbayat, Mavudis, Siayan, Diogo, North Island and Y'ami. Only the first three islands are inhabited.

The island-province is strewn on a 4,500 square kilometer expanse of territorial waters, the Luzon Strait and Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean merges with the South China Sea, a sealane between the Philippines and the southern parts of Japan, China, Hongkong, and Taiwan. It is bounded on the north by the Bashi Channel, on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by the Balintang Channel.

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


The province is hilly and mountainous, with only 1,631.50 hectares or 7.10% of its area level and 78.20% or 17,994.40 hectares varying in terms from rolling to steep and very steep. Forty two percent (42%) or 9,734.40 hectares are steep to very steep land. Drainage is good and prolonged flooding is non-existent because of the terrain of the province. The main island of Batan has the largest share of level and nearly level lands, followed by Itbayat and Sabtang, respectively. Itbayat has gently rolling hills and nearly level areas on semi-plateaus surrounded by continuous massive cliffs rising from 20-70 meters above sea level, with no shorelines. Sabtang on the other hand, has its small flat areas spread sporadically on its coasts, while its interior is dominated by steep mountains and deep canyons. Batan Island and Sabtang have intermittent stretches of sandy beaches and rocky shorelines. The terrain of the province while picturesque at almost every turn, has limited the potential for expansion of agriculture in an already very small province.


The weather of Batanes is cool and windy. The province has a semi-temperate climate due to its location. Temperature ranges from 14 degrees centigrade in December and January to 37 degrees centigrade during the humid months of July. Batanes lies along the typhoon belt and gets hit by strong typhoons. It has an average monthly rainfall of 450 mm. March to May are the summer months in Batanes with the least rainfall .


Rolling hills of Batanes

The people of Batanes are called Ivatan and they share cultural and linguistic affinity with the Tao people of Taiwan. Spanish ancestry also runs in their blood. They speak the Ivatan dialect which is so unlike any other in the Philippines. The Ivatans are sturdy, self-sufficient people with a very strong sense of community. These people trace their roots to prehistoric Formosan immigrants and latter-day Spanish conquistadors. Being out off from Luzon mainland, the Ivatan is of comparatively purer stock. They bear the features of their ancients; the Spaniards aquiline nose and the Formosan's almond eyes. They build their houses with thick walls of stone and lime and thatched with thick layers of cogon. As added precaution during a typhoon, the Ivatan secure homes with a rope net. They do the same for their farm plots to protect their crops of yam and garlic. Ivatans wear a vakul, a headgear used to protect them from rain, wind and sun.

Political Subdivisions

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

  • Basco - Basco is the capital of Batanes. It is the biggest in terms of population and most urbanized among the six towns of the province. It is located at a level area at the tip of Batan Island bounded on the east by Mount Iraya and on the west by Basco Bay. Being the capital of the province, it is where the Provincial Capitol as well as the provincial offices of most national government agencies are located. It is also the center of commerce and learning in the province with the larger business establishments and collegiate institutions all based in the town.
An elderly Ivatan wearing a vakul
  • Ivana - The municipality if Ivana is the third town in Batan Island. It is located in a narrow coastal plain 14 kilometers south of Basco. It is the country's smallest municipality in terms of area and population. The town of Ivana is the oldest in Batanes. It was founded in 1686 and established as a unit of government in 1785. It was here where the Katipuneros landed on 19 September 1898.
  • Mahatao - The town of Mahatao nestles at the foot of three hills namely, Naydi in the south, Langud in the east and Majorojoron on the north. The town was originally named San Carlos de Mahatao on November 4, 1798 by then Asst. Gov. Don Miguel de Amo in honor of the patron saint San Carlos Boromeo. A brook runs in the middle of the town which supplied the people potable water before the construction of the present water system. Now it has the best water supply in the mainland.
  • Uyugan - lies in the southernmost tip of Batan Island approximately 24 kilometers from the capital. It has an area of 15.5 square kilometers. The town was founded in March 1801 by the Spaniards who made San Antonino de Florencia as the Patron Saint. Uyugan has two barrios namely: Itbud and Imnajbu located five and three kilometers from Centro respectively.
  • Sabtang - is an island town with barrios scattered along the islet. It is more or less five kilometers from the seaport of Ivana. The place can be reached only by motorized water vessels or by falowa rowed by men. The municipal waters of Sabtang is the richest source of quality fish so fishermen from as far north as Basco go fishing around the place.
  • Itbayat - is the largest of the three inhabited islands that compose the province of Batanes. It is also the northernmost town of the country. Its northernmost islet of Y'Ami is only 46 miles south of the souththernmost tip of Taiwan, Republic of China.


Aerial view of Basco, Batanes

Due to the frequent typhoons that batter the islands, only small-scale farming and fishing are possible. Root crops, vegetables and fruit trees are common, supplemented by hog and poultry raising which makes them self-sufficient, hence, there is no need for markets.

In spite of the reputation of Batanes as a backward region, it now has modern conveniences like mobile phones (cell sites by Smart & Globe Telecoms)and cable television but hardly any vehicles. Sturdier sea boats called faluas serve as the main mode of transport between islands. Electricity is supplied by Batanes Electric Cooperative (Batanelco) to the Island of Batan 18 hours daily (6 am to 12 midnight). Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Bayan Telecommunications (BayanTel) has opened their public calling offices (PCO) in Batanes. You can surf the internet and send emails from the BatanesConnect internet cafe in Basco along Abad street.

Culture and Arts

Traditional Ivatan house

The Ivatans are also rich with culture and indigenous traditions. Laji is the oldest traditional Ivatan music. sung without accompaniment during important and happy occasions. Lyrics of the laji are considered the best Ivatan folk poetry. The kalusan is a rowing song 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 opening lines and workers follow with the rest of the song. Some of the oral traditions of the Ivtans are: sisyavak (humorous anecdotes and tales), kabbata (legends), kabbuni (riddles) and pananaban (proverbs).

Historic churches in every town. The churches in Basco, Mahatao, Ivana and Sabtang which were originally decorated in baroque were over 200 years old made of massive mixture of lime and stone.


Batanes has a literacy of 95% higher than the national average of 93% Elementary and high school education are free. Teacher to student ratio is 1:17 for elementary and 1:13 for secondary levels. There are 19 elementary schools, 11 of which offer complete courses from grades one to six. There are secondary schools in all six of the municipalities. The comprehensive national high school is located in Basco and has a branch in Ivana. Its Mahatao branch became an independent and separate school in 1977. There is a school of fisheries in Sabtang, the Batanes Polytechnic College in Basco, with a branch in Uyugan, while an agricultural high school has been put up in Itbayat. St. Dominic College in Basco is the only tertiary school. It offers vocational courses, baccalaureate courses in arts, commerce and education, and recently, graduate course in education.


The mother tongue of Batanes is Ivatan, spoken by 93.94 percent of all households especially across the Bashi Channel while Filipino and English are generally spoken and understood.



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