Ivana, Batanes

Note: This narrative is from Ms. Celerina M. Navarro.  She posted it on her Facebook page and I asked for permission to re-post it here.  She narrated this as if you are travelling with her as your tour guide and teacher in Batanes.



San Jose Church in Ivana Batanes



We will now move to Ivana which is the next town. Ivana has the fourth biggest land area at 1,660 hectares and fifth in terms of population at 1,327.   The biggest town land area in Batanes is Itbayat at 9,300 hectares, followed by Basco at 4,960 has, then Sabtang at 4,070 has, followed by Ivana, then Uyugan at 1,620 and Mahatao which is 1, 290 has.

Being at the southern part of Batan (formerly called Basay), it was one of the earliest land mass to rise from the sea owing to the volcanic activities which began in the Pliocene era or around 8 to 1.8 mya. Mt. Matarem which straddles the Mahatao Ivana land area is the second highest elevation in Batanes at 459 asl.

Ivana is also a rich archaeological site with traces of prehistoric settlements, boat-shaped burials, and Ijang. The three by the way early settlements, IJangs or fortress dwellings, boat-shaped burials, hedgerows and Ivatan vernacular houses are cultural treasures in Batanes which you will not find in any other place in the world. There are similar kinds but not exactly the same as you will see here. Many of the archaeological sites have not been studied fully by archeologists.

In the Jirobei document, Ivana had a major war with Mahatao where several were killed. We don’t know the cause of the conflict but the Japanese crewmen told of much blood-shed and fierce fighting. But that was long ago and today the Ivaneos are known to be very united and and live harmoniously with everyone.

Historically, Ivana was the first landing place of the missionaries and Spanish government officials when the Spanish government decided to annex the Batanes islands in 1783. It became the second most important town of the province during the Spanish period second to Basco after the annexation. It was founded and established in the same year as Basco in 1785. Although Fr. Baltasar Artiguez was the first Vicar of Ivana, the first missionary that landed here was Fr. Mateo Gonzales and 2 others which was in 1686 but they stayed for only a month or 2 due to the death of two of the first missionaries. The survivor soon returned to Luzon.

There is much evidence of the Spanish rule here in Ivana. Most prominent are the Spanish bridges and the church, convent and bell tower. When Fr. Fabian Martin, was assigned in Ivana between 1866-1868, the wooden structures built by an earlier missionary Fr. Baltasar Artiguez gave way to the stone-structures which included the school and the San Jose church, the convent and the bell tower facing the sea. As you can see the church and convent are protected by the hills behind it. Earlier in 1850-1860 Fr. Martin built two bridges across the stream of the town six to 8 meters high to enable the children to go to school more conveniently.

In the modern times, Ivana is associated with Honesty Café, a small store now known world wide because of its unique business management. Here no one minds the store but instructs the customers to drop in their money in a box when paying the items bought from the shop. The goods range from coffee to souvenir items such as t-shirts and native crafts. Started and owned by the Gabilo Family, It has now become an icon of the province.

Ivana has a very rich history with stories of heroism, bravery and courage. Some of the best politicians of Batanes come from this small place. The leader of the Ivatan guerillas that dared to revolt against the well-armed Japanese were led by young men mostly from Ivana and Sabtang. A story goes about a young lady who was tortured to death so cruelly by the Japanese soldiers who wanted her to squeal the names of the guerillas but despite the inexplicable pain and cruelty, she never revealed their names and died a heroine.

The San Jose the Worker church is the only church in Batanes located at the end of town. All the other churches are located in the center of town. This is due to the resettlement of the inhabitants of Sabtang to Ivana in San Vicente and San Felix. San Felix is located in the southern part of Ivana or between Ivana and Uyugan making the present site the center. A that time there were 2 other churches in San Vicente and Sayid which are in the northern side of Ivana. . In 1785, the inhabitants of Sabtang were forced to move to Basay (Batan so they could be administered better. Thus the island of Sabtang was deserted although they were allowed to go and cultivate the land and keep their harvests. This went on for 40 years.

Ivana has a very strong cooperation especially during a family’s lowest point when a member of the family dies. Almost all the town’s people relative or not, take care of the needs of the grieving family. From cooking, serving, cleaning and all the other chores of the family are taken over by the neighborhood.

One of the most poignant legend here in Ivana is Nachitu- a dog-shaped rock in one of the beaches here. It is said that a fisherman had a very faithful dog which would wait for him patiently by the seashore everyday. One day the fishermen was lost at sea but the dog kept waiting for him by the usual place his master would beach his boat. He waited in vain until it died and his body turned into a rock that the people called Nachitu or a former dog.

We shall now stop at the Church and Honesty Café for 20 minutes for a visit and some coffee and shopping but be sure to have the change because there is no one minding the store and no one to give you the change if you don’t have the exact amount for you selected items.

Author: Celerina M. Navarro