Uyugan, 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.  Enjoy!

The southernmost and last town in Batan island is Uyugan It is around 18 kilometers from Basco and 5 kilometers from Ivana. We will be passing another ribbon like road where every bend is very scenic. Uyugan has a population of 1,297, the lowest in Batanes. It’s name is derived from the streams that flow in the town and other places. Uyugan means “where the water flows”.

Uyugan was the last to be established as a town in the whole province of Batanes. Although it was founded in 1783 along with the towns in Batan, it was only on March 1, 1909 that Uyugan became an independent town. Before this, it was just a barrio of Ivana.

It’s late establishment as a town was attributed to a powerful and wise mangpus or leader named Pannao. He ruled from the Ijang between Centro and Itbud. Some say it is the tallest Ijang in Batanes and the hardest to access. Because of his superior strength and wise ways, he and his subjects were able to prevent the Spaniards from taking over the place for a long time. Although the missionaries had been successful in establishing a chapel and had converted a number of the Uyuganons to the faith, the Spanish civil authorities had a hard time subduing Pannao and some other mangpus of the place. Pannao was shot in an encounter with the Spanish soldiers and a new mangpus named Caῇid who took over as leader agreed to accept the Spanish authorities together with his subjects.

The first mass celebrated in Batanes by the first Spanish missionaries was held in Imnahbu in 1668. It is southernmost of the four barangays of Uyugan.

This town is known for its very well organized Kamaῇidugan a form of cooperative system whose members own vernacular houses. They have their own set of officers and rules and regulations that each member has to follow. It was considerably weakened a few years ago but with the greater awareness of our cultural heritage, it is slowly being strengthening. This gives us hope for more community-based restoration of our Ivatan houses which are perfect for our weather condition.
At the center of town is the San Antonino de Florencia Church, a church built by Fr. Fabian Martin during his term in Batanes from 1844 to 1878. It is worth mentioning that the missionary work of the Dominican priests in Batanes always came earlier than the formal establishment of the civil government in each town. So it was natural that the missionaries were given a budget by the civil government to build not only the churches but the schools, bridges and other government facilities. This support from the government was stopped during the American Period when it ordered the policy of separation of church and state which cu the government subsidy to the church authorities.

Uyugan has many picturesque sites and it is here that some of the scenes of Hihintayin Kita sa Langit was filmed. Here also in this hillside we call Alapad is where it was cut to give way to this national road is where we can see the layers and layers of volcanic effusive during the major eruptions of Mt. Iraya and Mt. Matarem. Geologists say there are parts where the volcanic blasts buried places as high as 100 meters.

This sea between Uyugan and Sabtang and along the western stretch of Batan island have currents that crisscross each other andthat each town has to make its own tataya suit the sea currents in its waters. These currents can also change in an instant which makes sailing and even swimming very risky to the amateur sailor and swimmer.

We have here a former settlement called Songsong which was abandoned for a long time after a tidal wave destroyed almost all of the hosues. But now we see that some houses are being restored and lived in.

In 1955, the Long Range Navigation (LORAN) of the United States of America was set up in Imnajbu, Uyugan. It was to aid the international and local ships have a safe passage in the area of Batanes to their destinations. The LORAN Station was a great help to the Ivatans. Because of their amphibious plane that can land on sea or air ports, it helped transport emergency cases to Clark or Subic where the sick were given much needed emergency medical treatment. They also provided free shows which was a great novelty to the rather laid back life of the Ivatans. Great movies like the Ten Commandments, Quo Vadis, Tarsan and Cowboy movies currently showing in Manila theaters were being shown for free in Batanes courtesy of the LORAN Station. It was also a showcase of “modernity” with the full electrification of their headquarters with amenities that were not yet available to the Ivatans then. It now the office of the National Museum of the Philippnes Batanes Branch.

Just like the rest of Batanes, Uyugan has many archaeological sites and the UP-Diliman College of Social Sciences made Uyugan a research area for many years for their fieldwork. They have discovered many jar burials as well as boat shaped burials especially along the coastlines. It is believed that the highest Ijang can be found in Uyugan.

Uyuganons are expert fishermen and farmers and excel in sports because of their height and stamina. They are formidable opponents in basketball and volleyball. They have a chapel here in Itbud dedicated to the Lady of Miraculous Medal and people from all over Batan flock to this small chapel for the novena in her honor and especially during her fiesta in November each year.

We shall have a few minutes for picture taking and then we proceed back to Basco through the interior road that brings us to one of the most photographed places in Batanes, the Rakuh a Payaman or Big pastureland- a communal pastureland of the Uyuganons, Ivaneos and IMahataos.

Author: Celerina M. Navarro