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Official seal of Batanes
Nickname(s): Orphan of the Motherland
Region (Region II)
Founded 1909
Capital Basco
 • Governor Vicente Gato (Independent)
 • Vice Governor Ronald Aguto (Independent)
 • Total 219.01 km2 (84.56 sq mi)
Area rank 81st out of 81
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 16,604
 • Rank 81st out of 81
 • Density 76/km2 (200/sq mi)
 • Density rank 73rd out of 81
 • Independent cities 0
 • Component cities 0
 • Municipalities 6
 • Barangays 29
 • Districts Lone district of Batanes
Time zone PHT (UTC+8)
ZIP code 3900 to 3905
Spoken languages Ivatan, Itbayaten, Ilocano, Isamurongen, Tagalog, English

The Province of Batanes (Ivatan: Probinsya nu Batanes; Ilokano: Probinsya ti Batanes; Filipino: Lalawigan ng Batanes) is an archipelago province in the region of Cagayan Valley, Philippines. It is the northernmost province of the Philippines and is also the smallest province, both in terms of population and land area. The provincial capital is Basco on Batan Island.

The island group is located about 162 kilometres (101 mi) north of Luzon and about 190 kilometres (120 mi) south of Taiwan, separated from the Babuyan Islands of Cagayan Province, Luzon, by the Balintang Channel and from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Topography 2.1
    • Climate 2.2
    • Subdivisions 2.3
      • Barangays 2.3.1
  • Demographics 3
    • Religion 3.1
  • Ecology 4
  • Flora and Fauna 5
  • Economy 6
  • Transportation 7
  • Tourist Attractions 8
    • Natural Sites 8.1
    • Man-made Artifacts 8.2
    • Historic Relics 8.3
    • Special Interests 8.4
  • Image gallery 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


An unnamed artist’s conception of what a prehispanic Batanes town on an idjang might have looked like.

The ancestors of today's Ivatans descended from Austronesians who migrated to the islands 4000 years ago during the Neolithic period. They lived in fortified mountain areas called idjangs and drank sugar-cane wine, or palek. They also used gold as currency and produced a thriving agriculture-based industry. They were also seafarers and boat-builders.

In 1687, a crew of English freebooters headed by William Dampier came with a Dutch crew and named the islands in honour of their country's nobility. Itbayat was named "Orange Isle" after William of Orange, and Batan was named "Grafton Isle" after Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton. Sabtang Isle was named "Monmouth Isle" after James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. Capt. Dampier stayed for less than three months, and did not claim the islands for the British crown.

In 1783, the Spanish claimed Batanes as part of the Philippines under the auspices of Katipunan. These Ivatans, who were then discontented with Spanish rule, killed the ruling General Fortea and declared the end of Spanish rule.

Toward the end of the Spanish regime, Batanes was made a part of Cagayan. In 1909, however, the American authorities organized it into an independent province. During the American colonial period, public schools were constructed and more Ivatan became more aware of their place in the Philippines. In 1920, the first wireless telegraph was installed, followed by an airfield in 1930. Roads were constructed and the Batanes High School was instituted.

An artist's illustration of an Idjang found in Savidug.
Illustration of the arrangement of the human remains in a typical boat shaped grave during ancient times.

Because of their strategic location, the islands was one of the first points occupied by the invading Japanese imperial forces at the outbreak of the Pacific War.

In the morning of December 8, 1941, the Batan Task Force from Taiwan landed on the Batan Islands, which became the first American territory occupied by the Japanese. The purpose of the invasion was to secure the existing small airfield outside Basco, which was accomplished without resistance. Japanese fighters from Basco took part in the raid on Clark Air Base the following day. However, over the next several days, the success of the Japanese bombing of Clark Field rendered a base at Basco redundant, and on 10 December, the naval combat force was withdrawn to participate in the invasion of Camiguin.[4]

One of the first School Superintendents on Batan was Victor de Padua, an Ilocano, who in 1942-45 during the Japanese occupation was made Provincial Governor.

Early in 1945 the island was liberated by the Philippine Commonwealth forces of the 1st and 12th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army.

On July 23, 2007, a magnitude-5.2 quake rocked Batanes, but no damage or casualty was immediately reported. The United States Geological Service said the quake was recorded at about 10:58 a.m., with the epicenter at 40 km south of Basco town in Batanes, about 250 km northeast of Laoag, Ilocos Norte; or 560 km south of Taipei, Taiwan.[5]

On June 1, 2008, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the seabed off the coast of Batanes, but neither injuries nor damage was reported.[6]


The province comprises ten islands that are located in the Luzon Strait between the Babuyan Islands (belonging to Cagayan Province) and Taiwan. The islands are sparsely populated and subject to frequent typhoons. The three largest islands, Batan, Itbayat, and Sabtang, are the only inhabited islands. The northernmost island of the province, also the northernmost island in the Philippines, is Mavudis Island, also known as Y'ami Island. Other islands in the chain are Misanga, Siayan, Ivuhos, and Dequey.[7] The islands are part of the Luzon Volcanic Arc.


Batanes Hills

Almost one-half of Batanes are hills and mountains. Batan Island, with a land area of 35 square kilometres (14 sq mi), is generally mountainous on the north and southeast. It has a basin in the interior. Itbayat Island, which has a total area of 95 square kilometres (37 sq mi), slopes gradually to the west, being mountainous and hilly along its northern, eastern coast. As for Sabtang, mountains cover the central part of its 41 square kilometres (16 sq mi) area, making the island slope outward to the coast.

The islands are situated between the vast expanse of the waters of Bashi Channel and Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean, merges with the China Sea. The area is a sealane between the Philippines and Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is rich with marine resources, including the rarest sea corals in the world .

The province is hilly and mountainous, with only 1,631.50 hectares or 7.10% of its area level to undulating 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.

Because of the terrain of the province, drainage is good and prolonged flooding is non-existent. 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.


Batanes has a tropical climate (Köppen climate classification Af). The average yearly temperature is 26.0 °C (78.8 °F), and the average monthly temperature ranges from 22.0 °C (71.6 °F) in January to 28.5 °C (83.3 °F) in July, similar to that of Southern Taiwan. Precipitation is abundant throughout the year; the rainiest month is August while the driest month is April while having November–February as the coldest months. There is a misconception that Batanes is constantly battered by typhoons. Batanes is mentioned frequently in connection with typhoons because it holds the last weather station in the north of the country. It is a reference point for all typhoons that enter the Philippine area.

Climate data for Basco, Philippines (1961-1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 22.0
Average low °C (°F) 19.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 178.0
Average rainy days 18 14 10 8 10 14 15 20 18 18 19 19 183
Source: Hong Kong Observatory [8]


Batanes is subdivided into 6 municipalities. Batanes has only one congressional district.



The 6 municipalities of the province comprise a total of 29 barangays, with Ihubok II in Basco as the most populous in 2010, and Nakanmuan in Sabtang as the least.[9][10]


An Ivatan woman

The people of Batanes are called Ivatan and share prehistoric cultural and linguistic commonalities with the Babuyan on Babuyan Island and the Tao people of Orchid Island.

This divided homeland is a result of the Dutch invasion of Taiwan in 1624 (Dutch Formosa) and Spanish invasion in 1626 (Spanish Formosa). The northern half of the Ivatan homeland, Formosa and Orchid Island which were formally part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, fell to the Dutch who were in turn expelled in 1662 by forces of the Chinese Southern Ming dynasty, led by the Chinese pirate Koxinga who then set himself up as The King of Taiwan.

The southern half of the Ivatan homeland, the islands of Batanes, was reinforced and fortified by Spanish refugees from Formosa before being formally joined in the 18th century with the Spanish government in Manila.

The main languages spoken in Batanes are Ivatan, which is spoken on the islands of Batan and Sabtang, Itbayaten, which is spoken primarily on the island of Itbayat, and Ilocano. The Ivatan which is dominant in the province is considered to be one of the Austronesian languages. From college level down to elementary level, the language is widely spoken.[11]


The large majority of the island's people adhere to Roman Catholicism by 94%. The remaining faiths are followed by some other Christian Churches.


Livestock freely roaming in the green hills in Batanes

An extensive survey of the ecology of Batanes[12] provided the scientific basis for confirming the need for a national park in Batanes protecting the Batanes protected landscapes and seascapes, proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, submitted on 15 August 1993.[13]

Flora and Fauna

The province is the home of the unique conifer species Podocarpus costalis. There's no other place in the world where this species can grow well and abundant except Batanes. Although it is reportedly growing in some other places such as coasts of Luzon, Catanduanes and even Taiwan but full blossoming and fruiting are observed only in Batanes. Its fruiting capacity on the island remains a mystery but some consider several factors such as climate, soil and type of substratum of the island.

Several species of birds, bats, reptiles and amphibians also inhabit the island; many of those are endemic in the Philippines. The island is also a sanctuary of different migratory birds during winter in the Northern Hemisphere.


About 75% of the Ivatans are farmers and fishermen. The rest are employed in the government and services sector. Garlic and cattle are major cash crops. Ivatans also plant camote (sweet potato), cassava, gabi or tuber and a unique variety of white uvi. Sugarcane is raised to produce palek, a kind of native wine, and vinegar.

In recent years, fish catch has declined due to the absence of technical know-how. Employment opportunities are scarce. Most of the educated Ivatans have migrated to urban centers or have gone abroad.

A wind diesel generating plant was commissioned in 2004.

Distance and bad weather work against its economic growth. Certain commodities like rice, soft drinks, and gasoline carry a 75% to 100% mark-up over Manila retail prices.


The island province of Batanes is accessible by air via the Basco Airport and Itbayat Airport. There are 3 flights per week from Manila by SkyJetAir, and from Tuguegarao (Cagayan) by small local airliners (as of January 2013). Tourism is expected to boom in the island as budget carrier PAL Express started to have flights to Batanes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since May 1, 2013.[14]

Tourist Attractions

The entire province is a place far from the maddening crowd with no traffic and pollution problems. There is practically zero crime rate except for simple drunkenness and other relocated incidents.

Natural Sites

Sabtang Beach
Mount Iraya
  • Sabtang Island is undisturbed and unspoiled. The island has lots of natural attractions guaranteed to satisfy the most sophisticated nature lovers. It has intermittent white sand beaches with steep mountains and deep canyons with small level areas sporadically found along the coastline. Southwest of Batan Island, Sabtang is accessible by 30-minute falowa ride from Radiwan Port in Ivana. Sabtang Island is also the take off point for Ivuhos Island from Barangay Nakanmuan.
  • Itbayat Island is located north of Batan Island. Itbayat is shaped like a giant bowl. The island is surrounded by massive boulders and cliffs rising from 20–70 feet above sea level and has no shoreline. It has a dirt airstrip for light aircraft. A regular ferry runs the Batan-Itbayat route. Travel time is about four hours on falowa from Basco Seaport or Radiwan Port in Ivana. A light plane flies from Basco Airport to Itbayat at P1,875 per person and leaves only when the plane is full.
  • Batan Island is the most populated island of the province. It is composed of four municipalities namely Basco, Ivana, Uyugan and Mahatao. Basco is the center of commerce and seat of the provincial government.
  • Mount Iraya is a dormant volcano standing at 1,517 meters whose last eruption was recorded in 505 AD. Mountaineering, trekking and trailblazing are recommended sports activities on the mountain. Walking distance from Basco, the top of Mt. Iraya can be reached in about three hours.
  • Yami/Amianan is the northernmost island of Batanes. It is also called the Orchid Island. One can see Formosa (Taiwan) on a clear day. Tatus or coconut crabs abound in the island surrounded by rich marine life.
  • Di-Atay Beach is a beautiful cove with multi-colored rocks and white sand ideal for picnics and beach combing. Located along the highway of Mahatao, it is 9.85 kilometers from Basco.
  • Songsong in Chadpidan Bay is an hour of exhilarating trek from Basco proper (3 km). It is famous for its beautiful sunset view.
  • Naidi Hills is walking distance from Basco.
  • Chawa Cave is for the more adventurous. An enchanted cave with natural salt bed whose mouth opens to the south China Sea and is accessible through the boulders of Chawa Point in Mahatao. It is four kilometers from Basco.
  • Sitio Diura At Racuj-A-Ide is the fishermens village at Mananoy Bay. Fishing season is marked by a festival in mid-March called Kapayvanuvanua.[15] Visitors are treated with fresh fish delicacies from the Pacific Ocean. Within the area is the legendary Spring of Youth and living cave with crystal limestone formations. The bay is nine kilometers from Basco proper.
  • Nakabuang Cave is 5.5 kilometers from San Vicente Centro in Sabtang.
  • Mt. Matarem is an extinct volcano 495 meters at its summit. It is eight kilometers from Basco.
  • White Beach at Vatang, Hapnit and Mavatuy Point all in Mahatao.
A town in Batanes with houses made of lime and stone.

Man-made Artifacts

  • Radar Tukon was a United States weather station on a hilltop. It offers a magnificent 360-degree view of Batan Island, the South China Sea, Mt. Iraya, Basco proper, boulder lined cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. At present, it houses the last weather station in the north, the Basco Radar Station and is only 2.75 kilometers from Basco.
  • Old Loran Station used to house a US coastguard detachment for almost two decades and is about 25 kilometers from Basco.
  • Ruins Of Songsong is a ghost barangay which is a cluster of roofless shells of old stone houses abandoned after a tidal wave that hit the island of Batan in the 1950s. It has a long stretch of beach. The ruins are 23 kilometers from Basco.
Idjang in Savidug
  • San Jose Church in Ivana was built in 1814. It has a crenellated fortress-like campanile. The church is fronting the Ivana Seaport and is 14 kilometers from Basco.
  • Kanyuyan Beach & Port at Baluarte Bay in Basco is the port of call of the cargo ships bringing goods from Manila.
  • San Carlos Borromeo Church and a convent at Mahatao are six kilometers from Basco. It was completed in 1789 and still retains its centuries-old features.
  • Many buildings are traditionally two-storey lime and stone houses and churches with meter thick cogon roofs believed to last 60 years. These houses were built around 1795 with the help of imported masons, stone cutters and carpenters from the Province of Cagayan. These stone houses, found all over Batanes, are worthy subjects for photography.
  • Radiwan Point at Ivana Seaport is where the Katipuneros landed in September 18, 1898. It is also the ferry station of the falowas plying the islands of Sabtang and Itbayat.

Historic Relics

  • Idjangs or fortified stone fortresses where the native Ivatans' ancestors migrated to Batanes as early as 4,000 BC lived in them for defensive cover.
Ancient stone grave markers
Columnar stones
  • Boat-shaped stone grave markers, Chuhangin Burial Site, Ivuhos Island, Sabtang, Batanes
  • Chavulan burial jar site, Ivuhos Island, Sabtang Island
  • Arrangement of stones with holes, Sumnanga, Sabtang
  • Columnar stones, Post holes, Stone anchors, Itbud Idyang, Uyugan, Batanes
  • Arrangement of stone walls, Idyang Site, Basco, Batanes
  • Paso stone formation, Ivuhos Island, Sabtang, Batanes
  • Columnar stones with holes, Mahatao, Batanes

Special Interests

  • Spelunking at:
    • Chawa Cave, Mahatao
    • Crystal Cave, Mananoy Bay, Mahatao
    • Sarokan Cave, Itbayat
    • Nakabuang Cave, Sabtang
  • Trekking in Marlboro Country & Naidi Hills
  • Surfing at Madiwedved, Mahatao
  • Mountaineering, trekking & trailblazing of Mt. Iraya
  • Bird watching of Cuyab, the migratory birds from China that flock the islands. They stop over in Batanes for a day or two before they continue their flight in search for warmer climate. Sometimes they are called Virgin Marys birds as they appear only on October during Our Ladys birthday.
  • The Kapayvanuvanua ritual in Diura at the start of the fishing season.

Image gallery


  1. ^ "List of Provinces". PSGC Interactive. Makati City, Philippines: National Statistical Coordination Board. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities" (PDF). 2010 Census and Housing Population. National Statistics Office. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Howard T. Fry, "The Eastern Passage and Its Impact on Spanish Policy in the Philippines, 1758-1790", Philippine Studies, vol.33, First Quarter, 1985, pp.3-21, p.18.
  4. ^ "The First Landings". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  5. ^ GMA NEWS.TV, Intensity 5.2 jolts Batanes
  6. ^ 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocks Philippines, Taiwan
  7. ^ Britannica CD (1995). Batan Islands. University of Valencia. Retrieved on 2010-09-15.
  8. ^ "Climatological Information for Basco, Philippines". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  9. ^ "2010 Census of Population and Housing: Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay:as of May 1, 2010" ( 
  10. ^ "Province: Batanes".  
  11. ^
  12. ^ Final Report Batanes Biodiversity Survey
  13. ^ UNESCO proposal on Batanes
  14. ^ Airphil Express to launch Manila-Batanes flights on May
  15. ^ Cairo, Jayce (2013-04-01) Batanes Rocks! (Part 3). Chasing Jayce. Retrieved on 2014-12-30

External links

  • Batanes Islands Cultural Atlas
  • Northern Luzon cultures
  • TRAVEL TIP: A Guide on Planning a Trip to Batanes
  • Facebook Group
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