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Ivatan people

From Wikipedia

Ivatan people
Ivatan Old Woman.jpg
An old Ivatan woman.
Total population
37,657 [1]
Regions with significant populations
( Batanes)
Ivatan, Ilocano, Tagalog, English
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholicism),
minority also, ancestral worship
Related ethnic groups
Taiwanese aborigines, Ilocanos, other Austronesian peoples

The Ivatans are a Filipino ethnolinguistic group predominant in the islands of Batanes of the Philippines. Their ethnogenesis is unclear; their origins remain untraced among scholars, but they are believed to be an Austronesian group, related to neighboring Ilocanos on a purely linguistic basis.

The culture of the Ivatans is partly influenced by the environmental condition of Batanes. Unlike the old-type nipa huts common in the Philippines, Ivatans have adopted their now-famous stone houses made of coral and limestone, designed to protect against the hostile climate.


Documents do not show much about the history of the Ivatans and at present, scholars who study their origins are still unsure as to their exact origin. They question whether the pre-historic Ivatans came from the northern part of Luzon or southern portions of China and Taiwan. There is evidence that they might be a surviving Christianized remnant of a people that once resided on all the islands between Luzon and Taiwan. [2] However, the close physical resemblance of the Ivatans to the Malays and the structure of their language could mean they came from other parts of the Philippines. By tracing their roots through Batanes' folklores, Omoto, a Japanese anthropologist of the Yami of Orchid Island (Lanyu), has demonstrated a closer genetic affinity of the Yami to the Tagalog and Visayan and a linguistic connection to the Batanic (Bashiic) sub-branch of the Malayo-Polynesian branch. [3]


An Ivatan man fresh from work.
A Sinadumparan Ivatan house, one of the oldest structures in the Batanes islands. The house is made of limestone and coral and its roofing of cogon grass.

Ivatans were living in Batanes before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, protected by fortresses known as idjang, and living autonomously long thereafter. On June 26, 1783, Batanes was incorporated into the Spanish East Indies. [2] In 1686, Ivatans were forced to resettle in the lowlands of Batanes. [4] The Ivatans lived under Spanish rule for 115 years and gained their independence on September 18, 1898. However, June 6 is celebrated in Batanes as its founding day. [2]

Physical attributes

One of the earliest accounts of the Ivatan is that of the British buccaneer William Dampier in 1687. Dampier described them as "short, squat people; hazel eyes, small yet bigger than Chinese; low foreheads; thick eyebrows; short low noses; white teeth; black thick hair; and very dark, copper-colored skin." [3] They also have a strong mixture of the short type of the Mongols, and some individuals seem to have some physical characteristics peculiar to the Ainus of Japan. [2]


In 1990, the population of the Ivatans was 15,026, an increase of 24% over the 1980 population of 12,091. These were distributed to the six municipalities, with 38% residing in Basco, 23% in Itbayat, 12% in Sabtang, 11% in Mahatao and 8% for Uyugan, and Ivana. [3] In the 2000 census, 15,834 Ivatans were among the 16,421 population in Batanes. [5]

An Ivatan woman wearing a vakul, a headgear for sunlight and rain protection made from vuyavuy palm fiber. [6]

The mother tongue of the Ivatans is the Chirin nu Ibatan but is commonly known as Ivatan. A distinct Austronesian language, the Ivatan has two dialects including Basco, the Itbayáten, [7] and possibly Yami. [2] The Ivatans widely speak and understand the Ilocano, Tagalog, and English languages. [3]

Today, most Ivatans are Catholics, like the rest of the country, although some have not converted and practice ancestral worship to their anitos. [2] However, there are growing Protestant denominations especially in Basco, the capital town of Batanes. [3]


The Ivatan's culture has been largely influenced by the climate of Batanes. Due to severe climatic disruptions to their agriculture, Ivatans have developed numerous successful strategies to protect their food supply and way of life.

Traditionally, because of frequent typhoons and drought, they plant root crops able to cope with the environment. These crops include yam, sweet potato, taro, garlic, ginger, and onion, as they ensure higher chances of survival during awry climate conditions. [8] The Ivatan study the behavior of animals, sky color, wind, and clouds to predict the weather. Ivatans usually gather their animals and stay in their houses when they see that the cows take shelter from the payaman (communal pasture) and birds taking refuge in houses or in the ground. A pink sky with an orange hue also heralds a storm. [9]

The sea is vital to the Ivatan's way of life. [4] They depend on the flying fish (dibang) and dolphinfish (arayu) present on the shores of Batanes in the months of March through May. [3] They have a native delicacy called uvod (the pith of the banana stalk) which is served with the wine palek, on festive occasions such as weddings. [2]

Before Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, Ivatans built their houses from cogon grass. These homes were small, well-situated, and designed to protect against strong winds. [3] [4] The Spaniards introduced large-scale production of lime to the Ivatan for the construction of their now-famous stone houses. Meter-thick limestone walls, [4] are designed to protect against the harsh Batanes environment, [10] which is known as a terminal passage of typhoons in the Philippines. The basic cogon grass is still preserved as roofs of their houses, thickly constructed to withstand strong winds. [3] These houses are comparable to the white houses in New Zealand, Ireland, and the Scottish Highlands. [11]

One of the endemic clothing of the Ivatans is the vakul. A vakul is a headgear designed to protect the wearer from sun and rain. It is made from vuyavuy palm fiber. [4] [6]

The Ivatans have three folk song styles: the laji, the kanta, and the kalusan. [3] The laji are ancient lyrical songs that are supposed to be sung when they are merry or just finished work. [12] The kalusan is sung during work. [3]

The Ivatan have legends that are called kabbata. [13] They have the rawod, chants that chronicle the adventures of the Ivatan's forefathers as they escape a disaster. [14]

Indigenous Ivatan religion


  • Supreme Being: referred to as Mayo, in one account; [15] probably regarded as remote as fear and meticulous ritual care are often related instead towards the Añitu [16]
  • Mayo: a fisherfolk hero who introduced the yuyus used to catch flying fishes called dibang, which are in turn used to catch the summertime fish arayu [15]
  • The Giver: the entity who provides all things; the souls of the upper-class travel to the beings' abode in heaven and become stars [15]
  • Añitu: refers to the souls of the dead, place spirits, and wandering invisibles not identified nor tied down to any particular locale or thing [16]
  • Añitu between Chavidug and Chavayan: place spirit Añitus who were reported to create sounds when the gorge between Chavidug and Chavayan were being created through dynamite explosions; believed to have shifted their residences after the construction of the passage [16]
  • Rirryaw Añitu: place spirit Añitus who played music and sang inside a cave in Sabtang, while lighting up the fire; believed to have change residences after they were disturbed by a man [16]
  • ji Rahet Añitu: a grinning place spirit Añitu who lived in an old tree; a man later cut the tree and found an earthen pot believed to have been owned by the Añitu [16]
  • Nuvwan Añitu: good place spirit Añitus who saved a woman from a falling tree; they are offered rituals through the vivyayin [16]
  • ji P'Supwan Añitu: good place spirit Añitus who became friends and allies of a mortal woman named Carmen Acido; sometimes taking in the form of dogs, they aided her and guided her in many of her tasks until her death from old age; despite their kindness towards Carmen, most people avoided the farm where they live [16]
  • Mayavusay Añitu: place spirit Añitus living in a parcel of land in Mayavusay; sometimes take in the form of piglets, and can return cut vegetation parts into the mother vegetation [16]
  • Cairn-dwelling Añitu: place spirit Añitus who lived in cairns and put a curse towards a man who destroyed their home; appearing as humans, the shaman Balaw conversed with them to right the wrong made by the man against their home [16]
  • Mayuray Añitu: a wandering Añitu who expanded and was filled with darkness; encountered by a young boy who the spirit did not harm; referred to as a kapri, Añitus who walk around and grow as tall as the height for their surroundings [16]
  • Dayanak Añitu: a type of very small Añitu with red eyes and gold ornaments; accepting their gold ornaments will cause misfortune [16]

See also


  1. ^ "2010 Census of Population and Housing, Report No. 2A: Demographic and Housing Characteristics (Non-Sample Variables) - Philippines" (PDF). Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Ethnic Profile: The Ivatan". National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Datar, Francisco A. "The Batanes Islands". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved 2008-04-06.[ dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e Rowthorn, Chris (2003). Philippines. Lonely Planet. pp.  203. ISBN  1-74059-210-7. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  5. ^ "Population in Batanes Showed an Upward Swing". Philippine National Statistics Office. Archived from the original on 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  6. ^ a b Madulid, Domingo A.; Agoo, Esperanza Maribel G. (2009). "Notes on the economic plants of Batanes: Citrus species and Phoenix loureiroi var. loureiroi". Bulletin of National Museum of Ethnology. 34 (1): 191–205. doi: 10.15021/00003920.
  7. ^ Galvez Rubino, Carl R. (2000). Ilocano Dictionary and Grammar. University of Hawaii. p. 213. ISBN  0-8248-2088-6. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  8. ^ Bankoff, Greg (2002). Cultures of Disaster: Society and Natural Hazards in the Philippines. Routledge. p. 165. ISBN  0-7007-1761-7. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  9. ^ Trinidad-Echavez, Andrea (2008-06-29). "Ivatan of Batanes share secrets of survival in typhoon belt". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  10. ^ Brown, Jessica; et al. (2005). The Protected Landscape Approach: Linking Nature, Culture and Community. The World Conservation Union. p. 103. ISBN  2-8317-0797-8. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  11. ^ Calubiran, Maricar. "Ivatan joins Dinagyang to promote Batanes tourism". The News Today. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  12. ^ Quindoza-Santiago, Lilia (2002). "Early Philippine Literature". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  13. ^ "Ivatan/Itbayat". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. 2002. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  14. ^ Espiritu, EV (2007-09-06). "'Tatayak' making keeps Ivatan seafarers alive". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
  15. ^ a b c Hornedo, F. H. (1994). Philippine Studies Vol. 42, No. 4: Death and After Death: Ivatan Beliefs and Practices. Ateneo de Manila University.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hornedo, F. H. (1980). Philippine Studies Vol. 28, No. 1: The World and The Ways of the Ivatan Añitu. Ateneo de Manila University.