The island-province of Batanes is the smallest province in the Philippines with a land area of 230 square kilometers and was created by a series of volcanic activities and other geologic forces when Mt. Iraya erupted around 325 B.C. It is bounded on the north by the Bashi Channel, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the China Sea and on the south by the Balintang Channel. Basco, its capital town is about 280 kilometers north of Aparri, Cagayan or some 860 kilometers north of Manila and about 190 kilometers south of Taiwan. The pre-historic Ivatans who are nationally acclaimed as the “True Insulares” were boat-making and sea-faring people who lived in small tribal communities that lived on fishing, hunting, horticulture and raising root crops.
The Ivatans traced their roots to the early immigrants from Formosa (Taiwan) and the Spaniards who came to the island in the 16th century. To this day, they bear the features of their forebears – the Chinese almond eyes and the Spaniards’ aquiline nose. Their language is peppered with pidgin Spanish and is spoken with the rhythm of the Chinese language.
In 1782, then Governor General of the Philippines Jose Basco y Vargas 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 y Melgarjo became the first governor of Batanes. The new province was named Provincia de la Concepcion and Governor General Basco was named “Conde de la Conquista de Batanes” and the capital town was named after him.
By 1799, the Manila government was convinced that the Batanes provincial government was unable to support itself and it was decided to downgrade it. The office of the governor was abolished and Valerio Bermudez, a Cagayano was appointed alcalde.
By 1855 the Itbayat Mission was formally recognized the same year when the era of the alcalde also ended and the governorship was restored indicating a mode of political and economic upswing. Fernando de la Cueva was assigned Governor.
Around 1890 a mail boat was coming every three months increasing the contact of the Ivatans with Luzon especially Manila. The export of pork, lard and cattles increased. Galvanized iron became available.
On September 18, 1898, Katipuneros from Luzon hoisted their flag at Radiwan. Gov. Julian Fortea became the last Spanish governor.
In February 1900, the USS Princeton landed in Batanes to begin American rule. The province became a mere township under Cagayan. Batanes became a province again by the provision of Act 1952 enacted on May 20, 1909 with Otto Scheerer as the Governor. A wireless telegraph tower and station was set up in Basco before 1920.
When the Japanese arrived in Batanes on Dec. 8,1941 they bomb the airport and destroyed the wireless telegraph tower. Ivatan resentment turned to aggressive resistance in 1945. After the war and the Philippines got its Independence, contact with the rest of the country increased. The airport was rehabilitated; media and radio communications have lessened cultural isolation. Infrastructures, electrification and deep-sea fishing improved and a shift to rice from root crops as traditional subsistence was effected.
Batanes today boasts of undisturbed and unspoiled beauty of nature preserved by the peace-loving Ivatans. A complete ecotourism destination, Batanes offers a kaleidoscope of natural beauty and ecological attractions from its rich marine resources of its verdant rolling terrain – all ideal for outdoor sports. Because fires and typhoons routinely destroyed government and mission buildings, lime and stone churches began to be built around 1795 with the help of imported masons, stone cutters and carpenters from Cagayan. Today, houses built of meter-thick limestone walls and foot-thick thatched/cogon roof whose main architectural consideration is its resistance to typhoon still stand.
In 1989, President Corazon Aquino visited Batanes while President Fidel V. Ramos celebrated his 65th birthday in Basco in 1993. In 1994, the Island Province of Batanes was declared as one of the 10 Integrated Protected Area System (IPAS) sites in the country.
Visiting the island province is best during the period from March to June. The airline companies flying to Batanes include Batanes Airline, Chemtrad, Sky Pasada and Seair. The entire Batan Island can be toured using a Sarao Type Jeepney at a rate of P1, 200.00 per day. Boat fare to Sabtang Island from Ivana Seaport is P30.00