Before the local radio station came to Batanes, the Bandillo was the
chief medium of information in the province.
Whether it was about a new law or the arrival of a super typhoon, the
townspeople would get the news fast and accurate from the town crier who
was the main cast of the Bandillo entourage.
As soon as we hear the familiar beating of the drum, those in the vicinity
would head for the announcement venue. Little children would get scared,
intimidated by the menacing gong, but the youth would be delighted. It
was an exciting chance to go out of the house at night (at a time when
parents strictly imposed an evening curfew), not just for the news, but
perchance to get a glimpse of a crush or a beloved. For there was no better
license to venture into the night than for that all-important Bandillo.
The Bandillo group usually made the round around town at about 7:00 in
the evening when all families are relaxing after dinner and just as they
are getting ready to bed. The group, consisting of the drummer, the person
holding the gas light, and the town crier himself would start from the
municipio. From there they would move on to the edge of the town towards
the other end, the regular cadence of the drum beats indicating their
whereabouts. As they neared the usual place of announcement, the drum
beats would become increasingly faster, signalling that the Bandillo is
about to be done. Half-way to the fast beat, the crowd would have swelled.
The drumbeats stop. Then silence follow as the important Bandillo (announcement)
is read to the attentive listeners.
Depending on the substance of the news, we the crowd would disperse with
shouts of jubilation or move away in silent reflection after hearing the
news. Good news would be the likes of distribution of relief goods from
some donors like CARE and every family is to send a representative to
the distribution center. Bad news would be the onset of a super typhoon
with 250 kph with winds and every family must immediately take necessary
On and on the Bandillo would cover the whole town, and we would hear the
sound of the drum going fainter as they move farther away. And the stillness
of the night would return to be disturbed only by the barking of the dogs.
Such was the prominence of Bandillos in the days of yore. How we who were
part of it remember it with fondest and nostalgia-and regret that the
younger generation no longer experience the excitement they generated.
With the coming of the radio, television, telephone and internet, the
Bandillo has become the sentimental remnant of a bygone era. But the role
it played in the lives of all Ivatans for the longest time will never
be forgotten. In naming this community paper "Bandillo Batanes", we are
somehow perpetuating a part of our past that was vital to our survival
as Ivatans-keeping us informed, prepared and united.
The First Bandillos (The following are taken from the
book "The Batanes Islands", pp. 27,41-42, written by the late Fr. Julio
Gonzales, O. P.)
The first Bandillo in Batanes was made by Don Dionisio de los Reyes, commander
of the vessel tasked by the Alcalde of Cagayan and concurrent Governor
of Batanes Don Jose Huelva, who was ordered by the Governor-General of
the Philippines Don Jose Basco y Vargas, "to prepare and dispatch a vessel
with the purpose of ascertaining the will of both the chiefs and the people
of the islands relative to the acceptance of the faith".
The ship carrying the group left Aparri on April 12, 1782 and arrived
on Batan Island on June 1, 1782. Upon landing, the commander gathered
the chiefs and the rest of the population to a meeting where the interpreters
read the following message from the Governor-General:
"Chiefs, nobles and people of these islands: Know ye that the Catholic
King of Spain and of the oriental and occidental Indies, my Lord and Sovereign,
Charles III, whom God keep under His protection, has ordered me to explore
and ascertain your will and intention of embracing the Christian religion
and receiving the holy water of baptism. For His Majesty was given to
understand that you do ardently desire it, as well as to live in a civilized
manner under the protection of his sovereign and benign laws, after the
manner of the chiefs and other people of the Philippine Islands, who thus
enjoy the shelter and protection of the Governor and Captain General,
who is now speaking to you, and of the other officials of the King. They
likewise enjoy the most desirable tranquillity and possession of their
properties and incomes, and what is more, they are able, by means of the
previous waters of baptism, to militate as Catholic under the banners
of Jesus Christ. If, therefore, you are willing and well-disposed to constitute
together with us the body of one nation, I shall most happily come to
your aide by sending unto you priests who will instruct you in the dogmas
of religion and baptized you in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Hols Ghost. Likewise, I make the offer of sending to you a
Military and Civil Governors, who will protect you in your differences
and watch over the safekeeping and enjoyment immunities and prerogatives
granted you by God, who is the benefactor and common dispenser of all
the respective graces given to each man in accordance with his natural
capability and the place accorded to him in this world. These things that
I speak to you, receive them as tokens of the affection, esteem and love
which I bear you, and if you agree to my desires, I will, upon receiving
your answer, devote myself to the important goal of your welfare with
suitable provisions which will clearly evidence the determination with
which I shall pursue your happiness and the prosperity of your islands.
-Given in Manila, on the 15th of February, 1782