BATANES Majestic harmony between
people and nature
(By Augusto F. Villalon, Phil. Daily Inquirer) Bandillo Batanes Oct.
Batanes is where the earth, sea and sky combine with such intent
beauty that the experience is mystical. One immediately knows that there
indeed is a God who maintains such magnificent order in the universe.
The sky is perpetually misty at this time of the year. However,
the green of its rolling hills break into magnificent bluffs that drop
into a grey sea. Just before the dark crashes onto the shore, its colour
abruptly changes. At the instant the surf breaks, the water turns into
the brightest blue.
The landscape is so moving, that it feels as if it is the place where
nature has done everything it can possibly do.
The bayanihan spirit is one of the traits that keeps the people in Batanes
going. While nature batters their islands, they remain in close touch
with each other, helping each other, whether it be communally repairing
neighbouring house, keeping villages clean, harvesting their crops.
Indeed, nature, specially the sea, has always been an important part
of Batanes life. Navigation between islands becomes difficult because
of the unpredictable currents. In response to high waves brought about
by the currents, the Batanes boat is unlike the common Southeast Asian
outriggered banca. It is a wooden boat with rounded sides that skims
the stormy Batanes sea.
The layout of human settlement and the architecture of the homes also
respond intimately with nature. Villages of low stone houses covered
with thickly woven cogon roofs huddle in clusters to protect each other's
strong homes from the typhoons that constantly pound their island and
their lives. The streets that separate houses are straight and narrow,
sometimes barely wide enough to allow a vehicle to pass.
Their geography demands that people must work hard to exist in Batanes.
However, life is lived in magnificent stride. Probably the gentlest
of Filipinos are found in Batanes.
In the Philippines, it is only in Batanes, where people have traditionally
built low-slung sturdy stone houses capped by a thick thatch roof. Traditional
houses in the rest of the country, and most of Southeast Asia for that
matter, have always been impermanent dwellings of wood and bamboo and
nipa palm roofing. The low-slung, thick-walled stone house capped by
a mane of cogon is found only in Batanes.
Dr. Eusebio Dizon and Rey Santiago, a respected team of anthropologists
from the National Museum, have excavated in Batanes, proving that it
is the only site in the country where many sites record the existence
of pre-Hispanic settlements of stone. There are ruins of pre-Hispanic
mountaintop citadels (idjang) with commanding views of the land and
sea that once guarded early villages against their enemies and pirates.
Near many idjangs burial mounds with stone grave markers arranged in
a boat shaped pattern resembling the typical boat still used in Batanes
According to Dizon and Santiago, the only other culture that built the
same type of burial mounds centuries ago where the Vikings of northern
Batanes overflows with wonder, Somehow, writing about Batanes does not
communicate the marvel of how nature and people have come together to
coexist in such gentile, beautiful and majestic harmony. Batanes is
probably one of the few places on earth whose beauty is so powerful
that you feel a constant brush with perfection of the Divine.