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The Ivatan

The Ivatans are found chiefly in the Batanes group of small islands. Most of them are on the islands of Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. There is solid evidence for believing that the present Ivatans are the Christianized surviving group of an ancient people who once occupied all of the islands between Luzon and Taiwan, and who are probably represented in the purest form today by the natives of Botel Tabago. However, there probably exists a fairly strong cultural element on Batan derived from Chinese contact which is absent on Botel Tobago.

The people call their language Chirin nu Ibatan, but it is better known as Ivatan. Its dialects are the northern (Basco), Itbayat (Itbayat Island), the southern (Sabtang Island), and possibly Yami.

The dominant physical type is the Malay blend—short, squat, with a strong mixture of the short Mongol type. There are some individuals who seem to have some physical characteristics peculiar to the Ainus of Japan. Their general culture is markedly different from the Spanish-Filipino, but their economic and social life does show certain differences. The persistence of these cultural survivals are most probably due to theirgeographical isolation. They have several unique customs related to marriage and death. Many ancient beliefs have been preserved to this day.

The wedding itself takes place in the church, after which the wedding feasts follows. On festive occasions like this, the native delicacy (uvod) is served with the wine (palek). Dancing is very much a part of the occasion.

Today, most Ivatans like most Filipinos, are Catholic. However, the early Ivatans and those who have not become Christians have held on to a form of ancestor worship, which venerates the dead as anito, responsible for the maladies and misfortunes of men as well as their success and good fortune.


Some photos and excerpts are lifted from the book, "The Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines" published and authored by Rex Bookstore, Inc. and the National Commission on Indigneous Peoples. Philippine Copyright 2000 by Rex Bookstore, Inc. ISBN-971-23-2985-2.

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