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Ivatan | The People of the Northernmost Isles

Anyone who’s been to Batanes always returns with impressions that the Ivatan people are cheerful, kind & honest. Yes, they are true. But they’re also self-sufficient, industrious, typically shy & calm.

ivatan fisherman

Not much is known about the Ivatans. And the little things we know about them also leave us wondering why they are so cool. Is it their grass headgear, the weather or their rolling hills? Could it be their isolation that makes them so wonderfully different?


Step into the Ivatan World of Beautiful Rarities

It hasn’t been long since Batanes rose to fame. Not too many have been on its trails yet compared to other travel destinations in the Philippines. However, the stories from the very few tourists who’ve made it here are actually making global conversations.


I have been to Batanes a few times. And in one of those trips, I stayed for 3 months straight. Initially, the plan was just a week of working holiday. But one week became two, then three & four.


I hopped from island to island & combed every attraction. Rarity after rarity, Batanes unfurled itself like a wonderful world unto its own. And what was already a one month extended plan soon became two. Then three & a few days more.


But more than just pretty landscapes, what kept me so attached to Batanes is the charming Ivatan way of life. And in those 3 months, I realized that indeed there’s something unique about them.

ivatan batanes

Who are the Ivatans?

Ivatan refers to both the people & the language in the northernmost isles of the Philippines. Of the 10 islands, only 3 are inhabited: Batan, Sabtang & Itbayat.


The Ivatan enthogenesis is still sketchy. Researchers say they originated from Taiwan 4000 years ago. Others push they are of Ibanag descent from northern Luzon. However, one thing is true: they’re Austronesian, sharing genetic & linguistic traits with most South East Asians.


Life & Living

As typhoons frequently pass thru Batanes, the Ivatans adopted strategies to survive. They built their homes in thick limestones. Also, they plant crops that could withstand severe weather conditions.

batanes ivatan


During hot summer months, they dry their fish harvests to have something to last until the rainy days. They keep their oceans healthy too so the flying fish & lobsters sustaining them year-round could thrive. Coconut crabs also naturally abound anywhere here.

ivatan dry fish

coconut crab

Even to this day, the Ivatans still use salt to preserve meat that lasts for months or years. So even without electricity, they can still fry their delicious luñis. Moreover, most of them have backyard gardens or a small herd of cattle.


The Ivatan ways of living is shaped by their climate & topography. But this also taught them to be self-sufficient. In fact, after typhoons, you hardly see them lining up for disaster relief food. Admirably, they do not scramble for petty aids because they saved something in times like these.


Human Values & Social Progress

The Ivatan people are known for their adorable honesty. While this human value is hard to find in other places, in Batanes, it is at the heart of their culture.

basco batanes

Despite how modern their lives are today, the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan is still well alive in Batanes. It is so thriving that they even have different words for specific act of cooperativism: yaru, kapanindongan/kamanidungan, payuhuan & pitutulungan.

fisherman filipino

ivatan women

Do you have Ivatan friends? Have you noticed how pleasant it is to talk to them? They are typically non-aggressive. And having zero crime rate here proves their trait of calmness. How cool is that?

batanes people

batanes art

For specks of lands that are hard to reach, art is still a vibrant scene here. Step into the Creative Hub in Basco & experience Batanes told in masterful strokes, photographs & collectibles. In Sabtang, they still sing the age-old ‘laji’. Or hear the townsfolk sing the ‘kalusan’ while working in the fields.


Truly, Batanes is a wonderland of wanderlust. And if you take time to see beyond what meets the eye, you’ll surely be charmed by the people that make it all so wonderful.


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    Comments ( 2 )

  • Andy

    I have been living in Batanes for more than 2 years. It is no longer a zero crime place. Though we have reports of robbery from locals. Just last week a local stole 11k from our house. Maybe, modernization has changed the people.

    • Potpot

      OMG Andy, that is so sad to hear. The last time I was there (early last year), I had the chance to meet the Chief of Police. And yeah, nothing about stories of crime was told. It’s sad to know too that a local stole from you. That’s very rare to hear. True, it might be brought by the changes of time. Was he Ivatan? Because I know some people from other places live there too. So sad to hear this.

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