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Only in Batanes


Many have said, being in Batanes is like being in an entirely different world. It’s like visiting a country within a country. And people who have visited have understood why. It seems time has stood still in Batanes. Here are several things about Batanes that have been identified to be unique in the place. They have invariably been reasons why people come back again and again for a visit.


Hedgerows (Liveng). Tall rows of reeds, trees, grass, or piled stones used as crop protection from wind, typhoons or sea breeze. They make Batanes landscape appear like vast collection of labyrinths. They prevent soil erosion and double as demarcation lines or boundaries of farms.

“BLOW UR HORN” signage. To make sure that road signs remain in service in the strongest typhoons and the most ferocious winds which reign most of the year, road signages in Batanes are carved out from cliffs or boulders. This signages were built as early as the American period using already the UR as a shortcut for ‘your’ long before cellphone text shortcuts were popularized.

boat-shaped-burial-markerPre-Spanish Boat-shaped graves.
The pre-Spanish boat shaped burial markers discovered in the islands is unique in the country. The markers were noted to be similar with the ones in Europe where the ancient Vikings once lived.


Honesty Coffee Shop. This is the world famous self-service coffee shop in Ivana. It’s very simple: You choose the item you want, check the price in the list, drop your payment in the box.  It’s a living testament to two Ivatan homegrown character — honesty and trustworthiness (since there’s no storekeeper to speak of) and hardwork (the owners opt to work in the field rather than man the store). You will definitely pay as a sign on the wall says, “Jesus Christ is our security guard!”


Ijang fortresses. Located in all the islands, these were thought to have been used as ancient habitations of early Ivatans. Usually perched on hilltops, these fortresses protect ancient Ivatans from invading tribes. Experts say these are similar to the gusukus or castles found in Okinawa, Japan.


Vernacular houses. Nowhere in the Philippines can you find these houses. The typical Ivatan house is made of stone, lime and cogon especially designed to withstand the harsh weather condition of Batanes. The doors and windows are narrow and the meter-thick walls are half-sunk. No steel bars are used.   Because weather is unpredictable in the islands, it is imperative that houses are constructed this way.


Vakul. The famous Ivatan headgear for women made out of Philippine date palm (called Vuyavuy) endemic in Batanes.  It is used to protect them from rain, heat of the sun, and the cold conditions. Only women wear this.

Kanayi. A native jacket specially designed for male Ivatans as protection from rain and mainly cold weather. Made out of date palm leaves endemic in Batanes while others were made of dried abaca stalk.


Kapayvunung. The practice of serving food in breadfruit leaf (locally called Kabaya leaves) during public gatherings like weddings and fiestas. All prepared food items are laid out together in one leaf for convenient distribution. When not used as improvised plates, these Kabaya leaves may be formed as impromptu drinking glass or, when dried, as cooling fan.


Tataya / Fishing Boat. Every town in Batanes has its own version of an oar-driven fishing boat. Usually for two to three-man size, these wooden vessels without bamboo planks (katig) are specially designed and constructed with the unique current prevailing around the islands.

Kapayvanuvanua. A festival that marks the start of the fishing season of the arayu (dorado) where fisher folks perform a ritual to prayer for a bountiful fishing season, safety while at sea as well us giving food for the spirits by butchering a pig.

Batanes Pit Viper. Considered to be one of the rarest snake species in the Philippines, these endangered snake species are endemic in Batanes. These small viper species live on trees and produce its young from eggs that hatch within its body. They are typically green in color, but some species also have yellow, black, orange or red markings. The snakes are caught mostly for its medicinal value.Scientific name: Trimeresurus flavomaculatus mcgregori

Batanes Flora and Fauna. A few of the flora and fauna identified to be found only in Batanes.

Source: management plan: Batanes protected landscape and seascape, February 2001
  • Kanarem – diospyros sabtanensis
  • Riwas – drypetes falcata
  • Vua – areca catechu var. batanensis
  • Voyavoy – phoenix hanceana var. philipinensis
  • Gagadang – hydrangea subintegra
  • Tangaw – boehneria villosa
  • Vuhuan – leucosyke qua drinervia
(only in Batanes… for the world)
  • Indochinese shrew – crocidura attenuata
  • Ryukyu flying fox – Pteropus dasymallus
  • Asian water snake – amphiesma stolata
  • Batanes pit viper Trimeresurus flavomaculatus mcgregori

Dius,Diuus, Diuuus. In Batanes, all greetings are prayerful. They are spoken imploring God’s presence and benevolence all the time. There is no specific greeting for each time of the day. The generic greeting of “(Pa)Kapian ka pa nu Dius”literally meaning “May God be good to you” is an accepted all-around Batanes greeting any time of the day. The word Dius (this time, pronounced with a prolonged U sound and at a high pitch) is likewise spoken when entering a house to indicate one’s presence or when passing through somebody’s premises.

vunitanThe local popular flower: Vuñitan (Lily)

The white lily dots the hills and mountainsides from December to March (the coldest months of the year) in Batanes. It symbolizes all that is beautiful, pure and strong in the Ivatan people. Growing precariously on the steep, dangerous sides of the mountain. They represent the indomitable spirit of the people living in these stormy isles.

The Provincial Tree: Arius

This tree by nature tends to develop and form itself like a Christmas tree. Its beautiful shape makes it ideal as an ornamental and shade tree. The Arius is one of the sturdiest trees of the province that can withstand frequent and strong typhoons. It is similar to the bamboo tree that bends with the wind but never breaks. The provincial tree is so like the inhabitants, who take all of life’s ups and downs stoically and courageously.

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