previous arrow
next arrow

Traditional Ivatan Culture

Typology of Traditional Ivatan Culture and Architecture



Pinasakung comes from the root word sakung which means a shelter against the sun or rain. It is a simple structure of posts and roof. The pinasakung has morphed in recent time into a shelter of more varied functions from bicycle shed to travellers’ roadside rest.


Rahaung is a shed that is also called kamadid – the difference being largely in language of origin rather than structure. Kamadid is an Ivatan corruption of the Spanish word camarin (cottage). The two types of rahaung are distinguished by the structure of their woodwork, and consequently by the appearance of their roofs. The simpler structure is called maykulchib. It has rectangular floor space defined by the location where the four main pseudo-posts which support the roof rest on the ground. The second is the ordinary rahaung whose roof rests on at least four posts whose location defines a rectangular floor space, whose height determines the eaves of the roof and where it starts rising toward the roof ridge.


This is a shed usually without side walling constructed of wood, reeds and cogon thatch roof. It is also colloquially called kamadid. It is an all-purpose shelter for farming tools and equipment, for drying produce such as onion and garlic, newly harvested corn, and sometimes root crops. It also houses chicken nests for egg layers. Stone mills (ururan) for grinding corn, and sometimes stable where goats are housed in it, too.


Variants of the common rahaung keep the same structure, but differ only because of the addition of jinjin (a wall made of sewn cogon) to varied sections of the structure. To lessen the amount of rain coming from the open ends of the gable roof, a jinjin closes the gable’s opening halfway down, or sometimes all the way down to the horizontal cross beam or tukah. A rahaung intended for safekeeping harvested root crops and agricultural equipment needs some enclosure. To keep safe from stray animals and rain, all or some sides are walled with jinjin – in which case the rahaung is also called nijinjinan.


Vahay in Ivatan, although generic, also has the underlying meaning of a human dwelling place so that vahay a jinjin suggests a human habitation enclosed with jinjin  (a wall made of sewn cogon) walling thatched with cogon. Today, the vahay a jinjin has attained various levels of sophistication and aesthetic aspects.



A rahaung structure built in the farm intended as rest house for farm workers, or as sleeping shelter for farmers who wish to save on travel time from village to farm on hectic days called panisanan (which means a farm house where one can stay overnight or for several nights while urgent farm work lasts).


A sheltered cooking place. From Spanish cocina. A kitchen house. As life became more urbanized after the forced settlement down from the hills, the kitchen house also became a store room for harvested produce such as yams, camote, corn, garlic, and onions. In many kitchens, pigs were also kept.



The traditional Ivatan living room house. Its complete name is rakuh a vahay – the big house (that is “bigger than the kitjchen house”). It is where the Ivatan family live away from the low, and usually smoky kitchen.


Source:    Hornedo, F.H. 2013, “Typology of Traditional Ivatan Shelter and Architecture, part One”, Ivatan Studies Journal Volumes XI-XII, Saint Dominic College Inc.,

              Hornedo, F.H. 2015, “Typology of Traditional Ivatan Shelter and Architecture, Part Two”, Ivatan Studies Journal Volumes XIII-XIV, Saint Dominic College Inc.,

Sinadumparan.  This type of house is the common two-sloped roof of either the rakuh or the kusina. It is made of lime – and – stone with thick thatched cogon roof. The house in picture A is typical in the Batan and Sabtang Islands where cut stones are used . Like most Ivatan houses, a blank wall faces the direction where strong winds originate during typhoon. The house in picture B is typical in Itbayat. The absence of regular-shaped stones in the island is evident as houses are made with extremely  irregular and rough pieces of rocks (lagat and pilñit). As in other types, the cogon roof usually lasts up to 25-30 years with minimal repair.


Maytuab. This type of house under rakuh or kusina has stone and lime walls with a distinct four-sloped roof. Lime plaster on the exterior surface of the walls has been noted in some houses. This type of house is mainly used for dwelling and is considered to be the most labor-intensive among all the Ivatan vernacular houses. It also requires huge volume of cogon. The thick roof (about a yard when new) provides it excellent thermal characteristics: cool during the summer months (April – June) and warm during the winter (December – February).


Like the sinadumparan, the typical maytuab house has narrow doors and windows with wooden shutters and often secured by a wooden bars (usually a meter and a half long) during typhoons or windy days. Both types often have two floors, the upper for human dwelling and the lower floor that houses domesticated animals during inclement weather. A roof net (called panpet) made of large ropes is thrown over the entire roof and fastened to strong pegs, large stones or sturdy trees to secure the roof during strong typhoons. Both types may still be found in all the municipalities in Batanes although less of these types may be found in the capital town of Basco.

Source:    Hornedo, F.H., Taming the Wind, UST Publishing House. Pages 73-79

Let's Get Started