Chapter 2

The Batanese Cultures


Geography and Climate
Contact with the West
The Cultural Split
Batanes Folklore

Geography and Climate
The Batanes; are located in the northernmost part of the Philippine Archipelago: 483 kilometers from Manila, 224 kilometers from the southernmost tip of Taiwan, and 161 kilometers from the mainland of Luzon. It has the smallest area of any of the Philippine provinces and the smallest population. Its 209 square kilometers are made up of eleven islands and various islets, all of volcanic nature. The islands of the province are Mavodis, Misanga, Ditarem, Siayan, Itbayat, Dinom, Ivatan, Sabtang, Ivohos, and Jikey. Only Itbayat, Ivatan, Sabtang, and Ivohos are inhabited.
The following description of Ivatan is based on data compiled by Llorente and Gonzales. As indicated by Hornedo, Llorente's sources are mostly nineteenth century chronicles (1987). Very often the sources are inaccurate and present a distorted picture of the culture. The information which I have retained from Llorente's book is a description of the Batanes as it was at least a hundred years ago.
The main island is Ivatan. Its terrain is mountainous and rocky, with 67% of the land classified as timberland. Only 5.5% of the land is cultivated. The strong winds and typhoons which frequently besiege the islands prevent the growth of both trees and crops unless the plants are protected in ravines or beneath outcroppings. Inclement weather and the treachery of the waters which separate the various islands from each other and the mainland have combined to maintain this region in relative isolation from the outside world up to the present day (Llorente 1983, 3-4).
The climatic conditions of the islands of the province unquestionably affected the culture and social customs of the inhabitants. The structures of their houses were "so small and so low that to enter them one had to bend, and once inside one could not stand erect" (Llorente 1983, 9). The major diseases of the islands were respiratory ailments caused mainly by the climate. An ordinary cold that went untreated could easily develop into bronchitis (Llorente 1983, 9).
The principal base of the economy of the Batanes Islands; is agriculture (Llorente 1983, 12). The Ivatans have always faced a continuous and harsh struggle against the forces of nature and their own isolation from the rest of the Philippines and the world beyond. Hence, the Ivatans became a self-sufficient and community-oriented people. "Much of the difficult work in the farms or fields was done by the community. The spirit of solidarity among them was well-developed" (Llorente 1983, 13).
The Ivatans had no complex, developed system for tilling the land, nor did they have advanced tools. Using only a pointed stick, the Ivatans grew crops of tubers such as yams and camote as well as bananas, pineapples, pumpkins, and sugarcane. These foods provided the staples of the diet of the natives of the Batanes. Garlic and onions were also grown, in addition to native plants like aramay, mayahaso, and haso from which a green fiber was drawn to make a very fine cord (Llorente 1983, 15).
In the past, Ivatan houses were so small that they resembled small huts. They were constructed to take advantage of the contour of the terrain and were situated near the sea facing the east and the northeast so as to be protected from the winds (Llorente 1983, 18). Built on ledges above crevices, the narrow sidewalk in front of the house-rows instilled little confidence in European visitors to the islands, who were unaccustomed to such precarious perches (Llorente 1983, 18). Corrals of goats were found adjoining the houses or inside the houses proper. The abundance of goats on Dequey island led William Dampier, a seventeenth century explorer of the islands, and his companions to call it "Goat Island." Rats are probably the most abundant animal on the islands, followed by chickens, which were introduced in 1720 by Fr. Juan Bel, O.P. (Order of Preachers). Catholic missionaries also introduced cattle to improve the food supply and add to the means of livelihood on the islands. Though not a major product, cattle became one of the principal exports of the islands to other places in the Philippines. Its meat "was famous for its quality in the Manila Market" (Llorente 1983, 24), but when the Japanese arrived in 1941 they slaughtered many of the cattle to feed their soldiers. The stock was replenished after the war, and the cattle industry of the province is now back to normal (Llorente 1983, 23-24).
Contact with the West
The first documented contact of the Ivatans with Western civilization occurred in the late seventeenth century. The principal object of Western contact with and conquest of the Batanes was the Christianization of its natives. It is from the Spanish missionaries that we catch a Western glimpse of the nature of the Ivatans. "The missionaries found the natives as hospitable, if not more, than those of other provinces" (Llorente 1983, 25). These preachers found the Ivatans very receptive to the Gospel and eager converts. Chroniclers described them as temperate, simple, meek, and peace-loving. However, other contemporary observers describe the natives as covetous, prone to intoxication (especially among those Ivatans with more power), cunning, lazy, and deceitful. Governor Huelva commented, "Scarcely had he gotten out of bed and already he was looking for what he could steal" (Llorente 1983, 26). This discrepancy in the portrayal of the Ivatans can best be attributed to the relative positions the observers of the natives found themselves in. Missionaries, working daily with the people and enjoying the fruits of the natives' solidarity and community, no doubt saw only good in their new converts. Governors and other officials, finding themselves on inhospitable islands due to political assignment or exile or some other reason, no doubt saw only the worst in their subjects.
The complete dominance of Spanish culture on the Ivatans is reflected in the language (Ivatanen), which has many Spanish words and cognates although it is a Malay language, as are other Filipino tongues. Spanish interest in the Batanes began in the late seventeenth century when returning traders from Cagayan and the Babuyanes spoke of islands which had thousands of natives "living in darkness" (Llorente 1983, 57). In 1686, Fr. Mateo Gonzales, vicar of the Babuyanes, visited the Batanes to investigate these claims. Upon his return from the islands, he went to Manila to persuade the Provincial Chapter to underwrite the costs of evangelizing the islands, which it did in 1688.
That same year three missionaries set out to convert the Batanes, but only one survived more than two months. This priest, Fr. Diego Piñero; remained with the Ivatans and was much beloved by them. When Fr. Piñero attempted to leave the islands to recruit other missionaries for the work, the natives forcibly detained him until an agreement was reached in which Fr. Piñero would return immediately after finding suitable co-workers. Unfortunately, no suitable co-workers were found and thirty years passed before another priest was sent to the Batanes.
Under the auspices of the Dominican order, evangelization of the Batanes resumed in 1719. In 1722, a typhoon swept across the Batanes, destroying that year's crops. Unless the people were moved, they would eventually starve. Thus the missionaries proposed transporting the Ivatans to the Babuyanes and Calayan islands. Although native opposition was fierce, by order of the King of Spain the Ivatans were removed from their islands to Calayan in 1738. It was evident that the reasons for the transfer were primarily to facilitate the task of evangelization and to improve the quality of life of the Ivatans. In spite of the specific instructions of the king for permanently transferring the islanders, the resettlement did not meet with success. The language of the new island differed from that of the Batanes and the climate was excessively humid. Slowly and sporadically, the Ivatans migrated back to the Batanes until, in 1751, there were no more Ivatans on the island of Calayan (Llorente 1983 69).
Mission work, suspended at this time in the Batanes, was not resumed until 1782, when Charles III of Spain; addressed a letter to the islanders asking them to accept Christianity and be incorporated into the Spanish crown. Since a positive reply was received from the Batanes, immediate preparations ensued for their Christianization. These works of evangelization were carried out under a series of governors appointed by the Spanish crown for the protection of the inhabitants of the islands.
In the beginning, the "civilizing" efforts of the Spanish met with great success. Agricultural practices improved, many of the "superstitious" beliefs of the natives were suppressed, and security and peace prevailed in those areas where the Spanish had direct control. However, in outlying, hard-to-reach regions, in-fighting among different chiefs and the persistence of traditional justice in lieu of Spanish law and order caused the colonizing power many problems.
The situation came to a head in 1791 on the island of Sabtang. Although the island of Batan proper was almost entirely Christian, the same could not be said for Sabtang. Close to Batan and a frequent recipient of both ecclesiastical and governmental visits, the people of Sabtang continued to follow their own belief system. They also continued practicing traditional customs and laws. This administration of justice was not without violence, which was extended not only to native Sabteños themselves, but also to visitors and strangers in their midst. Since crimes went largely unpunished by the Spanish, the natives mistook this prudence on the part of the government for fear inspired by their bravery and military skills.
One particular Sabteño, Aman Dangat, followed this line of thinking. Chief of Malakdang and the most powerful and feared man on the island, Aman Dangat organized an uprising of the whole island, including opposition chieftains whom he won over to his side with bribes of gold (Gonzáles 1966, 44). The first victims of the insurrection were four soldiers, an interpreter, and two government officials who were on the island buying timber. News of the uprising brought swift retribution from the government, and the Sabteños surrendered without resistance. Aman Dangat was brought to trial where he acknowledged his guilt and asked to be baptized. The official communique from the Governor-General granted pardon to all participants, in the name of the King, providing they returned to Sabtang and agreed to cause no further problems (Gonzáles 1966, 44).
One result of the uprising was increased Spanish mistrust of the islanders. Thus, in order to facilitate instruction and to maintain vigilance more easily, Spanish officials decided to transfer the inhabitants of Sabtang and Ibujos (a neighboring island) to Batan. The men behind this project were not mistaken in the benefits and advantages they expected from it. Gathered all together in Batan, and in continuous touch with both the missionaries and officials of the government, the natives rapidly adopted the ways of the Spanish (Gonzáles 1966, 45-46).
It was at this time that interest in the continued development of the Batanes waned (Gonzáles 1966, 47). The expected profits from the undertaking of colonization and civilization were not being realized, and the thought in Manila at the time was to withdraw funding from the program. This idea met with many letters of protest from the priests and government officials in the Batanes. Eventually, only the number of government workers in the islands was reduced. This, too, was only temporary. The next governor recalled many workers to the islands in an attempt to construct new buildings for the churches and to repair existing buildings (Gonzáles 1966, 49). The last man to hold the office and title of Governor of the Batanes was Don Juan Casamara (1798-1799). Then the office of governor was suppressed and most of the government employees on the islands were relocated elsewhere. Civilian personnel were reduced to an acting Alcade, one sergeant, three corporals, three school teachers, and twenty soldiers. Ensign Don Valerio Bermudez, a Filipino, became the Alcalde. He was both the civil and military chief of the Batanes for the next thirty years (Gonzáles 1966, 49).
The incumbency of Don Valerio did not bring about much change in the islands. An influx of new missionaries helped in the ongoing process of converting the Ivatans to the Christian faith and educating them in pursuit of that faith. A preliminary trip to the island of Itbayat was made to ascertain its potential for "civilization." An imposing island with jutting cliffs instead of beaches, Itbayat was separated from Batan by extremely turbulent cross-currents. The geography of the area prevented its previous colonization. Now, upon arriving on Itbayat, the missionaries found the people like those of other Batanes islands with a belief system which seemed to be similar but a bit more bizarre. By gathering all the people into several small colonies, the missionaries were able to facilitate their evangelical work. This process proved to be fruitful.
Municipal growth at this time was also promoted on the other islands with the construction of roads and streets, as well as better-designed buildings. Commerce and trade improved slightly, although the islands remained poverty-stricken. Even the existence of a strong cottage industry of weaving did little to improve an economy based mainly on subsistence agricultural practices (Gonzáles 1966, 50-52).
A comparison of the population in the Batanes about the year 1830 with earlier statistics shows a considerable decrease. This was partly due to emigration, but the most significant cause was a smallpox epidemic which decimated the island in 1810. Although the original Spanish settlers on the island included a surgeon, or what we would call today a sanitary inspector, this post was eliminated in 1799 when the cutbacks in Spanish personnel occurred. Aware of the need for medical help in the islands, the priests urged the government to restore the abolished post. But, for undisclosed reasons, the position remained vacant until 1840 when a native Batan was awarded a scholarship by the Alcalde to pursue the studies in Manila necessary to qualify for the post. Upon his return to the islands, the surgeon then had to train one man from each of the towns, thus assuring a minimum of sanitation in each area (Gonzáles 1966, 54-55).
Approximately forty years after the forced evacuation of the Sabteños from Sabtang, there began a trickle of migration back to the old homeland. But the cure had been effective. The Sabteños had become model Christians, very obedient to both priests and government. Thus the return to Sabtang occurred without political incident. Within a year five new towns were formed on the island, and the people acquired their own separate mission (Gonzáles 1966, 56-57).
Progress, from the Spanish viewpoint, was also being made on the island of Itbayat where interest in the conversion of the islanders was high among both the priests and the natives. In 1853 the first permanent priest was assigned there, and in 1855 the island became its own vicariate. The progress that these islanders made along the pathway to Christianity was rivaled only by that of the natives of the island of Batan, so submissive and enthusiastic were the natives of Itbayat (Gonzáles 1966, 58-9).
The period that the islands were governed by Alcaldes (1799-1870) was marked by little or no change from beginning to end. Most islanders who became Christians did so at the start of this period. Missions during the rest of the period focused on maintenance of the congregations. The economic situation of the islands neither improved nor worsened. It continued to remain weak. The many attempts made by the priests and government officials to improve agriculture were useless. "All signs pointed to one conclusion: agriculture was a cul-de-sac, it held no hopes as a remedy to the chronic poverty of the province. After so many valiant projects and attempts, the people had to fall back on the roots and tubers which had always been their staple food" (Gonzáles 1966, 61).
After one hundred and fifty years of self-denial and sacrifice on the part of the Dominican friars, the Christianization and civilization of the inhabitants was an accomplished fact. The islanders were exemplary Catholics, obedient to the constituted authorities. In every town there was a church where the rites of Jesus Christ were celebrated with solemnity and splendor. The Batanes was a wholly Christian province.
Although the region could not boast of great material wealth, there was, however, a thriving textile industry as well as the manufacture of indigenous tools and implements. This relative prosperity and peace erased many of the past traditions, even the memory of the blood feuds and vendettas which had led to the unceasing wars for which the area was so well known in pre-colonial times (Gonzáles 1966, 67).
This serenity ended on September 16, 1891, when rumor reached the islanders that a ship had appeared at the southern town of Ivana with Filipino revolutionaries aboard, called Katipuneros, who had come to occupy the province. People fled to the mountains with their children, their old and sick, and their belongings. The government, ill-prepared to meet this threat, succumbed quickly to the revolutionists. At the expense of the islanders, the victorious troops celebrated for two weeks, whereupon they shipped the governor's family and all the priests to prison in Tuguegarao, a town in northern Luzon, where they remained for a year before they were rescued by the Americans. Before leaving the Batanes, the Katipuneros installed Don Teofilo Castillejos as Chief of the province and appointed a local head in each of the municipalities, in lieu of the gobernadorcillo or captain of the former regime. To all appearances the change was so small as to be insignificant. The people remained in peaceful possession of their homes and properties and were at liberty once more to resume their daily activities.
But appearances were deceiving. In all the towns there was left a deep and smarting void -- one better understood and felt than explained with words. The silent church bells and the empty mission houses daily renewed the sorrow that had gripped the hearts of the people on seeing their missionaries taken away under arrest by the revolutionists. There was no one left to baptize their children, celebrate their marriages, or bless the bodies of their loved ones before burial. The capture and imprisonment of the Dominican friars had meant the total disappearance of the religious rites and worship that had grown to be so intimate a part of their lives (Gonzáles 1966, 73).
This situation was remedied with the arrival of the American armed forces in 1900. Having aided the Filipino revolutionists in 1899, the Americans proceeded to gain control of the Batanes islands, made them one municipality with Cagayan, and returned the Dominican priests to the people. Later, the Batanes was made into a sub-province separate from Cagayan because the distance between the islands had allowed the Batanes to slip into extreme poverty. In 1909, the Batanes became their own province proper. Under the Americans, the people completed sanitation and urbanization projects. Roads and port facilities were also improved. All the towns on the island of Batan were linked by telephone and connected with the port on Itbayat. A tower was built for wireless communication with the rest of the country and a motor launch, the Batan, was brought in to service the islands. But the most noticeable change was in the school system. The abrupt and unannounced change to English as the language of instruction left a period of adjustment for the educational system, which was eventually remedied with additional money. These funds went towards the training of native teachers to teach the classes and the purchase of extensive instructional materials. Thus, in spite of its isolation, the Batanes had its share, as far as circumstances would allow, of the advantages of progress and Western civilization. However, agriculture, industry, and commerce remained as precarious as ever. The Batanes owed its ability to function as an independent province to a continued subsidy from the central government (Gonzáles 1966, 76).
World War II descended upon the Batanes unheralded. On the morning of December 8, 1941, a multitude of ships surrounded the islands. Their purpose was anybody's guess. Soon, however, their intentions were made known. They fired against the shore and two airplanes raked the airport of the island. Minutes later, motor launches carrying Japanese troops landed and poured soldiers onto the beach. The natives, having fled to the fields in response to the air attacks, were not in the towns to defend their possessions. Thus the town and all it contained were at the mercy of the invading troops. Japan had declared war against America, and the Batanes was one of its first prizes (Gonzáles 1966, 78).
The Batanes was totally cut off from the outside world. Radio receivers were either seized or destroyed by the Japanese, and the scanty news purveyed by the occupiers was taken with reservations. Eventually, only a dozen or so Japanese soldiers were left in the garrison as the war progressed. Almost all the people returned to their respective towns and daily life returned almost to normal with one exception: the schools and government offices remained closed. All able hands were employed in tilling the soil to lay up stores of food, since nothing could be expected from the outside. For this reason food was never scarce in the Batanes even when the Japanese re-invaded the island at the end of the war, and soldiers were fed and quartered by the population.
This re-occupation by the Japanese brought approximately 3,000 soldiers to the island. Again the people fled their homes when the towns were overrun by the soldiers. This also precipitated the first American involvement with the Batanes islands when American machine gunning and bombing runs became a daily occurrence. Casualties were low among the natives because the islanders had taken to the fields. The Japanese soon followed suit by abandoning the towns and entrenching themselves in the gullies of the mountains. The Japanese occupation ended on August 17th, 1945. After the formal surrender, the soldiers were evacuated to Manila.
The end of the war left the islands in ruins. Impassable streets, roofless houses, battered walls, and the absence of all furniture (it was used up as firewood by the Japanese) gave the towns the appearance of ghost towns. However, with indomitable will, the Ivatans soon began the work of reconstruction, much of this funded by the United States (Gonzáles 1966, 81-82).
Today, the Batanes is an independent province of the Republic of the Philippines, with an elected governor and representation in the Philippine Congress (Gonzáles 1966 82). Its status as an independent province and as an independent electoral district is based on the isolation of the Batanes from the rest of the Philippine archipelago. At the beginning of the American occupation, the Batanes was incorporated into the municipality of Cagayan. This led to such decay and stagnation that the region was soon returned to autonomous status (Gonzáles 1966, 82).
The Cultural Split
The arrival of the Americans precipitated what seems to be today the greatest hindrance to Ivatan socio-economic development -- the split of Ivatan culture. This phenomenon is well-documented by Dr. Florentino Hornedo, a native Ivatan and professor of Filipino literature and history, who coined the terms "English language culture" and "folklore culture" to describe the division that took place (1982, 77). This split can be demonstrated in many aspects of Ivatan daily life. In a gathering of fishermen one finds people who speak in Ivatan. A group of teachers, on the other hand, uses English. Those who follow English culture live a money-based existence and find it hard to survive when the inter-island boats from Luzon fail to bring groceries. The folklore-oriented Ivatan lives on the products of his or her labor in fishing, farming, or cattle-raising:
The English language culture is that of those who left for Manila for higher education before and after the Second World War, and that of their children who have since become part of their parents' class...Their idea of the 'good life' is what they think Manila (or its equivalent) can offer. The folklore culture is that of the mass of the Ivatans. It is the culture of those who have never gone to Manila, or have gone there as laborers or household help and have since returned home to resume the traditional way of life, or those who have gotten elementary and/or secondary education but have since returned to the traditional native way of life. (Hornedo 1982, 78)
But how did this dichotomy in culture develop? And how is it maintained today? Hornedo attributes this division of the culture precisely to the successful education programs that the Americans installed in the Philippines.
Today the Batanes has one of the highest literacy rates in the nation -- at 92% according to a survey in 1970. This breaks down to 95% male and 89% female (Hornedo 1982, 79). However, no major nor comparable change has taken place in the subsistence economic activities of the islands. The Ivatans continue to practice the same fishing and agricultural practices their ancestors used under the Spanish. The economic development projects undertaken by both the American and Philippine governments have not benefited the Ivatans because they are unrelated to the needs of the people. There were, however, three successful additions to the Ivatan culture imported from outside. One is the lime-and-stone wall method now used in Ivatan house construction introduced by the Spanish to replace the stone-and-mud or cogon-and-stick walls which were insecure during typhoon season. This innovation has been so completely integrated into Ivatan culture that most Ivatans do not remember that it was taught to them. Today, Ivatan houses are spacious and clean, and their inner decoration has a slight European flavor.
Introduced in the twentieth century was the papaltog, a gun-like fishing arrow. Ivatans had traditionally used a bamboo spear to fish underwater. The limitation of this method is a lack of range. In the 1920s or l930s, some Muslims passing through the Batanes showed the natives a type of projectile spear using a small bamboo pipe and strips of rubber. The major drawback of this method was that it required two hands. This hindrance was eliminated in l948 or l949 when an Ilocano man, visiting the hometown of his wife, assembled a gun-like version of the Muslim invention which required only one hand. Thus, a fisherman could dive and shoot easily (Hornedo 1982, 80-81).
The third example of a beneficial project carried out in the Ivatans was that of the Spanish introduction of cattle to the islands, which resulted in a thriving industry. Subsequently, the stocks were improved and this led to the creation of a beef exportation industry of major importance to the Batanes. Unfortunately, other projects, especially the national school of fisheries and its milk fish ponds, have met with failure. There is a simple reason for this situation. The knowledge required for subsistence activities, such as fishing, is maintained in the population through community knowledge or kaalamang bayan, something regarded by the English cultural elite as mere superstition or trivial, useless, and undesirable old wives' tales. However, there have been no new methods of fishing invented for use in the waters surrounding the Batanes. Thus students who go to school to learn how to fish learn nothing that they have not heard already from their fathers or grandfathers. In other cases, what is taught in the English-language schools is irrelevant or wrong for subsistence on the islands. Women who go to school to be trained in home economics learn how to make delicate pastries and lace, activities for which there is neither need nor resources on the islands. Students benefit more from learning techniques of processing and preserving farm produce, skills which the schools cannot provide. Men who need carpentry and masonry skills for the construction of lime-and-stone houses on the island are instead taught furniture- and cabinet-making (Hornedo 1979, 81). Thus the English schools prepare the majority of Ivatans for a life they will never live while denying them the practical skills necessary for survival.
Another aspect of this educational orientation is the loss of traditional vocations and arts. As those educated in Western style schools move away, and as industry produces goods more abundantly than native artisans are capable of doing, there are neither markets nor apprentices for the older, native trades:
Today, the average age of the traditional makers of delicate jewelry made of gold foil and filigree is about 70 years. They have left no disciples. None of the younger generation knows the art of this vanishing breed of goldsmiths. What have the young Ivatans learned in school? How to paste together pieces of shells -- largely to obtain passing grades in their vocational education classes rather than to learn life-long trades and skills. Even the making of the native leaf hat called vakul or tadidi is not taught in school. The impression is, if you want to learn something useful, learn it at home. If you want to learn something useful elsewhere, Manila perhaps, learn it in school. In short, the English language schools of Batanes have had little to do with the economic life of most of the people.(Hornedo 1982, 81)
As stated above, for a minority of their students, the schools provide those skills necessary for success off the island, in Manila or elsewhere on Luzon. The children of the English-trained elite move off the island and a "brain drain" results, allowing civil service and other leadership positions to be filled with non-Ivatans (Hornedo 1982, 74-77). Non-Ivatans, and even Ivatans of the English-culture segment of the population, are ignorant and frequently disdainful of traditional Ivatan cultural practices. As education continues to separate and divide the people, the goals and needs of the mass of Ivatan natives are disregarded in government policy and practice.
Batanes Folklore
Presently in the Batanes there is no newspaper or printed material of any kind, except for the catechism which was was produced by the Dominican friars during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus any Ivatan literary art that survives up to the present day must be in oral form (Hornedo 1979, 213). Unfortunately, the current oral tradition is only a remnant of what was once a thriving oral culture. That which remains is in the minds and memories of the elderly, for their audience and followers have since migrated to other islands or are pursuing modern trades that do not allow them the luxury of learning the ancient tradition (Hornedo 1979, 213).
Generally, Ivatan oral tradition is divided into two types: the sung and the non-sung traditions. The non-sung tradition consists of kabboni, riddles, pananahan, proverbs, kabata, legends, istorya, tales, and sisyavak, humorous anecdotes, jokes, and tall tales (Hornedo 1979, 213). The sung tradition includes kalosan, working songs, laji, lyric folk songs, and kanta, a song of recent origin, regarded by Ivatans as not an indigenous form (Hornedo 1979, 214).
The kabboni form is generally a type of amusement for children, either among themselves or a way for adults to entertain them. Like most riddles, the kabboni describe some aspect of ordinary life in a most extraordinary and confusing way. The pananahan, Ivatan for proverb, is used to teach moral precepts. By using analogies from everyday life, the pananahan illustrates proper behavior, actions, and attitudes. The kabata corresponds to the English legend and is believed by the Ivatans to be of ancient origin. It is usually narrated as a part of the entertainment and social process during drinking sessions, or when farmers gather at the end of the work day. It may also be used to entertain children. Istorya includes narratives of more or less historical origin while exhibiting elements of the ludicrous, the fantastic, or the terrifying. The genre also includes stories which give credence to beliefs about ghosts.
Out of the three oral forms of the sung tradition it is only the kanta that can be sung by a lone singer with or without accompaniment. Frequently, it is a love song or some song of like nature. The kanta form is of contemporary and recent arrival into Ivatan oral tradition. It is also the only sung oral form which has instrumental music. Due to their social nature, neither the kalosan nor the laji is sung alone. The kalosan, a working song, is sung by a group of workers. The performing of the laji is also a social event because it is sung by a singer addressing a listening audience (Hornedo 1979, 227). The kalosan, however, appears to be a dying tradition. As fewer boats need rowing, no one sings the rowing songs. And as younger people go to work in the fields or the mills, they do not share in this tradition, for they were educated in English language schools and did not grow up hearing the songs. Originally, the kalosan consisted of an invocation or vaci which was sung by a soloist, the mayvaci, who is generally also the song leader or manlaci. The vaci is present in the folklore of the Yami and is known by the same name. The body of the song, sung by the workers, is the kalosan proper. It is sung by the manlaci singing a line with the group repeating it after him. This type of singing (known to the Yami as karosan) occurs in many other cultures. An example of this is the way Black American slaves sang in the fields. This tradition was then carried down into the Afro-American church where, in a manner similar to the kalosan, hymns were "lined" so as not to leave out illiterate members of the congregation.
The laji form, on the other hand, is considered by the Ivatans as the best of their folk songs and folk poetry (Hornedo 1979, 230). There are laji that represent every aspect of Ivatan life--religion, love, daily work, and the family. Generally, laji is maintained by "carriers" of the tradition who are, on the average, about seventy years old. In Hornedo's 1979 study, the youngest carrier was born in 1929, the oldest in 1891 (Hornedo 1979, 233). These are special people renowned as singers of the laji.
The laji form reached a very high level of sophistication with the Ivatans. A style of communicating which relies on mysterious or veiled significances is characteristic of the Ivatans in general, and this idiosyncrasy of these people found an extremely receptive and fertile medium in the laji.
The Ivatan and Itbayat laji rely on symbolic imagery and frequently moralize. They convey clear messages of native ethics through mostly indirect references. Here are some brief descriptions of several laji, collected and translated by Hornedo, who treats them as folksongs:
A song to express self-pity by a man who feels that he, among all his brothers, has been the least fortunate due to lack of native abilities.
A poor girl's song of complaint, as well as her plea for aid from better placed relatives and friends.
A woman's song expressing self-pity because all her contemporaries have been successful and have all married, while she has remained unmarried until old age.
A woman's song addressed to a young man who could have been her lover, but instead recently married another.
A woman's expression of embarrassment and apology for her poverty in the midst of well-to-do relatives.
A lonesome mother's song of longing to see her children and close relatives, who live far away.
A future bride's apology to the future groom for her weakness, with the hope that he should not marry her with many expectations.
A lover's promise of good and tender care for his future bride.
A song of praise for a rich man who has a beautiful daughter.
A song with obscure reference to a blood libation that might have been a part of an old animistic ritual.
The complaint of a young person who has worked in the service of an old relative, but who has received neither appreciation nor gratitude but maltreatment instead for his pains. (Hornedo 1979 )
The real meaning of the laji as a rule is so hidden that not even those who are familiar with this oral form can always understand it. I have collected several laji in Itbayat and Ivatan, and in most cases their meaning remained a mystery until the informants interpreted them. The imagery used in these songs is not only symbolic, but also lacks an underlying general agreement. By this I mean that an image used in a song does not necessarily stand for the same concept whenever it occurs. The multitude of trees, shrubs, flowers, hills, mountains, fish, and birds that appear in laji symbolize a wide range of things, virtues, vices, or actions, the meaning of which is known only to the singer. As expected in such circumstances, the meaning of the laji is so strongly culturally encoded that, even after translation and interpretation by the informants, the researcher is unable to understand the essence of the songs.
In the following section I shall present the recorded interpretations of five laji collected in Itbayat, whose original texts are included in part 3. First, I give the number of the laji according to which it is listed in the collection. The first line of every song is used as its title.
The Laji of Inocencio Ponce of Itbayat
Laji No. 1
Maxao ko sawen o kapanganiaw
An ignored bad omen takes its toll. The "barbed hook" signifies the husband who will never return from his fishing trip. The fish mentioned in line 8 has a long tail which resembles a veil. Here it stands for the widow.
Laji No. 2
Oho ixomis mo riaken si danomen mo
This song is about purity of sentiments and humility. The singer reminds the boasting rich girl that there are many things in life which are more important than material possessions.
Laji No. 3
Kapyan kamo Dios adomker ko a ripos
The song of an aging person, who sees his friends and relatives passing away one by one, and knows that some day his turn will come too.
Laji No. 4
Pakasi co daw a pinaxakaw
The words of a poor relative to the richer members of the family. The veiled significance aims at education. As the last child in the family, the hard work was left to him, so he never had a chance to become literate.
Laji No. 5
Ango si cakaioh moa si ya mipopongot
A man loves a beautiful lady. The riwas tree is her guardian, the other trees signify her parents. The dove is the lady, the white wings are her white dress, the black feet are her shoes. The man wants to present her to his relatives as a dove, but in fact she is the child of a valog bird. This means that actually she is a blood relative. He would like to marry her, but for that they will have to wait until the uprooting of the vayakbak tree, which here symbolizes an older relative, a grandparent perhaps, who is the enforcer of the incest taboo. Thus they will have to wait until the guardian of the taboo dies.
Because of the indirect references and the veiled meanings it is very difficult to understand the Ivatan laji, even for native Ivatans. Elders of the communities, who grew old hearing them, still have a good understanding of most of the laji and can sing them too. It is just as true that the younger generation can hardly understand this beautiful oral heritage of their land. The laji may soon cease to exist in the folklore of the Ivatans.
Of the five different oral forms of the non-sung folk heritage, the most interesting are the kabata and the istorya. Though these two categories are well distinguished from each other formally, in reality the Ivatans and Itbayats called one and the same story, sometimes kabata, other times istorya. The latter term, of course, is of Spanish origin. Because of this overlap in terms, when analyzing either of the two categories, I shall refer to them equally as "stories" or "tales." It is important to mention that any of the two categories can be considered stories or tales, depending on their age, origin, and content. Some of the stories or, sometimes, parts of stories resemble Western legends, but because of their strong acculturation I find it difficult to isolate them as legends. This problem of change in oral genres will be addressed in detail in part 2.
Regardless of how we classify non-sung oral traditions; of Batanes, one fact is certain: on Ivatan and Itbayat, no creation myths have survived. Because they were considered the source of "pagan" worship by Christians, the bringers of the new faith erased them from the native culture. The non-sung oral tradition, the stories and tales, can be divided into three categories: 1) Narratives which have survived from precolonial times; 2) Stories which originate from precolonial times but have been heavily acculturated; 3) European-type folktales based on Christian morality, imported by the Spanish missionaries.
All three categories of the stories are present in many variants. On the island of Sabtang, the culture hero of the oldest kabata is Minamina, a legendary tyrant, the ruler of the Somnanga tribe of Western Sabtang. He surrounded himself with strong men and the natives lived in permanent fear of him. He was so mean that if he ran out of bait during fishing trips, he would mutilate his boat companions to put their flesh on his hooks. Finally two brothers whom he had victimized in this fashion killed him during one of the fishing trips.
The hero of a well-known Ivatan kabata who already has a Christian name is Juan Miseria. The story is entirely made up of Christian missionary-type story elements. Juan, who is a blacksmith and a cobbler, is asked by Saint Peter to repair the sandals of Christ. For having done so, he is rewarded by the Lord with certain powers which will help him defeat Satan and all the devils of hell. Finally, when he dies, he is not accepted into heaven on the grounds that he has used up all his "divine favors" during his life time. Satan does not accept him into hell either, so his soul remains in between the two final destinations (Hornedo 1983, 220).
Oyogan, a small town in the south of Ivatan, has another "acculturated culture hero." The name of the person is Baut, but he also has a Christian name, "José." In early childhood he displays terrific strength. He grows up to become a great champion and defeats the strongest Spaniard in Manila. For this he receives the ultimate reward -- a trip to Spain (Hornedo 1979, 221).
On Itbayat, the main characters of the few surviving precolonial kabata are Podalan, Orayen, and Vaknang. The fact that heroes called by these names occur sometimes as males and sometimes as females is not too surprising because in the Batan Archipelago, before Spanish contact, technonomy was in use just as it is still in use on Irala. In the majority of the surviving stories, Podalan is a male. Orayen and Vaknang are either boys or girls. Sometimes the narrator mixes up their sexes within the same narrative.
These ancient Itbayat names are not in ordinary use any more. Today, as in the rest of the almost totally Roman Catholic Philippines, the people of Ivatan, Sabtang, and Itbayat have Spanish names. However, Orayen, one of the old Itbayat tribal names, is still in use among the Yami of Irala. Another such name, Vaknang, is not only in use among the Yami today, but it occurs in one of the major myths of the Yami village of Ivalino, which traces its origin from the Batan Archipelago. Shimina-Vohang, the Ivatan who sailed to Irala to get himself a wife, is considered the founder of the Ivalino village. He is the one who put his child into a wooden box, cast it into the ocean, and ordered the box to drift and wash up on the shores of Irala, at Tabedeh, near Yayo village. It is obvious that the story of Sipen-Kotan (Isamo) of Yayo also refers to this episode at the beginning of his version of the creation myth, but he places it on Ikbalat (the Yami name for Itbayat) and not on Ivatan. It is most probable that these names actually existed on both islands, on Ivatan and Itbayat.
A common Indo-Polynesian folk motif present in both the Itbayat and Yami folklores is the "recalling of the soul." On both Irala and Itbayat it is practiced to this day. In the stories of Siapen-Manabey of Ivalino, the recalling of the soul occurs several times, as it does in some of the Itbayat stories.
One of the most interesting mythological links between Itbayat and Irala is the story about the woman who is kidnapped by a bird. In the story of Siapen-Manabey of Ivalino, a grandmother goes with her grandchild to the yam field. As they dig for yams they come across a tuber which looks like the horns of a goat. Suddenly, the yam changes into a huge bird and flies away with the grandmother. In the Itbayat story, similarly, a mother and a child go to dig for yams. The child digs out a person, who jumps out of the ground and flies away with the grandmother. The name of the kidnapper is Kawaway. It is very interesting that the Yami call the mythic bird that kidnaps the grandmother kowawey. In Yami this is not a proper noun but a common noun. In the Yami story it is not said that the bird flew to heaven, as in the Itbayat version. Instead, the search party find it at a place they reach after a long journey on sea and land, the same way that they reach a god's abode in another story. There is also an ancient chant about the bird in which the elder son of Siapen-Omnadan, the one who felled the perch of the bird, the big cayi tree, calls the bird kowawey do to, "the bird from heaven." "Undoubtedly" at one time these two kabata were one and the same story, and the words kawaway and kowawey were one and the same word, which slightly changed its phonetic aspect and its semantic load after separation. The next chapter focuses on other features of the Bashiic cultures that offer evidence for a common origin.