Friday, May 1, 2009

the stone houses of Savidug, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Exploring Sabtang Island, Batanes, part 1

In Sabtang, one of the three islands in Batanes that are lived in by men, life is pretty much traditional. The Ivatans, the indigenous group of Filipinos who are native to this least populated and most isolated province in the Philippines, still follow the culture of self-reliance, frugality and simplicity. Numbering only in the few thousands, the Ivatans in Sabtang are spread over 6 villages or barangays in such exotic names such as Chavayan, Sumnanga, Nakanmuan, Malakdang, Sinakan and Savidug.

Savidug Barrio School
the Savidug Barrio School in Savidug, Batanes, the Philippines

simple house construction at Savidug
stone house construction in Batanes is simple, as shown here in Savidug

Each town has different attractions. Malakdang is known for the Nakabuang beach with the natural stone arch. Chavayan is renowned as a center of weaving the vacul, the grass raingear often used as a symbol of Batanes. For Savidug in the Midwestern shores, the cluster of old stone houses stands out, not just for their number but also for the traditional authenticity.

old sugarcane crusher
an old sugarcane crusher in Savidug

Representative to the Ivatan’s way of life are these domiciles. The houses are short and squat, obviously designed to withstand the typhoons frequenting the islands. Constructed from the available stones quarried from the lime cliff or coral reef floor, they are thick-walled. Roofs are cogon grass, thatched in several layers to withstand water and insulate from heat. There’s one thing unique too in Ivatan houses- there are still no locked doors and fences.

the youth of Batan
a boy looking out of a typical stone house in Savidug

a pretty Ivatan girl

Does this mean that everyone trust each other in Sabtang? Perhaps. Trust definitely reigns. Agricultural fields are hedged only with trees and bushes. Cattle roam free. The sense of community is definitely strong. Crime rate they say, is close to zero. Perhaps they are doing something right in Batanes and we, in the cosmopolitan word, should take heed.

typical door at Savidug
a stone house in Savidug, unlocked and open

Savidug house
a stone house that is common in Savidug

To go. Sabtang can be accessed from Basco, Batanes via the port connection between Ivana (Batan) and Malakdang (Sabtang). Arrangements may be done via the Batanes Eco Cultural Tourism cooperative. Entry into Sabtang needs a permit from the DENR regional office which can be arranged by your hotel.

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coolwaterworks said...


I envy you! Haha! Batanes is a dream destination for me...

Anonymous said...

hey Farl, great job!