Friday, March 26, 2010

Batanes: Batanes heritage in danger!

Batanes is no longer in the running for inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List. That's unless the Provincial Government of Batanes shows even the slightest interest to have their beautiful province inscribed. Unfortunately, the local government failed to submit the requirements before the February 2010 deadline. So everything is back to square one!

But more urgent is the fact that as I write this entry, there are close to seven new concrete structures being built in the village of Savidug on Sabtang Island. I was shocked to see the construction frenzy during my trip early this month!

For those who are not familiar with Batanes heritage, the villages of Savidug and Chavayan on Sabtang Island are the two most intact villages of vernacular Ivatan architecture. They are showcases of the Sinadumparan and Maytuab styles of houses. These new hollow block houses being constructed will most definitely destroy the unique architectural fabric of Savidug. The mayor of Sabtang and the governor of Batanes should start moving and do something to preserve the distinct streetscape of Savidug.

According to Architect Joy Mananghaya of the UNESCO National Commission (UNACOM), "There are ordinances protecting the heritage of Batanes. Almost all municipalities have their own ordinance. There is a main ordinance which we had crafted while working on the nomination of the property in 2003. This is Ordinance No. 41 (Series 2002) which is An Ordinance Enacting the Conservation, Development and Management of the Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites in Batanes and Providing Funds Thereof.

"And there are local ordinances in Sabtang such as Ordinance No. 95-05 which is An Ordinance Providing for the Maintenance, Protection and Conservation of a Protected Area along the National Road in Sabtang and Ordinance No. 97-002 which is An Ordinance Establishing the Municipality of Sabtang as a Heritage Island/Village and Creating for this Purpose a Sabtang Municipal Eco-Tourism and Heritage Council. Another local legislation is Resolution 2001-033 which is A Resolution Designating the Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Municipality of Sabtang."

If the local governments of Sabtang and Batanes even care about the inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List, or at the very least, are interested in preserving the local heritage of Batanes, they better do something to halt these new constructions and make sure they conform with the architectural styles prescribed in the said ordinances.

In fact, UNACOM had already called the attention of Batanes last year regarding another important site, the Racuaydi Nakavajayan (Fountain of Youth) in Mahatao, where the municipal government undertook some new constructions (think cheap looking pools). A letter was sent to Batanes sometime August or September 2009 but the governor did not respond to the said communication.

The nomination of Batanes to the UNESCO World Heritage List started in 2003. In 2005, it was put on deferred status. By 2007, it was on referred status. There had already been a lot of resources poured into the nomination. So far, all the needed information had already been generated and was at hand as early as 2008. All the province had to do was to come up with the dossier. Since the deadline date for submitting the requirements of ICOMOS and the Committee had lapsed, the process of nomination will have to start all over again. However, a new nomination will only happen if the province, particularly its governor and congressman, are receptive to the preparation of a new dossier.

So in the meantime, let's keep our eye on the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental which is up for nomination this year to the UNESCO World Heritge List with Batanes now sidetracked as a result of the inaction of their local officials.


  1. Anonymous26.3.10

    we need to stand up and protect our national heritage, there are just too few left in our country, let's do our part in saving what's left

  2. Hi Sir Ivan.... It's always nice to read articles from you about the Preservation of Culture of the Filipino people...

    I wish I could be part also, but I don't know where to start...

    I think my simple way of keeping my trash whenever I visit a place can be of small help already...

  3. juan caballero2.4.10

    I agree with your observation sir Ivan, however, i think that the local leadership especially in the island municipality of sabtang should take the lead in implementing the laws enacted for the preservation and conservation of the entire island. I believe that the enacted local laws should also provide for the needed funds to encourage the island residents to preserve their century old houses. In a nutshell, the local leadership should enter into a memorandum of agreement with the local residents concern, defining the extent of the cost to be borne by the local govt. vis a vis the local's share. From former mayor juan caballero of sabtang, batanes. My email ad is

  4. Greetings from Baguio City, Ivan!

    This is sad but true! It was the set of pictures that I took of Sabtang in the early '90s that started the move to include Batanes in the World Heritage list. Architect Augusto Villalon borrowed these to present to the international community. We tried to comply with the requirements of UNESCO but unfortunately this is not the priority of the present administration.

  5. There should be subsidy from the Government or else we will lose everything if people have to switch to a cheaper or more comfortable way of living. There should be compensation to the people's struggle to maintain our heritage. I don't know which department who should be taking care of this.

  6. There should be Government Subsidy to conserve our heritage or else we will loss everything when people opt to a cheaper or better way of living. It's the same in the case of Ifugao when people switched from straw huts to concrete buildings. People struggling to maintain our heritage should be compensated coz doing it is a sacrifice. However, like former Mayor Caballero said, it should be the effort of the LGU. The national government will not do anything unless the local representatives will find a way to bring the issue to them.

    I wish I can still see the old heritage when I visit Batanes.

  7. hi sir ivan!

    It's unfortunate that we didn't meet while you were here in batanes...

    I tend to agree with you. But it is unfortunate if this whole move towards preservation relies mainly on the government. I think that the real preservation should begin from the community members themselves...My observation here is that there is great dependency on the both local and provincial government. I think what is encouraged in the national level of empowering the citizenry should also be enacted in the smallest of communities.

    I think the basic question that should be asked to and answered by the very locals currently living in the province is whether they think they have a cultural heritage worth preserving and if they are ready to sustain such heritage amid the all the changes happening in and around their province?

    Their answer will greatly determine if all these efforts for a UNESCO World Heritage ascription will come to fruition.

    I'm just wondering if all these efforts are really meant for the sake of the Ivatans and Itbayaten themselves or for the sake of tourism. Is culture all for show?

  8. with an existing ordinance in place is it possible for the local officials be held accountable for negligence of their duty?
    i believe a well crafted incentive program will encourage conservation and restoration in batanes rather than mere ordinance.such as tax exemptions on real estate.etc.

  9. Anonymous30.7.12

    what is the meaning of this!!!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous17.10.12

    thank you for your great concern on Batanes. i wish the local officials would do the same. all the necessary laws have been passed to ensure the protection of our cultural heritage...sad to say, it rest upon the provincial government to implement the Batanes Heritage Management Code. this law is the framework of all future conservation and development programs in Batanes. even construction of vertical structure should conform with ivatan architecture. it also include here a real tax exemption for those who maintain and preserve their ivatan houses as a form of incentive. we believe that these special attributes of batanes are the very reason why we have tourism activity in batanes at all.


Related Posts with Thumbnails