Latest Stories

Five pillars of faith in Batanes


PILLAR OF FAITH Basco Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, initially built in 1783 by Dominican missionaries using wood and cogon, was rebuilt using stone in 1795. Painted in sunflower yellow, it is the oldest church in Batanes. MANDY NAVASERO/COLUMNIST

An encounter with the five oldest churches in Batanes leaves one with the feeling that neither storm and winds nor isolation and time could extinguish the flame of faith that lives within the island’s people.

The feeling is inspiring and whenever I visit with my Batanes Photo Safari participants, we always find ourselves singing “Ama Namin” with total abandon, deep faith rising from within ourselves.

The first house of Catholic worship at Basco was built of cogon and wood by the Dominican missionaries Balthazar Calderon and Bartholome Artiguez upon their arrival in 1783.

The plan for a large stone-and-mortar church was ready in 1787, but actual work began in 1795. The first church was probably built where the capitol building now stands.

That first stone church had Gothic features as may still be seen in its lancet windows on the north wall. Its woodwork was imported from Cagayan, and the master craftsmen of carpenters, stone cutters and masons also came from Luzon.

The church was roofed with cogon, which gave way to galvanized iron in the 20th century.

The Cathedral of Basco is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Batanes. According to M. Madriaga, DD, who authored “The Coat-of-Arms of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions in the Philippines,” in Philippine Studies, 5 (1957): 429, the silver crescent on the original Episcopal coat-of-arms of the Prelature symbolizes the Immaculate Conception, titular of the principal church in the prelature.

St. Domingo de Guzman is the patron saint of Basco town, not of the cathedral.

The San Carlos Church of Mahatao began as a mission chapel in 1787 and was replaced by a stone-and-lime church, which was destroyed by a storm in 1872.

The present church was built by Fr. Crescencio Polo, OP, in 1873. In the church’s prime, the interior was decorated in baroque style, with floral designs and sunbursts as ornament painted in polychrome and gilt. This was to produce the effect of a golden glow and sparkle among the serene statuary.

A peculiar common feature of churches in Batanes was that the principal road commonly called Calle Real often led right up to the main side door. It is so, with the Mahatao church.

There were three mission chapels in Ivana located in Said, Kadpidan and Radiwan but Radiwan was chosen to be the permanent site for  St. John the Worker Church of Ivana. It was in this site that Fr. Francisco de Paula Esteban laid the foundations of the church and possibly the convent in 1795. The original church was much larger then, as it was designed to accommodate the people of Ivana, Sabtang and Uyugan.

In 1844, the Isabtangs, who were resettled in Ivana after a massacre, were officially resettled on Sabtang Island. Thus, when the cogon-roofed church burned down, it was reduced by a third of its original length.

Of the Batanes churches, the church of Ivana has the most commanding view because of its location. It is built on elevated ground at a point where the island bends and the sea approach from the Balintang Sea into the Batan-Satang strait and the northwestern sea exit to Vuhus and Itbayat are visible.

The San Vicente Ferrer Church of Sabtang began as a mission in 1785 but no resident missionary was assigned there.

In 1791, Cagayano agents of the Spaniards sent to procure supplies in Sabtang were killed over payment of the goods. The mangpus (datu) Aman Dangat of Malakdang was blamed, arrested and executed at Basco.

The Isabtangs were then forcibly resettled in Ivana from 1791 to 1841. In 1844, Sabtang was reestablished and recognized as a mission vicariate.

The Sabtang church was also modeled after the Basco church in both floor plan and façade,  which projects a heaviness of appearance. Its profile is baroque.

The four churches are also a strong manifestation of fragile faith surviving timeless tests.

The Itbayat Church on the third island of Batanes is built in the town center on the top of a cliff by Dominican missionaries in 1875. Its patron saint is the Immaculate Conception.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Batanes , Batanes Photo Safari , Churches , Dominican missionaries , Philippine tourism , Travel

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/V5RN3YSU2WRBKU2Y4VC2TACTKQ Fr. Brigido

    Itbayat Church is named after the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. Ivana Church is named after St. Joseph the Worker

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. How to enjoy Buntod
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  7. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  8. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Security in place for Obama as police hope for ‘peaceful’ visit
  • Retired SC justice Lorenzo Relova; 98
  • Ligots fight 2nd forfeiture case
  • PH will be partly cloudy in afternoon, evening—Pagasa
  • Ex-COA chief nabbed for plunder
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Only 4 Etihad passengers not accounted for
  • Abandoned in Malta,15 PH seamen return
  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 US doctors, including Fil-Am pediatrician