Batanes bids for Unesco heritage site nod
- Charlie Lagasca () - February 9, 2011 - 12:00am

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – Batanes is again making a bid for inclusion in the list of world heritage sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the state-run Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said.

Purita Licas, PIA director for Cagayan Valley, said that despite failing for the past five years to achieve this goal, Batanes leaders believe that with the increased awareness of the public of the importance of preserving the unique culture of the islands, the province will eventually earn the Unesco nod.

However, Dr. Florentino Hornedo, Philippine commissioner to Unesco, said that Unesco’s declaration of the tiny island province as a world heritage site will eventually depend on the high degree of commitment of its leaders and residents to help preserve its rich cultural heritage.

One of the region’s five provinces, Batanes, which is also the smallest in the country both in population and land area, is inhabited by the indigenous Ivatan people. It comprises 10 islets located about 162 kms north of the Luzon mainland.

“No amount of inspirational messages from government leaders could (make) preservation of culture (a reality) without the (appreciation) and sincere awareness of the people concerned (for) their own culture,” said Hornedo, an Ivatan and the first ethno-historian from Batanes.

Hornedo made this statement as provincial and town officials expressed desire to push for the province’s eventual inclusion in the list of Unesco heritage sites, soliciting commitments from the general public in a summit on Batanes natural and cultural heritage conservation last week.

Batanes is separated from the Babuyan Islands of Cagayan by the Balintang channel and from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel.

The Philippines’ northernmost island of Mavudis (Yami) is part of Batanes, which is only about 190 km south of Taiwan. Of the province’s 10 islands, only three – Itbayat, Sabtang and Batan, where its capital Basco is located – are inhabited.

The Ivatans share the same prehistoric cultural and linguistic ties with people in the s of Babuyan Islands and the Tao people of Orchid Island in Taiwan.

Languages spoken in Batanes, a marine rich area, are Ivatan, which is generally spoken by residents of Batan and Sabtang islands; and Itbayaten, which is the common language of the Itbayat islanders.

The culture of the Ivatans is partly influenced by the environmental condition of Batanes. Unlike the old-type nipa huts common to the rest of the country, the Ivatans have adopted their now-famous stone houses made of limestone, designed to protect against the hostile climate.

“This is what makes Batanes and Ivatans very unique in culture, practices and origin as compared to the rest of Philippine ethnic groups, who are mostly interrelated,” said former PIA director Rudie Bueno, now a consultant of the Nueva Vizcaya Heritage Foundation.

BABUYAN ISLANDS AND THE TAO BABUYAN ISLANDS OF CAGAYAN BASHI CHANNEL BATAN AND SABTANG BATANES BATANES AND IVATANS CAGAYAN VALLEY DR. FLORENTINO HORNEDO HORNEDO IVATAN IVATANS
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