The Idjang; The Ancient Precolonial Castles of Batanes

With little records of the precolonial Philippines, I know how Filipinos today longed to learn more about the past. I mean getting to know how our forefathers lived, without the influences of Spain will bring a new dimension to our national identity. The search for bits and pieces of those missing records is an ongoing process, and slowly we learn more. From the Copperplate Inscription to the Golden Tara, we are starting to build a picture of a far more sophisticated Pre-Hispanic Society. Our hunger for the past did inspired some outrageous claims of a lost Filipino kingdom that turned out to be a hoax. To be honest, the Philippines back then was not the romanticized and fabled fairytale that those claims propagate. In fact, Philippines was non-existent back then. It was never a whole nation before Spain, but a collection of archipelagos with scattered kingdoms, villages, and tribes. It lacks a central leadership and it took painful colonialism to groom it into a nation.

But again, going back to those important discoveries like the Copperplate Inscription, lacking a central kingdom was never an indication of a stone age culture. Those scattered civilizations boast far more sophistications and who knows what discovery may still be unseen. And in the beautiful and peaceful mountains of Batanes are structures that proved just that. The Ivatan people once lived in castle-like habitations known as the Idjang.

The Ivatan People
An Ivatan woman.

Now, castles built by ancient people in hilltops might sound like the stuff of fiction. And for a common Filipino, learning that an ethnic group in Batanes has ancient fortifications will raise eyebrows. But such seemingly far-out claim is very much real. But first, let’s take a look at the people who built them; the Ivatans of Batanes.

Batanes became part of the Philippines in 1783. It was claimed by Spain to be part of the Philippines under Governor General Jose Basco y Vargas. This was to prevent the British from claiming th