ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Idjang; The Ancient Precolonial Castles of Batanes

Updated on May 24, 2020
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

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.
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 the island as the ships of East India Company frequently used the Bashi channel. And prior to that, Batanes was already inhabited by the Ivatan people.

One of the earliest accounts of the Ivatan was made in 1687, by a British Buccaneer William Dampier. They were described as short, and squat, with hazel eyes, small but bigger than the Chinese. They got low foreheads, thick eyebrows, short low noses, white teeth, black hair, and dark, copper colored skin. Their features seem to be a mixed of the Mongols and some got characteristics of the Japanese Ainus.

The origins of the Ivatan remain untraced, but they are classified as an Astronesian group. In terms of linguistics, they are related to the Ilocanos. Now, due to the stormy weather of Batanes, the Ivatans adopted the famous limestone and coral houses, unlike the much common nipa. Take note that prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, their houses are made by the already weather resistant cogon grass. They only adopted the stone houses when the Spaniards introduced the production of lime as building materials. The hostile climates also influenced much of their cultures, from their crops to their study of animal behaviors. They plant crops that could cope with the prolonged droughts and typhoons, and their observations of animals helped them predict the weather. Fishes like flying fish and dolphin fish are also a part of their diet, as well as some delicacies like the uvod (banana stalk pith).

The Ivatan also got their own folk songs and legends, but tourists are more familiar with their striking headgear vakul. It’s made from vuyavuy fiber and designed to protect the wearer from the heat of the sunlight to raindrops.

Now, in 1686, Ivatans are forced to settle in the lowlands of Batanes. But before that they lived in elevated areas, with fortifications like that of European castles. These are the Idjangs.

The Idjang

The Ifjang as seen among the hills.
The Ifjang as seen among the hills.

Because of its location in remote areas (and in the typhoon prone tip of the Philippines) the Idjang never gained that much attention, like the Banawe rice terraces. It was said that these structures are 4000 years old and built on elevated grounds like hills. Today, these ancient structures are easily distinguishable from the background of terrain and trees. They are triangular shaped citadels, with flat tops and walls of limestone and wood. Within the Idjang are various artefacts, the evidence of past habitations of the people. There are earthenware vessels, burial jars, beads, ceramics, and stone tools. Overall, there are several Idjangs in Batanes; the Itbud Idgang, Ivana Idjang, Chuhangin Idgang and Savidug Idgang.

Now, going back to what’s frequently mentioned, Idjangs are basically indigenous castles. That’s because they are used that way by the natives.

Purpose of the Idjang

Before we proceed, let me first point out that castles are different from palaces. One might be imagining fairytale structures on hills when castles are mentioned. But luxurious palaces are far different than protected castles. Castles are a form of fortification, meant to protect the inhabitants from outside threats. With that said, early inhabitants of Batanes often staged wars among each other. Then there are frequent pirate raids, in addition to the typhoons they were already enduring. Because of that, they built Idjangs to protect themselves against men, and nature. These fortifications were built on high grounds, like hills to provide maximum visibility for the defenders, and to make the fortress resistant to infiltration. The high ground also gave the defenders advantage over the raiders, as the elevation enabled them to hurl rocks at the climbing raiders.

And the mighty stone walls of the Idjangs also protected the inhabitants from typhoons.

Lastly, Idgangs got no gates or any forms of entrances. A rope being lowered is the only way one could enter.

The Idjangs Were Abandoned

Governor General Jose Basco y Vargas.
Governor General Jose Basco y Vargas.

During the Spanish colonization, the Ivatans abandoned their Idjangs to live in the lowlands. Though Batanes was included in the Spanish Philippines in 1783, the Ivatans continued to live in Idjangs until 1790. Ivatans came to the lowlands due to the decree pf Governor Guerrero. For one thing, it gave them more people to tax. Then, there is the fact that the Ivatans never saw the need to live it fortresses during the time of Spanish colonization. With a central government like Spain taking charge, internal conflicts among villagers were eliminated. The same could be said on outside threats, like pirates. The Idjang eventually lost its purpose.

References:

1. Alonso, R. (2014). "The castles of Batanes." philSTAR.com.

2. Bonifacio, Angel (21 June 2012). "Idjangs: Mountain Fortresses of Batanes," vigattintourism.com


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Beth 

      18 minutes ago

      Would love to see photos of idjang's interior or maybe a rendition. Nice informative article!

    • Mamerto profile imageAUTHOR

      Mamerto Adan 

      6 weeks ago from Cabuyao

      Thanks Topher for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Topher 

      6 weeks ago

      Thank you for tje information and history. Please continue to discover our lost HISTORY that was hidden and cover up by Spaniards. If possible please publish a book so the our people can learn.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)