Ivana, April 2010. I am very interested in visiting Catholic churches since the tender age of 6, most likely because of a strong Catholic upbringing. Catholic places of worship are often historical places, architectural visual treats, and repositories of various works of art that are reminiscent of different periods. Catholic churches are always present in almost all of the municipalities and cities in the Philippines thus making them interesting destinations to visit.
While waiting for the falowa (round bottom-hulled boat used in the Province of Batanes) that would take us to Sabtang Island, I visited the San Jose Church of Ivana. The church is adjacent the Port of Ivana and the famous Honesty Store of Batanes. The Church of Ivana has a stunning location by the sea, on a clear morning you can see the Island of Sabtang.
I've read before that the Katipunan flag was first raised on Ivatan soil by the Katipuneros on the bell tower of the church. Early that morning I finally saw the said belfry and imagined that scene in the history of Batanes one day in September 1898: the flag of Katipunan waving proudly, winds blowing to make it aloft, signaling the independence of the northernmost archipelago from centuries of colonial rule.
Inside the National Historical Landmark
The time then was at around 7 o'clock in the morning, good thing that the wooden door of the church was open.
The simple and clean interior was lit by soft natural light. The retablo (altar) displays different statues of saints which are neatly arranged. The place was quiet, conducive for prayer to our Lord. I choose one of the wooden pews near the altar and said a prayer. I particularly prayed for a safe pass that day across the perilous strait to the island municipality of Sabtang, and I spent a few more minutes of silence. Hopeful and having a sense of calmness I continued exploring the church.
A side doorway led to an area outdoors filled with lush foliage. Sunshine illuminating the grass still adorned by the numerous dew drops. I walked a few steps and found ruins at the back of the church. This is probably the portion of the structure affected by the resizing in 1844. Near that area I saw a crane: its color is of pure white, peacefully foraging amidst the grass. A good omen. I smiled hoping that what I saw was an answer to my prayer.
I went inside the church again and uttered a short prayer of thanks and made an exit at the front door. I again stopped by and stared at the facade and the historic bell tower trying to make a picture of the national historical landmark in my memory.
The sun was shining brightly, the sea shimmering as I walked back to the Port of Ivana with a smile and a firmer faith.
Ivana is one of the six municipalities comprising the Province of Batanes. It is one of the four municipalities located at Batan Island along with Basco (the capital town), Mahatao, and Uyugan. Sabtang and Itbayat are separate island municipalities. Ivana is said to be the oldest town in Batanes.