Saturday, October 15, 2011

Batanes: The San Jose Church of Ivana

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.

Church Facade (2010

A Part of History
The church is elevated by two set of steps. The facade of the church is simple and neat, at the side of the main door is a marker placed by the National Historical Institute indicating that the structure is a national historical landmark. According to the marker, the Church of Ivana was initially built as a chapel in the latter part of the 18th century. A stone church was built under the supervision of Fr. Francisco de Paula Esteban, O.P. in 1795, the belfry was constructed from 1814 to 1817 during the term of Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas. The exiled residents of Sabtang, because of the revolt of 1791 led by Aman Dangat (an Ivatan Chieftain) in defense of their rights and freedom, attended church services at the Church Ivana until 1844; the church structure was then resized.  Fr. Fabian Martin supervised the repair of the facade of the church in 1866 to 1869.

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.
NHI Marker

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.
About Ivana

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.


  1. Thanks for considering Batanes... :)

  2. Thank you too for visiting Wandering Caloy. It is a great blessing to visit the interesting and very beautiful Province of Batanes. Batanes is truly a special place. Other posts about Batanes are coming soon. May God bless you and Batanes more :)

  3. Thanks for visiting our PROVINCE.. I am from Ivana but now working outside the Philippines.. Thanks for keeping Batanes as it was...

    Kapian Dios.

  4. Thank you Sir Er for visiting the blog and the post about Ivana. Ivana is interesting and rich in history. I hope I can visit again your hometown and your stunning province,Batanes. May God bless you more.

  5. i wish i could go back to Batanes... we stayed in Ivana when we were there :)

  6. One of my dreams is to go to Batanes and post like yours is a much needed addition to the travel list. I love the way you write po and the photos are great.

    ang fear ko lang talaga sa Batanes is the way crossing the islands, di ako marunong lumangoy so no confidence on the water haha.

  7. @Gladys, That is also my wish, Batanes is truly a wonderful place and there are a lot of interesting places! Thank you for visiting Wandering Caloy and I hope you'll drop by again. God bless.

    @Journeys and Travels, I am positive that your dream will come into realization in the near future. Thank you for your inspiring comment! I am glad that the post about Ivana helped in your travel list. More Batanes posts to come!
    Huwag kang matakot sa pagtawid ng dagat sa Batanes, isa siyang adventure na memorable. Safety is a priority sa mga ferry dun, lahat ng passengers may lifevest kapag bumiyahe. God bless and I hope you'll visit Wandering Caloy again!