Erecting a protective shelter that could keep people safe from the elements was among the most difficult, yet most essential undertakings of ancient man. A safe place to live was not just paramount to survival but was one of the very first signs of man’s ability to build and progress, as they went from being nomadic hunters and gatherers to becoming settlers, owners, and cultivators of land. Therefore,the discovery of a triangular hill in the municipality of Savidug, Sabtang, Batanes by Dr. Eusebio Dizon back in 1994 served as one of the first and most important pieces of evidence that our predecessors were much more than just “savages” roaming the land.
Built on elevated ground, evidence was found that this structure, known as the Savidug Idjang, had people living within the walls of the structure – much like the castles found in ancient Europe. It was also used as a point of retreat for nearby inhabitants whenever a threat was on the horizon.Interestingly, it was noted that the Savidug Idjang did not have any doors or gates. It was instead fitted with ropes that could be lowered to allow people into the fortress. After the discovery of the Savidug Idjang, four more idjangs were discovered nearby, indicating that the Ivatan were able to identify their own success in building such a structure and had continued the practice in other locations.
The remains inside Savidug Idjang included the remains of wildlife such as fish, birds, and other land-roving beasts, suggesting that residents were most likely hunters and fishermen. They were also known to wage war with other nearby settlements as well as suffer from periodic pirate raids and regular typhoons, which is why the safety found behind such strong stone walls was vital to the Ivatan way of life. It was well into the time of Spanish colonization (in 1790) that the Ivatans were forced to abandon their idjangs to live in the lowlands due to the command of a Spanish Governor only remembered by his surname Guerrero, who would then apply Spain’s protection (and taxes) over them.
Although the Savidug Idjang, and all the other idjangs in Batanes, were largely unknown to the rest of the Philippines until their rediscovery in 1994, we can at least take solace in the fact that these links to the ancient Ivatan still remain standing to this very day – solid proof that our people were organized, progressive, and ingenious.