The island of Batanes is in the northernmost waters of the Philippine Archipelago. It actually lies nearer Taiwan than the Philippine
mainland, being only 222 kilometers from the tip of Taiwan, and 224 kilometers from Claveria, a town at the north of Cagayan province. It is also nearer Taipei than Manila.
The province of Batanes is composed of
10 small islands, the total of which makes it the smallest province of the Philippines in terms of area and population. To the south of Batanes, across the Balintang Channel are the islands that compose the
Babuyan Islands group which politically falls under the jurisdiction of the province of Cagayan.
Directly south of the Babuyan Islands group is the Babuyan Channel which separates the islands from the northern stretch
of Cagayan Province. Its five larger islands are Camiguin, Calayan, Babuyan, Fuga and Dalupiri.
During the early years of the Spanish occupation Batanes was completely ignored and enjoyed complete freedom from
colonial rule. In 1685 Dominican missionaries arrived and undertook evangelization as well as colonization of the Ibatans, the natives of the place. A century later General Jose Basco explored the area in
search of tobacco-growing regions. It is in his honor that Basco, the capital town of Batanes is named.
Towards the end of the Spanish era Batanes was made a part of Cagayan. But during the American regime
it again became a separate political unit. During the Pacific war Batanes, because of its geographical location, was among the first areas of the Philippines to be occupied by Japan.
The Prelature of
Batanes-Babuyanes was created on November 30, 1950, comprising the civil province of Batanes an the Babuyan Islands group which belongs to the province of Cagayan. Its titular patron is Santo Domingo de Guzman
whose feast the prelature celebrates on August 8.
When the prelature was created it was separated from the Diocese of Tuguegarao and made a suffragan of the the Archdiocese of Manila. But when the Diocese of
Tuguegarao was elevated to an archdiocese on September 21, 1974, the Prelature of Batanes-Babuyanes was made a suffragan of this ecclesiastical province.
The Dominicans having been the only missionaries in the area
for a considerable length of time, it seemed just right that its first prelate be a Dominican too. And this came about in the person of Monsignor Peregrin de la Fuente, who served from 1950 until he died in
1966. His successor, Right Reverend Monsignor Mario L. Baltazar, another Dominican, was installed Prelate Ordinary on January 7, 1967 and has remained until 1995.
The land area covered by the Prelature of
Batanes-Babuyanes is 71,784 square kilometers with a population of 23,995 of which 93 per cent are catholics. There were 54 persons per square kilometer in Batanes when the national average was 122 in the
seventies. English spoken by 65 per cent of the population, Pilipino by 55 per cent, Spanish by 5 per cent, but Ilocano is the most prevalent dialect.
Among the prelature's Catholic institutions are 1 college, 2
high schools, 1 kindergarten school, 1 orphanage and 1 dormitory. There are 7 parishes run by 7 priests with the help of 4 religious sisters.
Because of frequent typhoons that batter the islands, only
small-scale farming and fishing are possible. Root crops, vegetables and fruit trees are common, supplemented by hog and poultry raising.
Batanes is completely rural, having been completely bypassed by the
upheavals of urbanization. Whether boon or bane, only the inhabitants of Batanes would know.