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Doggie Day Fair 2

The dogs of Batanes

This post was filed under Feature, Travels with Dogs.

Every time I visit a new province, I make sure that I’m able to take photos of the native dogs in the area. For some reason, capturing the dogs in their natural environment somehow shows me a glimpse of a province’s culture in one simple photograph.

Man with dog walking

Life in Batanes is slow and relaxing. The people, called Ivatans, are very friendly. If you’re not from around there, you can expect that they’ll give you a welcoming smile as you pass by. This friendliness, it seems, is a trait that even their dogs share.

Hanging out

The dogs we met in Sabtang, one of the islands of Batanes which can be reached by a 35-minute boat ride from the main town of Basco in Batan, are unleashed and roam freely around town. Now, before lecturing the people on responsible dog care, you must first understand the Ivatan’s culture. Friendliness isn’t the only trait that you’ll see common in them, but honesty is greatly valued as well.

You can leave your things lying around and not worry about it getting lost. If you misplaced something, you simply go to their radio station and describe your item. If your stuff is found, a local will no doubt bring it to the station for you to claim. Something like this is probably a big deal in the city (taxi drivers returning tourist’s forgotten baggage even makes the news), but for the Ivatans, it’s a normal part of life.

Dog following his humans

When it comes to dogs, it’s the same thing. Kidnapping dogs is unheard of in this province. Every dog in the town of Chavayan is everyone’s responsibility. Your dog can wander into the neighbor’s stone house and you can be assured that he will come home full and happy.

The towns in Sabtang are quite far apart, which is probably another reason why dogs don’t just wander about. Each town can be reached by going through single-car, cliff-side roads, and can be quite dangerous to navigate at night (seriously, falling off the road is a long and treacherous drop to a rocky shore). The remoteness of the towns and the isolation of the islands (not to mention the untouched greens and wildlife) have kept the dogs near or within human settlement—for both safety and survival.

It was pretty interesting to see how the Ivatans bond with their dogs. Lazy mornings are spent chatting with neighbors (a town can be as small as one long street; everyone knew every person in town), which is also a time when the town dogs congregate. People walking to another town are accompanied by their dogs (the man in the first photo said he and his dog were off to the neighboring town). Their canine buddies are not only companions in those journeys, but also protectors from wild animals they might encounter along the way.

Among the places I’ve visited for this year, Batanes is probably the province where the dogs are very much integrated into the townsfolk’s life and culture.

This, apart from its breath-taking beauty, makes Batanes worth another visit.

Thank you very much to SEAIR for making this trip possible.

Advertisement: SEAIR flies from Manila to Batanes and vice versa every Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The flights from Manila to Batanes are from 0550 to 0725 and the flights from Batanes to Manila are from 0755 to 0930. One-way airfares start at P35++ (as low as 2895.20 one-way all-in fare). For flight reservations, call SEAIR at 8490100 or visit for more details.

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3 barks to this post

  • […] and bayanihan. I learned that there are still people in a community so closely knitted that they’d even take care of their neighbor’s dog if he wandered into their homes. I learned that a place of such breath-taking beauty still exists in the […]

  • xieniii says:

    I love native dogs! When I was in Leyte for the holidays I fell in love with one native puppy so much, I wanted to bring him back to New York with me. But he had so many fleas and ticks! Maybe next time. 🙂

  • sj says:

    Good thing, there is a place like Batanes where the good old Aspins can roam around freely without the fear of being rounded off and shot.
    Unfortunately, the compound where I live has strict regulations on stray dogs. They will be shot on sight.That’s why I round my Snow during the day. I just let him loose at night so he can guard outside and play with other canines.

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