HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 60 no. 1 (2014)

Batanes and Its Ecology of Hiwaga

Nick Deocampo



Visiting the Philippines’ northernmost island chain, Batanes, one discovers a world of hiwaga, or enchantment wrapping the island’s human, physical and spiritual ecologies. While observing the traditional Ivatan fishing practice called mataw fishing, one may chance upon a world of native shamanism, with its power to divine human-nature relations through a reading of animist symbols. This indigenous spirituality provides a unique insight on how ordinary people are able to co-habit and preserve the natural world together with unseen spirits. Through a belief system that gives primacy to danas and senyales, this paper will hopefully open new perspectives in looking at nature as an environment where humans and non-humans co-exist in an ecology that binds everyone and everything together.