Ivatan (Chirin nu Ibatan) is a language spoken by 30,000 people on the Batanes Islands, north of Luzon Island, Philippines, and south of Taiwan. There are also about 1,000 Ivatans relocated on Mindanao near the boundary of Bukidnon and Cotabato. The genetic affiliation of Ivatan is still questionable. It is tentatively classified as a member of the Northern Philippine family which comprises the languages of the Batanes (Bashiic languages), Cordilleran languages (such as Ibanag, Ilocano, and Pangasinan), and those of Northern Mindoro. Standard Ivatan is based on the Basco dialect. The three main dialects are northern (Basco), Itbayaten (Itbayat Island) and southern (Sabtang Island).

On the Island of Babuyan, the language IBATAN is spoken by about 900 people. Its intelligibility with Itbayaten Ivatan is 64%, and its intelligibility with Basco Ivatan is 31% (SIL). SIL reports a 60% literacy rate on Babuyan and a 91.8% literacy on Basco.

Philippine Census Reports for Ivatan speakers:

1948: 13,367
1960: 11,882
1970: 14,105

Cultural terms of the Ivatan people:

Foods: uve: yam (staple crop); sudi (taro), wakay (sweet potato), bulyas (onions).
Animal husbandry: baka (cow), kaddin (goat).
Work: kayvayvanan (friendship, cooperative work by a community which starts at the blow of a shell horn called a vodiadong); payohoan (helping one another, work club of teenagers who alternate their shifts).
Boats: three boats for fishing are called paluwa, chinarem, and the tataya.


Vowels a, e, i, u; Diphthongs: aw, iw, ay, ey, oy
Consonants b, ch, d, f, g, h, hh, j, k, l , m, n, n, ng, ny, p r, s, t, v, w, y.


1 asa’; 2 dadwa’; 3 tatdu’; 4 apat; 5 dadima; 6; anem; 7 papitu’; 8 wawahu’; 9 sasyam; 10 asa puho’. [‘ = glottal stop]

Selected Proverbs:

Ipangudidi mu u mapya nanawu. (carry you ART good teaching) ‘Carry with you good teaching, always bear in mind sound advice’.
Arava u mayet an namaes u ryes. ‘There is no strong man when the sea is at its worst’.
Arava u ryes a abu su vinyedi. ‘There is no current that does not bounce back’.
Tumuhutuhud makaysed a tachi. ‘The feces that is dropped is sure comfort (consumated things are permanent)’.
Ulungen mu ava u kakedkeran mu. ‘Do not gore the peg where you are tied (do not forget your heritage)’.
Matakaw ava dimu u kasulivan. ‘Nobody can steal your knowledge’.
Nyeng mu a hukbiten ta isek ni tatumuk. ‘Grasp the opportunity because the bed bugs will carry and hide them inside the floor’.
Kanen mu ava u kakamay mu. ‘Do not eat your fingers (do not take advantage of your relatives)’.
Arava u susuhan da su vahay a mapsek. ‘No one burns the house of a good man’.

Selected Idioms:

Mahmahma u vatu kan uhu naw. ‘Stones are softer than his head (he is stubborn)’.
Umsi ava su vahusa u kamates. ‘Tomatoes do not bear eggplants (children are like their parents)’.
Tud da payramun u vinata naw. ‘They washed their face with what he said (they did not understand him)’.
Inulay mu ta tya naydited u uhu na. ‘Leave him alone for his head is tangled (leave him alone as he is upset)’.
Machitbatbay ka avan asa ka kaban amed. ‘Do not speak of a cavan for a measuring lime unit (you are out of order)’.

References on the Ivatans:

Cottle, Morris, and Shirley Cottle. 1958. The significant sounds of Ivatan. Oceania Linguistic Monographs no. 3. Sydney, Australia.

Hidalgo, Cesar A., and the Dictionary Committee. 1998. The Cultural Dictionary of Batanes- Ivatan-Filipino-English. Manila: Academics Foundation. [Items arranged by semantic and cultural meaning, as opposed to alphabetical].

Hidalgo, Cesar A. 1996. The Making of the Ivatan: The Cultural History of Batanes. Manila: Cognita TRC.

Hornedo, Florentino. 1971. Notes on Batanes and the Ivatan way of life. Sound and Sense 3(1-2):5-46.

Llamzon, Teodoro. 1978. Handbook of Philippine Language Groups. Quezon City: UNESCO and Ateneo de Manila University. Chapter 1 = The Ivatans.

Reid, Lawrence. 1966. An Ivatan sytax. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Manuel, E. Arsenio. (ed. 1953). Informe sobre las islas Batanes (1775-1780). Philippine Social Science and Humanities Review 18: 101-17.

Solheim, Wilhelm. 1960. Jar burial in the Babuyan and Batanes Islands and in Central Philippines, and its relationship to jar burial elsewhere in the Far East. Philippine Journal of Science 89:1:130-45.

Yamada, Yukihiro. 1995. Ichbayat folkways = No kaonoonongan a Ichbayaten : Itbayat texts with English translation / collected by Yukihiro Yamada. Quezon City : Giraffe Books, 1995.


Vocabulario Ibatan-Espan~ol, o sea del dialecto hablado por los naturales de las Islas Batanes y Calayan (Filipinas) / acopiado y compuesto por varios PP. Dominicoes Espaņoles, misioneros de aquellas islas ; con prologo... Manila : Imprenta de la Univ. de Sto. Tomas, 1933.

Diccionario espanol-ibatan / por varios PP. Dominicos, Misioneros de las Islas Batanes. Manila : Tip. de Sto. Tomas, 1944.


The Ivatan Translator - Includes on-line dictionary!!

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