Book Launch: A Year In Batanes
MANILA - Last May 12, guests at the Ayala Museum were transported to the Philippines’ northernmost province during the launch of “A Year in Batanes (As aka awan du vatan).” Co-presented by Asia Society Philippines and Firetree Press, the launch presented the visually stunning travel keepsake by international artist, author and Ivatan Victoria Abad Kerblat.
The book “A Year in Batanes” contains 70 watercolor paintings by Ms. Kerblat and several young Ivatan artists from the Yaru nu Artes Ivatan. These paintings feature the picturesque landscapes, customs and everyday life in Batanes; with words provided by Protogenes Gallarion to produce a monthly guide to the island province’s culture and life.
Guests at the launch were given the opportunity to listen to insights on the book from Ms. Kerblat, Ivatan artist Xavier Abelador and Ivatan and anthropology professor Edwin Valientes. Their discussion was mediated by Asia 21 Alum and director of Firetree Press, Quintin Pastrana.
The discussion on the Ivatan culture was opened with Ms. Kerblat describing the people as embodying the Filipino concept of bayanihan in their daily life and work. From an anthropological perspective, Prof. Valientes indicated that the famous stone houses of Batanes reflect the House Society of the Ivatans where, through their structure, social relationships are legitimized and strengthened. While Ivatan artist, Mr. Abelador, related the Ivatan trait of resourcefulness and adaptability to the way he himself produces recuperated art, or art from scrap materials found in one’s environment. All three emphasized that there is a lot to be learned from the Ivatans who thrive due to a cooperative society and have shown resiliency despite being frequented by storms.
With the influx of tourism to Batanes in recent years, concerns were raised by both the panel and the audience regarding the preservation of both the cultural and natural heritage of the province. Each panel member offered their advice or solution to mitigate or avoid the negative effects brought about by tourism, such as tourists learning to respect and adapt to local culture, the importance of documenting and passing cultural knowledge to the next generation and through proper regulation and awareness from the Ivatans themselves.
On tourism, Ms. Kerblat corrected false notions by assuring guests that Batanes is a year-round tourism destination – as highlighted in her book – due to the different cultural experiences one encounters each month. She reminded the audience that Batanes is more than the beautiful landscapes; it is also its culture, people and heritage.
After the discussion, guests were treated to cocktails with Batanes delicacies and the opportunity to meet the author and other contributing Ivatan artists while exploring the gallery lined with photos and maps of Batanes.
A Year in Batanes is available at the Ayala Museum in Makati, and Fundacion Pacita and the Yaru nu Artes Ivatan gallery in Basco, Batanes for Php1,000.00. A portion of the sale will go to Jorge, Aurora and Pacita Abad Memorial Foundation Inc. (JAPAMFI), a group that provides funding for Ivatan artists and gives scholarship grants to deserving Ivatan students.
Written by Nadine Gutierrez