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.
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 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.
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.