The top is flat but there’s a triangular platform at the summit. Despite the overgrowth of plants, we could clearly see piles of stones used to organize the sections of the summit. One section we saw may be used as food storage. Mael pointed out the white stones which were used to deceive enemies from below. Ivatans would retreat to this castle to avoid invaders, they will make the enemy think they have enough supplies as the white stones would look like sacks of rice from afar. Almost unnoticeable are the columnar stones with holes. Some still standing but others already on the ground even concealed by the grass. The purpose of these stones are still in question until now whether they are used as religious icons or simply structural foundations. Local Ivatans believe them to be simply the latter but it wouldn’t stop other Ivatans like Xavier Abelador of Yaru nu Artes Ivatan gallery in Basco to use it as inspiration for his paintings.
The view from the top of Savidug Idjang was nothing short of exhilarating. This time I get to be on the other side of the spectrum and see the coastal road this time cutting through the undulating landscape of greens much like the swell of the sea channel between Sabtang Island and Batan Island seen across. It’s fulfilling to finally be on top of this idjang but sad at the same time to see the neglect the local government has done here. The top platform has become a grazing ground for goats. The surrounding excavation grounds where stone patterns were orginally found are now in shambles. Worse, the stones at the ancient path are now slowly being ticked away by the Tik-tiks, people who pick out stone rubbles and crush them to smaller bits and resell them for use on new structures.
The Village Life
I followed Mael and his daughter back on the trail and decided to watch him do his chore. On the way to his goats he climbed a tree found on the trail and picked out some branched with leaves. His goats loves these leaves he told me. A stench from a rotting animal welcomed us as we approach the fenced grounds and found a snake in tangles from the trap he set-up. The dead snake seemed to be only a day old. Mael told me they weren’t allowed to kill snakes here but had no choice as his kids (baby goats) were in peril. The other day he found a dead kid half-consumed probably by the same snake caught in the trap. As soon as he fed the goats, put drinking water on their bowls and make sure they are accounted for we head back to the village. That is life now for an Ivatan in Sabtang. How much shade of their ancient past is reflected now in their way of life would be interesting to know.
For a tricycle hire and guide in Sabtang Island do contact Mael at 09394750654.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.