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Located up in the northern area of Basco near the Mt. Iraya foothills of Batenes, these ancient burial grounds are said to house skeletons that date back to AD 1600, which date before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers to the Philippines. The place is inside the jurisdiction of Brgy. San Antonio, which includes the area that covers northern Batan island.
The word Nakamaya comes from a fruit bearing tree called the Kamaya, which is said to be similar to that of the Mabolo tree. The burial grounds is currently used as grazing ground for cattle.
This fascinating archaeological artifact is not usually part of most Batanes tour itineraries, given that the grave markers are not easily accessible, hidden from the main road and buried behind thickets and tree bushes; you’ll need to walk past forested areas to find it.
Link to a Pre-Spanish Past
The burial site was practically untouched prior to its rediscovery by archeologists in the 1990’s. Scientists found human remains and tools, which were then excavated, analyzed, and later reburied to its original position. Radiocarbon tests show that the human skeletons are between 355-70 BP.
Some say the site may have been largely forgotten by the Christianized Ivatans with the arrival of the colonizers, when they commenced their campaign the convert the original settlers to the Catholic faith.
The early Ivatans believed in life after death. They are a sea-faring people, and according to popular folklore, their final resting place in the afterlife was in the direction of the sea. As such, grave markers point in that general direction.
Furthermore, the markers are made up of smooth stones arranged in the shape of the “tataya” a traditional Ivatan boat. Some of graves have larger stones that are said to denote the boat’s the bow and stern.