Thousands of years before Spanish colonization, about a thousand people lived on fortified cliffs and hilltops scattered across today’s Uyugan. The fortified settlements were called “Idiang” and derived from the Ivatan word “Idi” or “Idian” which means home or hometown. They belonged to the Ivatan tribes and spoke the same Ivatan language, but with a southern accent.
The Ivatan tribes who called the place home farmed, where soil permitted, and they fished. They were also a boat-making and seafaring people, and they trade with neighbouring Taiwan to the North and Cagayan to the South.
The Ivatan tribal settlements had a de facto tribal government, not very much different from that of tribal governments in the earlier stages of human evolution. The tribal settlement was headed by a chieftain with a deputy.
Inter-tribal hostilities (Arap du Tukon) or War on the Hill were common in those days but for men only. Common law prohibited the harming of womenfolk who were the main providers of food in wartime.
In the late 1600s, Dominican missionaries landed in Batanes. The native people were in the beginning not all that welcoming to the early Spanish colonizers, but slowly they were able to adopt themselves to the Spanish ways. The Spaniards had very different lifestyles, beliefs, and traditions than the Ivatan tribes. They didn’t understand the native peoples’ social customs, generous nature, religious beliefs, or love of the land.
According to church records, the first mass and baptism in the islands was celebrated in what is now Imnajbu in Uyugan.
The Spanish missionaries, finding the conditions harsh in Batanes, there were attempts to resettle the Ivatans in Cagayan, but they always found their way home – they sailed back to Batanes.
In 1782, Spanish Governor-General Jose Basco y Vargas sent an expedition to formally get the consent of the Ivatans to become subjects of the King of Spain.
On June 26, 1783, de facto Ivatan independence was lost – a sad day to many Ivatans, but equally, a new beginning and a day of celebration to many other Ivatans. On that day (it’s called Batanes Day today) the Spanish representatives of the King of Spain met the representatives of the chiefs and nobles of Batanes on the Plains of Vasay (in what is now Basco town) for the ceremonial formal annexation of Batanes to the Spanish Empire.
The new province was named Provincia de la Conception. Governor-General Jose Basco y Vargas was named “Conde de la Conquista de Batanes” and the capital town of Basco was named after him. The Dominican Order established missions, among them the San Jose de Ivana mission which included all of present day Uyugan and Sabtang.
The Americans followed the Spaniards to Batanes after the Spanish naval defeat at Manila Bay. The USS Princeton dropped anchor at Basco Bay in February 1900. In 1901, the province was reclassified to a township, but provincial status was restored in 1909, and with it the creation of Uyugan as a separate township (municipality).
American public school system was introduced and general health and sanitation campaign was launched. In the 1930s, the Americans built a better road system that replaced the road system (El Camino Real) built during the Spanish period.