Senator Jose Altavas was born in Balete, Capiz, on September 11, 1877, to Jose Altavas Sr., and Andrea Cortez. He studied at the Ateneo de Manila, University of Santo Tomas, and Escuela de Derecho, Manila. He was admitted to the bar in 1901.
Senator Altavas held various positions in the government : Municipal Councilor of Capiz (1903 – 1906); member of the provincial board of Capiz (1906 - 1907); Delegate to the First Philippine Assembly (1907 – 1909); Provincial Governor of Capiz for two terms (1910 – 1916); Senator from Iloilo, Capiz and Romblon (1916 – 1922); and Representative from the second district of Capiz (1925 – 1928). He was a member of the “goodwill” Legislative Delegation to Japan in 1917 and was elected Delegate, from the first district of Capiz, to the constitutional convention in 1934.
Senator Altavas was married to Socorro Laserna with whom he had seven children.