San Nicolas and Santa Teresita: Historic and Folkloric Notes about some of its Barrios

Exploring forgotten stories about the barrios of San Nicolas and Santa Teresita.

Balandis: the Slanted Houses Along a Road in Cuenca/Alitagtag

Exploring this quaint area in Cuenca and Alitagtag where the houses are slanted away from the road.

Mataasnakahoy: Historical and Folkloric Trivia about some of Its Barrios

Revisiting obscure barrio histories of the barrios of the Municipality of Mataasnakahoy.

An Old Tourist Spot in Taal Called the Pansipit Fishery

A throwback to a by-gone era, when tourists around Luzon visited this resort in Taal and Lemery.

The Hitchhiker who Gets on at the Zigzag in Cuenca Batangas Lipa

A tall tale familiar to all who drive through this curving road in Cuenca. Is it really a tall tale, though?

18 March 2018

Atrocities in Batangas Cited during General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Trial for War Crimes after WWII

The Yamashita trial. Image source:  Presidential Museum and Library PH on Flickr.
Mention the name Yamashita in the context of the Second World War and in most likelihood the first thing that comes to most Filipinos’ minds would be the legendary treasures that up to the present day are believed to be stashed away in some still to be discovered hiding place. Tomoyuki Yamashita himself, i.e. the Japanese general who was alleged to have plundered the loot from around Southeast Asia1, likely remains for all intents and purposes unknown to most.

Yamashita, remembered in History as the “Tiger of Malaya” for leading the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 to victory over the British in the Malayan Peninsula despite numerical disadvantage. That same year, he was reassigned to Manchukuo in Northeastern China where he was effectively a non-participant in the Pacific War.

It was not until 1944 that he was thrust back into action with an assignment in the Philippines. He was placed in charge of about 260,000 troops and three defensive groups, including the Shinbu group which was charged with the defense of Manila and Southern Luzon, including Batangas2.

In the Philippines, he was given the nickname “Gopher of Luzon3” because of “the cunning with which his troops burrowed into the hills while they were being chased from Manila to the mountains in the vicinity of Keangan.” It was unfortunate, at least from Yamashita’s point of view, that he was sent back to action at a time when the Japanese position in the Philippines was fast becoming untenable in the face of the American advance.

In October 1945, after Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers, Yamashita was charged and tried before a military tribunal in Manila for “alleged crimes against humanity.” The evidences to substantiate these charges were contained in a Bill of Particulars containing a lengthy list of “evidences” of atrocities committed by soldiers under Yamashita’s command.

This being a Batangas-oriented web site, we take a look at but a few of the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers under the province which were included in the Bill of Particulars. These we cite verbatim from the primary source document for this article:

¤ “November 1944, in the town of Lipa, eleven American prisoners of war were murdered by members of the Imperial Japanese Army. Evidence shows that the “Gigo Force” was responsible for this atrocity.

¤ “10 February 1945, in Tanauan, five hundred Filipinos, all civilians, were murdered by members of the Imperial Japanese Army.

¤ “11 February 1945, in Santo Tomas (not the Santo Tomas Prison in the City of Manila), three hundred and fifty Filipino civilians were killed by Japanese soldiers.

¤ “28 February 1945, in the town of Bauan, 328 Filipino civilians were murdered by being placed in a building which was then dynamited and burned. Japanese soldiers led by a Captain Hogino, Commanding Officer of the Bauan garrison, were responsible.

¤ “February 1945, in the town of Manbug4, 50 Filipino civilians were murdered by members of the Imperial Japanese Army.

¤ “26 March 1945, 120 Filipino civilians were murdered in the town of Sulac5. A unit designated as a Motor Transportation Platoon, Supply Company, 86th Airfield Battalion, was responsible. Lieutenant Furusawa Giichi was the Company Commander and Warrant Officer Sato Tamotsu was of the same company. Sergeant Misichita Sochei, of the 3rd Squad of this same platoon, was identified as being a participant in this massacre. He is now a prisoner of war awaiting trial.

¤ “10 April 1945, in the town of Sulac, 70 Filipino civilians were killed by members of the Japanese Army. This massacre was perpetrated by the same soldiers who were responsible for the massacre on 26 March 1945.

¤ “27 April 1945, again in Sulac, 40 additional Filipino civilians were killed by these same soldiers.”

Apart from these inhumane acts committed in Batangas, also included in the Bill of Particulars were atrocities in the Mountain Province, Bukidnon, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Laguna, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Pampanga, Rizal, Surigao, Tarlac and the Greater Manila Area.

In addition, the military tribunal heard testimonies from witnesses who bravely came forward. About those pertaining to atrocities committed in Batangas, again we cite verbatim from the primary source document:
“One Filipino woman from the Taal Lake region of Batangas Province testified that she had been held by two Japanese soldiers while two other Japanese soldiers cut out her husband’s tongue because he was unable to give them information, which he did not possess, regarding Filipino guerrillas who had been operating in that neighborhood.

“Numerous women testified that their nursing babies had been torn from their arms, tossed high into the air, and, when falling, were caught upon the up-thrust bayonets of Japanese soldiers nearby.

“Five Filipino men and women testified they had seen more than 400 men women and children herded into a churchyard in the village of Taal, Batangas. The men were sorted in groups of 50, marched to the edge of a well, and there were bayoneted, shot and thrown into the well until it was filled to overflowing with their bodies.

“More than 20 witnesses, men, women and children, testified that during the period from 16 February to 19 March 1945, more than 20,000 persons, mostly Filipinos, were executed by members of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the city of Lipa.”
Obviously, given the frequency and how widespread these atrocities were being committed by soldiers under his command, it was doubtful that Yamashita had personal knowledge or had instructed any of them to perform these. In fact, in the earlier campaign in the Malayan Peninsula, he was supposed to have given specific instructions that there “would be no looting, rape or arson” and held accountable soldiers who did not heed these.

His “exile” to Manchukuo, it was said in his defense, was partly because the Japanese military hierarchy was not impressed by the soft stand he took vis-a-vis the conquered people in the Malayan campaign. Nonetheless, despite his apparent ignorance of the acts of barbarism committed by those under his command, he took a philosophical approach and was supposed to have said,
“…any army, regardless from what country it comes – England, France or the United States – is bound to have a certain percentage of bad men in it, ones that are difficult to control in ordinary times; but an army in defeat – men who know they have but a few hours, at most a few days, to live, without leaders to lead them and with no thoughts whatsoever of earthly punishment by their own superiors – might easily resort to their primitive urges. I feel the actions of these men did not reflect the lack of morality of their leaders…”
On 7 December 1945, coincidentally the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, before a packed gathering, the military tribunal passed its verdict on Yamashita: death by hanging. The verdict was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, but not by a unanimous vote. Even in the American press, there were those who felt that Yamashita was a necessary scapegoat given the high emotions of the era, but privately doubted if he was, indeed, guilty of the crimes of which he was charged.

Early in the morning of 23 February 1946, at the rehabilitation camp in Los Baños in Laguna, the sentence was carried out. His last wish before the noose was adjusted around this neck was to be allowed to bow in the direction of the Japanese Emperor’s palace.

Notes and references:
1Yamashita’s gold,” Wikipedia.
2Tomoyuki Yamashita,” Wikipedia.
3 Most of the major details of this article were taken from “The Tiger of Malaya: the Story of General Tomoyuki Yamashita and ‘Death March’ General Masaharu Homma,” by Lt. Col. Aubrey Saint Kenworthy, published 1953.
4 Manbug must have been a barrio in Batangas, although I am unable to find any references to it over the Internet.
5 Sulac was actually “Sulok” (corner), a barrio in Santo Tomas officially named Santa Cruz in the present day.

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15 March 2018

Francisco Rubio and his Recruitment of Rebel Soldiers in Tanauan in 1900

A military quartel or barracks in Tanauan during the American era.  Image source:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
On 24 October 1900, one Francisco Rubio was arraigned and tried for charges of “being a spy” by a military commission convened in the town of Tanauan in Batangas1. The trial was presided over by Major John H. Parker of the United States Volunteers 39th Infantry Regiment, with 1st Lieutenant Edward H. White acting as judge-advocate2.

09 March 2018

Movements of Company D of the USV 28th Infantry Regiment in Batangas in 1900

US soldiers in Batangas in formation.  Image source:  Sandra Plummer Collection at the Fort Worth Library's Digital Archive.
Continuing with the campaign of the United States Volunteers 28th Infantry Regiment in Batangas in the year 1900, we now shift our attention to Company D under the command of Captain Peter Vredenburgh of Jersey City, New Jersey. The other officers in the company were 1st Lieutenant Alpha T. Easton of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and 2nd Lieutenant Louis E. Schucher of Rochester Mills, Indiana1.

Readers are advised the primary source document for this article was written from the American point of view. Hence, Filipinos were referred to as “insurgents” or “insurrectos.”

Along with the rest of the regiment, the company arrived in Manila from the United States West Coast on 24 November 1899 and was initially deployed in Cavite. After participating in campaigns against “insurgent” Filipino forces in Cavite, on 17 January 1900, Company C left the town of Dasmariñas with the regiment’s First Battalion for a 4-day hike south.

This 70-mile trek took the company through Silang, Indang and Alfonso in Cavite, on through Nasugbu, Tuy and Balayan in Batangas until it reached the town of Taal on 21 January. There, Company C would be stationed along with Companies A and B until 30 November 1900.

While in Taal, Company C was involved primarily with the scouting and mapping of the countryside, while “having a number of skirmishes and destroying large quantities of the insurgent stores and taking over 1,000 prisoners.”

On 9 February, while on patrol of Taal Lake, members of the company discovered a sunken Spanish gunboat at the mouth of Pansipit River. This would likely have been somewhere in present-day San Nicolas, which at the time was still part of the town of Taal.

A fortnight later on 24 February, soldiers of company C joined others from Companies A and D in an encounter with “heavily entrenched” Filipino freedom fighters three miles north of Lemery near the Sinisian River. It took the Americans two hours to drive away the “insurgents” from their trenches. As they withdrew, the Filipinos left behind “a number of killed or wounded.”

On the first of March, Captain Vredenburgh and one Lieutenant Russel2 took 50 men with them to set up a garrison in Calaca. Company D’s records were abjectly short of details, but from those of Company C we are able to ascertain that the mission in Calaca was primarily to map the town and its barrios as well as determine the inhabitants of each house.

While on scouting patrol on 20 June, soldiers of Company C captured 5 “insurgents,” including a lieutenant and a sergeant.

The following month on 6 July, Company C was called into action along with other companies when Filipino freedom fighters attacked the town of Taal. The firefight resulted in “considerable loss to the insurgents, 74 being killed and about 50 wounded, our loss being 6 wounded.”

Four days later on 10 July, while on patrol near the mouth of the Pansipit River, Company C had a skirmish with “insurgent” soldiers, killing five of them. In the next two days, the company marched 45 miles through San Nicolas and Talisay and into sitios named Dita, Baypapayane and Bayananyan3.

They saw action again on 17 July in Barrio Talang, which at the time was still part of Taal but is in the present-day with the town of San Nicolas. This encounter, which lasted three hours, was led by Regimental Commander Col. William E. Birkhimer and also involved soldiers from Companies A and B. The Filipinos lost an estimated 35 killed, with another 50 wounded.

On 31 July, Captain Vredenburgh with 50 men returned to the Calaca garrison for the resumption of mapping duties. They would remain there until summoned back to Taal on 15 November.

On 30 November, Company C boarded the ship USAT Sumner at the port in Taal for redeployment to Mindanao.

Notes and references:
1 Along with most other details of the company’s movements in Batangas, taken from “History of the 28th Regiment Infantry, United States Volunteers, from Organization to Muster-Out, with Roster and Records of Events by Companies,” compiled by W. B. Conner, published in San Francisco in 1901, online at Hathitrust.
2 No Lieutenant Russel is included in the members of the USV’s 28th Infantry Regiment First and Second Battalions, which were deployed in Batangas in 1900. However, this could be no more than a case of a clerical error.
3 The names Baypapayane and Bayananyan sound a lot like Americans trying to Anglicize foreign-sounding names in their report. There are no present-day barrios or sitios in Taal, Talisay, Agoncillo and even Laurel sounding like these.

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Tingloy, Batangas: Historic and Folkloric Notes about some of its Barrios

Image source: Lawrence Ruiz - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
This article revisits the otherwise forgotten history and folklore of the barrios of Tingloy, Batangas. The information contained herein has been taken from the so-called “Historical Data,” required by the administration of President Elpidio Quirino in 1951 of all Department of Education districts around the country to reconstruct local histories destroyed during World War II. These documents are now archived at the National Library of the Philippines.

For Tingloy, the barrio histories were originally filed under Bauan. These documents were not submitted until 1953. It would not be until 17 June 1955 that the barrios of Tingloy, Maricaban, Payapa, Pisa, Gamao and Talahib would officially separate from Bauan to become the new Municipality of Tingloy. All of these original barrios are included in this article.

This barrio was established in 1891 and was supposed to have been named after fishing net buoys. These must have been called “gamao” locally. Its original sitios were called Silangan, Bulihan, Gulod, Pinagdalupihan, Kanluran and Danao. Gamao used to be called the “peaceful mountain” and it “stands out vividly among the glamorous barrios of Maricaban Island…” Its earliest barrio lieutenants were Sixto Manalo, Pacifico Manalo, Lucas Candava, Braulio Persia, Esteban Bacay, Andres Bacsa and Arcadio de Chavez. Because of its relative isolation, Gamao was spared from the loss of lives and properties that plagued the mainland of Batangas through the Philippine Revolution, the Philippine-American War and World War II. In fact, the barrio served as an evacuation center in the Second World War.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Gamao

This barrio was supposedly named after a wealthy woman named Maria who tried to protect her wealth from Moro pirates by stashing this in a chest, called “kaban1” in Tagalog, that she had hidden somewhere. The barrio had jurisdiction over Maricaban Proper, half of Pinagkurusan and a sitio called Makawayan. Its earliest settlers were one Vicente Maneja and presumably his wife/partner Eriberta Mariño; Canuto Vargas and “his lovely wife” Limbania Sarmiento; and Tomas Catambay and his wife Maria Bacal “who was a very rich old woman.”

The earliest Spaniards who first set foot on Maricaban were at first looked upon with suspicion but were eventually accepted. At the height of Moro piracy during the Spanish colonial era, Maricaban was frequently invaded, often at night. The Americans first arrived in Maricaban in 1901 and took men from the barrio with them to use as guides. During the Philippine-American War, US Army soldiers almost burned down the barrio in their search for “insurrectos,” as Filipino freedom fighters were known. Late in World War II, America planes bombarded Japanese ships near the coast of Maricaban. These were laden with “kerosene, gasoline, food supplies and even ammunitions.” Regrettably, the air raid led “to the burning of all types of houses in the barrio from palatial homes to the small nipa shacks.”

Source: History and Cultural Life of Maricaban

Maricaban was supposedly named after a chest or "kaban" that a woman named Maria hid.  Image source:  Michael's Make Creativity Happen.
This barrio was established in 1870; and is so named because the first settlers were supposed to have found the place abundant with papaya trees. Its original families were the Garcias, Atienzas, Evangelistas and Datingalings. About 10 people were killed from 1896 to 1900, presumably because of the Philippine Revolution and subsequent Philippine-American War. In 1945, just before the liberation of the barrio by troops of the United States Army, civilians in the barrio killed Japanese soldiers who presumably were trying to escape the advancing American forces.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Papaya

Needless to say, Papaya was named after the tree.  Image source:  Syam on Flickr.
This barrio’s name was supposed to have come from the word “piras,” meaning oyster, which used to be found in abundance along the coast of the barrio. The word “piras” was either dialect or archaic Tagalog because the more generally known Tagalog word for oyster is “talaba.” The barrio was divided into the following sitios: Central, Pirasan, Punta Guarda, Santol and Ibabao. Its original settlers were the families of Virgilio Binay and his wife Elena; and Alberto de Chavez and his wife Rosalia.

During the Philippine Revolution, men of Pirasan were drafted into the “revolutionary force,” presumably the Katipunan; but were reluctant to leave their homes undefended. During the Philippine-American War, some “insurrectos” fled to Maricaban to escape US Army troops. In World War II, guerrilla forces took hold of Pirasan. These forces were under a Visayan native by the name of Captain Tibay who was ex-USAFFE and a Bataan veteran. Their mission was primarily to gather information about Japanese movements, presumably along the Verde Island passage.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Pirasan

Pirasan was supposed to have been named after oysters.  Image source:  JustaMonster on Flickr.
This barrio was established during the Spanish colonial era and was, according to folklore, named after a big tree with an edible fruit that grew inside the barrio’s cemetery. There is, indeed, a pisa tree called the areca palm in English2. However, this palm, while endemic to the Philippines, can be found more in Mindanao and Basilan. The barrio’s original families were those of Valentin Magbuhos, Joaquin Garcia, Sixto Garcia, Nicanor Corona, Alejandro Hayag, Angel Adame and Felipe Garcia. In World War II, five people in the barrio were shot dead by the Japanese on suspicion of being members of the guerrilla movement.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Pisa

This barrio was so named because in the old days, part of its land was covered with tall reeds called “talahib” in Tagalog. It was established by the Atienza family during the Spanish colonial era. Its sitios were called Bago, Pulambule, Talahib Proper, Salong, Tibag and Kalatagan. Its original families were those of Sergio Atienza, Francisco Atienza, Eleuterio Atienza, Ambrocio Dolor, Adriano Manalo, Policarpio Bagos, Placido Axalan, Hilario Castillo, Florentino Castillo and Segundo Beloso.

In the early nineteen century, Spaniards first arrived in the barrio aboard boats. They were so hostile that the barrio’s inhabitants fled. Late in the same century, the barrio suffered from food shortage. People could not afford to buy rice and subsisted on root crops, bananas and coconuts. In World War II, local boats were mistaken by American PT boats3 as Japanese transport and destroyed by mistake.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Talahib

As can be expected, Talahib was named after tall grasses.  Image source:  Oman S. on Flickr.
In the late fifties when these barrio histories were collected, what is now the town of Tingloy was just one of the barrios of Bauan. This local history, therefore, was in most likelihood about what is now the town center. According to folklore, Moros who frequently visited the island during the American era could see many plants “with long and short thorns.” This plant was called “tinghoy4,” and it was from this that the then-barrio would be named.

Tingloy’s earliest inhabitants were said to have been immigrants from Taal. The first family to settle the barrio was that of one Jose Martinez and his wife Micaela Balog. During the Spanish era, Moro pirates frequently came to raid, abusing women and taking them away to sell as slaves. The Guardia Civil who were sent to the barrio to enforce the law were, instead, the ones who stole from the people. In 1921, Tingloy was visited by would-be Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon. In World War II, the barrio became a port of call for boats bound for the Visayas and Mindanao carrying evacuees escaping Japanese occupation.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Tingloy

Notes and references:
1 The Spanish cavan was really a unit of measurement, but Tagalog Lang says that its Tagalog version “kaban” also means a “chest for clothes.” This is probably not accurate because there is a Tagalog expression that goes “ang may hawak ng kaban” (he who holds the chest), meaning the one in charge of finances; therefore, the word “kaban” is probably any chest used for storage.
2Pisa,” online at Philippine Medicinal Plants.
3 PT boats or patrol-torpedo boats were “fast attack craft used by the United States Navy in World War II. “PT Boat,” Wikipedia.
4 One Internet web site called “Philippine Traditional Knowledge Digital Library on Health” says that the plant is an aphrodisiac, but provides no other useful information.

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07 March 2018

The State of Philippine Railroads in 1902 and American Attempts to Improve It, Including New Lines in Batangas

A train of the Batangas Railways.  Image source:  Posted by user Pinai on the Indonesia v the Philippines discussion board on
On 18 March 1902, the United States Senate directed Elihu Root, the Secretary of War, to provide “a statement of the legal and traffic relations between the railroads in the Philippine Islands and as to the charters and ownership of such railroads1.” Root’s reply was succinct, and included this statement which basically summed up the state of Philippine railroads at the time:

06 March 2018

San Juan de Bocboc, Batangas in the 19th Century as Described by a Spanish Historian

The Municipal Hall of San Juan in the present day.  Image source:  Google Earth Street View.
We move now to the town of San Juan in eastern Batangas, called San Juan de Bocboc during the latter part of the Spanish colonial era, for the continuation of our series on late nineteenth century Batangas towns as described by the Spanish former government official and historian Manuel Sastron. His observations were published in a book entitled “Batangas y Su Provincia,” published in Malabon in 18951.

04 March 2018

The Deadly 1902 Cholera Epidemic in the Philippines, with Special Interest on Its Consequences in Batangas

Image by Uncredited photographer for St. Louis Post Dispatch - St. Louis Post Dispatch photo via [1], Public Domain,
The disease cholera is an infection of the small intestines that leads to diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps. It is caused by a bacterium called vibrio cholera that can be transmitted by unsanitary water or food. Persons infected with the disease may suffer severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which may, in turn, result into death. The mortality rate for the disease is anything from 5% to 50%, depending on the availability of treatment1.