15 October 2017

Taal, Batangas: Historical and Folkloric Notes about some of its Barrios

The national road in Taal, Batangas that leads to the neighboring town of Lemery.
This article is part of a continuing series that focuses on historical and folkloric trivia about the barrios of Batangas. The information contained herein has been culled from obscure and otherwise forgotten documents required by the administration of Elpidio Quirino in 1951 to compensate for historical documents destroyed in World War II. The documents are archived at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

There were actually as many 18 documents archived for Taal. However, these barrio histories were submitted in the early fifties and many of them had since become separated from Taal to become San Nicolas and parts of San Luis and Santa Teresita. So as not to confuse readers, I have preferred to feature these in a separate article.

Barrios not included in this article probably did not have documents submitted for them; or if there were, these had been destroyed over time. It is also possible that present-day barrios were still part of larger barrios back in the fifties.

Apacay
Barrio Apacay was supposed to have existed already as a sitio or small community at the time the conquistador Juan de Salcedo1 explored the Pansipit area in 1570. Supposedly, it became a barrio in 1576, four years after the recorded founding of the pueblo of Taal. As per the 1948 Philippine Census, the first conducted after World War II, the barrio had a population of 419. Fortuitously, because of its location about a kilometer from the road, Apucay was spared the abuses of the Japanese Army which was at their worst after Allied Forces had landed in Nasugbu in January of 1945 to being the liberation of Luzon, including Batangas.

Source: History and Cultural Life of the Barrio of Apacay

Caysasay
The general belief was that the name of this barrio was taken from kasay-kasay or the southern silvery kingfisher, a specie native to the Philippines2. These birds were apparently often perched on the twigs of trees overlooking the river (presumably the Pansipit) nearby. The barrio was supposed to have existed long before the Spaniards arrived in the country. To secure the barrio and the rest of Taal from Moro3 and Chinese pirates, a “high rectangular watch tower made of adobe stones was constructed at the highest point” of the barrio. Sentinels were always stationed at the tower to check on travelers who were returning especially late at night.

During the Spanish era, soldiers of the colonial government supposedly angered by their inability to catch a white goose in the barrio set the entire place on fire, forcing the inhabitants to flee. In 1911, “one half of the total homes in the barrio was reduced to ashes of unknown origin.” This probably had something to do with the eruption of Taal Volcano that same year.

Source: History and Cultural Life of the Barrio of Caysasay

The southern silvery kingfisher, known in Tagalog as kasay-kasay, from which Caysasay was believed to have been derived.  Image by Joseph Smit - Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1878.
Jalang (Halang)
Barrio Jalang was supposed to have also existed as a sitio when the pueblo of Taal was founded. The reference document stated that Jalang was supposed to have been a word of the local dialect, although the explanation was ambiguous. This would likely have been “halang,” a variant of “harang” or blockade in English. Of what, we are left to conjecture.

Jalang was one of the barrios of Taal greatly affected by the 1911 eruption of Taal Volcano. More than a thousand were said to have died and many more “were too helpless to recover.” Late in World War II, as the Japanese went into their well-documented rampage, in Jalang, “more than a hundred persons were killed and about forty houses were burned.”

Source: History and Cultural Life of the Barrio of Jalang

The sort of damage the eruption of Taal Volcano caused in the town of Taal in 1911.  Photo from John Tewell's collection on Flickr.
Kultihan (Cultihan)
The barrio’s name was supposed to have been taken from the “kultihan4 ” or tanning industry that one of the barrio lieutenants was supposed to have started. The lieutenant was supposed to have been one Celestino Garnero, who was well-traveled and was supposed to have seen the tanning process during a visit to the province of Bulacan. He had four cement receptacles called “kuluong” built to start the industry, and invited other inhabitants of the barrio to witness the tanning process to encourage them to get starting in the “kulithan” or tanning industry as well.

Source: History and Cultural Life of the Barrio of Kultihan

Tulo
According to folklore, the name of this barrio was supposed to have been taken from the water that used to continuously drop from a large rock in an elevated place within its territory. The place was initially uninhabited and was initially settled by the families of Florencio Alvarez and Ramon Holgado. During the Spanish era, unfair taxes were levied on the barrio’s inhabitants, forcing many inhabitants to join the “insurrectos” or rebels. They were led by one Captain Crisanto Catapang, who would also be among those who fought the Americans in the Philippine-American War.

In World War II, many inhabitants of the barrio were forced to evacuate to the mountains to avoid the Japanese Army. In February 1945, when the Allied Forces had started to liberate Batangas, the Japanese burned down nineteen houses in the barrio, although fortunately nobody was killed.

Source: History and Cultural Life of Barrio Tulo

Notes and references:
1 Captain Juan de Salcedo was second in command of an expedition sent to explore Luzon by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1570. The head of the expedition was Master-of-Camp (Colonel) Martin de Goiti/e.
2Southern silvery kingfisher,” Wikipedia.
3 The earliest Spanish conquistadores referred to non-Christian natives of the Philippines generally as Moros, so that the pirates referred to in the documents were not necessarily from Mindanao.
4 “Kulti” meaning tanned. Online at TagalogTranslate.com.

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