19 November 2017

19th Century Ibaan as Described by a Spanish Historian

Image credit:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
We continue with the series featuring each of the 22 towns of Batangas as described by the Spanish historian Manuel Sastron in his book “Batangas y su Provincia1” (Batangas and Its Province) which was published in 1895. The information contained in the book was collected in the years preceding its publication in Malabon.

This time, we feature Ibaan, which Sastron described as located about seven kilometers from the capital (i.e. the town of Batangas), bounded to the north by San Jose, to the east by Taysan, the west by Bauan and the south by the town of Batangas.

Note that this was a time when San Pascual was still part of Bauan, which had a much larger territory than today. This explains why the town still shared a border with Ibaan. In the present day, part of Batangas City stands in between the two towns.

Sastron wrote that Ibaan’s total population was “8,712 souls.” The population was unevenly dispersed over the town’s hilly terrain; and at the time “did not offer any signs of urbanization.”

Ibaan was connected to other towns by way of seven roads that there were in fairly good condition. These roads had five bridges of good construction. The most frequently traversed route to the town, especially by merchants visiting to trade, was the one the one that led to San Jose. It was there that the road connected to the main highway.

It also had eight rivers and a dozen streams that ran through it, along with 15 estuaries. The farmers planted their fields with rice, sugarcane, corn and monggo. Despite the natural abundance of water, they were mostly dependent on rainfall to nurture their crops.

Ibaan’s farmers, like those in San Jose, Cuenca and most of all Villa de Lipa, had also benefited from the coffee boom earlier in the century; but were also hit hard when the plants started to die out. At the time of the book’s writing, all the coffee plants in Ibaan had died out.

Sugarcane appeared to have become Ibaan’s main produce after the decline of coffee. The town had several mills, most of them animal drawn, for crushing sugarcane; and sugar was among the most frequently sold product every Saturday when the town celebrated market day.

Sastron noted that the agriculture in Ibaan at the time suffered from the lack of beasts of burden along with the episodic attacks of diseases such as rinderpest, which had afflicted cattle in other towns of the province. The town had very few cattle.

Despite the apparent modesty of Ibaan and its inhabitants, the town had a fine church built of solid materials when Fr. Manuel Diez Gonzalez was the parish priest. Gonzalez was also responsible for the town’s cemetery, which according to Sastron met all the requirements for hygiene.

The façade was completed during the term of Fr. Bruno Laredo, along with the church’s towers. Finally, the completion of the church’s interior was done during the term of Fr. Vicente Maril.

The church underwent two consecutive incidents of aggravation, the second more destructive than the first. It was initially beset by a termite infestation, the destructive ability of which was described by Sastron as “incredible.” Decimated as the church was by the termites, then came the 1889 earthquake which had “the church collapse completely.”

The 1910 publication entitled “Catalogue of Violent and Destructive Earthquakes in the Philippines” described the 1889 earthquake this way: “Destructive earthquake in the Province of Batangas and northern Mindoro. It wrecked the church at Ibaan and severely damaged the church and other buildings in Batangas, Bauang, Calapan, and several other towns2.”

The quake rocked Batangas at Intensity 8.

Reconstruction of the church was undertaken during the term of Fr. Francisco Alvarez. While it was being rebuilt, church services were conducted in a temporary venue. Each year, Ibaan’s inhabitants celebrated a religious festival in honor of its patron Santiago Apostol.

School attendance in Ibaan was poor, Sastron observed; and an old school building was in ruins. Young girls were being taught by a teacher “without a normal degree,” i.e. without a degree from a normal school or a school for the training of teachers.

The town’s crime rate was low but the most common of which was the theft of animals.

Notes and references:
1Pequeños Estudios, Batangas y Su Provincia,” by Manuel Sastron, published 1895.
2 “Catalogue of Violent and Destructive Earthquakes in the Philippines,” by Reverend Miguel Saderra Maso, S.J., published 1910.

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