08 November 2017

When the Town of Bauan was founded along the Shores of Taal Lake

Sugarcane crusher in Bauan during the early years of the American colonial era.  Image credit:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
For most modern day people of Batangas, it is probably stock knowledge that the town of Bauan is close to the shores of Batangas Bay and is right next door to the town of San Pascual and Batangas City. What is probably less well-known is that Bauan, in the seventeenth century, was founded along the shores of Bombon or what is now known as Taal Lake.

According to Augustinian records, the pueblo of Baoang (spelled the Spanish way), was founded in the year 1641 and was under the larger geopolitical unit of what was then the Province of Balayan1. A pueblo was a Christian mission or community which the Spaniards set up in their colonies around the world, and from which towns and cities would eventually grow.

Dr. Isagani R. Medina, writing in “Kasaysayan ng Bauan” (History of Bauan) in 19922, stated that the name “baoang” meant “bundok na may hugis ng ngipin ng lagari at baku-bako” (a mountain that has the shape of the tooth of a saw and jagged). Medina’s definition was taken from the eighteenth century publication “Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala3,” which defined “bauang” as “monte cerrado (serrado) y aspero” (a rough and serrated mountain).

A 1923 Anthropology paper4 claimed that Bauan was originally founded on a place called Diñgin on the lakeshore border of what is present-day Alitagtag. Medina did not mention Diñgin, but corroborated that old Bauan was originally at the foot of Mount Maculot. From its vantage point, indeed the mountain would have looked jagged and not unlike a tooth. This would have added credence to Medina’s assumption on the origin of the town’s name.

There are those, however, who prefer the less scholarly explanation. According to the 1953 document “Historical Data of the Municipality of Bauan5,” the town’s name was taken from “bawang” or garlic. Popular folklore had it that some Spaniards happened to pass by the pueblo one day when village folks were planting their fields. One of the Spaniards asked the farmers what they were planting; and when one replied that it was “bawang,” the Spaniards thought that this was also the name of the pueblo.

At any rate, Medina further wrote that Bauan was then known as the “segundo hijo de Taal” (second son of Taal) after Balayan (the first son). The two were known as “visitas,” a “visita” according to Medina being a “small community with a chapel but without a resident priest.” From this we presume that both Balayan and Bauan were visited by Augustinian priests who were resident in Taal not just to administer the Sacraments but also to instruct the Indios (natives) in the ways of the Christian faith.

There was, however, also a political side to the “visita” that went beyond proselytizing. The “visitador” or inspector during the Spanish colonial era was a royally appointed official who visited towns, often unannounced, to inspect the administration of justice as well as “other aspects of civic administration6.”

Although Augustinian records listed the founding of Bauan officially as a pueblo as 1641, in fact, Medina wrote, the setting up of a “visita” from Taal was done as early as 1590. Fr. Diego de Avila was given the task of ministering to the natives. Six years later, in 1596, it became a parish in itself.

A map of the Taal Volcano area in 1911.  Image credit:  The Eruption of Taal Volcano January 30, 1911,” by Rev. Miguel Saderra Maso, S.J.
At this time, Medina wrote, Bauan (which he referred to as “Lumang” or Old Bauan or Tambo) already had a church along with a convent or a residence for the Augustinian religious. These structures were built right along the edge of the Taal Lake, which at the time was still connected to Balayan Bay and had a marine or saltwater ecosystem.

By 1641, Medina continued, Bauan was again made a “visita” of Taal. This is in conflict with Augustinian records published in 18921 which said that Bauan (or Baoang) was administered from Balayan, so I referred the matter to avid Batangas researcher Dr. Jigger Gilera, M.D. He conjectures that there were likely two provinces in what is presently Batangas at about this time and that latter historians rather tended to take one as part of the other and vice-versa.

From its original location in “Lumang” Bauan or Tambo, Medina wrote, the community of Bauan under Fr. Jose Rodriguez would move to Durungaw in 1662 and stay there until 1671. Records7 show that there were eruptions of Taal Volcano in 1634 and 1645, so these likely had something to do with Bauan’s relocation. In fact, the volcano’s frequent eruptions were responsible for the relocation of the towns of Taal, Lipa and Tanauan as well.

The community would move again in 1671 under Fr. Nicolas de Rivera, this time to the west of Bauan near a sitio called Sinala. A second church and convent were constructed. The final relocation was in 1690 close to where the modern town of Bauan is located, a place called Tulasan which Medina wrote was not far from Punta de Asufre and Maricaban Island.

[Acknowledgment: Thanks to Jigger Gilera M.D. for providing me the link the digitized version of Dr. Medina's work and for clarifying the discrepancy about the founding of Bauan as a pueblo according to Augustinian records and Medina's work.]

Notes and references:
1Memoria acerca de las Misiones de los PP. Agustinos Calzados en las Islas Filipinas: presentada al Excmo. Sr. Ministro de Ultramar,” Madrid 1892.
2 Along with other bits of information contained in this article, from “Kasaysayan ng Bauan,” by Dr. Isagani R. Medina, 1992.
3Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala,” by Juan de Noceda, Pablo Clain and Pedro de Sanlucar. First published 1754.
4The History, Archeology, Folklore and Ancient Songs of Bauan and Its Vicinity,” by Celedonio P. Gloria, 1923, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
5Historical Data of the Municipality of Bauan,” edited by Pedro A. Madlangbayan, 1953, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
6Visitador,” online at Encyclopædia Brittanica.
7The Eruption of Taal Volcano January 30, 1911,” by Rev. Miguel Saderra Maso, S.J., published 1911

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