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

The Agoncillo Public Market.  Image credit:  Google Earth Street View.
This article is part of a series dedicated to bringing to younger readers otherwise forgotten historic and folkloric information about the barrios of Batangas. The information included here has been taken from documents submitted by Department of Education districts around the country in 1953 to the national government to help reconstruct the nation’s history. This was made necessary because of the destruction of many documents in World War II.

This time, our attention turns to the barrios of the Municipality of Agoncillo, which used to be part of Lemery. Not all the barrios are included. It may be that no documents were submitted for some barrios; or if there were, these had been eroded by time and not been digitized by the National Library of the Philippines, which has archived these documents. In some cases, present day barrios were also part of other barrios back when the documents were submitted.

[Noted: Because servers of the National Library of the Philippines appear to be offline at the time of this article’s publication, regrettably the source documents for each barrio cannot be hyperlinked for readers who wish to follow through.]

Balangon
Folklore has it that some Spaniards had passed by the barrio and asked for water from the natives, who then pointed them towards the balon (well). “Balon,” the natives said, but the Spaniards misheard and said “bal-ngon,” or so the story went. Officially, the barrio was established in 1896, albeit the original site of the first pueblo of Taal in 1572 was at a similarly named village. Much of Balangon used to be owned by the wealthy families of Flaviano Agoncillo and Ignacio Ilagan, but parcels of land would eventually be sold to farmers.

During the Spanish era, most of Balangon’s inhabitants lacked education but children learned to read and write from the “kartilya” (presumably “cartilla1” or learning cards) and some Arithmetic from a paid tutor. This changed during the American era when a public school was opened and children were required to attend. For most of World War II, Balangon was left untouched by the horrors of war and served as something of an evacuation place for people from Lemery and Taal.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Balangon

Banyaga
According to the source document, the word “banyaga,” most often translated into English as foreign, could also mean “sa ibayo2” (to the opposite) or “sa kabila” (to the other side). This barrio was so named because most of its original settlers were from Taal, which was to the other side of the “ilog” or river. The barrio was supposed to have been established in the mid-nineteenth century, after brigands called “tulisanes” abandoned it. Its original families were those of Ireneo de Leon, Mariano Orosa, Timoteo Agojo and Dionisio Landicho.

During the Spanish era, a brigand by the name of Montalan robbed rich people and stored his loot in a cave in Banyaga which would become known as “Kuweba ni Montalan” (Montalan’s Cave). Like Balangon, Banyaga was spared from the rigors of World War II. Japanese soldiers trying to escape capture by American troops, however, fled to the barrio and were promptly slain by the inhabitants.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Banyaga

Banyaga was originally thought to have meant "from the other side of the rive."  Image loaded directly from Goodcatchfish.com.
Bilibinwang
This barrio’s name was supposed to have been a local translation of the word “gulf,” and was therefore thought of as descriptive of its location, i.e. at the western end of a gulf in Taal Lake. An alternative folkloric story was that Spanish officials wanted the barrio named after three men called Benito, Librado and Juan. Over time, people just started calling the barrio instead by the first syllables of the three men’s names. The barrio was first settled in 1916. According to the source document, there were “eight little huts with a good number of 10 families” which dotted the barrio. They (the families) “began to exploit the idle land which for many years had escaped public notice.” Fortuitously, no Japanese soldiers set foot on the barrio during World War II.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Bilibinwang

Coral na Munti
This barrio used to be part of Balangon and was composed of four sitios named Maligaya, Bilog-bilog, Bagong Pook and Mabini. While on an errand from the barrio lieutenant of Balangon to notify other sitios about a barrio meeting, a messenger was supposed to have passed through this place and found a small corral or pen (coral/koral na munti). This is the folkloric origin of this barrio’s name. It was originally settled by families from neighboring barrios who were seeking for new lands to settle.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Coral na Munti

Panhulan
This barrio was established in 1865. According to folklore, Spanish soldiers encountered a woman who was then on her way to see a manghuhula (fortune teller) by the name of Epe. When the soldiers asked the woman what the name of the barrio was, she thought that they were asking where she was headed and answered, “Sa pahulaan (to the fortune teller’s)” The name stuck and, with the passage of time, inhabitants of the barrio changed “pahulaan” to the barrio’s present name.

The barrio’s original families were those of Andales Mendoza, Lorenzo Caballo, Andres Encarnacion, Liberato Mendoza and Felino Catena. They were all related to one another and lived in small huts made of bamboo and reeds. During the Spanish era, the people used the caingin3 method to clear lands. Many of the barrio’s inhabitants joined the revolutionary movement as a response to Spanish harassment and cruelty. In 1944, the adult males of the barrio were summoned by Japanese officers to the Pansipit Hotel and severely punished on suspicion of their involvement with the guerrilla movements.

Source: Historical Data of the Barrio of Panhulan

Pahunlang was supposed to have originally been "Pahulaan."  Image credit:  CNBC.
Pansipit
Pansipit is an old village the date of establishment of which could not be established. It used to be owned by the family of a wealthy priest by the name of Father Godofredo Mariño. Settlers from as far as the town of Tanauan came to the barrio to work in the farm owned by the Mariños, many of them with the passage of time able to purchase plots of land. These families would comprise the core of what would ultimately become the barrio.

In 1898, Filipino revolutionary forces under the command of General Emilio Aguinaldo and Spanish Civil Guards had an armed encounter in Pansipit. Many of Aguinaldo’s men were killed. The Guardia Civil burned houses in the village and confiscated food and livestock. During World War II, despite the atrocities being committed everywhere by the Japanese, the only casualty in Pansipit was one Ardiano Endozo, who was killed by the Filipino-Japanese Constabulary.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Pansipit

Pook
The barrio’s name was supposed to have been given by the original family that lived in it, although the folkloric story failed to explain why. These original inhabitants were Bartolome, Maria and Bernardino Mendoza; Tomas and Juana Alilio; and Josefa Alcazar. The inhabitants of the barrio were supposedly killed and their houses burned for no other reason than their use of Tagalog when talking to the Spaniards (presumably, these were uneducated folks who had not learned to speak Spanish). In contrast, the Americans were welcomed because “they came to spread democracy in the Philippines.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Pook

Subic
The original families of Subic were the Malabanans, Cabreras, Holgados and de Saguns. In the seventeenth century4, when revolts broke out against Spanish rule in Luzon, Spanish troops were supposed to have scattered and some ended up in Subic. During the Spanish era, farmers in the barrio cleared forests for cultivation using the caingin system. Inhabitants of the barrio were said to have fled to the hills and those caught in their houses were killed and their houses burned. Prior to the construction of a school in the barrio in 1929, children had to hike all the way to Pook to attend school. The school was constructed through the efforts of Graciano Alcantara, Vicente Maligalig and one Mr. Antonio. In World War II, military trainees and officers from Subic who managed to escape from Bataan organized themselves into an underground guerrilla movement and continued to resist the Japanese. Because of their presence, Subic was left practically untouched by the soldiers of the occupying army.

Source: Historical Data for the Barrio of Subic

Notes and references:
1Cartilla,” Wikipedia.
2Ibayo,” Tagalog Translate.
3 Caingin or kaingin was the method of slashing and burning trees to clear lands for cultivation. Online at Merriam-Webster.
4 There is every likelihood that the author was referring to the Tagalog revolts of 1745, which was therefore in the eighteenth rather than seventeenth century.

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