December 27, 2018

When Alitagtag was a “Resort of Ghosts and Devils,” and the Cross that Purged These

The mysterious cross was used to ward off the fiends of Taal Volcano.
The mysterious cross was used to ward off the fiends of Taal Volcano.
[In this article: Filipino myths, Batangas myths, Batangas folklore, Alitagtag Batangas, Holy Cross, patron of Alitagtag, patron of Bauan, Charles Montgomery Skinner]
Batangas History is committed to seeking out Batangas myths and folklore so these may be republished and, therefore, presented to a contemporary audience in the hope that they will not be completely forgotten, especially by those from or who currently live in the localities where they are set.

This feature is taken from a book1 published in 1900 by the American journalist and newspaper editor Charles Montgomery Skinner. He authored many books, three of which was about myths, legends and folklore from across the United States and beyond, including the Philippines2.

This particular myth presented by Skinner was set in the towns of Alitagtag, Bauan and Taal; and sound a lot like it was a version of the story of the miraculous cross of Alitagtag. The Holy Cross, incidentally, is the patron saint of the two present-day towns of Bauan and Alitagtag, the latter having been a barrio of the former until 19093.
[READ: “The Legend of the Miraculous Holy Crosses of Alitagtag and Bauan.”]
The myth is presented below as Skinner wrote it in his book, which naturally would have been told originally in Tagalog. Annotations are provided in brackets [x] where necessary; and the original text was broken down into paragraphs for the readers’ convenience:
THE MIRACULOUS CROSS OF ALITAGTAG*

Alitagtag, north of Bauan, became in 1595 a resort of ghosts and devils that congregated about a spring near the village, so that the people were afraid to go there for water. A native headman took wood from a deserted house, made a cross of it, and set it up near the spring to spell away the fiends.

As the people still feared, a woman of courage ventured near the place to find that a stream of cold, pure water was flowing from one of the arms of the cross. To further assure the people that the evil spirits had been mastered the cross arose from the earth and stalked about the fields, surrounded by bright lights.

Thereupon the clergy ordered that it should be adored, and from that time it became an object of worship, healing diseases, dispelling plagues, and killing locusts. When the priests at Bauan announced that they intended to move the cross to Lake Bombon [presently referred to as Taal Lake], the priest of Taal, being jealous of his brothers in the other town, hired some natives to steal it and take it to his house.



No sooner had the men assembled for this purpose than sheets of green fire fell about the cross, defending it from their approach, and in a frenzy of contrition they ran back, solemnly vowing that they would never make a similar attempt again.

The cross was, therefore, taken to Bauan, where it did service for the people by terrorizing a band of pirates and by stopping an eruption of the Taal volcano in 1611. This peak of Taal had been a resort of devils from time immemorial, and it had been a frequent duty of the Church to pray them into silence.

In the year just named Father Albuquerque [an Augustinian missionary stationed in the pueblo of Taal] headed a procession that ascended the mountain for this purpose. Near the summit he paused and lifted the cup containing the blood of Christ. Dreadful noises were heard, like the laughter of ten thousand fiends, in vaults below.

Then, with a groan and crash, the earth split and two craters appeared, one filled with boiling sulphur, the other with green water. The cross was sent for. It was brought by four hundred natives. When it was put into the priest's hands he lifted it toward the sky and all united in prayer.

During this petition, while every head was bent and all eyes were shut, the craters softly closed and Taal was as it had been before. Yet the demons still linger about the mountain. Not many years ago an Englishman tunneled the peak for sulphur.

The fiends of the volcano shook the roof down on his head and he perished. In May it has been a custom to hold a feast in honor of this cross, if the natives furnish the necessary candles and raise ten dollars for the officiating priest.
* Title provided by Batangas History.

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Notes and references:
1Myths & Legends of our New Possessions & Protectorate,” by Charles Montgomery Skinner, published 1900 in the United States.
2Charles Montgomery Skinner,” Wikipedia.
3Executive Order No. 43 Creating the Municipality of Alitagtag,” Batangas History.

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