October 8, 2019

The Legendary Tulisan Romang Gabi, the “Robin Hood” of Spanish-era Batangas

Image credit:  Bamboo Tales at Project Guttenberg.
Image credit:  Bamboo Tales at Project Guttenberg.
From the so-called “historical data1” for the barrio of Muzon 2nd in the town of Alitagtag, Batangas, we hear of this forgotten legendary story about something of a Robin Hood figure in Spanish-era Batangas. His name was Roman Abratigue, and whether he was from Batangas or not, the source document failed to say.

What the source did say was that Abratigue was a tulisan or a bandit; and that he and his group’s plunders brought them “to the different towns of Batangas and Mindoro.”

The histories of barrios around Batangas are replete with stories of indiscriminate plunder by the tulisanes or bandits who were, therefore, regarded as nuisances and looked upon with both fear and disdain by locals.

Abratigue, on the other hand, was regarded in an altogether different light. His exploits were remembered in Batangas “with a certain fondness akin to admiration.”

This was because this particular tulisan targeted only the convents and was something of a Robin Hood figure. The convent in this context was the residence of the friars. That they were targeted suggests the presence of “riches;” and that looting them drew admiration from the locals places the setting of the story as likely the 19th century.

Whether Abratigue shared his loot with locals, the source did not say; albeit it was likely.



The bandit was fondly remembered as “Romang Gabi” because, according to the story, “he was said not to get wet which is a characteristic of the gabi (taro) plant.” He had in his possession probably a variety of charms or amulets, two of which were described by the source document:
“He also had other amulets like “Bungang kalog” which made him [an] impregnable target to bullet shots. He also possessed a “taga-bulag,” a charm that enraged the Spanish soldiers who frequently trailed him. He would lean back against a wall or post and anyone could walk past him without seeing him.”
Once, he was pursued by the Guardia Civil to Sambi, a sitio of the barrio of Tadlac in the town of Alitagtag2. Fighting took place between the Spanish soldiers and Abratigue’s band of tulisanes. Abratigue himself was said to have “danced among the sugarcane plants within shooting range, but he was unscathed.”

Spanish authorities did find a way to make him surrender. They “maltreated his relatives and neighbors, exhorting them to yield the notorious bandit.” At the pleadings of his kinsfolk, Abratigue finally decided to turn himself in.

He was said to have been “imprisoned for some time” and that, upon his release, “he left for good the charmed life he led as a bandit.”
RELATED STORY. READ: “19th Century Tulisanes Banditry in Calaca, Batangas

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Notes and references:
1Muzon 2nd, Alitagtag, Batangas: Historical Data,” transcribed version online at Batangas History. Original online at the “National Library of the Philippines”.
2Alitagtag, Batangas,” Wikipedia.

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