In 1953, Department of Education divisions all over the country had to submit local histories to the National Library of the Philippines to compensate for historical documents destroyed during World War II. These documents have been digitized and are now available at the NLP’s web site.
From these documents, we are able to extract folkloric stories about how certain barrios or barangays in the present day got their names. In many instances, these stories have been forgotten in the present day. This is just the first of a series of articles of this nature; and naturally, we begin with my home city of Lipa.
Adyâ is a barangay to the south of Poblacion, Lipa City. It was supposed to have been called, in the olden days, “Sa Pook.” In the fifties, Adya had three sitios: Adyâ Proper, Mahabang Labak and Carot. How the place became known as Adyâ, according to folklore, was due to the veneration of an image of San Roque that supposedly appeared in the community.
The prayer to San Roque had a line that went “Ipag-adya mo po akami sa gutom, giyera at peste.” (Protect us from hunger, war and pestilence.) One day, a group of Spaniards came while the people were in prayer. They wanted to know the name of the place. The people, stricken with fear, replied in unison, “Adyâ!” The Spaniards thought that they were answering their question, and from then on, the place came to be known as Adyâ1.
Anilao is another barangay south of Poblacion, Lipa City. Old folks back in the early sixties used to say that Anilao used to be a forested area that was cleared by “kaingin” and then settled by a small group of families. It would eventually become a sitio of Villa de Lipa during the years of the coffee boom. The barrio was named Anilao after a tree that towered above the “surrounding luxuriant vegetation.” The tree was likely the one with the scientific name gonocaryum calleryanum, a medicinal softwood tree used in Batangas to treat malaria and rheumatism2.
According to old folks back in the fifties, when this barrio was first settled and started to grow, there was in the middle of the small community a very tall antipolo tree. This is another medicinal tree with the scientific name artocarpus blancoi (Elmer) Merr3. According to folklore, whenever outsiders asked for directions to the place, people would point them in the direction of the tall antipolo tree around which the group of houses were built. They would likely have said “sa may antipolo” (where the antipolo is) until the name of the barrio stuck.
Bulacnin is a barrio to the northwest of Poblacion, Lipa City. The barrio originally used to be called “Kay Magtago.” It was a sanctuary for people who ran away from being persecuted by outlaws. Its present name was, according to folklore, taken from a spring in an area called Malabanan from which the barrio’s inhabitants used to get water for home consumption. From the context of the story, we can infer either that the spring itself was named “bulaknin” (in Filipino spelling) or it is an archaic word that means “spring.” Contemporarily, we say “bukal” to mean the same thing.
Barrio Cumba is just south of Poblacion Lipa City. Village elders in the early fifties used to say that the barrio was founded in the latter part of the seventeenth century, albeit this is not backed up by documents. Among the earliest families to settle the area were the Hernandezes, the Panganibans, the Litans and the Igles. The name of the barrio, according to folklore, was derived from its topography. The earliest settlers, or so folklore went, referred to the rolling landscape as “cumba-cumba.”
Barrio Labak was supposed to have been settled in 1763 by a group of eight families originally from another barrio called Bagongpook, also in what was then the town of Lipa. The families cleared the forested area by kaingin and then set about cultivating the land to earn their living. During the coffee boom years of the eighteenth century, two coffee merchants were supposed to have arrived and told that the inhabitants of the barrio that coffee plants would thrive in their land. The merchants described the land in the barrio as “lob-ak,” meaning lowlands. According to folklore, those who heard the name would propose that “lobak” be the official name of the barrio, something that, over time, would become “Labak.”
|Harvesting Coffee in Batangas, 1927. Image credit: U.S. National Archives; University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.|
The barrio of Latag, to the east of Poblacion, used to be a thickly forested area before settlers came to clear the land for cultivation. According to folklore, the wives of the farmers who settled the land used to wash clothes in a creek that ran close to the settlement. These wives found a suitable piece of land on the banks of the creek to spread out the newly washed clothes for drying because “the rays of the sun fell directly on the place and no trees can block the heat…” The act of laying down the clothes to dry, in Tagalog, is of course “latag.” Over time, the entire barrio would come to be known by this name.
South of Poblacio, the barrio of Malagonlong was originally sparsely populated and the original settlers initially picked a place a place that was far from a water source. This raised difficulties, forcing the inhabitants to relocate to somewhere closer to a brook. The soil’s fertility soon began to attract other settlers. One day, according to folklore, the village leaders decided to call a meeting so that a name for the barrio could be decided. The name Malagonlong was decided upon because it was “inspired by the sound of the brook as it flowed along its stony bed which, according to them, was ‘lagonglong nang lagonglong’ 😂 (Tagalog description of the sound of the brook’s flowing water).”
Malalim na Lodlod
The more common name of this barrio west of Poblacion is, as everyone knows, Lodlod. According to folklore, there once lived in the barrio a dyer, who was dependent for his water supply on a spring of water somewhere in the area. Unfortunately, the spring dried up. Because his trade was dependent on a continuous supply of water, he was forced to dig a well in the lowest part of the barrio. His thinking was that he would find water quicker than if he dug in the parts of the barrio where the land was higher. Before long, he struck water and the entire barrio would fetch water from the place. Because of the well that he dug, the barrio came to be known as “Malalim na Lodlod.” The word “lodlod” must be archaic Tagalog for “well” because most everyone contemporarily will probably say “balon.”
To the east of Poblacion, Lipa City is barrio Muntingpulo, which used to be known as Sapac-Muntingpulo. The place must have once been settled by cattle rustlers because, according to folklore, they hid the animals they had stolen in a small forest in the middle of the community. This small forest, said the village elders, used to be referred to as “pulo.” The use of the word must have been figurative because “pulo” is actually Tagalog for “island.”
Pangao is a barrio to the west on the outskirts of the city’s present-day boundaries. According to folklore, there used to run in the barrio a creek that mysteriously did not run dry even during the hot summer months. One day, some people went to the creek and witnessed something very strange. “About several hundred meters from the source of the creek, in the middle of the stream, the water suddenly dropped into a hole leaving the lower part of the creek dry.” They described the water as “napapangao sa butas,” which seemed to describe the water dropping into the hole. Word of the incident quickly spread and the entire barrio became known as Pangao. 😵
Pinagtungulan, as the barrio’s name is contemporarily spelled, is on the western outskirts of Lipa City. It used to be popularly known as “pulo,” but during the Spanish era, it became known as Pinagtongolan. This name, according to folklore, was from “pinagpong-ulan,” which translated into “a place where something was cut” or “a place where somebody was beheaded.”
|Pinagtongolan originally meant "a place where somebody was beheaded." Image credit: Battling Bastards Bataan.|
San Jose (Patay)
The name San Jose is, of course, of religious origin. However, this barrio of Lipa also has a curious albeit popular nickname – Patay, Tagalog for the dead or something that died. According to folklore, the original settlement was between two creeks, which during the dry season would run dry. The inhabitants of the barrio would refer to the creek as “patay” during the dry season until it became habitual for everybody to refer to the entire barrio by that name. It was not until 1951 when leaders of the barrio sought a change of name to San Jose.
Tangob and Tipakan
Tangob and Tipakan used to be one barrio just named Tangob. During the Spanish era, the barrio was named Santa Leonida. Later, the barrio would be renamed Tangob. The northern side of the barrio was called “Tangob na Bata” and would become the new barrio just named Tangob when the old barrio was divided. Meanwhile the southern side, which would become Tipakan, was called “Tangob na Matanda.” The origins of the barrios’ names are unclear, although the words themselves offer some clues. “Tangob” in English means tangled or entangled while “tipak” can refer to a slab or a piece of stone or even gravel.
Notes and references:1 It is a common theme in folkloric stories about the origins of towns and cities in Batangas to have a misunderstanding with a Spaniard or a group of Spaniards.
2 “Anilao (Gonocaryum Calleryanum),” online at CCAP Fair Trade for Development Inc.
3 “Antipolo,” online at Philippine Medicinal Plants.