March 2, 2018

19th Century Tanauan, Batangas as Described by a Spanish Historian

School-children in Tanauan during the American colonial era.  Image credit:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
We continue with the series of articles on late 19th century Batangas as described the former government official and historian Manuel Sastron in his book “Batangas y su Provincia1” (Batangas and Its Province). Our focus this time is the former pueblo and now city of Tanauan.

Sastron began by saying that Tanauan was 43 kilometers from the capital town of Batangas and 18 from Lipa. The actual distance from Tanauan to Batangas is actually less than 40 kilometers as the crow flies but Sastron’s figure was likely a measurement of road distance. Meanwhile, the distance he gave from Lipa is off by just a kilometer or two.

Tanauan, Sastron wrote, was bounded to the north and east by the pueblo of Santo Tomas, to the south by Villa de Lipa and to the west by the town of Talisay and Lake Bombon (Taal Lake). Note that the present-day municipality of Malvar was at this time still part of Lipa, hence the shared border between the latter and Tanauan.

Tanauan was populated, according to Sastron, by 22,000 “souls.” Contrast this to the 173,366 population yielded by the 2015 Philippine Census.

The town was connected to the rest of the province by roads constructed by the public works bureau. There was the main road from the capital town of Batangas. There was also another road that went to the town of Talisay. These along with other “neighborhood roads” could accommodate all sorts of animal-drawn carriages.

The San Juan, Guitiban and Tibalan were the main rivers that flowed through Tanauan; but there were minor streams such as the Bulalacao, Sabang, Angasin and Tipayan as well. Despite the abundance of water running through the town, Sastron wryly noted that Tanauan’s agricultural fields were basically dependent on rain, i.e. there was no system of irrigation.

The peasants of Tanauan, said Sastron, were among the most industrious in the entire province and produced a remarkable variety of crops: sugarcane, rice, corn, orange, garlic, mongo bean, peanut, tomato, potato bean (singkamas), purple yam (ube), sweetsop (atis), cottonfruit (santol), buri (palm), abaca, cocoa, coffee, sesame, eggplant, ginger, pepper, radish, mango, banana and many more.

Oranges (the mandarin variety, “sinturis” or “dalandan” in Tagalog) were among Tanauan’s major produces; and these were exported in bulk to Manila, neighboring provinces and even to some southern islands of the archipelago.

The cultivation costs in Tanauan, noted Sastron, were higher than in other towns (presumably in Batangas); and farmers who worked the fields were paid wages of ¢37 to ¢40, presumably per day. For comparison, carpenters and masons earned ¢40 to ¢75, presumably also on a daily basis.

Tanauan’s mountainous areas, about 500 quiñones2 according to Sastron, were lush with diverse varieties of trees such as the “anobing, antipolo, amoguis, banaba, bagarilao, balayong, calantas, himbabao, lumboy or duhat, molave, malanban, madrecacao, nangca, teni and talang.”

There were few uncultivated lands in Tanauan; and most of these were in the area near Lake Bombon. There were also few lands used by animals to graze.

While the growing of crops was a major preoccupation of the people of Tanauan, livestock raising compared unfavorably with some of the bigger pueblos. There were only 235 registered vaccinated cattle; 326 horses; 600 carabaos; and 1,500 sows.

Tanauan’s agricultural produce is supported by industries which help to process the harvests. There were mills to crush and process sugarcane, and these produced higher quality sugar. There were also devices to remove the hull from sugar, chop tobacco, crush corn and extract oil from seeds.

Apart from these, the pueblo’s inhabitants also set up looms in their homes from which they wove fabrics; and also made whips and other leather products by hand. These, Sastron noted however, were of inferior quality to those that were manufactured in Europe.

Tanauan exported its produce and brought in imports through the ports of Calamba and Taal. Goods were carried over land to these towns, then ferried by bancas through Laguna de Bay and Lake Bombon.

Tanauan did not have its own trial court or tribunal. However, there was a “cuartel” or barracks used by the Guardia Civil in the town.

The cuartel in Tanauan, picture taken during the American colonial era.  Image credit:  University of Michigan Digital Collections.
Tanauan’s church was under construction, Sastron wrote, and part of it was already being used for worship. It was a beautiful building not just because of its size but likewise because of its architecture. The church’s completion, he conjectured, would bring the utmost satisfaction to the parish priest Fr. Jose Diaz. The priest’s determination to complete a building project of such magnitude was noteworthy because of the difficulties that had to be overcome.

The convent or the parish house, meanwhile, was constructed during the term of Fr. Jose Martin, Diaz’s predecessor. Apart from the construction of the new church, Diaz was also responsible for a new cemetery which met sanitary requirements.

Tanauan also had two public primary schools located in well-constructed and spacious buildings. These were well attended – “crowded” was the word Sastron used – by students of both genders. There was also a private school which taught Latin.

The town celebrated two major religious festivals, the first in honor of St. John the Evangelist, its patron; and the second in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both festivals were fervently celebrated by the town’s inhabitants.

Sastron ended his description of Tanauan by saying that the town originated from the pueblo of Sala which was destroyed by the eruption of Taal Volcano3.

Notes and references:
1Pequeños Estudios, Batangas y Su Provincia,” by Manuel Sastron, published 1895.
2 The quiñon was an “agricultural production system based on the distribution of land with the objective of sowing and harvesting. The quiñón itself was the corresponding part of earth of each one of the members that share it.” Wikipedia.
3 Sastron was referring to the 1749 eruption of Taal Volcano. Tanauan was actually formed from the amalgamation of the two pueblos Sala and Tanauan.

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