The Second Philippine Commission, otherwise known as the Taft Commission, was appointed by the United States President William McKinley in 1900. By 1902, the United States Congress would pass the so-called Philippine Organic Act which would grant executive and legislative powers to this commission in the Philippines1.
In 1901, members of the commission were meeting with provincial representatives for legislative purposes and also with an eye on the future creation of an elected national assembly. On the 2nd of May of the same year, the commission sat down with representatives from the towns of Balayan, Batangas, Bauan, Batangas, Calaca, Lemery, Liang (Lian), Lipa, Nasugbu, San Jose, Santo Tomas and Tanawan (Tanauan).
Seven other towns of Batangas were not represented. A record of the proceedings is contained in the commission’s report2 to the Secretary of War dated December 1901. All readers will please note that this meeting was held while the Philippine-American War was still going on and Batangas was still very much involved in it.
Present to represent the commission were Dean C. Worcester, Henry Clay Ide, Bernard Moses and an unnamed “president,” presumably William Howard Taft. A full listing of Batangas’ representatives will be given at the bottom of this article. Among these were members of the clergy, the presence of whom was welcomed by the Americans because they exercised “so much influence on the people.”
The morning session was used by members of the commission to explain to the representatives from Batangas matters relating to governance, in particular the Municipal Code. The afternoon was more of a fact-finding session, and it is from this that we are able to build a descriptive picture of the state of Batangas in the era.
- Batangas was considered a third-class province during the Spanish era, with an estimated population of 300,000. As per the first Philippine Census undertaken by the Americans in 1903, the number was 245,109. Historians consider this census as unreliable, but the discrepancy can also be explained by deaths due to the war as well as the cholera and other epidemics that broke out likely as a result of the concentration camp policy enforced by the Americans to flush out the army of General Miguel Malvar.
- The province of Batangas’ annual revenue amounted to ₱400,000, of which ₱300,000 was obtained from the “cedula” or community tax. The amount did not include municipal or town revenues. The cedula was believed to have been the principal source of revenue during the insurrection3.
- An outbreak of rinderpest, also known as the cattle plague4, killed as much as 90 per cent of all cattle and carabao in Batangas. This had a great impact on the state of agriculture in the province, and fields had to be plowed using horses or manually by hand.
- Sugar had become Batangas’ chief produce, overtaking coffee, which had declined sharply after the late nineteenth century boom – particularly at Villa de Lipa – had been abruptly curtailed by a fungus infestation5. The province also produced hemp (a plant spun into fiber6) and rice, but in amounts insufficient for local consumption.
- While there was a number of “well-constructed roads” in Batangas, these “were in need of repair” and some were virtually impassable during the monsoon season. At that time, however, one could travel by (horse-drawn) carriage from Batangas to Manila.
The members of the commission also used the meeting to consult with the representatives from Batangas on some matters of governance. Among the salient points were:
- That a cedula or community tax of ₱1 would be levied until the land tax could be enforced. This was on the condition that the taxes collected were to be spent in the municipalities where they were collected.
- The taxpaying age for the cedula would be lowered from 23 to 18, because it was believed that a Filipino at the age of 18 could already earn his living. It was also suggested that the maximum age for an individual to be levied the cedula tax be set at 55 years, “as a man was entitled to rest at that age.”
- The provincial representatives were asked if the organization of a provincial government “would aid the cause of peace” in Batangas. They replied that it was what the people of Batangas so desired and the reason they had all come to the meeting.
- There was a discussion about whether there was wisdom or not in the “presidentes” (the equivalent of mayors in the present day) meeting four times each year given the difficulty of transportation. The representatives said that this was possible if the government would provide a launch each time a meeting was set, since there were no regular steamers (steam ships) scheduled between coast points as yet.
- The location of the province’s capital in the government to be formed was not as yet discussed.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the presiding officer announced the appointment of the Province of Batangas’ new officials: Felix Roxas, Governor; Florencia Cardo, Secretary; R. D. Blanchard, Treasurer; and Diego Gloria, Fiscal.
Full listing of the representatives from Batangas:
Balayan: Manuel Ramirez (President), Vivencio Ramos, Felipe Ramos, Julian Afable, Matias Carides, Lucas Alcaraz, Cornelio Alcaraz, Tiburcio Asimundo, Pascual Ramos and Felix Nugaon (all Residents)
Batangas (town of): Jose Villanueva (President, Federal Party), Florencio R. Caedo, Potenciano Hilario and Pedro Pastor (all Members, Federal Party)
Bauan: Sebastian Bonal (President), Cipriano Buenviaje (Vice-President), Antonio Lonalhati (probably Lualhati) and Felipe Contreras (Members, Federal Party)
Calaca: Higinio Concepcion (President), Perpetuo de Joya (Member, Federal Party), Eugenio Marasigan (Secretary, Federal Party) and Petronilo Macatangay (Treasurer, Federal Party)
Lemery: Ricardo Aguirre (President), Agapito Panganiban (Secretary), Leonicio Noble and Jose Baldora (both Residents)
Liang: Timoteo Zarsozo (President), Lorenzo Hermita (Municipal Secretary), Gregorio Linjoco (Secretary, Federal Party), Sinforceo Lamano (Treasurer, Federal Party)
Lipa: Valeriano Calao (President), Jose Templo (Vice-President), Primitivo Calao (Police Lieutenant), Jose Villapando (Member, Federal Party), Martin Quizon (Municipal Captain) and Laureano Manalo (Resident)
Nasugbu: Florencio G. Oliva, Carlos Castillos and Pedro Rodriques (all Residents)
San Jose: Ambrosio Makalintal, Salvador Aguila, Juan Mitra, Basilio Aldae (probably Alday), Daniel Luna and Sixto de Leon (all Representatives)
Santo Tomas: Jacinto Meer (President), Pedro Castillo (Vice-President), Eulalio Aro, Ambrocio Sanchez, Nicolas Navarro, Mariano Malabuyo, Joaquin Arullas, Gregorio Torres (all Councilors), Jose Malolos, Tomas Meer, Victoriano Villegas, Potenciano Medrana, Juan Torres and Marceliano Villegas (all Members of the Federal Party)
Tanawan: Florention Laureano (President), Ruperto Laurel (Secretary, Federal Party), Pantaleon Gonzales, Florentino Collantes (both Councilors), Buenaventura Tapia, Juan Gonzales, Valentin Dimayuga (all Members of the Federal Party) and Sixto Macaisa (Resident)
Notes and references:1 “Philippine Commission,” Wikipedia.
2 “Report of the United States Philippine Commission to the Secretary of War for the Period from December 1, 1900 to October 15, 1901,” published December 1901 by the Division of Insular Affairs, (United States) War Department.
3 The “insurrection” mentioned must have been the one against Spanish colonial rule late in the nineteenth century.
4 “Rinderpest,” Wikipedia.
5 “Demythologizing the History of Coffee in Lipa, Batangas in the XIX Century,” by Ma. Rita Isabel Santos Castro, December 2003.
6 “Hemp,” Wikipedia.