May 2, 2018

Conditions of Bus Transportation around Batangas in the 1950s

Manila bound BLTBCo, circa 1962.  Image credit:  History of Batangas on FB, c/o Jigger Gilera, MD.
Manila bound BLTBCo, circa 1962.  Image credit:  History of Batangas on FB, c/o Jigger Gilera, MD.
[Keywords: Batangas Transportation Company, BTCo, Laguna Tayabas Bus Company, LTB, Calaca, Balayan, Lipa, Candelaria, Lemery, Batangas travel, land transportation, Supreme Court case Philippines, United Bus Lines]
From a Supreme Court of the Philippines decision1 on the case filed by the Batangas Transportation Company (BTCo) against Graciano Reyes, a businessman from Lemery who had petitioned to open additional bus lines around Batangas, we are able to obtain information about the state of land transportation in the province in the 1950s.

The case that BTCo filed was to challenge an earlier decision by the Public Service Commission to grant Reyes certificates of public convenience to operate buses in the Batangas to Balayan and Lemery to Lipa lines. Our interest, however, is less on the merits of the case and more on the information it provides about the state of land – specifically bus – transportation in Batangas in the 1950s.

From the testimony of Gabriel Gomez, the Chief Traffic Supervisor of the BTCo along with its sister company Laguna Tayabas Bus Company (LTB), both of which were founded by Max Blouse, we are able to ascertain which bus companies operated the Batangas to Nasugbu and Lemery to Lipa routes. The Batangas-Manila-Batangas route was outside of the scope of the Supreme Court document and is, thus, also excluded from this article.
[The story of BTCo and its subsequent merger with LTB is told in this article: BLTBCo: Why it was known as BTCo in Batangas and LTB in Manila]
The companies serving the routes were:

🚍 Batangas to Nasugbu via Balayan and vice-versa:
🚌 BTCo
  • First trip 5:30 a.m.; last trip 4:30 p.m.
  • Buses left the terminals at intervals of 30 minutes
🚍 Lemery to Manila via Lipa and vice-versa:
🚌 BTCo
  • First trip 5:30 a.m.; last trip 6:30 p.m.
  • Buses left the terminals at intervals of 30 minutes
🚌 United Bus Line
  • Operated 22 round trips or an interval of barely 10 minutes
🚌 Ray Bus Line
  • Operated with only 4 units
🚌 Biñan Transportation Company
  • Used to operate Lemery to Manila but quit and was sold to BTCo.

The testimonies in support of both the petitioner (BTCo) and the respondent (Reyes) were naturally conflicting. It is from these, however, that we gain valuable insights about land travel around Batangas just a decade after the end of the Second World War. There may even be, among the readers, those who remember the exact same conditions described in these testimonies. For easier reading, the salient points of each are presented in bullets:

👴 Graciano Reyes, respondent
  • when he commuted from Batangas and Balayan on Thursdays, there were so many passengers that he could not get an immediate ride. Since he did not want to cling to the sides of the bus2, he had to wait for the second or every third trips
  • most of the commuters from Batangas to Balayan and vice-versa were students, businessmen, merchants and workers at the Caltex Refinery in Bauan (at the time, San Pascual was still part of Bauan)
  • neither BTCo nor United Bus Line served the Lemery to Lipa route, albeit Reyes acknowledged that the two companies operated buses between Lemery and Candelaria and Lipa (this must have been Lemery to Candelaria via Lipa; the testimony itself was challenged by the petitioner, who argued that the Manila to Lemery service via Lipa was the same)
  • he could not get rides along the Lemery to Lipa via Cuenca route to bring his dry goods because the buses were often not only full but also the “express” type bound for Manila and did not pick up passengers along the road
👴 Macario Reyes, cousin of the respondent, an Alitagtag resident and Caltex dealer
  • students went to Lipa or Taal for their high school education, so BTCo and United Bus Line buses plying the roads between Lipa and Lemery were frequently filled with them along with farmers and fruit vendors from the towns between Lipa and Lemery
  • BTCo and United Bus Line buses bound from Lemery to Manila and Candelaria were “always” full (as mentioned, this was challenged by the petitioner)
  • there were (as yet) few jeepneys operating between Lipa and Lemery so commuters had to let 2 or 3 buses pass before they could get their rides
👴 Antonio Comia, farmer-businessman from Calaca, testifying for the respondent
  • said he travelled from Calaca to Lemery and Balayan thrice a week buying and selling farm products and testified that he had not seen United Bus Lines and jeepneys operating from Lemery to Balayan (in the 1960s and early 1970s, United Bus Lines operated a Manila to Lemery service; there was already jeepney service from Lemery to Balayan and from Balayan to Nasugbu)
  • there was no direct service operated by either BTCo or United Bus Line between Batangas and Lemery “except on holidays and fiestas” (the line that BTCo operated, as mentioned, was Batangas to Nasugbu via Balayan)
  • also said that the buses (of BTCo) were “always full and passengers frequently occupied the back seats reserved for cargoes” (Comia was likely referring to the shorter buses which BTCo continued to operate along the Batangas to Nasugbu route up to the sixties; the cargo section at the back was called the “cocina” and as Comia described, it was not uncommon for passengers to ride there along with farm animals and produce)
  • it was particularly difficult to get rides during the milling season and that he had to ride jeepneys or hitch on freight trucks; and that passengers from Balayan to Lemery and back were mostly merchants, farmers and students
Most of the testimonies from witnesses speaking in support of BTCo were really statistical numbers to refute the above claims and show instead that buses operated by both BTCo and United Bus Line were frequently running “seldom filled to capacity” (verbatim from BTCo Inspector Lauro Holgado from Pinagtungulan).

These statistics, albeit set aside by the Public Service Commission earlier as “self-serving,” were found by the Supreme Court not to be so and were, in fact, more credible than the testimonies offered by Reyes’ witnesses. Said the Supreme Court:
“The reports of the inspectors were prepared by them from notebooks just after the inspection and in the ordinary course of business. They should be considered originals because the notes were actually written by the inspectors themselves on their record notebooks immediately after making the inspection and immediately thereafter, after coming down from the buses, they copy the notes taken down and write them in their reports... Neither may they be considered self-serving because they have been taken by employees of the oppositor company in the course of business and in ordinary routinary duty on their part, and they are presumed to have been correct.”
To conclude, because of the above and the fact that the Supreme Court also found correctly that the lines (Batangas to Balayan; Lipa to Lemery) that Reyes was granted were in truth already being served by BTCo’s and United Bus Lines’ Batangas to Nasugbu via Balayan and Manila to Lemery via Lipa routes, the earlier decision of the Public Service Commission was reversed.

This is not to say that the Supreme Court thought that the witnesses in support of Reyes were lying, but only that the BTCo inspectors who testified “were in a better position, therefore, to tell the passenger loads of the buses…” Said the Supreme Court:
“That in some instances they may have failed to ride immediately, does not mean that the service is insufficient. At times perhaps, some buses may be filled but it is hard to believe that they are so full as to afford no room for one more passenger, as applicant's witnesses claim. These declarations of applicant's witness are much less reliable than the actual report of the inspectors of the oppositor company on the passenger load of their buses.”
Notes and references:
1Batangas Transportation Company v Graciano Reyes, 31 October 1958,” online at the LawPhil Project.
2 The old BTCo buses had seats laid across the body like long benches with no aisles in the middle. Passengers got on an off through the doors at the end of each row; and the conductors issued tickets and collected fares by swinging from one door to the other. Passengers, if they were daring when buses were already full, could if they wanted to travel by clinging to the posts of the doors.

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