January 19, 2019

The Magic Book of a 19th Century Jesuit Priest in Alitagtag, Batangas

Image source:  The Children's Book Review.
[In this article: Batangas Province, Bauan Batangas, historical data, Batangas history and folklore, Alitagtag Batangas, magic book, Jesuit convent, Jesuit missionaries]
From the “Historical Data of the Municipality of Bauan1,” we get this short story about how a supposed magic book kept by a Jesuit priest in 19th century Alitagtag, then still a barrio of Bauan. These so-called “historical data” were compilations of local histories required by the administration of then-President Elpidio Quirino in 1951 of all Department of Education districts around the country to compensate for the loss of documents due to the Second World War.

This story about the magic book was one of several presumably compiled by one Margarita Gonzales, in most likelihood a teacher of the District of Bauan. The short story is told in its entirety below, with corrections made by Batangas History for grammar. Long paragraphs have also been broken into shorter ones for the reader’s convenience, and annotations given where deemed necessary.
The Magic Book

During the early part of the nineteenth century, Alitagtag was still a barrio of Bauan2. A great part of Alitagtag was still covered with forest.

In the place where the Holy Cross [Patron of both Alitagtag and Bauan] was found, a church and a big convent stood. There stood the building and a little nipa hut in a nearby farm. [Presumably, what the writer meant was that buildings were few and these were the only two in the vicinity.]

The other inhabitants of the barrio lived in scattered places where the town [i.e. of Alitagtag] is now located.

In the big convent, there lived a group of missionary priests, the Jesuits headed by [a] Father Faura. The Jesuit Fathers since the beginning were known for their high intelligence.

Father Faura was not only intelligent but was famous for so wonderful things he possessed. He had a big book which possessed magic or charm.



One day, his chief sacristan, Bonifacio Manalo, entered his room out of curiosity. He looked around, turning and touching queer [in this context, the writer probably meant “queer” to mean “odd”] things.

His attention was caught by a big book on the table. He opened the big book.

But, alas, he suddenly rose [presumably, levitated] until he reached the roof [the writer probably meant ceiling] of the convent, his head banging against the roof.

In utter fear, he quickly closed the book and he fell on the floor. He never ventured to open the book again. He concealed his acts until his death. [It goes without saying that you, the reader, are wondering how this story got to be told if he “concealed his acts” until his death. 😜]
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Notes and references:
1Historical Data of the Municipality of Bauan,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 Alitagtag was formally separated from Bauan in 1910. “Executive Order No. 43 Creating the Municipality of Alitagtag,” online at Batangas History.

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