February 28, 2019

The Folkloric Story of Why the Town of Lipa was moved to Its Present Location

Image extracted from a 1962 edition of The Chronicle Magazine.
From an ethnographic paper entitled “Folklore from Lipa, Batangas1,” written by one Amparo Reyes, we extract this otherwise forgotten folkloric story of why Lipa transferred to its present location. The story is not historical at all and must have been told to pass the time or impart virtues upon children.

To give the reader a better appreciation of the story from a historical vantage point, Batangas History first provides a brief timeline about what is now the City of Lipa. It was first founded as a small Christian settlement by Augustinian missionaries along the shores of Lake Bombon (Taal Lake) in 1605 in what is the present-day sitio of Tagbakin in the outer fringes of the city.

Early in the 18th century, in most likelihood due to the 1716 eruption of Taal Volcano2, inhabitants of the settlement moved to what must have been perceived as a safer location, what is now the barrio of Lumang (Old) Lipa in the present-day Municipality of Mataasnakahoy. The municipality was, until 1932, still part of the then-town of Lipa.

It was the settlement in Lumang Lipa that the folkloric story used as the point from where the inhabitants of the town migrated inland to its present location. In fact, there was another resettlement away from Lumang Lipa to what is now the present day Municipality of Balete.

This was likely necessitated by the violent eruption of the volcano in 1749; and the decision to move to where the poblacion of Lipa is presently located was likely made by leaders of the settlement because of the even more violent and prolonged eruption in 1754. Balete, it has to be said, also used to be part of Lipa until as recently as 1969.
Map of Taal Lake c. 1911 extracted from The Eruption of Taal Volcano: January 30, 1911 by Rev. Miguel Saderra Maso SJ.
Map of Taal Lake c. 1911 extracted from The Eruption of Taal Volcano: January 30, 1911 by Rev. Miguel Saderra Maso SJ.
Reyes’ folkloric story is provided in condensed form below, corrected for grammar and annotated in brackets [ x ] where Batangas History feels it necessary.
THE STORY CONNECTED WITH THE TRANSFER OF LIPA TO ITS PRESENT PLACE

by Amparo Reyes

In the Province of Batangas, there is a body of fresh, clear water called Lake Taal. To the north of the lake is a volcano also called Taal. For several times, this volcano erupted, bringing a great deal of destruction and enormous disturbances to the people inhabiting the surrounding regions.

A little distance southward from the volcano is a towering peak called Uspayog3, so named because of its peculiar shape, its top wider than its lower part which touched the surface of the water. But an important feature of the lake, one that is indispensable to this narrative, is the small island which two hundred years ago was floating in the middle of the lake. This island was called Pulo. It was covered by tropical vegetation. Hunters often sailed to the island in pursuit of fowls, deer, sheep and other wild animals.

Somewhere to the eastern side of the lake was the nook on which was once located “Old Lipa.” According to our ancestors, it was bigger in comparison with any other town of Batangas Province. It had concrete, wooden and cogon houses with a magnificent church that had a high tower.

Three types of people inhabited the town. The bulk were Lipeños, peaceful and hospitable descendants of the Tagalogs who called themselves Batangueños. These people lived happily and contentedly and enjoyed plentiful harvests every year.

Then, there were the Spaniards – the priests, friars and rich landowners. It was they who introduced gambling, dishonesty, fanaticism and despotism to the town. Their vices and immoralities were inherited by the Lipeños.

There were also Chinese traders, carpenters and masons.

Old Lipa was bounded to the north, south and east by a vast wilderness, abaca plantations and forests; and to the west by the fresh, clear and cool waters of the lake. Such was Old Lipa with its romantic youth and maidens; but a great catastrophe would befall the unfortunate inhabitants of the town that forever made it perish from the sight of all, lead to the confusion of its peaceful people and bring into existence the new Lipa in the map of the province.

Although the island of Pulo was uninhabited, according to some, on it once lived a mysterious beautiful maiden. During moonlit nights, this maiden would be seen on a banca sailing around the lake with a small alpha [probably a stringed instrument similar to the harp].

One night, a wedding feast was being held in one of the houses of the town. During the course of the merrymaking and games, the maiden appeared with her alpha. At first, the people were amazed at her presence; but due to her kind and gentle manner, they started to appreciate her and make friends with her. She played her alpha which greatly pleased the people because of its golden strings and the sweetest music from it that they had not heard before.



When midnight came, she prepared to leave but the people begged her to stay longer. She refused, but because of the people’s insistence, she said to them, “I shall have to go away now, but in order that you may be sure that I am coming back, I shall leave my alpha which pleases you so much.” After saying this, she went away.

When morning came, the bride and groom for whom the feast was held went to church to solemnize their marriage. Few people were left in their houses because many went to the church to witness the wedding ceremony.

The next night, she (the mysterious maiden) came back for her alpha, but it could not be found in the house. It was lost. The maiden shouted angrily, “I must have my alpha, and if I cannot get hold of it after several days, a serious calamity will fall over the whole town.”

The people mocked her and laughed at her, thinking that being a woman, she could do nothing. On the seventh night, she came back for her alpha. It had not yet been found. She disappeared suddenly and went back to her floating island. Together with its forest, shrubs, vines and wild creatures that roamed within its limits, the island by some mysterious phenomenon within the earth’s crust sunk.

The island’s sinking caused the water to rise over the shore. The town, which was at the shore, was then covered with water till the whole spot was beneath the surface of the angry waves. The tower alone of the church could be seen, with its roof level with the water. Thus, the whole town of Lipa met its end.

From this time, it was believed that the sinking of the town was caused by the anger of the mysterious beautiful woman whose alpha with golden strings was forever lost.

In the meantime, while the horrible waves kept rising over the town, its people, in confusion, in fear, in dread rushed to their boats bringing with them only the most precious things they could carry. The migrated in great multitudes through the wilderness, looking for the best spot on which to build their new homes.

In the course of their journey, they found a plateau which, because of its height could not be reached by the waters of the lake. They used the place to build new huts which would later be enlarged into modern and concrete homes. These homes formed the origin of the present new town of Lipa.

In time, the waters of the lake stopped rising, and at present can still be seen beneath the water the old town with broken walls, furniture, dishes, pots and the old church and tower. In visiting this spot, we come to feel and think with sorrow and love for this was the part of the earth where our grandmothers and grandfathers saw the first light of day and where many of them lived, died and were buried.

[The rising of the waters of Taal Lake is true enough, albeit caused by the accumulation of fresh water which could not anymore exit into Balayan Bay after a channel connecting the lake to the bay was closed off by debris from the 1754 eruption of Taal Volcano.]

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Notes and references:
1Folklore from Lipa, Batangas,” online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 Although a Wikipedia article entitled “Lipa, Batangas” claims that inhabitants of the settlement of Lipa moved because of the 1924 eruption of Taal Volcano, the eruption was likely the one in 1716 which occurred at the southeastern corner of the Volcano Island facing Lipa. “The Eruption of Taal Volcano: January 30, 1911,” by the Rev. Miguel Saderra Maso, S.J., published 1911 in Manila, p. 7.
3 Batangas History is unable to find an references to the peak over the Internet.

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