A Sociological Account of the Province of Batangas by Jose de Villa, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore A Sociological Account of the Province of Batangas by Jose de Villa, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

A Sociological Account of the Province of Batangas by Jose de Villa, 1916

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1916 ethnographic paper written by one Jose de Villa from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collection


Tagalog Paper No. 48.
(Folklore #158)

Jose de Villa
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  1. TAGALOG: San Jose, Province of Batangas, Luzon.
  2. Social Customs: Government: Beliefs: Amusements: Marriage: Folklore
  3. Somatology: Physical types: Origin.

March 19, 1916.

[p. 1]

Jose de Villa

I. Origin of the People of Batangas.

Much has been discussed about the origin of the people of the Philippine Islands, but according to Father Casimiro Diaz, the first people of the Archipelago were the natives of Aurea Charsonero or what is now Malacca and of Sumatra and Borneo. Lacalle stated that the Aetas were the first aboriginal people who came from Malacca and settled in the south of Luzon in what is now Batangas province. Padre Bugeta affirms this statement on the ground that at present there can be found in the province traces of Aeta descendants, people of light brown color, of low stature and of wooly hair.

These Aetas, however, had not been the sole inhabitants of the province, for after their settlements of the province, there came the Burnayas who drove the Aetas up to the mountains. They became friendly afterwards and came mto live together in the province. Afterwards, there came the Moros from Mindanao, who undoubtedly, on their return to their home, after looting the province, had left some of their number to propagate and mix with the inhabitants. The fact that there are in the province dark people similar to the Moros proves the statement. Then there came the Chinese. Then the Japanese, Javans, and Malabars, the time of which no one knows, but is proven by the fact that in Batangas can be found individuals who can be mistaken for these people.

[p. 2]

They mixed and inter-married in the province so that now Batangas can be said to be composed of peoples of different blood. The original Aetas were either driven out to the island of Mindoro, where they can at present be found, or they died out, leaving only some of their blood mixed with other stronger races. We may say, therefore, that the mixture of these different peoples composes the province of Batangas.

II. Physical Characteristics.

On account of this mixture, the people of Batangas are said to be well built physically. They are generally tall and well built and proportionally formed. Retana said that in Rosario and Balayan, principally can be found persons who can serve as models because of the perfection and symmetry of their form. The women are better developed than the man, although of shorter stature. The color of the skin varies from the yellowish tint of the Mongolian to the brown and dark shade of the Malay. A majority are of brown coppery color, especially those of Lipa, San Jose and Batangas. In Balayan, Lemery and Taal can be found the greenish yellow color of the Japanese, the people who for a long time, it was said, predominated in those places. The women, although of lighter color, can be found in equal distribution with the men.

The faces are usually broad and the heads of many are flattened at the back. The hair is long and abundant, especialy of the women. There are very little or no beards, and if there are any, they are frequently shaved or pulled out. Except in Tuy,

[p. 3]

Lemery and Taal, the eyes are large and expressive. Those of Batangas, San Jose and Lipa have the most expressive eyes. The eyes of the people of Balayan are small and slanting much similar to those of the Japanese. The noses are varied in shape, but all are short and somewhat flattened.

On account, perhaps, of the climate, as other people of the islands are, the Batangueños mature early. Retana said that this was coupled with the kind of their food and of their daily habits, they have their sexual organs awakened when still young. And this is why marriage is common at the ages of fifteen and sixteen, and sometimes even at twelve. But they have greater muscular force than any other Oriental peoples. Among the men, the breasts are well developed.

As a rule, the people of Batangas are hard workers until the age of forty-five, after which, with the exception of the Taaleños, they do very little work, especially on the farm. The people of Taal have a particularly great fame in being the most industrious people of the province, this perhaps being due to the rugged conditions of the soil of that place which requires hard and strenuous effort in order to make it yield products for subsistence.

III. Family Life.

In Batangas, family life has that characteristic of the Roman “familia” in the nineteenth century. The father is vested with absolute and even with despotic power over his family; and the

[p. 4]

wife and children obey him with religious respect. Very rarely do children disobey their father, even though how despotic he may be. In this country, where there are not schools, the first thing taught to the children is to obey the parents, and if ever they are given education, it is only to know how to read the “cartilla” (a Spanish elementary reader), and the Tagalog Catechism, and to write a little, after which they are employed by the parents in whatever occupations they may have. Usually, the boys at four are taught light field labors and the girls the domestic affairs. At the age of ten, the boys begin to handle the plow, the axe, or the saw. It is a pride of the country family to have industrious children. It is considered the duty of the sons and daughters to help the parents. Sometimes, when the parents are in debt, especially the casamas, the sons and daughters are often sent out to serve the debtor. Industriousness and obedience are qualities with which the social standard is measured by these people, and it is considered a great honor of a father who has raised children having those characteristics.

At present, when there are government schools in many barrios of the province, most of the children are studying, but there are still many conservative parents who are reluctant to send their children to school on the ground that once they are educated, they will not like to work and they would not help them.

In the towns, however, family life is different from the country. There, although the fathers have the same absolute powers, they rarely use them and the children are freer than is the

[p. 5]

in the country. They are given education, many of whom do not stop until they finish the elementary grades.

In both the country and the town, the wife is the keeper of the earnings, and in charge of the expenses. The husband's only duty is to provide the family with food. But the wife of the family is more industrious than the husband. It is why she is more developed physically than the man, although not so strong. She even follows the occupation of the husband whether be it fishing, common day laboring, farming, etc.; in short, she helps him in all he does. Retana best describes the characteristics of the Batangas woman: “The Batangas woman in her activity and desire to earn a living leaves all considerations behind. She is a tireless merchant, industrious worker, and has such a resistance that she even takes some field works in the place of men. As a pastime, she saws the clothing of the husband and children; cooks for them; and she leaves the loom to thresh the rice. It is also she who plants the crop; who goes to the town to buy food and other necessities for the family, and who washes the clothes; in fact, she does all for the family. Moreover, she has the virtue which the husband does not have, to economize. The Batangueña works with all her might in order to accumulate the reserve fund of the family.”

Such are the characteristics of the Batangas woman, but she, like the children, is subject to the authority of the husband. If she had property at the time of the marriage, its management goes to his hands, as if it were his own, and she cannot even make contracts without his consent. There are, however, exceptional wives

[p. 6]

who control the family affairs, and who direct the husbands in all undertakings.

The children of the family are not emancipated until after they are married. Before marriage, they do not own anything, but all that they earn by their personal work belong to the head of the family who may dispose them at his own will. In all the work, or in all of important matters which the son or daughter might wish to do, they require first the consent of the father, before they can execute anything. Even after marriage, the children of a family often ask the opinion of the father before doing any serious obligation. The subjugation of the daughter is greater than the son; she is confined most of the time in the house where her field of activity is centered. She is not allowed to go at a distance from the house without the companion of even a small girl, as it is considered a bad custom for a Batangueña to walk alone in the streets. Conservative parents do not even wish to send their daughters to school; but many of the fathers, especially those of the higher class, send their daughters to some college in Manila.

If the father dies, if he left any property, the inheritance is equally shared by all of the children of the family.

IV. Religions.

As in other provinces, majority of the people of Batangas belong to the Roman Catholic Church. This is due to the influence of the Spanish fathers who came and converted the natives into that religion. There is not a town in the province that is without

[p. 7]

a big church made of stone and iron, some of which are really works of art, as those of Bauan, Batangas and Lipa. That the natives are very religious is shown by those ample edifices where the Spanish fathers had played not very little influence over them.

The most ardent and devoted Catholics are those from the towns of Lipa, Taal, and Bauan, not because they have the inborn instinct for prayer but, perhaps, because of the unusual features of their churches in whose altars are venerated saints which according to tradition had given wonders to the people on account of the miracles they had performed. In Lipa, there is the image of the patron saint Sebastian and the Immaculate Virgin Mary, both of which are said to have performed miracles. There is the Holy Cross of Bauan, which according to tradition had gushed water from its wooden frame to fill the basket of a poor wife who was harshly treated by her husband. And there is the statue of the Virgin Kaysasay which is said to have been found floating in the water near Taal and was taken to that church by some fishermen. Whether these beliefs in the miracles of these objects of veneration are true or not, or whether they are only fanatical beliefs, I cannot tell, but not only the people of these towns believe in the wonders of their respective patron saints, but also many from other parts of the province, and even from other provinces. They make it their duty to visit these places every year, much like the pilgrimage to Antipolo every month of May. Every town in the province has its

[p. 8]

its patron saint in whose honor a celebration is made every year. Of all, the women are the most religious.

The Catholic religion has been the religion of all the people from the beginning of the Spanish administration in the islands, and it continued to be so until the end, during which the churches were said to be the richest institution in the province. But beginning with the present administration, Protestant missionaries came and converted some to that religion. There are very few Protestants, however, the majority of whom can be found only in Batangas, Lipa, Bauan, and Cuenca. There are also many who belong to the Independent Church, and many are at present being converted into it, because of the maladministration in some cases of the Catholic churches in which they complain. The Independent or Aglipay Church is coming to be a strong institution in Batangas. Some towns have already built churches for this religion and others are asking for them. Batangas has one recently built and Rosario has another. In the latter, the Catholic and Aglipay religions are strong objects of rivalry between the citizens and even family feelings are involved in it. The people of the country are of the former and those of the town are strong adherents of the latter.

Amusements and Festivities.

There are two kinds of festivities and amusements of the people of Batangas province, those of the towns, and those of the country. Those of the town are more or less of the conventionalized form – balls, theaters, banquets – which have been prevalent

[p. 9]

since the Spanish time; but those of the country are strictly local and originated from the province itself. What made the difference both had upon the two kinds of societies of the same town, is the fact that in the town, the Spanish element predominated for a long time to a great extent which made them lose their primitive forms of amusements and absorb the more conventionalized ones. Moreover, the towns are the centers of social activities of the higher classes, hence it was but natural that their inhabitants should be more progressive. At present, every town of Batangas, like every civilized town in the islands, has its well-educated and well-bred people. Education, also, of which people of the towns are usually educated, favors the development of the universal forms of amusements. But in the countries where very few of such amusements reach, and where majority of the people belong to the laboring class, it is but natural that they should follow what have been theirs from the beginning and not adopt that of the civilized community.

Among the forms of the country amusements are the subli, the pandango and the kutang. The subli is a form of religious ceremony which originated in the barrio of Alitgtag in Bauan where the Holy Cross, the patron saint of Bauan, was found. Formerly, it was danced only in that barrio, and at the front of the Holy Cross, but it is now danced everywhere. It was said that the first dance of its kind was performed by the women, that wife harshly treated by the husband, when after seeing her bucket being filled with water, sprang from her kneeling position and by his joy, did all the kinds of motions to express her thankfulness. From that time on, it

[p. 10]

became a dance of thankfulness, and is performed everywhere.

The subli may be called a gymnastic dance for it consists of all movements which can only be performed by the trained dancers. The dancers are men and women castanets in their hands to keep time. They are kept separated together, and by means of some bodily movements, they understand which way to go and what position to make. The subli may consist of several partners each of whom play their parts. It is most interesting to see the subli, with the dancers hopping, sliding, inclining this way and that way or moving forwards and backwards, with their castanets beating the time, and with no music but the “tugtugan,” a kind of drum mounted on a small hollowed piece of wood, and the surface of alligator’s skin.

Although the subli originated in Bauan, it is now danced in every part of the province, generally on religious occasions and in front of images of saints. In exceptional festivities, expert dancers, of which many may form companies are invited from one town to another. Not all can dance the subli, for it requires hard and constant training before a person can dance.

The pandango is a kind of dance somewhat similar to the subli, the only difference being that the former has very little bodily movements and is accompanied by some sort of music, the guitar, an old violin or a bamboo flute. It is danced in weddings, christening celebrations and in other important occasions where a group may happen to assemble together.

The kutang is the song of the country people.

It is sung with

[p. 11]

or without accompaniment in planting crops or in any kind of field labors where a group usually assembles, especially the young people. The songs are usually love songs, riddle or allegorical stories from the bible. It is a means by which the workers eliminate the worry of the hard work, for as they work, they sing and answer each other. They also sing kutangs while at rest.

Besides these amusements, there are other festivities of which not a few people attend. One is the “flores de Mayo” or May Day. It originated from England but was carried into the Philippines through Spain. The object is to give or present flowers to the Virgin Mary. It was at first held only in the towns but now it spread throughout the barrios of the province, that now very few barrios do not celebrate it. It costs the barrios every year great sums of money and a month’s leisure, for every month of May the people, especially the young ones, practically do nothing but look for flowers and present them to the images of the Virgin. Every day there is a feast in the house of the “hermana,” who has the charge of that particular day in the presentation of the flowers. The greatest day is the last day when there are procession sports, music and fireworks contributed by the people of the barrios.

Wedding day is celebrated throughout the province, in the towns and in the barrios, with a great feast. It is considered a sacred event, and even how poor a parent may be he is sure to prepare something to invite his relatives and friends to sit and eat together. It is just the same in the christening of a child. Sometimes, if the parent is rich enough, they hire music and invite town

[p. 12]

people, especially the officials. It is his honor if he can prepare a more sumptuous feast than his neighbor.

Another celebration which the Batangueño does not miss to prepare is the “Katapusan” or “siyaman,” a dinner after the ninth day of the death of a relative. Previous to this day, relatives and friends of the deceased gather at the house where he or she died and join in prayer in his or her honor. At the ninth day, the prayers are concluded but it is always followed by a banquet. One year after the death, another banquet is prepared for the occasion of the taking off of mourning costumes, which the relatives have been wearing for a year.

One more amusement common in the countries is the “pasakunungan” or communal labor. The owner of a field asks his friends to help him plant, weed or harvest his crop. He prepares good food, just as he would in a wedding or christening ceremony. In the field, they sing, joke each other and tell stories. The young people are the ones who attend the “pasakunungan.”

In the towns of the province, a fiesta in honor of the patron saint is celebrated each year. The most common feature of the celebration is the cockfighting which is celebrated for four days. In the fiesta, people from other towns come and attend perhaps for religious purpose or perhaps for more curiosity. Large amounts of money are spent by the town every year. Bands are hired and sport and games are played. Every family prepares for the reception of visitors.

Such are the amusements of the people of Batangas province.

[p. 13]

They have a great socializing effect on the people, for it is the assembling together of the different communities into a fiesta which made the customs nearly uniform throughout the province. It is only in the countries that the primitive forms of amusements are still prevalent because, for the lack of education of the majority of them, they are slow to adopt new habits. However, ideas have been exchanged between them that now they are conscious of the effects of progress, although they rarely change their modes of living.

General Characteristics.

As a rule, the Batangueños are hospitable, religious, sober, and modest. If a stranger should call at any house in Batangas, he will always meet the welcome smile of the wife. The best food and best rooms and beds are given him. If the house in which the stranger happens to enter is of the laboring class, the last hen in the house will be killed for his reception. The religiousness of the Batangueño has always been cited. As to his soberness, a Batangueño is reserved and very rarely shows signs of emotion. The women are generally modest and honest as if by instinct. “She is lovable and obliging. She is tranquil and placid; she rarely disobeys, but is jealous and overbearing.”

In Batangas, there is a reluctance on the part of the natives to leave the place where they first saw light. Very rarely do they leave their home to improve their condition of living and if they ever do it, it is only temporary. The Taaleños, however, are an exception. They are the most adventurous people of the islands

[p. 14]

for it is said that there is not a town in the Archipelago that is without a Taaleño. “When they lack work, they emigrate without minding the distance, where they can gain a peseta.”

The Batangueños are considered the most laborious workers in the Philippine Islands. “The country folks with the shoulders and breasts bear work with little or no complaint, almost every day, thus suffering the intense heat of the embracing sun, the annoyance of the rain, the severity of the weather, and the noxious mud of the “tubigan” (rice paddies).

As to their mental power, the people of Batangas have receptive and retentive capacities. They will memorize a “corrido” and then repeat it word by word. Yet, they have little love for study, inactive and conservative in considering new ideas. They have more love for arts than for study. However, there are few who are radical and adopt to changing conditions easily. Those of the towns are usually fond of studies and they even travel abroad to gain education. Many of the Batangas sons have done great services to their country. Heneral Malvar had astonished the ingenuity of the American commanders for his military skill. She had produced a Mabini who was the idol of the past Philippine Republic. And, at present, she has her Apacible, Kalaw, Ilustre, and Agoncillo who have done a great deal in helping the upliftment of the Filipino race.

The Batangueños are imitative and fond of finery, especially those of Lipa. But in Taal, Bauan and Lemery, the natives are simple and, those of Lian, humble.

The superstitiousness, their one peculiar characteristic, must

[p. 15]

not be forgotten. On account, perhaps, of the religious education which they received, and which they blindly followed, they became credulous in supernatural acts and their imagination was fired, that they became believers of the spirits to the extreme. While many of those from the towns do not have superstitious beliefs, yet a majority of those from the countries believe in miracles and witchcraft. They believe in the powers of the anting-anting, of the “tigbalang,” “aswang,” and many other evil spirits.

There is not a place or a community that is without some stories or traditions about the evils done by these spirits. Such are the social customs and characteristics of the people of Batangas. In conclusion, I will quote what Retana said in his “Indio Batangueño:” “The Batangas Indian is apt for all good behavior, and he is hospitable. In general, he is respectable, submissive and respectable. He is a competent worker and a majority of his fellowmen know how to write and read in his own dialect.”
Notes and references:
A Sociological Account of the People of Batdangas,” by Jose de Villa, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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