Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas by Juan V. Pagaspas, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas by Juan V. Pagaspas, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas by Juan V. Pagaspas, 1916

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1916 ethnographic paper written by one Juan V. Pagaspas 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

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 59.
(Folklore #173)



Juan V. Pagaspas

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  1. TAGALOG: Tanauan, Batangas Province, Luzon.
  2. Social Customs: Amusements: Games.

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Juan V. Pagaspas.

When people are living idle lives, when they do not have much to do, when the spirit of extravagance is decimating them, when nature is bountiful enough to furnish them with natural resources which do not need much labor and attention for development, when they can live abundantly with little physical or mental effort, it is but natural for them to be the subject of many amusements. Side by side with these causes may be mentioned the facts that these same people are victims of laziness, when they are accustomed to lead an easy life and when their neighbors do not furnish them with examples of hard efforts for economic and social prosperity, they are likewise subject to the temptation of having too many amusements some of which are “necessary evils.” Such is not the case of the people of that small but thickly populated province in the southern part of Luzon, that province of great significance in the history of the Philippines, the province of the great Mabini, that province of immortal [blurred word] prosperity, that province whose geographical location makes it favorable for land and water transportation – Batangas.

From time immemorial, Batangas has been an agricultural and commercial province. In general, the “Batangueños” are working people because they raise mostly annual crops. However, that spirit of idleness has not been fortunate enough to dwell in the

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minds of the Batangueños. For these reasons, the native amusements in this province, if many in number, are not as many as the amusements in the other provinces.

The first great amusement worth mentioning is the native dance. There are several kinds of dances, the most important of which are “fandango,” and “soble.” Some say that ‘fandango” was of Spanish origin, but if this is true, at least it has been changed and modified so that nowadays, by its nature, and by the way it is conducted, it may be called a pure native dance. The dancing is usually performed by a pair, a man and a woman. Sometimes, there are two or three pairs. The man of each pair does his part usually two or three meters away from his partner. In some cases, the dancers sing as they dance, but this is not practiced to a great extent.

The second kind of dance is the “soble.” This is of a pure native origin. Here, there are usually five or six pairs. Like the “fandango,” the members of each pair to not hold each other, but are two or three meters away from each other. The man steps around a semi-circle, snapping his fingers and bowing after each round. The woman does the same. After making ten or twelve rounds in the semi-circle, the man will approach his partner with clapping hands, and the woman will turn around three times, after which she bows. The members of the pair will then exchange their places and the woman will do the man’s part. This is conducted for a long time until the music stops.

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Dancing like this is oftentimes done in connection with a birth ceremony, marriage or death.

Another amusement of the people of Batangas is the so-called “pata.” This is a game of two contestants, each having a pair of “pata.” A pata is a piece of wood almost semi-circle in shape. Then, at a place free from grass, the contest will be done in the following manner: At a pointAas shown in the diagram, a piece


of wood about an inch long will be erected. Then, at a distance of about twenty meters from it, any point B, another piece of wood will be erected. The contestants standing at point A will pitch their “pata” towards B in the manner that a pitcher of an indoor baseball game throws his bell. If a “pata” his the wood, the thrower gets two points for his credit. If no “pata” the wood B, the nearest one gets a point. The pata having been thrown at B direction that contestants will then go to B and from there do the same towards wood A as they did before. By the manner of getting points, the one who gets the first ten wins. This game is usually done on Sunday when everybody can take rest, so that there can be a great number of spectators. The enthusiasm accompanying pata is about the same as that accompanying baseball.

“Sipa” is another native amusement in Batangas. This is, however, common in many parts of the islands, and is paid with a great attention by many people. It may be called a native foot-

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ball, for the manner by which the game is conducted is done exclusively by the foot. The ball used is made of rattan, the size of which is little bigger than an ordinary ball used in baseball. The way the game is conducted varies in the different parts of the province. In some instances where the game is not taken seriously and where there are only few persons engaged in playing, the ball is just kicked upward towards one another and the person who misses to kick it when the ball reaches him in a good manner will be the one bound to pick it up and pitch it with his hand towards anyone of his playmates. In other instances where sipa is taken seriously and where considerable betting takes place, the game is done by teams. Each team is composed of two persons opposite each other. Sometimes, there are four or five competing teams. The team that gets the most kicks to the ball without letting it drop to the ground wins. Unlike other amusements I have enumerated, sipa is not passing away since the introduction of modern amusements. Nowadays, the enthusiasm to sipa even among the intelligent class is greater than before. The only objection of many people towards this amusement is that it is not taken as an amusement but as a chance of betting and, hence, gambling. Betting, however, is common not so much among the members of the competing teams as among the spectators.

Batangas province has a reputation of being the home of the best horses in the Philippines. Consequently, horse racing is probably more in this province than in any other province. The way this amusement is conducted is so obvious (as the name suggests)

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to anybody that it is entirely unnecessary for me to describe it here. However, some points connected with this amusement is here worth mentioning. The horses used for this purpose are considered professional horses, and are not used for any other purpose. Unlike the former kinds of amusements I have previously discussed, those who are [paying] particular attention to horse racing are the intelligent class. Batangas professional horses of a high class are costing as much as six or seven hundred pesos in the market. It is not only the professional horses which get the honor in case of winning the race but also the riders. There are not very many men who are able to ride a horse engaged in the race.

One great native amusement in the province which I believe is also common in all provinces is the “Harana” (Serenade). The way “harana” is conducted in Batangas province is very interesting. At midnight, usually when the moon is bright, a stranger will be surprised in hearing some pleasing sound of violin, guitar, banduria, and other musical instruments. If he approaches the place where the music comes [from], he will be surprised to see a group of young men conducting the music. After playing two or three times, one of them will sing a song, a pure Tagalog song which is usually very sentimental, so sentimental that if one should listen to it carefully, watching the tenor of the words and the way the voice is conducted to express the real meaning of the verses, he cannot but be conquered by a feeling of pity and even so far as to shed tears. After the song, the girl do whom the “harana” is dedicated will open the window and with a smiling face will thank the group.

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They will then be requested to play more and to sing more, and in return, cigars and wine will be offered to them. In this particular point, the harana in Batangas differs from the harana in other provinces. In other provinces, young men will just dedicate [the] harana to a girl, and even if they play for the whole night, the girl will never open the window to welcome them. I know of an instance in a bit town in Tayabas province where a group of young men were in the midst of pleasure, playing sweet music and singing sweet songs when some ungrateful person upstairs threw hot water upon them. Such a case never happens in Batangas, and will perhaps never happen as long as the present way of conducting [the] harana continues.

“Harana” is used by many young men as one means of courting a girl. The girls are usually fond of music, and in many cases they are conquered by the courtiers simply by continuous “harana.” I know of many girls who reject their courtiers and even discuss their lovers simply because their lovers and courtiers (whatever he may be) neglected to harana them. “Harana” is given with a particular attention in vacation time when the elegant “Manila students” come to their hometowns for vacation. Many of them are “colegialas” and, therefore, to set them free will make them “wild.” On the other hand, [blurred word] with them from the same city are the “Colegialas” the typical Filipina “dalagas” whose delicate skin will be at this time be exposed to sunshine. They like the “Colegialas” are very anxious to get free. They are, therefore, the greatest emphasizers [unusual word] of “harana.” A girl is considered behind if

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she is not serenaded and it is her pride, a great honor for her part, if she is serenaded every night.

All Saints’ Eve is a time for great amusement of different kinds among Batangueños. But this comes only once a year, and every time it comes, there are always a great many amusements connected with it. On this evening, young men will go around the town and, assuming themselves as souls set free to go to earth, will beg for food from house to house. They with [a] small voice will sing sad songs begging for gifts. The general conclusion of many of their songs when translated to English is as follow: “If in the end you will pity me, please do it at once, for if you delay, we poor souls will be closed from the door of Heaven.” The usual gift to them is suman (sugared rice) especially prepared for the occasion. After being given gifts, these poor souls will take away stairs, flowerpots, or anything they could [find] outside, to some places nearby. Not only this, but they will steal chicken, some rice, bread and fruits. They will then cook them and have a good heavy midnight supper. The reader may ask, why should they steal these things since they can buy them or have them in many ways other than stealing? The answer is peculiar. It is the traditional custom that on this evening, everything taken for food must be stolen, and it is assumed that food eaten will not be rich unless stolen.

Christmas is another time of amusement among young men and young women. After the midnight mass, there will be a social

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gathering in several houses where a “noche buena” takes place. This is, indeed, the happiest time among young people, so happy that the gathering usually lasts till morning. The following day is Christmas Day. It is also a time for amusement for it is a day when our elegant “colegialas” and beautiful “colegialas” will have the opportunity to show themselves with the best possible clothing they can afford to buy. Visiting each other, asking Christmas gifts is the most important feature of the day. Among children, Christmas Day is a business day. They will go around among their aunts and uncles, godfathers and godmothers, grandmother and grandfather to ask for presents. This is also a time when relatives from different towns visit each other to enjoy the blessings of the time.

Then comes New Year’s Eve. This deserves special mention both on account of the obvious significance and the importance given to it by the Batangueños. From seven o’clock in the evening, everybody will be aware of the unusual noises here and there. This is caused by “bamboo guns,” “reventador,” “cuitis” and the like. At midnight, there will be what is called “New Year’s Eve Civic Procession.” But it is not a procession at all. A large number of boys, young men and old men, many of whom have no test to music at all, will get together and organize a band. They will get some real musical instruments and because they are too many, others will have to get tins, hollow bamboo and other things which will produce sound. They will then go around the

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town making an amazing noise. They are usually many in number, sometimes eighty or one hundred. While some are playing, others are carrying ink and brush with them, and at every door they pass, they write the New Year to come the next morning. To get rid of this mischief, some owners of the houses watch their doors as the procession goes by.

The town fiesta and its significance must be mentioned here. This is common to every town in the Philippines, but I think that the Batangueños are putting more emphasis than other towns in other provinces do. [The] Town fiesta is considered as a great festival upon which everybody in the locality is concerned. Funds are raised by voluntary contributions to be spent for hiring hands, actors and other things for the common interest. During the day, games of different kinds are played. But the most distinguishing feature of the day is the opportunity of friends to have the pleasure of visiting each other. There is not a house at the time of the fiesta, be it as big as a palace or as small as a hut, where there is not food ready for visitors. When you come to visit a house, be you an acquaintance of the owner or not you will always be pleased that you will always remember the unusual hospitality of the Batangueños. They will offer you the best possible food they can afford to buy and you will admire the beautiful decorations of the room you will enter, the newly cleaned furniture of the house, and the floor so clean and reflective that you need not go to the mirror to see yourself (image).

Cockfight is another native amusement in the province of

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Batangas, but this is as common and so obvious to any reader that it is not necessary at all for me to describe it here.

Such are about all the native amusements in the province of Batangas. Many as they are in number, yet most of them are indeed very necessary so that they can hardly be called amusements at all in the sense by which amusement is taken by most people.

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Native Amusements in the Province of Batangas,” by Juan V. Pagaspas, 1916, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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