Social Culture of the People of Batangas Province by Leon Bibiano Meer, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Social Culture of the People of Batangas Province by Leon Bibiano Meer, 1916 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Social Culture of the People of Batangas Province by Leon Bibiano Meer, 1916

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1916 ethnographic paper written by one Leon Bibiano Meer 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. 54.
Folklore #161


Leon Bibiano Meer
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  1. TAGALOG: Batangas, Province of Batangas, Luzon.
  2. Social Customs: Beliefs: Amusements: Marriage: Burial: Folklore.

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October, 1916

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Bibiano Meer.

Just as the Europeans and Americans have their customs, traditions, and beliefs, so the Filipinos have theirs which are no less interesting. Speaking particularly of the people of Batangas, I can safely say that they have the most interesting customs, traditions and beliefs in the whole Philippine Archipelago.

First, we shall consider the typical characteristics of the people. The Filipino in Batangas is “hospitable, moderate, sober, religious, and very much attached to the soil of his birth.” He goes to live in another place only when compelled by necessity to do so. This is attributed to the fact that he has very few wants. It should be remembered, however, that this is only true when applied to the people who lived during the earlier part of the Spanish regime. In those days, not only the poor, but even the rich did not have many wants – contenting themselves with moderate comfort for the sake of hoarding in many cases.

The Batangueño is timid and respectful to the authorities and his superiors. This characteristic timidity of the Batangueño of the past was due to the improper instruction which they had received. More than that, we know that he was made slave by a certain strong man, and has experienced the change of masters. Being weak, nothing was left for him to do

[p. 2]

but to adjust again his head to the yoke. The modern Batangueño, however, although respectful to his superior and is law-abiding does not put himself in the same place in which the Batangueño of the past had put himself. The modern Batangueño, I repeat, is now aware that although he is inferior, he must not be treated harshly or like a slave. He does not like to put himself to the whim and caprice of his superiors, otherwise he would show that characteristic of which is charged to possess by his neighbors – the love for fighting.

The inclination of an ordinary Batangueño is toward cockfighting. I think I should add to this that even the well-to-do have the inclination or probably the most interested. The bringing up of good fighting cocks is prevalent almost everywhere in the province. Some gamecocks cost from 100 pesos up depending upon the kind of cock and its owner. But usually, the cost of ordinary gamecocks is from 5 pesos to 50 pesos.

Drinking wine is less prevalent among the people of the province. There were, however, cases of murder and other misdemeanors caused by drinking alcohol.

As I have said before, the Batangueño has many interesting customs and superstitions or beliefs. The Batangueño has been from the earliest days very respectful to his parents. Parents are unquestionably obeyed, and are considered to be their only god here on earth. It is further believed that a son or a daughter disliked by either mother or father, and when either of them dies without forgiving either of those, God will dislike him or her and probably cannot see Heaven.

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The money earned by the son is given to the father or mother. The son cannot also engage in any sort of business without the consent of the father. There were even many cases that a married man had to consult the father in matters of importance. Till the present, we see that practiced everywhere, especially among the less educated class. The father is the head and settles up everything by himself. He is superior to his wife. Women have probably the worst position in the society of Batangueños, so long as their relations with the family are concerned. While unmarried, the girl is at the disposal of her father. When she marries, she is not emancipated, but only experiences a change of masters. She is now at the disposal of the husband, who is usually more oppressive and cruel than the father. On matters of inheriting property from parents, women again are at a disadvantage. Sons have more claims to their father’s property than their sisters. They receive not only the large portions but also the best ones. This has been the case, for parents believe that their sons should have more amount of property than their daughters because they will have to support families and could hardly get themselves married without a good amount to pay the so-called “bigay-kaya” or “doto [blurred]” and other expenses of marriage, whereas their daughters will be supported by their future husbands. There is another instance of the miserable lot of women, which is probably one of the reasons why they are not given much property by their parents. A woman with property surrenders her right to administer her property to her husband. She will be

[p. 4]

unable to make contracts about her property without the formal consent of the husband.

Now we shall discuss one of the most interesting customs of the people of the province of Batangas – the marriage custom. I have to call the attention of the readers, however, to the fact that the following may be applied only to the lower class – the uneducated or less-educated class. A suitor has to proclaim or show that he is in love with the girl. If he is accepted by the parents of the girl, he works in the girl’s house. Here, his characteristics are being observed by the girl’s parents. The suitor tries his best to do all that he is told to do. Oftentimes, he takes friends with him to the girl’s house and do some kind of hard work, such as pounding rice (usually throughout the night, unless stopped by the father of the girl) and construction works. If the suitor is found to be lazy, inhumane, unkind, he is discharged and the contract (of marriage) is broken off. But if he proves good, kindhearted and industrious (usually by doing the hardest work, such as cutting sugarcane, harvesting, fetching water and fuel), he becomes thoroughly accepted. He makes presents as his means may warrant to the parents of the girl. The above-mentioned service continues till the day of marriage. When the date fixed for marriage is approaching, parents of the two parties (among moderately rich) talk over the amount of dowry to be given to the girl or to her parents. In Batangas, there are two kinds of dowries: the gifts given by the suitor to the girl, and the gift given by the suitor’s parents to the son [curious word].

[p. 5]

This is the real dowry, vulgarly known as “bigaycaya.” As to the kind of gift, whether cash or other property to be given, is determined by the parents of the two parties, the parents of the girl usually designating the amount to be given to meet the first necessities of marriage, and the start of some sort of business. The usual dowry to give is ₱100-₱500, build a house for the couple, and to furnish them with a carabao.

Among the well-to-do or the educated class, we see a very different way of contracting marriage, although the part of the parents played in the primitive way is still found predominant. But this is the most striking difference between the primitive and modern customs of marriage that in the first way – the primitive – the contract is between parents practically. I have been told that the suitor in olden days had married the girl without having an opportunity of talking with her nor had touched any of the tips of her fingers. This shows that in the olden days, marriage was effected only by parents. At present, we have probably the reverse. The present practice among young men and women of talking over by themselves their future lot gives strength to that statement that “love knows no superior.” The counsel of parents is heeded only when it is in accord with the wishes of the young people. If the parents agree to the marriage, the marriage is done before the Altar in the church. If the parents do not agree to the marriage, the girl flies away with the lover to the judge of the place or to that of the vicinity.

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Another custom of interest is that custom of meeting of the people of the community, in case of death of a certain friend or relative, for nine days after death of the person in the house of the deceased. The meeting is at night and after some praying, the people take their seats around the table to take some sweets and tea. The ninth day is the most important. The celebrations lasts the whole day and night. It takes the form of a great fiesta inside the house. There are usually more people in the ninth day for the friends of the deceased and those of the family come from different parts. The family of the deceased are rigorously in mourning for one year, dating from the day on which the deceased died.

Now, we shall talk about the superstitions of the Batangueño. But it should be noted by my readers that I mean by the word Batangueño here are less educated, if not uneducated.

The Batangueño believes in the “tigbalang” as being an evil spirit which assumes different forms, almost always in horrible forms, and leads astray men, women, and children walking at night in the forest or any other place far from the town sites. It is believed that once a man is carried off by the tigbalang, he also becomes a tigbalang.

He also believes in the “patianac” as being the soul of a dead unchristened child which lingers around hunting for young and newly born babies with the intention of stealing them away from their parents.

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He also believes in the “iqui,” as being a person like our own selves, but is afflicted with such a kind of sickness that every midnight, he has to leave beside the window of his house that portion of his legs from the feet to the knees, and must fly up in the air and alight on the roofs of houses where there are sick people. It is said that the “iqui” is gifted with [a] thread-like tongue, which is so hard that it penetrates even iron roofs. Thus, with this tongue that is very long, penetrating and practically invisible, the “iqui” is enabled to kill the sick persons, piercing the sick men’s livers, which are supposed to be the favorite food. The Batangueño also states that suppose you come up to the house of an iqui family at midnight when they are all away, and mix together those remaining parts of the bodies of the iqui family, they will not be able to come up and the house after their flight, and will be knocking one after another against the windows. Unless the remaining parts of the legs are rearranged as they were left by the iqui family, these will not be able to get into their house.

He also believes in the “asuan” or “asuang,” as being an evil spirit which is in the habit of appearing at night in the shape of animals such as dogs, hogs, cats, and etc. The harm inflicted by this spirit is this: it conceals itself under the house of pregnant women with the intention of killing the offspring.

He also believes in the “lumalabas” as being the soul of a

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dead person appearing in forms so horrible that the sight of it is enough to drive one into insanity or to make him seriously ill. It throws down men from their horses or carabaos, this being done at night and in dark places, usually near bamboo trees.

He also believes in the “mangcuculam” as being a person just as every one of us is, but is afflicted with a certain kind of disease that he or she has to leave the house every night to cool off his or her hands which are very fiery or burning and which look like torches when looked at from a distance. The mangcuculam goes to streams of water and to the “pusalian” of houses, the place in the ground where the water used for washing and cleaning articles falls. The Batangueño dries or covers the pusalian with broken adobe rocks and ashes for fear that the mancuculam may cool off his or her hands in it, in the event of which the whole family in the house may die.

He also believes in the “nono” as being a spirit inhabiting the uncommon and new places such as fields, hills, mountains, and forests. When he enters any one of these places which he had not traversed before, he asks permission from the nono by saying “tabi nono” otherwise the “nono” will get angry with him and punish him by giving him some misfortune. In felling down trees and gathering fruits or flowers and cultivating new fields, he also asks permission from the nono. In cases where the cause of a certain disease cannot be found,

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it is attributed at once to the anger of the nono.

He also believes in the “mangangaway” as being a man or woman having the power to inflict grave diseases to those whom he or she dislikes.

These are not the only superstitions and beliefs of the “Batangueño.” There are many others, and all of these tend to show that he did not have the proper instruction. The religious instruction, which is supposed to be in charge of the beliefs of the people, did not go far enough as to clean off the heads of the people of these superstitions.

The low-class Batangueño has still faith in the traditional “anting-anting,” which is a kind of amulet, and believes that after saying some Latin words in the nature of [a] prayer, he would be freed from any kind of evil.

This class still believes in rolling coffins with light or candles above them. It also believes in “duindi,” small beings which have the power of teasing man, but not the power to utterly destroy him.

It is hoped that with the education of the masses, these superstitions and beliefs will cease to burn in the heads of the common people, and in the course of a generation or so, Batangas will be a province peopled by sound-minded persons and not by superstitious invalids.

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Social Culture of the People of Batangas Province,” by Leon Bibiano Meer, 1916, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

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