Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part I - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part I - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Taal, Batangas: Historical Data Part I

Historical Data graphic
Historical data from the National Library of the Philippines.

Full transcription of the so-called “Historical Data” for the Municipality of Taal, Batangas, the original scanned documents at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections not having OCR or optical character recognition properties. This transcription has been edited for grammar, spelling and punctuation where possible. The original pagination is provided for citation purposes.



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The town of Taal was first built in Balangon, at present a barrio in Lemery, Batangas, by Datu Balinsusa and Datu Dumangsil from Borneo. Lemery was at that time a part of Taal. The name of the town, “Taal,” which in Tagalog means pure or unadulterated, is said to have originated from the word “taad,” which means the upper part of the sugarcane which is used in planting. It is said that in the early days of the Spanish regime, a Spaniard who visited the place met a farmer who was planting sugarcane. The Spaniard asked the farmer what the name of the place was. The farmer, believing he was being asked what he was planting, answered, “Taad.” The Spaniard repeated “taad” to memorize it, but because he did not know how to pronounce the final consonant “d,” but pronounced it as “l,” hence the name “Taal.” From that time on, this locality was named Taal. The people of this town feared the Moros during the high tide of Moro piracy, so they transferred Taal to a place seven kilometers up the Pansipit River, an outlet of Lake Taal. In the center of this lake is Taal Volcano, whose terrible eruption in 1754 buried Lumang Lipa, Lumang Bauang, and Lumang Taal. This was the cause of the transfer of the town to a place near Balayan Bay, south of the Pansipit River where the present town of Taal is located. The old Taal (Lumang Taal) near the lake is at present called San Nicolas, a barrio of this town. Tourists who go to this barrio and ask where the ruins of [the] old church are, the people point to that part of the barrio near the shore where parts of the stone walls and watchtower can still be seen covered with trees and climbing plants. Taal was the capital of Batangas Province from 1732-1754 when old Taal was buried in ruins in the eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754. It was after the transfer of the capital of the province to Batangas when Taal Church, which is considered the largest church in the Orient, was begun. Its construction lasted for almost a century in spite of the forced labor utilized in its construction. Even during the Spanish period, the people of Taal were against foreign invaders. When Juan de Salcedo, grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, sailed up the Pansipit River, he was met by several hundred natives who attacked Salcedo and his men with bows and arrows. Salcedo was wounded in one leg so he and his men returned to Manila. In 1749, when Taal was the capital, she had a population of 41,347 people, then second to the city of Manila. Because many migrated to the different provinces of the archipelago to trade and visit Taal on December 8 and 9, the town fiesta, the population of Taal has fallen to 23,004 as shown in the Census of 1939. Many were killed by the Japanese two weeks before the liberation, March 6, 1945, so the present population cannot be determined until after the Census report of 1940 is finished.


Taal, one of the largest towns in the province of Batangas, and the very [first] place settled by the three datus from Borneo headed by Datu Puti, was selected on account of its physical and geographical situation. Taal in those days comprised what are now known as the towns of San Luis, Lemery, and Taal. The Pansipit River, the only outlet of a lake of the same name often called Lake Bonbon, flows

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through the center. It is now composed of forty-eight barrios with a population of 23,004 as per Census of 1939.

The town as it is now is located between the towns of Lemery to the north, Alitagtag to the east, Balayan Bay to the south and San Luis to the west. It occupies a highland rising several hundred meters above the sea, thus overlooking Lemery, Calaca, and Balayan Bay. About one-fourth of the total area is fertile due to the many eruptions of Taal Volcano. The surface is dotted with hills. In the barrios facing the volcano where the soil is fertile, being on a coastal plain, agriculture is made possible with our defined wet and dry seasons. Good roads, which connect all the barrios with the provincial road, enable the farmers to export their brown sugar to the neighboring towns with ease.

Nature has endowed Taal [with] some of the best gifts. The beautiful Taal Lake, formerly called Lake Bonbon, the Taal Volcano in the center, and the winding Pansipit River are the most picturesque ones. This lake not only gives beauty but furnishes an abundant supply of fish, some of which are not found elsewhere. The presence of Taal Volcano, which erupted so many times, was the cause of the transfer of the town from the shore of the lake to where it now is. The Pansipit River serves as the boundary of Taal and Lemery and the medium through which the fish go to the bay during the spawning season. A fishery, the Pansipit, is located about a kilometer from the lake. It once ran a hotel so well equipped, but the building and all its equipment were reduced to ashes during the Japanese regime.


During the Spanish time, only the rich were able to study. There was no middle class. The poor were ignorant.

In social functions, there was a clear distinction between the well-to-do families and the laboring class. In the course of time, this began to change and in1906, the “Sociedad La Patria,” the most aristocratic society in Taal, was organized. This exists till the present and usually gives its annual ball on the thirty-first of December till the early hours of the New Year. Later, many societies were formed. Among these were the Taal-Lemery Literary Society, Banaag ng Tagumpay, Taal Youth Association, which was later named Volta Club, Malvarian Association, Magkakasama, and Fifty-fifty came into existence. The gentler sex organized three societies. They are “Professional Sorority,” which as the name suggests is composed of all professionals, the Barangay, which is composed of non-professionals but has within it political partisanship, and the “Socialites,” which is composed of the youngsters of no political inclination. These societies give annual receptions and balls either in December or May, which are the vacation months. All the above-mentioned societies exist in the town proper, but in the barrio there are societies which are either civic or religious in nature. Some of them are “Makabuhay,” “Sambat Student Club,” “Bagong Araw,” and San Jose Athletic Club, which has one of the best Boy Scout Troops and

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Bugle Corps in the province.


Taal, which is situated on a knell of a hill south of the Pansipit River, is very picturesque. The largest church in the Orient, with its two towers which were destroyed by the earthquakes of 1911 and 1942, command the views of Balayan Bay, Taal Lake or Lake Bonbon, Taal Volcano, Mt. Makulot, the strongest hideout of the Japanese, and the nearby towns. This church is called San Martin. About a kilometer away down the hill, which can be reached by passing a flight of one hundred twenty-five marble steps, lead to the Caysasay church where masses are held even Saturdays. This and its large convent were built earlier than the San Martin out of limestone rock. These two churches are the living monuments of the forty days of forced labor for during their construction, all men and women of legal age were made to help even in getting sand from the shore, and no boat or ship could anchor without stones for [the] said construction. About [missing number] meters from Caysasay church, to the left side of the flight of steps, in ascending it is a well which pilgrims visit to bathe with its water for the legendary story says that this is the Virgin's well. Sick persons go there to take a bath in either of the rooms provided for the purpose.


One of the most important places of interest in the Province of Batangas is Taal Volcano, the lowest in the world, but with the widest crater. It is about one hundred thirty kilometers from Manila and is easily reached for there are good means of transportation available both on land and across the lake to the shore of this island where the volcano is. It is called the “cloud maker” by some, and the “terrible” by others. Nobody knows definitely as to when this volcano began emitting sulfurous smoke and burning lava for even during the early part of the Spanish occupation, this volcano threw out ashes, burning lava, and smoke which frightened the people near it but by all who saw the fire coming out of its crater. In the seventeenth century, it erupted several times and buried in ruins many towns in the neighborhood. The two worst eruptions recorded are those of 1754 and 1911. In January 1911, the volcano showed signs of activity for there was continuous smoke coming out of the crater and at least six earthquakes of great intensity were felt in Taal and in the province as a whole. A week or more before the eruption, it began to throw out mud. On January 30, 1911, the explosion began throwing out hot water, mud, ashes, and flaming lava which buried all the living creatures on the island and devastated about 90 square miles of the country around which fine ashes fell over an area of more than 800 square miles. Many villages around the lake were destroyed and the official estimate of the casualties was 1,135. The signs of activity were seen until February 8, 1911 when smoke ceased coming out of the crater. Since then, it has been quiet, though a small mud geyser has started near the shore of the barrio of Sinisian in Lemery. Before the eruption, there were four prominent features in the crater which was about five feet above the level of the lake. There were two small lakes of hot water – one green, the other more or less red; near the center was a gas vent or

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6 feet in diameter from which hot gases roared, as from a blast furnace; and just a little distance away was a triangular obelisk of hard volcanic rock. During the eruption, all the materials inside the crater to a depth of 230 feet was heaved up and scattered over the surrounding country. Later, the whole was filled up with water which seeped in from the lake, almost up to the level of the former floor or almost about that of the lake itself. The volcano consists of a crater near the center of a low island more than five and one half miles in its longest diameter in the center of a lake 17 miles long, 10½ miles wide, and about 2½ meters above sea level.

Small launches and motor boats carry passengers bound for the volcano at normal rates. It takes from twenty to thirty minutes from the barrio of San Nicolas to the nearest point on the volcano, whose greater is about a thousand feet above the level of the lake.

Taal Volcano, at present, is said to be extinct by some, but the first sign of activity was seen in May 1923, when clouds of black smoke where seen coming out of a new crater about two miles from the former crater in that part of the island called Binintiang Malaki, which belongs to Talisay, Batangas. The former crater is now a crater lake with an obelisk of hard rock standing in the center. The whole volcano served as an evacuation center during the critical period from February 1, 1945, the time when the American liberation forces landed in Nasugbu, Batangas to March 6, 1945, the day when Taal was liberated. The part of the volcano belonging to Taal has a population of about four times its population in pre-war days for most of the evacuees who did not own even sites for their houses on the mainland did not return to their former homes for their houses were burned and because they found out that fishing in the lake near the volcano is a remunerative industry.


One of the prettiest spots within easy reach is [the] Taal-Pansipit Fishery. Tourists coming from all corners of Luzon visit and crowd the place on off days and holidays. For more than a quarter of a century, Pansipit Fishery has been a place worthwhile seeing and living. There are beautiful spots which induce visitors to take Kodaks and cameras with them to have something which will serve as a reminder of a visit to this fishery. The fish corral where the fish ready for sale are kept which is in the shape of a heart is so interesting to see for therein are the fish going all around the corral web parts of their backs out of the water. Outside this corral, is the main stream where the other fish, which cannot be accommodated in the heart shaped enclosure, are kept. On one side is an enclosure with bamboo floor partly submerged in water where eels of different sizes are. About fifteen meters from the fishery was the hotel equipped with everything except and orchestra whose place was being taken by a piano and an available pianist. Excursionists, parties, and walls often made reservations in this hotel but sorry to state that as a result of the Japanese occupation, the hotel and equipment were reduced to ashes as a result of the Japanese atrocities. In this fishery are caught fish

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which are not found elsewhere. From the start, this fishery was handled by the corporation who gives the highest bid during the auction sale. The greater part of the annual income of the municipality is derived from this fishery. In July, 1948, the municipal governments of Taal and Lemery ran the fishery and because of the entry of a good school of fish, the following is the monthly income for the past three months:

August  3,776.50
September  5,118.30

From the above figures, one can deduce that the Panisipit Fishery is a great asset to the two municipalities of Taal and Lemery besides being a place of beauty.


Taal, like all other towns, has some practices, rites and customs inherited from ancestors to posterity. This transmission of opinions or practices left no written memorials, but instead, they were delivered from forefathers to descendant by oral communication., The succeeding paragraphs will depict the traditions and beliefs in the locality and foremost among them are the marriage customs.

These customs and traditions are really changing and many have disappeared or are disappearing to give to those brought by foreigners which are adopted without question for us Malays, [the] adoption of things foreign is one of our weaknesses.

These are some of the changing customs:


1. Kissing the priests’ hands.
2. Making the sign of the cross when going down the stairs or when passing by a church.
3. Giving money to the priest for a mass in honor of the family’s dead member.
4. The habit of confession among women.
5. Throwing water at one another on St. John’s Day.

Social Life:

1. Kissing the hands of elder relatives.
2. Girls are always chaperoned.
3. Holding big feasts whenever a member of the family dies.
4. Young women eat as little as possible when in [a] social gathering.
5. Serenading.
6. Not cutting nails on days with an “r” [such as] Martes, Miercoles, and Viernes.
7. When a man wishes to marry a certain girl, he goes to the house of the girl and works for the family.


Notes and references:
Transcribed from “History and Cultural Life of the Municipality of Taal,” 1953, online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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