The annual Reports of the Philippine Commission provide a comprehensive picture of life and conditions in Batangas — and elsewhere in the Philippines — early during the American colonial era. Excerpts of these reports that are relevant to the Province of Batangas are made available in this web site for the benefit of teachers, students, researchers and enthusiasts of Batangas history, culture and folklore. For citation purposes, the pages given are as they appear in the reports themselves.
Report of the Governor of the Province of Batangas1
|The Balayan Municipal Building c. 1914. Image digitally extracted from the January 1914 edition of the Bureau of Public Works Quarterly Bulletin.|
Office of the Governor,
Province of Batangas,
Batangas, September 15, 1904.
Sir: I have the honor to submit to you the following report of the conditions prevailing in the province of Batangas.
I have just visited the 15 municipalities which today constitute the 22 pueblos formerly existing in this province. I have stopped in each of them sufficient time to hold popular meetings and give public lectures and to interview the most influential people in each locality with the end in view of inculcating in all of them a love for work, for education, and for peace, the only roads leading to prosperity and true progress. I have in each instance endeavored to show the importance of agricultural improvements, local industries, and the development of education, and departing as much as possible from politics, in view of the fact that politics is the subject of endless intrigue and conjectures for the future on the part of certain elements, while I believe that the leaders of the Filipino people, if truly anxious, conscientiously and with sincere patriotism, to labor in the interests of their fellow citizens, ought to concentrate all their efforts, energy, and intellectual power to bring about the reconstitution, improvement and stability of prevailing conditions without bothering themselves a great deal about the future, for the future will take care of itself, being a natural development of the present. I have devoted all of the time necessary to inspect and carefully examine the diverse manifestations of the life of a municipality. I have unreservedly placed myself at the disposition of everyone having some complaint, protest, claim, or suggestion to make, and the general impression which I have received is that the pueblos of this province, with very rare exceptions, are in a really satisfactory state. In the first place, because of their zeal in the compliance of their duties and the perfect harmony and fraternal assistance which prevails between the provincial and municipal officials, as well as between the civil and military elements, that are bound by the closest ties of sincere regard, as is demonstrated by the petitions sent through me to the superior authorities by those municipalities, no sooner do they become aware of of a prospective transfer of a military post or station, because of the good disposition generally shown by taxpayers of all sorts in their willingness to share municipal and provincial burdens that the exigencies of progress impose, because of the great enthusiasm animating all classes in favor of the dissemination of popular education, and above all, because of the indomitable energy and heroic love of work made so patent by the people of Batangas that it is impossible for us to fail to see it. In the rude struggle for existence, the natives of this province are well fitted to survive. Nothing terrifies them; nothing discourages them. If year after year, their lands are invaded by clouds of locusts, one and all, including the smallest child, hasten to exterminate them; if the animals are carried off by the rinderpest, they, confiding in the strength of their arms, with a piece of iron, with their own nails, they rend the earth and wrest from it the nourishment they require; if nature denies them the rain of heaven, torrents of the sweat of their brows fertilize the desert lands; with an indomitable and invincible spirit, head erect, proud of their self-reliance during this struggle against the cruelties of nature, they only bend the head to kiss and bless the generous hand of America and render to it unconditional adhesion and infinite acknowledgment for the splendid gifts that it has showered upon the people in days of sorrow, misery, and hunger. In general terms, complete peace prevails. A peace undisturbed by a single symptom of religious strife, the disastrous consequences of which history and experience teach us consist in making deep dissensions, enervating energy, and constituting an eternal obstacle to real progress. It can be affirmed that there is not officially one single active Aglipayan in any part of this province; so that if any slight incident does sometimes occur, it is due to questions of a personal character which originate rather more from the idiosyncrasy and individual manner of conduct of the actors in such events than from uncompromising sectarianism. With regard to the prohibition of funerals when the body is carried in an open casket, which gave rise to so much talk in the sensational newspapers, this is a technical problem of the exclusive jurisdiction of the bureau of public health, which I presume will soon have the last word said about this matter. On the other hand, in the hearts of the inhabitants of this province, there is day to day taking deeper root a profound love for peace and good order, which they unanimously recognize as the only true, solid basis of their regeneration, welfare, and progress, all of them feeling consequently a hatred
no less profound against the criminal disturbers of the peace. And here, we have a great question.
The scum of past periods of turbulence is nothing more or less than an aggregation of incorrigible criminals, monstrous abortions of evil, jailbirds, in short, the residue left by the revolutionary wave when the storm had subsided under the influence of the magic wand of peace. These people have not an atom of anything resembling a political ideal, nor do they even possess the madness of the dreams of a Utopia. There, we find a hotbed of crime and a blindness that leads to annihilation. They are the prey of remorse, and being outcasts among their own people, they rove over the mountains like veritable wild beasts. No other measures are possible with them except that of extermination. In the pueblos, the inhabitants are active in the pursuit of these wild beasts, and whenever they are in reach, they do not hesitate to hunt them down.
Agriculture, Locusts, Rinderpest.
This is essentially an agricultural province, and formerly, during the period of its greatest splendor, it owed everything to agriculture, as all of its sources of wealth emanated from it. I believe that it an be affirmed without great risk of falling into error that the Batangas region has in the past demonstrated the highest capacity for agricultural production, due as much to the marvelous perseverance of the inhabitants in their labors as to the soil of great variety and inexhaustible fertility. In better times, Batangas was truly one great model farm, where it appeared that nature had made a magnificent display — a most dazzling exhibition of those products made in the mysterious and innermost recesses of its sacred bosom. But the blast of misfortune and calamity was felt, and that enchanted Eden was changed into something like a desolate and lugubrious panorama. Ten years of locust plagues, the loss of its most valuable product — coffee — the rinderpest, which exterminated all of the draft animals, the destruction left in the wake of the war, and two years of drought left this province almost in the throes of death. However, this year, thanks to the establishment of peace and the generous protection of the American Government and the imponderable activity of its inhabitants, its condition is slowly but surely improving. This year, there was a new invasion of locusts, believed to have come over from Mindoro; but the people, encouraged by the succor extended to them by the civil commission, which placed 1,000 piculs of rice at their disposition for this purpose, and the indefatigable zeal of the provincial and municipal authorities, have been able to exterminate, in the short period of two months and one-half, nearly 15,000 sacks of young locusts, thereby succeeding in saving all of their plantations. There was a new outbreak of the rinderpest from January to June, which caused the death of 56 horses, 54 cattle, 75 carabaos and 1,595 hogs, the disease being especially severe in Lipa, were in two months it killed off 50 animals. It is a sight to see the poor farmers doing the work of animals because of the scarcity of the latter. However, from data at hand, all of the pueblos have this year cultivated larger areas of land than during former years, some of them, like Taal and Bauan, having increased their sowings to four times more than in other years. Lipa, San Juan, Santo Tomas, and Batangas have increased theirs to double, while in the balance of the pueblos, the increase has been from one-half to one-third over that of former years. And thanks to the timely and copious rains, if no other disappointments overtake the farmers, it is everywhere expected that an abundant crop will reward their efforts. All of the farmers are exceedingly anxious to substitute their old crops, which are always at the mercy of the weather, of the innumerable plagues and the lack of draft animals, with other and new ones not subject to such contingencies. The mind is comforted and faith in a prosperous future is renewed in the contemplation of the extensive plantations of hemp, maguey, cotton, oranges, cocoanut trees, pineapples, mulberry trees for the cultivation of the silk-worm, ilang-ilang, cocoa, and even a few coffee trees. However, it is impossible to get along without the cultivation of rice, the basis of our food, and sugarcane, and for this reason, it is necessary seriously to think of the manner of replacing the cattle and carabaos lost through disease by other means and methods for tilling the ground, such for instance as steam plows, and this is a problem at present in the minds of the largest land holders, to which I have the honor to call the attention of the Government. Such new and progressive methods and the much wished-for agricultural mortgage and loan bank to prop the unfortunate farmers who have been fleeced by usurers and suffered other calamities, are the only solutions of the problem which will save our agriculture from its present condition of anguish.
In all the labors connected with this important branch and many others of a diverse and general character which weigh upon the provincial board, nearly the entire work falls upon the shoulders of the provincial secretary, Mr. Caedo, a model
functionary on account of his high endowments and upright character, who, at the head of his efficient force during nearly four years, has daily performed, in an assiduous and most worthy manner, an immense amount of work. In a very few months, aside from the multiple and unseen work connected with the provincial board and the provincial board of health, he has been able to complete with the most brilliant success the work connected with the new board of revision, extermination of locusts, relief boards, reorganization of [the] municipal police, electoral census, construction of the high school, convention of presidents, with several governmental investigations, interrogatories to the municipalities relative to road taxes and the maintenance of roads, to agricultural and industrial production, statistics, reports, surveys of barrios, etc., besides the immense accumulation of records, reports, circulars, and the great mass of documents received from the different bureaus of the government.
With the exception of three or four municipalities that on account of their small size have suffered financial straits, all the rest have their treasuries in a condition of brilliant prosperity, being free from the anxieties of a prospective deficit, while some may even be said to be swimming in the abundance of a copious surplus. Thanks to the wise measure adopted by the civil commission relative to the redemption of delinquent personal registration taxes of former years by five days’ work, this tax has been collected with more regularity and much less trouble. Much the same thing may be said with regard to the land tax; some errors have been corrected, excessive assessments reduced, and all of the complaints of property owners having been attended to by the new board of revision, these taxes, formerly so odious and looked upon with so much aversion, are now paid, relatively speaking, with general satisfaction, especially so as the people have become convinced that these taxes are the pillars which sustain the public works (schools and roads) that modern civilization, which America as brought to us in its highest development demands. Such is the property of some municipalities like Lipa, Batangas, Taal, and Bauan that they have permitted themselves the luxury of renouncing the one-fourth of 1 per cent, which corresponds to them for general expenses, in order to somewhat alleviate the hardships that the landowners have had to bear. If the financial condition of the municipalities continues in this wise, we hope that, in less than two years the most populous of them of them at least will have their own markets like that of the provincial capital, municipal buildings, and public schools, and, if local exigencies demand it, their own non-sectarian cemeteries. With this purpose in mind, we have joined our efforts to those of Mr. Blanchard, our most worthy treasurer, who has been four years in the discharge of his arduous duties with the most pronounced efficiency, he being distinguished as an official exceptional merit, great intellectual powers, and a philanthropic heart; he is a perfect paragon of a treasurer.
According to data existing in the office of the provincial treasurer, there has been collected: For personal registration certificates of or cedulas, ₱42.456.65 and $20,465.51 Mexican; land tax, ₱41,175.20 and $13,025.57 Mexican; industrial tax, ₱18,592.11 and $4,880.51 Mexican; fisheries, ₱5,059.97 and $3,520.33 Mexican; concessions and others, ₱6,598.22 and $8.239.40 Mexican; municipal licenses, ₱11,086.43 and $3,784 Mexican; cattle, ₱2,692.49 and $4,073.37 Mexican; fines, ₱1,840.25 and $1,041.03 Mexican; registration of property, ₱212 and $11.50 Mexican.
Constabulary and Municipal Police.
As I have already indicated, there is a lofty public spirit of courageous solidarity to exterminate and annihilate the criminal disturbers of peace and order which is strongly in evidence. The brilliant and energetic corps of constabulary and scouts greatly contribute to its maintenance and development. I might say, in like manner, but not to so great an extent, the same thing is true with regard to the municipal police of recent organization in this province. The head of the constabulary corps in this province is the young and courteous Capt. Charles E. Manison, whose prestige is great in the corps, as in less than two years, he has cleaned the extensive and troublous island of Mindoro of ladrones, captured over 70 rifles, and is a worthy successor to the never-to-be-forgotten Captain Griffith because of his activity, energy, and tact displayed in the discharge of the delicate duty of exercising control over the municipal police. If evidence is desired to prove the existence of that lofty spirit to which I have referred, it is only necessary to recollect the events which occurred in Santo Tomas, Tanawan, Lipa, Rosario, Bauan, and Nasugbu, where defenseless rustics and unarmed tenientes del barrio, defying the ire and facing the vengeance of savage tulisanes, availing themselves of a thousand artifices and stratagems, as strength they had none, in capturing the enemies of good order
bravery met with death, kidnapping, and with martyrdom! The sad situation of these poor rustics who are, so to speak, between the sword’s point and the wall,
is worthy of the most humane attention and gives rise to many bitter reflections better suited to a sociological article than to an official report. The
municipal police of Santo Tomas, Tanawan, Lipa, and Taal, who are provided with good arms and uniforms, labor to the extent of their power under the orders of their worthy presidents and the direction of the constabulary inspector; and they have captured many rifles, revolvers, and other arms from the bandits, the police force of Santo Tomas being specially remarkable on account of the many successes which have crowned its efforts. With the exception of those pueblos that on account of their proximity to Cavite and Laguna suffer from time to time from the deplorable effects of brigandage, the other pueblos of the province enjoy the most perfect tranquility, especially Batangas, San Juan, Bauan, Taysan, Ibaan, Lobo, Calatagan, Calaca, Tuy, and Balayan, from where not even the least disturbance has been reported to me. There are constabulary posts at Batangas, where the headquarters is situated, at Lipa, Tanawan, Taysan, Taal, Calaca, and Tuy, and of scouts at Nasugbu, Bayuyuñgan, Talisay, Ambulong, and San Juan. I think that a good system of telephones uniting all of the pueblos would add to the rapidity of action and efficacy of operations of the constabulary and scouts.
In order to contribute somewhat to the extermination of brigandage, the greatest desire guiding all of my actions, I have proclaimed to all of the municipalities that I will pay out of my own pocket from 5 to 10 pesos for each revolver and from 10 to 20 pesos for each shotgun or rifle presented to me, as I believe that in order to be successful, the principal thing to be done is to deprive them of their arms, and I am already obtaining some results. I shall consider myself fortunate the month when the 375 pesos I receive from the province are all used for this purpose, for I shall have returned its money to the province in the form of added tranquility and welfare by annihilating those accursed instruments of disorder and crime.
Highways of Communication.
There are two great wagon roads, one from Batangas to Calamba, passing through San José, Lipa, Tanawan, and Santo Tomas, and another starting from the same point and running through Bauan, Taal, Lemery, Calaca, Balayan, Tuy, and Lian.
I was over these roads during the rainy season (June and July) and found them in the best possible state of preservation, thanks to the incessant industry of the
supervisor, Mr. Westerhouse, a most expert engineer and a veritable prototype of indefatigable activity, who may be said to always have an eye on the roads in order immediately to repair any damage that the elements might cause. I would make bold to petition the government that it deign to fix its attention upon the roads uniting this provincial capital with Ibaan, Taysan, Rosario, and San Juan. The supervisor is making superhuman efforts to repair these roads, but in a provisional manner and by sections, so to speak, as a lack of funds does not permit him to undertake a definite and lasting work such as has been done on the other wagon roads. And as it is this part of the province that is precisely the least cultivated and where the greatest misery and poverty reign, the rinderpest and other diseases and calamities having been more cruelly and harshly felt in this region than in any other part of the province, I believe that the government would be performing a work of charity if it would grant an appropriation to construct a good wagon road from Batangas to San Juan, passing through the pueblos mentioned. This part of the province, moreover, does not expect to get the benefit of the advantages of the railroad, as it is off the proposed line. It is also by all means necessary that work on the wharf at Batangas should begin soon, this being a concession promised some time ago.
What would be truly the renaissance of the province is the laying of a line of railroad. This would act as a revivifying fluid, generating new habits of activity in diffusing itself through all of the organisms of this impoverished region; it would awaken new energies and at the same time attract new elements of life. All of these immense benefits we expect from the promises that from the highest spheres of the Government have been received in our hearts as a consoling blessing which will bring forth love and eternal acknowledgment of the magnanimity of the American Nation.
A mail service is in regular operation and very well organized.
Batangas counts 2,612 scholars in the 3 schools of the town and the 15 in the barrios. Bauan 1,037 in 2 schools in the pueblo and 16 in the barrios. Lips 1,227 in 2 schools
in the pueblo and 8 in the barrios. Nasugbu 783 in 1 school in the pueblo and 5 in the barrios. Taal 632 in the 2 schools in the pueblo and 8 in the barrios. Cuenca 623 in 1 school in the pueblo and 1 in the barrio. Balayan 456 in 1 school in the pueblo and 4 in the barrios. San Juan 444 in 1 school in the pueblo and 4 in the barrios. San José 350 in 1 school in the pueblo and 2 in the barrios. Rosario 183 in 1 school in the pueblo and 1 in the barrio. Calaca 150 in 1 school in the pueblo and l in the barrio. Santa Tomas 143 in 1 school in the pueblo and 6 in the barrios. Lobo 68 in 1 school. lbaan 60 in 1 school. Which makes a total of 9,368; and if to this is added one high school, one of arts and trades, and another of agriculture in the provincial capital and the intermediate schools in Lipa, Bauan, Taal, Balayan, and Tanawan, and the night schools in all of the pueblos where the entire municipal governments, including residents and justices of the peace and the most prominent people in the town attend, are taken into account, an approximate idea of the magnificent level reached by this most important branch of the government will be had, which is greatly to the honor of the superintendent, Mr. Buck, who carries forward his sublime mission of diffusing popular education with veritable fervor and the zeal of an apostle. He is one of the most valuable Americans and has the greatest affection for this country. He is a living example of the value of self-help, and for that
reason, better than anyone else, he is capable of Saxonizing our children in the fullest and highest acceptation of this word. Nearly all of the presidents are assisting him to the extent of their ability in this noble work, and in connection with this matter, I would state that the president of Batangas has distinguished himself in the extreme in this work.
Batangas is, on the other hand, a model municipality from every point of view; admirable, because of its resourceful initiative, and meriting mention among all the rest in the province because of the fact that it appropriates ₱6,000 for educational purposes from its general funds. The president and other municipal officers of Tanawan have renounced the privilege of receiving the maximum of their salaries in order to maintain the barrio schools with the money thus saved. At Bauan, the president and councilors are canvassing the barrios in order to raise a small contribution so as to get funds with which to maintain the rural schools. The municipality of Santo Tomas is also engaged in the work of raising voluntary subscriptions for the construction of schools. The president and headmen of San José distribute monthly prizes among the students. Lipa, not to be outdone, has made donations of supplies and land for school purposes and has raised subscriptions in its barrios for the same purpose. San Juan and Nasugbu have done the same thing. In fact, all of the pueblos, in spite of the general crisis through which this country is passing, are willing to go to any sacrifice when the interests of education are involved. Carried away by this general and widespread enthusiasm prevalent among all of the inhabitants, I have instituted many prizes in different pueblos on my own account, in order to encourage the scholars. The provincial treasurer maintains a few poor students. In this provincial capital, a school of agriculture and classes in manual training have begun operation, and we trust that the results from these centers of learning will give a new course to education, making it of a more practical character.
Besides the official establishments, there are some Catholic schools and a few colleges connected with the Manila centers of learning — San Juan de Letran and Liceo de Manila.
Provincial Jail — Justice of the Peace.
The provincial jail is a handsome building, uniting good sanitary conditions with perfect security. It is situated in an isolated place outside of the town and is swept by the salubrious sea breezes. Some of its departments are used as barracks by the constabulary detachment in this provincial capital, they having over the place. When I took charge of the provincial government, one of my dearest wishes was to improve the situation of the unfortunate prisoners. They are now uniformed, which [in] fact to a certain extent is a safeguard against the formerly frequent jail breaks. They are provided with plates, cups, and other necessary utensils. The jail is provided with a good infirmary under the charge of the municipal doctor, and also with a department for women. The prisoners are taken out on public works under the immediate inspection of a deputy of the provincial supervisor, with 6 armed guards, and all sorts of precautions are taken to avoid escape. There are at present 150 of them, of which number 86 are awaiting definitive sentence, but we hope that within a short time, this number will diminish, owing to the activity, which is really admirable, that the provincial fiscal, Mr. Diego Gloria, assisted by a personnel which though small, is capable and diligent, is displaying in the preparation of causes and the interest he is taking in their prompt disposal when court next opens. He is an official who deserves all sorts of praise, being active, upright, and inflexible in the
compliance of his difficult duties. He has been nearly four years zealously serving the government in the laborious task of prosecuting crime.
The justice of the peace courts are not, as a general rule, badly administered, and up to the present time, not a single case of prevarication has been recorded. However, I adhere to the suggestions so often made by various entities relative to the making of radical reforms in this important branch of the administration of justice — such, for example, as the aggregation of the resent municipalities into districts presided over by justices of the peace who are learned in the law and will be able better to discharge the duties of their office. They should be well remunerated.
Public Health — Increase of Population.
The public health could not be better, according to data furnished by the efficient provincial department of health. There has been a very large increase of births over deaths and no epidemic disease has presented itself for some time past. Nearly 38,000 vaccinations have been made, Doctor Roxas, president of the municipal board of Lips, having especially distinguished himself in this work. Malarial fevers have diminished — in fact, they have a most disappeared — this being attributed to the fact that former large tracts of untilled lands have been plowed up and drained. There are municipal boards of health established in all of the pueblos, there being 1 doctor, 8 licentiates in medicine, and some practicantes, and 11 pharmacies to attend to the sanitary needs of the province. Doctor Losada, one of s most distinguished Filipino physicians, is at the head of the provincial board of health. He is a man of superior education and graduated at the end of his class in the University of Manila, afterwards completing is educational career in the most famous schools of Europe. In all of his official acts, a most unusual anxiety to organize the different branches of the board of health in this province as perfectly as possible has been noted. Owing to all of these favorable circumstances relative to the excellent sanitary conditions of the province, a notable increase in the population has been observed. In less than a year, it has amounted to 5,100 inhabitants. These eloquent figures bring comfort to our soul and makes us hope that within a short time, we shall have recuperated the 100,000 inhabitants that an overwhelming series of terrible misfortunes and calamities took away from the formerly wealthy, flourishing. and populous province of Batangas.
Honorable sir, I have reached the end of my modest report, written very hurriedly and without any pretensions, but only with the desire to comply with a duty
that the law demands of me. It will be noted that it is rather of a descriptive character and very sparing in its recommendations. As a matter of fact, there are many and serious problems floating before our vision that look upon us with the scrutinizing gaze of an implacable sphinx; but in these critical moments of transition through which we are passing, and in the midst of the vacillation of the policy of experiment in which we are hovering, it would be an excess of folly and of arrogance to offer a definitive solution after scarcely five months, a time insufficient to have appreciated the importance of many things, with nothing more to base it upon than dogmatic formulas and the luminous abstractions that the science of sociology and that of political economy might inspire in the obscure recesses of a private office. Perhaps, this report may also be accused of indulging too much in personalities, but in dealing with the officials of the various departments which make up the provincial government, which I believe is the best way of giving an idea of the condition of the province, it is perforce necessary to speak of the main wheel which transmits the power and is the mainspring of the governmental machine; therefore no course is left open but to examine it, for upon its good or bad qualities, the general workings of the government depend. It is unnecessary for me to assure you that in
everything concerning the personnel of this government, I have been guided by the most strict and dispassionate impartiality. Finally, the requiring of reports from officers of the administration is one of the most efficacious procedures of the American system; it is a most efficient manner of keeping them alive at all times to the importance of the compliance with their duties, and it obliges them further to concentrate all of their energies, attention, powers, and activity in carrying out the charge intrusted to them by popular vote or by the confidence of the government.
GREGORIO AGUILERA SOLIS
Notes and references:
Governor, Province of Batangas.
“Report of the Governor of the Province of Batangas,” by Gregorio Aguilera Solis, published 1904 as part of the “Fifth Annual Report of the Philippine Commission” by the Bureau of Insular Affairs, United States War Department.