Unlike modern courtship by which it is an exclusive affair between a man and a woman, courtship during the days of our ancestors was an affair between the families of the two parties. It was not the man who did the courting, but his parents. The moment a man’s parents began to like a certain woman, they (the man’s parents) convinced him to go to the girl’s house every afternoon. He, however, couldn’t go upstairs, but instead, he had to help in all outside work, like pounding the rice, gathering fuel, getting water from the well and the like. This man’s sacrifices lasted for two years. If, during this length of time, the girl’s parents found out that this man possessed the qualities suited to their daughter, they (the girl’s parents) asked the man to take his parents with him. In this case, the parents of both parties tried to analyze the man and the woman. The parents of the girl analyzed well the man, while the parents of the man analyzed well the girl. After thorough examination and [it was] found out that there was not a single defect, the man informed the woman that his parents would take food to her house and settle the dowry question. If both parties had agreed upon the dowry or bigay-kaya, the man’s parents took with them fuel to be distributed among the girl’s relatives and cousins. The biggest bundle, of course, was given to the girl, the length of each piece depended upon the height of the floor from the ground. This fuel was not used but would be given away when a brother of [the] girl courts somebody. The next step was for the man and the woman to appear before the priest. It was the right of the priest to ask the two whether they believed in God and in His doctrines. In case these two new nothing of prayers, the priest's part was to teach them. After learning the prayers, their names were called in the church three times. After all of these, the man’s parents sent two persons a boy and a girl, to render services to the girl and her parents.
On the wedding day, the man’s purse and even his extremist means remained unlocked for the occasion. Before this day, both parties talked about the sponsors. For the girl’s part, the man’s parents had to choose and vice-versa. The night before their wedding, food was sent to the sponsors by the man’s parents. If the approximate value of the food sent was thirty pesos (₱30.00), the sponsors had to give to the couple sixty pesos (₱60.00), thus, doubling the amount. After the church ceremony, there was continuous eating. After dinner, a mat was spread at the center of the sala where the newly wedded couple dance. During the course of their dancing, money was thrown at the couple. The one throwing had to shout the amount thrown. The male spouse had to pick up the money from the mat to be given to his wife. After the affair, both parties were lined up in such a way that they could see every female visitor going away. Each female visitor received wrapped food from these lined up folks. When the visitors had gone away, the woman had to go with the man’s parents to their house while the man was left in the girl’s house. The newlyweds could see each other the next morning, and this was the time for them to talk about the money they had collected. The amount collected was reviewed to the man’s parents and they, in return, give advice to the couple as to what had to be done with the money.
The first child must always be delivered in the girl’s house. The one in charge of the baptism was always the girl’s parents. When a child was born, the materials used by the mother during the course of her delivery, together with the placenta, were thoroughly washed. The placenta was placed in a dipper. If the child was a boy, the said placenta was to be buried with a letter, a cartilla and a pencil. In the case of a baby girl, the placenta, a needle and thread and a piece of cloth were buried together. This practice, according to our forefathers, would make the child [a] talented student when he or she grew up.
Living Conditions – Meantime that the woman is childless, she does no work save cooking. The man does all the work. Any cent earned by the man is submitted to the wife and the wife is held responsible for its disposal. It is a man’s insult to his wife if he asked her how much money they have on hand. The only chance for him to know the amount is when there is something costly which they are planning to buy, as for example, working animals for the farm.
In case death comes to any of them, the man can never remarry until after five years. During the course of his mourning, he has a black hairband around his head. When it comes to the mourning of the wife, she wears a wide black veil or the so-called widow’s veil. She can’t go out for one year. Like at present, nine nights of prayer are offered for the soul of the departed. When All Saints Day comes, [the] favorite food of the departed soul in prepared on the table. All favorite things of the dead are also included in the coffin. As the dead leaves the house, all windows are closed and to peep out of any hole is forbidden. A dipper of water is thrown in a place where nobody will get wet.
When the first year of his or her death comes, all black things are wrapped and thrown out at the eastern window. This is done at twelve o’clock at noon with the words, “Don’t come anymore.”
In places where people are not too modernistic, the practices mentioned above are taking active parts in their lives. Thus, elopement, misunderstanding between husband and wife, misunderstanding among in-laws and the couple are minimized. Peace, harmony, and good family connections reign over the house, making it a real home where everyone’s heart can rest.
As years pass, changes may make our customs and traditions more and more alike as a result of better communication, widespread education, and intelligent public opinion. The changes which will be brought about by education will be the result not only through the schools but through other agencies like the home, the church, the government, the newspapers and magazines, the movies, and the radio.
Anywhere, reverence for and belief in the supernatural becomes a part of one’s life, especially during the days of our ancestors. They even worshipped things not worthy of being so. Because of these beliefs, they became over-scrupulous, thus keeping themselves too exact in all their ways, for they might go against certain beliefs which might give them unfavorable results. The following are the superstitious beliefs which at present some people are giving attention to.
1. When the fire in the stove is making too much noise, it is believed that visitors are coming to your house.
2. When a crow perches twice on the windows, making a sorrowful sound, it is believed that somebody among your cousins or relatives died.
3. A black butterfly flying in and out of the window, especially at noon, is a sign of a bad omen.
4. Don’t build fire in such a way that the fuel you are using has small branches placed against the stove. It is believed that everything good is against the family, whether it be financially, physically and morally.
5. When you see a small snake in your house, especially on Friday, it is said that money is coming. The same is true when the palm of your hand becomes scratchy.
6. When the wedding gown of the bride is given to her, never permit her to fit it because death will come soon in her married life.
7. In transferring to a newly-built house, a jar must be filled up with water though it spills out of its mouth. It is believed that everything will be in abundance. In case there is a party for a new home, never give food to the neighbors, but instead, invite them to eat.
8. When one sees a cat crossing the street, it shows that danger will happen in the family.
9. When a newly-wedded couple arrives home from church, a new pot is thrown away so that the couple may not become childless. When it breaks into many pieces, the couple will have many children.
10. A woman on the family way most not stay at the door because it is believed that she will encounter hardships in her delivery.
With all frankness and sincerity, must, to begin with, offer an apology for being unable to cite concrete and conclusive proofs of some of the assertions that may be gleaned between the lines of this piece of work which I have prepared in order to give my readers a comprehensive idea of the organization of the local government of one of the oldest towns in the province of Batangas.
History tells us that the unit of government before the arrival of the Spaniards here was the barangay, the head of which was called the datu, hari, and the like. While there is no record to show the existence of the barangay in Taal in pre-Spanish Philippines, yet it is safe to state that there was because of the averments of the living elders of the town and of the stories handed down from generation which definitely show that such organizations really existed. During those days, a man may become the ruler of the barangay if he possessed wisdom, physical strength, or wealth. Either one of these qualifications may make him the head of the barangay. As had been advanced, records of the then existing local government of Taal are not available and nothing definite could be asserted here as to its details.
It is not amiss to state here that the laws of the barangay made by the datu with the help of elders. Laws, then, were either oral or written. The oral laws where the customs and traditions of our race which had been handed down from generation to generation.
The written laws were promulgated by the datus or rulers. The two written codes in pre-Spanish eras which were followed are the Maragtas Code and the Code of Kalantiaw.
The laws of our forefathers covered many subjects which are embraced in modern jurisprudence, a proof that our race is possessed of the originality for which progressive peoples on earth are distinguished and glorified. The early inhabitants of Taal were not exceptions to this originality. She has produced men – great men, prominent and the political, social and educational life of our country.
When the Philippines became the crown colony of Spain, the form of local government was entirely changed in line with the change of the national government. Each province was divided into pueblos. The head of the town was the gobernador-CILLO (little governador), popularly called capitan. The gobernador-CILILO was assisted by four lieutenants, called teniente mayor (chief lieutenant), teniente de policia (lieutenant of police), teniente de sementaras (lieutenant off the fields), and teniente de ganados (lieutenant of the cattle). The most well-known gobernador-Cillos or capitanes of the pueblo of Taal were Capitan Domingo Sanchez, Capital Flaviano Agoncillo, Capitan Martin Cabrera, Capitan Teofilo Atienza, Capitan Ignacio Ilagan, and Capitan Cecilio Noble.
During the early years of Spanish rule, the gobernadorcillo and other town officials were elected annually by all married men in the pueblo. Later, the system of local election was changed. The gobernadorcillo was elected annually by a board of thirteen electors selected by lot, six from the former gobernadorcillos and cabezas. The parish priest and the provincial governor (or his representative) presided over the election. For the office of the gobernadorcillo, the thirteen electors each wrote three names on the ballots. The candidate who obtained the highest number of votes was generally named gobernadorcillo, and his election was confirmed in Manila by the governor-general. Usually, he was the choice of the parish priest, who exerted great influence in local elections. The other town officials were elected in the same manner by all members of the principalia – the privileged and voting class of the community consisting of the actual and former town officials, teachers, the intelligentsia, and rich families. The minutes of the election were written down and forwarded to the central government in Manila for approval. Municipal halls had different names then: Casa Real; Consistorial in the year 1896; Tribunal, and finally, Municipal Building or Presidencia.
For the purpose of local administration, the pueblo of Taal, as was true in all pueblos all over the Philippines, was divided into barangays (barrios). The barrio was headed by the cabeza de barangay, who received no salary but was exempted from paying the tax, and he and his descendants became members of the principalia. The position was honorary.
I shall jump from the Spanish regime to the coming of the Americans as the first Philippine Republic was but short-lived.
From the famous instructions of President McKinley to the 2nd Philippine Commission on April 7, 1900, local governments were given autonomy such that the natives enjoyed the opportunity to manage local affairs to the full extent of which they were capable. As soon as conditions permitted, regular elections of municipal officers under the Municipal Code were held. The qualified voters of each municipality elected a president, a vice-president, and several councilors for a term of two years.
The first municipal president under the American regime was Camilo Ilagan, who was selected by the barrio lieutenants and some citizens who were forced by the newcomers. But the first municipal president elected by popular vote was the late Roman Noble, who showed his capability to such an extent that he had been elected for several terms which was far more than the expectations of his political enemies. His election marked the beginning of the birth of two political parties – Partido Ibaba and Partido Ilaya – the political parties which until now are contending for supremacy.
As time went on, and as the Filipinos won more concessions from the Americans in running their own government, local autonomy was also relatively increased. In Taal, the number of municipal councilors
was increased in order to give ample opportunity for the local lawmaking body to legislate for the people.
By the terms of a national legislation, the municipal president became known as the municipal mayor.
During the first days of the Japanese occupation, there was a radical change in the administration of local affairs, as what was true in the national government. The supposed authorities were divested of such powers as were usually enjoyed by them during the Commonwealth government. Not even the declaration of the so-called Philippine Independence during the Japanese time restored the freedom that was possessed by the citizens. Public officials acted under pressure so that nothing could be done to ameliorate the living conditions of the people.
Then came the liberation and, finally, independence. The people again became conscious of political activities that the selection of the local executive and his auxiliaries became prominent and emphasized.
Such is the development, in general terms, of the local government of Taal.
The topography of Taal with the exception of the barrios on the coastal plain facing the volcano is rugged because of the many hills and narrow valleys; and even if the soil is volcanic, the heavy rainfall received during the rainy months has made the hills barren, hence, unfit for agriculture. Because of the soil and the dense population, people migrated and at present seldom will you find a large stone in the archipelago where there is no Taalenio. Those who remained engaged in many different home industries in order to earn a living, hence, the people of Taal are very industrious, business-minded, and even women reach Davao and Zamboanga in selling jewelry. In spite of the fact that Taaleños are found almost anywhere in the Philippines, Taal is proud of being a first class town where the volume of commerce is large without a Chinese or Chinese store. This is due to the business minded people of the place and Chinese who attempted to run stores could not withstand competition.
The many industries found in Taal are in different sections of the town distributed as follows:
b. Freshwater fishing in the Pansipit River and in the lake.
4. Sawali-making in Mahabang Lodlod.
5. Blacksmithing in Pandayan.
7. Carpentry in Caysasay, Pook, and Latag.
8. Weaving baskets in Sambat and M. Lodlod.
9. Embroidery in every home in Balisong.
10. Panutsa-making in Seiran.
11. Commerce (peddling) [in] Buli, Mohon, Sambat, Itlog, and M. Lodlod.
Reliable records indicate that sugarcane was found growing in the Philippines at the time of discovery and Taal was at the time already one of the producers of this crop as its name was derived from that part of the sugarcane used in planting. The sugar industry in the barrios of Taal facing the lake differs from those of the sugar centrals not only in the milling but also in the cultivation for new machinery is used in these places. The canes are crushed between iron rollers and the sap passes to a tank through underground pipes. From this tank, the sap is transferred to big vats where they are kept boiling. During the boiling process, the sap is cleared by collecting all the dirt that comes to the surface. Lime is added and when the syrup reaches a certain state, it is put in cans for sale in the neighboring towns and for local consumption. The sugar is brown but if the cans are placed upside down so as to drain all the remaining syrup, as white as the sugar produced in the central at Nasugbu, Batangas. In Taal, every land owner is a sugar producer and out of every hectare, the average product amounts to about a hundred cans each containing five gallons. In the sugar region of Taal, where the canes are milled and not sent to the centrals, there are about 45 sugar mills with an average daily output [of] 675 cans daily during the milling season. In this, the mill, gets 10 per cent of the output.
Like the centrals, we do not waste anything in the manufacture of our sugar. The leaves are used in feeding the animals at work, the ends of the canes are planted, the bagasse serves as the fuel in boiling the sap, and the molasses collected in the process of boiling is used as food for the pigs and horses.
According to the survey made in two off the most productive various, the following data are hereby given:
No. of sugar mills – 25
No. of cans produced in one year – 24100