Life So Mundane in Batangas
Showing posts with label BatangasEssay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BatangasEssay. Show all posts

31 May 2017

Fidel A. Reyes, the Lipa-born Nationalist Writer of the Early American Era, and the Case of the Bust to Honor His Memory
Fidel A. Reyes and the bust in honor of him.  Images from Heroic Footsteps.
In the year 1901, while the Philippine-American War was ongoing, Filipino nationalists founded a Spanish-language newspaper which they called El Renacimiento or The Rebirth. Sheila Coronel described the newspaper as “the voice of the native intelligentsia and reflected their aspirations for self-rule, even as they had, by then, accepted the reality of American sovereignty1.”

The Apolinario Mabini Syphilis Rumors and Late 19th Century Philippine Power Play
By National Historical Commission - National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Public Domain,
Those among readers who daydreamed through lessons on Apolinario Mabini in high school Philippine History would likely have paid attention more had textbooks not kept out one sleazy bit of information that would have made these lessons a tad more interesting: that there were rumors circulating in the day that Mabini’s paraplegia1 was caused by syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease.

First-Hand Narrative of the Violent 1911 Taal Volcano Eruption which Killed More than a Thousand People
Taal Volcano right after the 30 January 1911 eruption.  Original photo from John Tewell on Flickr.

“Tiny” Taal Volcano, at just 311 meters or 1,020 feet above sea level considered the world’s smallest active volcano, is also among the deadliest1. It has had a total of 33 historical or documented eruptions2. One of these, the 1754 eruption, lasted for almost seven months and redefined the terrain in the Taal-Lemery area, closed off Taal Lake’s access to Balayan Bay and changed its waters from marine to freshwater.

General Juan Cailles, the Nasugbu-born Soldier of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War
Left image by Unknown - Downloaded from Local Identifier: SEAiT.Philippines.ph00577.bib, Public Domain,  Right image from Philippine-American War, 1899-1902.

Obscured by the fame of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Miguel Malvar and other great historical figures is one Nasugbu-born soldier whose military exploits spanned the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War. His name was Juan Cailles, a Batangueño who was not even of Filipino blood. His father was Hippolyte Callais, a Frenchman originally from Lyon; while his mother was María Kauppama from British India.

The Question Everyone Wants an Answer to: Are There Fault Lines in Batangas?
Image credit:

In the midst of that earthquake-infested month that was April of 2017, hundreds of people were arriving at this web site from search engines having used the search string “fault lines in Batangas” or something similar. The earthquakes on the fourth and eighth of the month were quite nerve-wracking; and those affected naturally wanted to know what was going on.

The Tree after which Ibaan was named and other Historical Trivia about the Town
Just outside the Municipal Hall of modern day Ibaan.  Image credit:  Google Street View.

The Municipality of Ibaan is one of the Province of Batangas’ middle-sized towns, with a land area of 6,899 hectares and a population (2015 Census) of 52,9701. Its poblacion is roughly 14 kilometers southwest of Lipa City and roughly 12 kilometers northeast of Batangas City.

Captain Roberto Lemery, the Spanish Outpost Commander after whom a Town is Named
The bridge that separates Taal from Lemery.  Image credit:  Google Street View.

A quick examination of the list of Batangas’ cities and municipalities shows that the names of all the province’s 34 geopolitical subdivisions sound distinctly Tagalog or Spanish – except one, the municipality of Lemery. Lemery is more a French rather than a Spanish surname.1 Not that there is anything unusual about this because the histories of France and the Iberian Peninsula are very much intertwined so that there are those of Spanish citizenship who go by this typically French-sounding surname.

Know the Tsunami-Prone Areas in Batangas as Shown by a Phivolcs Hazard Map
Image captured by video posted by TD Interesting Topics Tube on YouTube.

Right after the magnitude 5.4 earthquake that hit just off the island of Tingloy on the 4th of April 2017, subsequent news reports showed clips of Batangas City-residents along the coastal areas hurrying off to higher grounds. Some of these were also sent scampering because of bogus text messages that warned of the impending arrival of a tsunami. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology or Phivolcs quickly moved to allay people’s fears. The strength of the earthquake, Phivolcs spokespersons told media, was not strong enough to have generated a tsunami.

Batangas Volleyball stands out in the UAAP Season 79 Final and the Palarong Pambansa 2017
Action in the 2016 UAAP women's volleyball final.  Image captured from ABS-CBN video on YouTube.

When the finale of the UAAP Season 79 women’s volleyball competition unfolds at the Araneta Coliseum on the second of May, Batangas volleyball will be prominently represented on either side of the green-blue divide, as it was last season.

Why Marcela Agoncillo was asked to Design the Philippine Flag
Marcela Agoncillo by Unknown - Jackeline, Public Domain,  Philippine flag by Emilio Aguinaldo -, Mandirigma Research Organization, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Public Domain,

It is one of those quirks of history that Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, in all honesty a peripheral figure to the Philippine Revolution, is arguably better remembered than her husband Don Felipe. The latter was very much involved in the revolution as well as in efforts to secure independence for the Philippines after the surrender of Spain to the Americans in 1898.

Know the Towns of Batangas that used to be Part of other Towns in the Province
Lemery seen from the tower of the St. Martin de Tours Basilica in Taal.

Batangas as we know it in the present day had vastly different geopolitical subdivisions at the dawn of the Spanish colonial era, with only a few towns or pueblos as they were called. As the population of these towns grew and settlers branched out to populate other localities, new barrios were created which would, over time, become themselves new municipalities. In fact, as relatively recently as the 1960s, the geopolitical subdivision was still being rearranged. This article attempts to show readers how some towns of Batangas branched out from their mother towns to become municipalities in their own right.

Wild West-Style Banditry of the Tulisanes and a Documented 19th Century Raid in Calaca
Image credit:  Bamboo Tales at Project Guttenberg.

I was amused last week to hear President Rodrigo Duterte brand Senator Antonio Trillanes IV as a tulisan. I doubt that many among the younger generations even know what a tulisan is, let alone visualize what one looks like. Those of my generation, on the other hand, grew up to a steady fare of afternoon black and white movies on television which had tulisanes as the perennial villains.

Taaleño Felipe Agoncillo’s Failed Efforts at Securing Self Rule for the Philippines in 1898
Image credit: and

Most of us only have a cursory knowledge acquired from basic education text books of Don Felipe Agoncillo, the lawyer from Taal after whom a town in Batangas has been named and who is remembered in history as the country’s representative to the Treaty of Paris1 of 1898 and the “outstanding first Filipino diplomat.2” What the text books do not go into detail about is that he was sent to secure self-rule for the Philippines but ultimately failed through no fault of his or from lack of trying.

Know the 15 Inactive Volcanoes in Batangas (and if you Live Near One)
Part of the Mount Malepunyo range just east of Lipa City.

When I first published an article on the inactive volcano Anilao Hill in Lipa City, somebody pointed out that there are many others in the province. Indeed there are fifteen in all; and these are just the ones listed by Phivolcs.  This list includes volcanoes that are partly in Batangas and occupy land in neighboring provinces as well.  There is no reason for concern, however. These are called “inactive” because they are not really expected to erupt anymore and many probably were last active thousands and even millions of years ago. Nonetheless, it is always good to know information even if we cannot immediately ascertain what it will ultimately turn out to be worth.

Kalumpit, a Fruit Named after Batangas, Has Many Medicinal Properties
The kalumpit fruit. Image credit: Tagalog Lang.
The kalumpit fruit.  Image credit:  Tagalog Lang.

As a young boy back in the sixties, I always looked forward to foodstuffs that my uncle brought back as presents from his weekends in Nasugbu. Among these were buradol or flying fish daeng (fish halved and dried) or himbabao strings, the latter best stewed with fish paste. These were seldom, if at all, available in Lipa City.


The Volcano in Lipa City You Probably Never Knew Existed

Anilao Hill.  Image by Cesar C. Cambay directly loaded from

Just so I do not get accused of panic-mongering at a time when earthquake swarm has become a fashionable term in Batangas, Phivolcs lists this volcano in Lipa City as inactive.1 It is a mound of earth called Anilao Hill south of the poblacion in the Anilao area between Antipolo del Norte and Antipolo del Sur. Phivolcs gives its coordinates at 13°54' 121°11', which is erroneous because it falls on a piece of flat land.

The Phivolcs coordinates for Anilao Hill are slightly off.  Image credit:  Google Earth. gives more accurate coordinates up to the seconds at 13°54'33.48" 121°10'41.16"2. Plotted on Google Earth, this yields a mound of earth with its curvature visible if you zoom down to an elevation of 977 feet. The image is shown below. coordinates plotted on Google Earth shows an obvious mound.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program categorizes Anilao Hill as a pyroclastic cone, the last estimated eruption of which was during the Pleistocene geologic era.3 Pyroclastic cones are also called as “scoria cones” or “cinder cones.” They “are relatively small, steep volcanic landforms built of loose pyroclastic fragments.4

As mentioned, Anilao Hill is estimated to have been last active during the Pleistocene Age. This is a geologic time span calculated to have been between 2.8 million and 11,700 years ago. This epoch is often referred to loosely as the “Ice Age.5

Anilao Hill is part of a volcanic complex referred to as the Macolod (Maculot locally) Corridor. This complex includes, among others, Mount Makiling, Mount Malepunyo, the Laguna de Bay and Taal Volcano, including the lake. Down the geologic epochs, small pyroclastic or scoria cones were formed by relatively mildly explosive or Strombolian eruptions within this complex. Other similar volcanic scoria cones that have been identified are Tombol Hill in Rosario and Sorosoro Hill in Batangas City.6

Tombol Hill in Rosario, like Anilao Hill, is also a pyroclastic or scoria cone.  Image credit:  Google Earth.

Note that Phivolcs has classified Anilao Hill as an inactive rather than a dormant volcano. The terms are often used interchangeably but they do not mean the same. A dormant volcano has been inactive for many years but has the capacity and is expected to erupt sometime in the future. In contrast, an inactive volcano such as Anilao Hill is usually not expected to erupt mostly because of the very long time that passed since it was last active.7

Notes and references:
1 “Inactive Volcanoes,” online at the Phivolcs web site.
2 “Anilao Hill,” online at
3 “Anilao Hill,” online at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global Volcanism Program web site.
4 “Pyroclastic Cones,” online at
5 “Pleistocene,” Wikipedia.
6 “The Soils of the Philippines,” by Rodelio B. Carating, Raymundo G. Galanta and Clarita D. Bacatio.
7 “What are active and inactive volcanoes?” Online at

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05 April 2017

Why the 2017 Tingloy, Batangas Earthquake was Intense Even in Lipa City
Image credit:  Phivolcs

I was lying on the sofa watching television when I felt the first jolt at 8:58 pm on the fourth of April, and typically, because my home is right beside the highway, I wondered if it was because of a bus or a container truck that just passed by. I immediately bolted up when the television and the walls suddenly began to sway. I knew then that there was an earthquake.

It did not seem like a left to right swaying as is typical of most minor earthquakes, but also an up and down undulation of the entire house. I have no way of corroborating this since Phivolcs’ reports are always regrettably sketchy; but that was how it looked like to me. More about this later.

I have lived through enough earthquakes in my life to make me quickly realize that there would be no need to dive under the table, even if the prolonged undulation was still quite unnerving. As soon as the shaking died down, I turned on my computer and went to the Phivolcs web site. In a matter of minutes, the site was reporting a magnitude 5.4 tremor with its epicenter placed at 7 kilometers northwest of the island municipality of Tingloy in Batangas.

Phivolcs subsequently revised this to magnitude 5.5 with epicenter at 6 kilometers northeast of Tingloy, stronger than it was originally reported. Do not discount the 0.1 difference as insignificant as I shall now begin to explain. Just to make sure that everyone is on the same page, I will try to explain the scientific mumbo-jumbo in lay terms as much as I can.

First of all, the Tingloy earthquake was tectonic in origin. This simply means that there was a rupture or breaking of the rocks that compose the earth’s crust. Upon the rupture, energy was released that would subsequently spread out from the focus or source of the rupture in what we would all call an earthquake. This energy can be measured numerically in what is called magnitude. Geologists frequently use what is called the Richter scale to calculate just how strong one earthquake is.

Tulane University Geology professor Stephen A. Nelson explains how even a difference of one (1) in magnitude is significant:
“…each increase in 1 in Magnitude represents a 31 fold increase in the amount of energy released. Thus, a magnitude 7 earthquake releases 31 times more energy than a magnitude 6 earthquake. A magnitude 8 earthquake releases 31 x 31 or 961 times more energy than a magnitude 6 earthquake.1
If the amount of energy released during an earthquake is measured in terms of magnitude, the effects of this release across the landscape is assigned a numerical value called intensity. Intensity varies according to the effects caused by the shaking and is also affected by the sturdiness or strength of the land underneath the surface and distance away from the epicenter.2

Tingloy is 42 kilometers or so from Lipa as the crow flies. Philvocs has placed the strength of the earthquake in Batangas City, roughly 21 kilometers from the island, at Intensity 6. No figure is given for Lipa City, but Intensity 5 is assigned to Malvar, which is just over 51 kilometers from Tingloy.3 While no decimals are assigned to intensity levels, we can safely assume that shaking in Lipa was somewhere between Intensity 5 and Intensity 6.

To fully appreciate the meaning of these numbers, let us refer to the Philvocs Earthquake Intensity Scale. Intensity 5, assigned to Malvar, is described as:
“Strong - Generally felt by most people indoors and outdoors. Many sleeping people are awakened. Some are frightened, some run outdoors. Strong shaking and rocking felt throughout building. Hanging objects swing violently. Dining utensils clatter and clink; some are broken. Small, light and unstable objects may fall or overturn. Liquids spill from filled open containers. Standing vehicles rock noticeably. Shaking of leaves and twigs of trees are noticeable.”
Meanwhile, Intensity 6, assigned to Batangas City, is described as:
“Very Strong - Many people are frightened; many run outdoors. Some people lose their balance. Motorists feel like driving in flat tires. Heavy objects or furniture move or may be shifted. Small church bells may ring. Wall plaster may crack. Very old or poorly built houses and man-made structures are slightly damaged though well-built structures are not affected. Limited rock-falls and rolling boulders occur in hilly to mountainous areas and escarpments. Trees are noticeably shaken.4
Moreover, the earthquake occurred at a depth of only 5 kilometers beneath the surface, which means it was a “shallow earthquake.5” This type of earthquake tends to be stronger and is more destructive than those that occur deeper because the energy is not dissipated and seismic waves do not have far to travel to the surface.6

Personally, what I found so unnerving about last Tuesday’s quake was not just the sideways shaking of the house – caused by what are called “Love” waves – but also the seeming up and down undulation – caused by what are called “Raleigh” waves. It was as though, for the duration of the quake, my entire house was on water instead of terra firma.

I still consider the July 1990 magnitude 7.8 Luzon earthquake as the most horrifying I have ever had to experience, even if its epicenter was somewhere in Nueva Ecija, almost 200 kilometers away. The one that hit at 8:58 at night last Tuesday did not even come close; but it was the strongest that I have had to sit through in the last decade or so.

Notes and references:
1 “Earthquakes and the Earth's Interior,” by Prof. Stephen A. Nelson, online at the Tulane University web site.
2 “What is the difference between Magnitude and Intensity?” online at GNS Science.
3 Distances calculated using Google Earth’s Ruler Tool.
4 “Phivolcs Earthquake Intensity Scale,” online at the Phivolcs web site.
5 “Phivolcs Earthquake Information No. 3, 4 April 2017,” online at the Phivolcs web site.
6 “AP EXPLAINS: Difference between shallow, deep earthquakes,” by Alicia Chang. Online at the Associated Press web site.

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The Rising Star of Batangas’ Joshua Garcia
Joshua Garcia being interviewed on Rated K.  Image captured from video on Iwantv.

There are a few Batangueños in the country’s entertainment industry. Ai-ai de las Alas, born in San Luis; and Jason Gainza, born in Batangas City, come to mind. Leo Martinez, of course, has made a career reprising onscreen the western Batangas accent of his hometown of Balayan. Then there is Ogie Alcasid, albeit born in Metro Manila but to parents originally from Lemery and Taal.

Emilio Macabuag and his WWII Guerilla Group in Calatagan, Batangas
American troops and Filipino guerrillas with captured Japanese soldiers in WWII.  Image credit:

In June of 1943, roughly a year and a half into the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II, a guerilla unit was formed in Calatagan in Batangas under the command of one Captain Emilio Macabuag. The unit consisted of a total of 366 men. Initially, the unit worked closely with another guerilla unit operating in Mindoro under the command of a Col. Macario Peralta Jr. The latter was likely an officer of the Philippine Army, which had been inducted into the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) prior to the war.


The Rape of Tanauan by the Japanese in World War II and Its Difficulties after the War

The Japanese Army on its way to Manila.  Image credit:  Wikipedia.

On 7 December 1951, then Philippine President Elpidio Quirino signed Executive Order Number 486 requiring the compilation of historical data about barrios, municipalities and provinces, in most likelihood to compensate for important historical records lost during World War II.1 The compilations subsequently submitted by Department of Education Division Offices throughout the country are now archived at the National Library of the Philippines and are a rich cache of historical information about Batangas.




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