The indomitable Batangueño spirit

"The people's courage and bravery in the face of adversity are legendary."


In my childhood I remember visiting relatives on my grandmother’s side in Cuenca, Batangas. I have fond memories of playing with cousins just outside their nipa hut. I would ask them about the plants and flowers that grew abundantly everywhere. 

The highlight of these visits would always be our trip to a nearby place called “Pulong Gubat,” where all sorts of trees and plants could be found. I no longer remember if it was an actual small island. There we would have hours of fun running, playing, climbing trees, and feasting on local fruits. I can still imagine the taste of bayabas, makopa, siniguelas, aratiles, lansones, dalanghita, singkamas, and aratiles. The fruits, because they were direct from the trees were at their best. I will not be surprised if my love for local fruits started from these trips. 

My memories of Batangas have always been good. Outside of the visits to Cuenca, there were a few summer family outings to Matabungkay Beach, seeing endless sugarcane plants, the best Bulalo while being awed by the Taal Volcano. I traveled to different parts of Batangas for work and always, I would admire nature’s beauty and bounty. 

Then I discovered Taal, the Heritage Town. At that point in my life I was already into Filipino food, heritage, and history. A friend brought us to this town that literally transports you to the time of Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and the Philippine revolution. 

It was a case of love at first sight for me.

Spanish period and a few American era houses line Taal’s major roads. More can be found in its inner streets. Because Taal is one of the country’s few heritage towns, the local government implements an ordinance that prohibits the destruction of old houses and the construction of modern-themed homes. 

Taal is also home to the biggest Catholic church is Asia, the Basilica de San Martin de Pores, which seems to dominate the town because it is located at the highest point of poblacion. It is hard to get lost in Taal because all you have to do is look up and check where the basilica is. 

In Taal, one will find the homes-turned-museums of some of the major players  of the Philippine revolution against Spain and America  like Felipe and Marcela Agoncillo, Gen. Ananias Diokno, Leon Apacible, and Eulalio and Gliceria Villavicencio. Thus, Taal is valuable for its historicity.

These are why I chose the town as my second home.

However, Taal is just one of the remarkable towns of Batangas. The province, being one of the first to rise against Spain, gave birth to some of our most valiant revolutionists including (besides those from Taal), Apolinario Mabini, Gen. Miguel Malvar, and Col. Santiago Rillo. Batangas revolutionists fought in the revolution against Spain and the war of independence against America. 

Batangueño courage and bravery in the face of adversity are legendary.  They have a proven capacity to get up and start again after wars and disasters. The ongoing calamity caused by Taal Volcano’s eruption is no exception.  

I see this as early as now.  

Batangueños who happened to be in Metro Manila during the volcanic eruption and who could no longer go home because of the danger and eventual lock down of their towns, have banded together to help.  Led by a Taaleño, private citizens immediately went to work to do relief operations at first with their own resources. While all of them worry about their homes and livelihood that they can possibly lose, these people chose to do something about the situation, and on a daily basis deliver relief goods to the various evacuation centers. 

A number of families in areas outside of the danger zone have adopted other families and let them stay in their homes.  They turned their homes into evacuation centers. Many are volunteering in various ways—helping evacuate people, working in the evacuation centers, taking care of the evacuees, etc.  I have friends from towns adjacent to the danger zone who, on their own are soliciting for goods and distributing them as well to those displaced by the volcanic eruption.  

Truly, the spirit of bayanihan is alive and well.

Also, notice that so far, there have been no reports of behavioral problems involving evacuees despite the difficult situation their families are in. I also do not hear of other types of problems that often occur in times of calamities. Perhaps Batangueños know that all these are temporary and that when the crisis is over and Taal Volcano calms down, they will be able to reclaim their lives. After all, they have shown this spirit throughout the history of the province. 

Through wars, tragedies, and calamities, Batangas has a history of bouncing back. 

When this is over, Batangueños will go back to their homes and reclaim their lives.  Batangas streets traversed by heroes will be cleared,  its forests where battles for the country were fought will live, its waters that launched ships of our revolutionists will again be rich, and its heritage homes that gave birth to, nurtured, and cradled valiant men and women will stand again.  

Make no mistake about it, Batangas, and more specifically my Taal, will RISE again in true Batangueño spirit. 

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Batangas , Taal Volcano , Heritage Town , volcanic eruption , danger zone
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