THE HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF SAN PABLO

BY REV. FR. GABRIEL MA. DELFINO



THE TERRITORY

From the wide pasturelands of San Pedro Tunasan, bordering the territory of Muntinlupa, Metro Manila until the hills of San Pablo onwards to the fringes of the legendary Banahaw mountain, natural boundary between the provinces of Laguna and Quezon, and ending in the coastal sierra region of Eastern Laguna, the variety of geography, topography and elevation – and its concomitant influence on the cultures and way of life of the localities found in their bosom – characterize the physical attributes of Laguna Province.

The writings of the Franciscan Felix de Huerta, the Dominican Valentin Marin y Morales, the Frenchman Paul de la Gironierre are some of the accounts that describe the towns and sights of the province and its attributes plus its limitations and fragility.

If it is true that physical geography is the primary factor in the evolution of local culture, then it would be most appropriate to refer to the Cultures of Laguna – in order to have a deep understanding the territory and the characteristics of the people living in them.

The towns of San Pedro Tunasan, Biñan, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao and Calamba in the Western fringe of the provine represent the hacienda culture, wide cultivation of rice and sugar and the commercial and export-oriented development that ultimately followed. San Pedro Tunasan was a hacienda of the Colegio de San Jose, thus identified with the Jesuits, the governing entity of that Manila academe. Biñan, and Santa Rosa were Dominican Haciendas until the dissolution of these agrarian estates during aftermath of the 1896 Revolution against Spain. Calamba, former Jesuit (until their expulsion in 1768) and former Dominican hacienda (Colegio de Letran de Calamba was the miniscule remnant of that vast landholding) was the boom town of wide rice and sugar production even during the American colonial epoch. Only Cabuyao, formerly called Tabuco, was a non-hacienda town because of its autonomy as “lupang Tagalog” – inhabited by a stable population even prior to Spanish colonial conquest. Cabuyao was the Matrix of the towns in Western Laguna.

As though by the imperatives of nature, Makiling Mountain would show a decisive influence in the character of the succeeding areas. From its heat, being a dormant volcano, would spring the hot springs of Los Baños (discovered by the missionary saint, San Pedro Bautista, OFM) Pansol, Calamba up to neighboring Bae town. Bae or Bay, first capital town of the province, was to become a hub of the water ferry transfort and later, a major stop-over in the railway system of the American era. Calauan was to be known as the home of the sweetest pineapples and a hacienda of the Roxas-Zobel-Ayala-Soriano clan where agricultural products would originate including fireworks gunpowder coming from the indigenous “kilitis” weed.

San Pablo de los Montes, named by the Augustinians after the eremitical saint of Egypt, Saint Paul of Thebes, the first Hermit, is the gateway to the mountainous towns of the Banahaw slopes. Together with the town of Alaminos, San Pablo use to be a part of the adjoining Province of Batangas until it was ceded to the Franciscans of Laguna. It was considered a major producer and distributor of coconut-based products for local needs and exports.

The Banahaw district of the province – comprising the towns of Rizal, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Majayjay Magdalena, Cavinti and Luisiana provides contrast with their culture based on the coconut and pandan plants. Its higher elevation makes it a cool place for recovery and rest. Indeed, during the American era, many persons sick with tuberculosis would stay in these towns of perpetual spring weather to aid their recovery from the the dreaded malaise.

In the wide plains after the town of Calauan could be found the towns of Victoria, Pila, Santa Cruz – the present-day capital of the province, and Pagsanjan, second capital of the province from the 1600’s until the 1860’s. Rich culture, even until the present, and sufficient agricultural output and commercial expansion would characterize this area of central Laguna.

In the Baybay (i.e. shoreline) district of Eastern Laguna could be found the oldest inhabited settlements of the province and the initial area for the evangelization of the Tagalog tribes. From Lumbang, oldest Spanish town of the province, Longos and San Antonio (now parts of Kalayaan town), Paete, Pakil, Pangil, Siniloan, Mabitac, Famy and Santa Maria (formerly Caboan), these towns stradling the lake-side area of the genesis of the long Sierra Madre mountain range, would provide for the province a strong source of identity, culture and handicraft, natural prosperity and a deep seated appreciation of the Catholic Faith – instilled by the missionaries in souls and in culture.

The name of the province would evolve from the designation of the hispanic colonizers from the name of the Lake as “La Laguna de Bae” (i.e. the Lake of the town of Bae). The Lake got its name from the town and the province got its name from the Lake. This W-shaped fresh water lake would be the navel that would nourish the life of the people and provide its initial contact, via the Pasig River [which empties into it], to the capital of the nation, the City of Manila.

From this workings of geography and civilizing settlements dating back to the pre-hispanic era, we observe a certain tempo of life and attitude that is open to the diverse communion of human life.


PRE HISTORY

Aside from excavated pottery shreds in some towns like Pila, Cabuyao and Santa Rosa that indicate the inland growth of trade with the traders of the Chinese Empire, the pre-history of Laguna Province is often shrouded in legends and in surviving oral traditions. The earlier settlements like San Pablo [then known as Sampaloc], Cabuyao [Tabuco], Santa Maria [Caboan] were populated by Malay tribes that were supposed to have originated from the earlier inter-island migrations.

The ethnic identity of the Tagalog comes from “Taga-Ilog” (i.e. people of the river); this appelation comes from the location of their settlements along aquatic channels. Similar to the Pampango or Kapampangan, who derives their ethnic identity as “People of the Pampang” (i.e. people who live in the banks [of the river]), the strategic role of rivers is affirmed in the development of tribal societies.

Supposed founders or leaders of existing communities like Gat Tayaw (Liliw), Gat Pagil (Pangil) are still to be established as historical persons. Names of places are either founded on plants and significant events (example: Liliw or Lilio as coming from the song of a bird of good omen; Cabuyao as coming from a tree of that name; Siniloan from a place where a boor was caught [sinilo] etc.)

While Islam has established a foothold in the Rajahship of Maynilad by the influence of its ruling house, Laguna was still under the influence of the native animistic religion at the time of the Spanish contact.