The mission of Bauan was founded as a visita of Taal in 1590. It was administered by the Augustinians from 1596 --- when the first church was built at the slope of Mt. Maculot along the southern shores of the Taal Lake --- until the end of the 19th century. Another church was built in 1667 probably under the supervision of Fr. Jose Rodriguez (OSA) when it was relocated to Durungto. The church was again relocated in Lonal (or Loual) in 1671 by Fr. Nicolas de Rivera (OSA) who probably had a new structure built. The last relocation was in 1692 (or 1690) in its present site during the administration of Fr. Simon Martinez (OSA) who probably had a new church built that was damaged during the typhoon of 1694. Fr. Ignacio Mercado (OSA) had this rebuilt from 1695 to 1697. The church again suffered damages and was replaced by a stone structure during the administration of Fr. Blas Vidal (OSA) from 1700 to 1710. Fr. Jose Vitoria (OSA) --- who also introduced the cultivation of indigo in Bauan --- initiated building the present church in 1762 that was continued until 1856 during the administrations of Fr. Jose Trevino (OSA) and Fr. Hipolito Huerta (OSA). It was completed under the supervision of Fr. Felipe Bravo (OSA) in 1881. From there until 1894, final decorations were supervised by Fr. Moises Santos (OSA) and Fr. Felipe Garcia (OSA). The church is said to be the most artistically built in the province of Batangas during that time. Father Bravo was also an imminent botanist who put up a museum of natural history and collected rare books that were lost when the church was razed by fire during the Philippine revolution against Spain in 1898. The church was probably rebuilt and again destroyed by fire in 1938. It has been restored since then.
The Krus, the Dingin, and the Subli
Five years after the establishment of the ecclesiastical mission of Bauan, a giant cross made of anubing (i.e. a local hardwood) was found in a dingin (i.e. a sambahan or place of worship) near the village of Alitagtag that was said to have protected people of Bauan from pestilence, locusts, droughts, volcanic eruptions, and Moro raids. Based on a document found in the Bauan Cathedral Archives in 1790, Castro y Amoedo stated that the cross was made in 1595 from a very strong post of a demolished house and erected in the village of Alitagtag to drive away a plague of ghosts. The cross was described as 2.5 meters in height with a 1 meter crosspiece. It featured a golden sun embossed with a human face with radiating rays where the arms intersect (shades of anito worship). The cross was also said to walk around the village (perhaps while driving away the ghosts) and that water gushed from one of its arms.
The miracles attributed to the cross attracted many devotees and a decision was made to move it to the bigger Bauan parish church. However, one priest tried to bring the cross to his church in the capital town of Taal but was prevented from doing so when “the sky became cloudy, and it began to thunder and emit dreadful lightning bolts”. Before its enshrinement in Bauan however, the cross has decreased in size because devotees has chipped away pieces of the cross that were made into miniature replicas and were worn as necklace talismans. A Fr. Manuel de Zamora was also reported to have cut more than 1/3 from the foot of the cross (that were perhaps made into more miniature replicas) and distributed in Manila where a number of miracles were reported. What was left is what is being venerated today in the Bauan church.
The town, the church, and the cross were later moved to a place called Dungarao to escape the violent eruptions of Taal Volcano, then to Loual (or Lonal) , in an unidentified place in 1689, and finally to its present site near the sea in 1690 (or 1692). Today, the people of Bauan pay homage to the cross by dancing the subli. It is said that the subli preceded Christianity in the Philippines and is in fact a (pre-Spanish?) religious ritual. And people still go the dingin or sambahan (where the cross was first erected) to pray.
Source: Thomas R. Hargrove’s “The Mysteries of Taal: A Philippine Volcano and Lake, Her Sea Life and Lost Towns”.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) BAUAN, BATANGAS. The Holy Cross of Alitagtag is enshrined and venerated in the church. The Alitagtag mentioned here is actually a barrio of Bauan whom I have mistaken to be the town. That is how I missed the cross.
(2-3) ALITAGTAG, BATANGAS. I went to the church of Alitagtag with the intent of finally seeing for myself its famed holy cross. I found a cross on the right corner of the lobby but was told that the real one is at the nearby Nagbukalan Shrine.
(4-6) NAGBUKALAN SHRINE, ALITAGTAG, BATANGAS. The holy cross displayed at the Nagbukalan Shrine in Alitagtag, Batangas is said to have been found the well beside the shrine. I thought I finally had the right cross until I learned that the real one is in Bauan. I’ve been also told that the holy crosses of Bauan and that of the Nagbukalan Shrine are magkapatid.
(7) CUENCA, BATANGAS. Cuenca was established as a town at around 1875 or 1876, and as an independent parish in 1879. The church was built before 1879 when Fr. Guillermo Diez (OSA) had the convent constructed. Fr. Dionisio Ibanez (OSA) had the convent enlarged and the cemetery built in 1887. The church was probably rebuilt, renovated, or repaired because a temporary church was built by Fr. Mariano Calleja (OSA) between 1893 and 1898 who, with Father Ibanez, also promoted the cultivation of cocoa in the area. I passed by this church on my way from the town of Alitagtag.