HISTORICAL REFERENCE. The following isa complete adaptation of the book authored by Mr. Conrado T. Reyes, Rosario of Batangas: Its Origin and Development with very minor modifications. It should be noted that some information provided by the author may be subject to further research for validation.
In the Beginning
The beginning of Rosario as a town in the province of Batangas is an interesting account of its early inhabitants of its early people. Like the rest of the early inhabitants of the Philippines, the early people of Rosario were also the descendants of the first Filipinos to travel by land and water from mainland Asia to Palawan and the Calamianese Island group. They lived in caves in Palawan, then a peninsula of Asia mainland, 50,000 years ago, and also in Batangas. They reached Batangas by crossing the narrow inter-island channels of Palawan, Calamianese Islands, Mindoro and Batangas. These were Stone Age Filipinos who occupied the major islands of the Philippines.
At the end of the Stone Age Period, trickles of people from Indo-Chinese peninsula drifted to the Palawan-Mindoro area. They were seafarers. Later arrivals were migrants. During the next thousand years the descendants of these people were occupying even interior mountain regions in widely scattered communities. Larger communities were those near the coast or near riverbanks. This was because the principal source of protein came from the sea and rivers.
Probably about the beginning of the 13th century did the legendary migration to the Philippines of the ten Datus from Borneo occur. Three of them – Datu Puti, the leader, Datu Balensula and Datu Dumangsil, with their families came to Batangas. They disembarked at the Taal lake area and settled with the inhabitants of the lake – the Taga-ilogs. Datu Puti returned to Borneo. It is believed that the descendants of the original inhabitants of Batangas and those of the migrant settlers from Borneo populated much of Batangas province.
Pre-Colonial Settlements in Batangas
Before the Spaniards came, there were large centers of population in the west and northwest coast of Batangas, such as Nasugbu, Balayan and Batangas (city). Calatagan, Lemery and Taal were old settlements. Taal, Balayan and Nasugbu were trade outposts of people from other parts of Asia.
Ancestral Settlement of Rosario
Along the southwestern coast of Batangas, down to Tayabas Bay were scattered small communities. In its hinterlands existed widely scattered small villages. In these coastal and mountain areas of the province lived peacefully people, who like the rest of the country’s inhabitants were related to one another by blood or by marriage. Besides the kinship, they were bound together by common economic activities, shared beliefs and rituals. They worshipped their “kanunununuan” natural objects like trees, caves and mountains; and other forms of culture of their own. Their social unit was the barangay, headed by a datu. These coastal communities were the ancestral settlement of the people whose descendants were later to form the town of Rosario.
Colonization and Evangelization
The Spaniards arrived in the area of Batangas in 1572. After its peaceful colonization, Batangas was created as a province in 1581. As a pacified province, it was placed under a civil official called Alcalde-Mayor. The towns or pueblos of the province were each placed under a gobernadorcillo. Their barangays or barrios were under the cabeza de barangays. They were usually the former datus.
The southwestern coastal and mountain parts of Batangas were parts of the mission field of the Augustinian fathers. A secular priest was said to have been stationed in this coastal area of present day Lobo as early as 1636. Evangelization was slow and difficult as in other parts of the Philippines where the villagers, they were made to live closer together to form a larger settlement for local administration of their parish.
Plunder of the Christian Settlement
A parish appeared to have been established on the southwestern coast of Batangas, where a river (now called Rosario) runs thru Lobo and nearby is Rosario point. This Christian settlement became the target of a Moro raid during the Moro wars against Spain. In 1687, this settlement was plundered by the Moro pirates.
In these pirates or Moro raids on Christian settlements, Mohammedan Krismen attacked and enslaved Spanish and Filipinos alike. The raids left a trail of death, blood and ashes. Captives were sold in Sandakan and other slave markets in the East Indies.
The plunder by the Moros of this coastal settlement in Lobo in 1687 was among the more vicious. Among those said to have perished in the raid was its priest. Almost en masse its inhabitants fled inland north to safety. They went up stream the river Rosario and then the Kansahayan River.
The Name Rosario Adopted
Hordes of men, women and children came in great hurry from the coast of Lobo evading the pursuing Moros of the south. In their flight to safety they were reciting the rosary in the Christian tradition. They were imploring the divine protection of the Nuestra Senora Del Santisimo Rosario.
When the mass of people found themselves in Kansahayan River in Hilerang Kawayan of Taysan, they stopped. They believed the place was safe enough to settle in. Here, they set up their dwellings and started to rebuild their lives. From then on, they gave the place its etymological name Rosario – from reciting the rosary. Don Nicolas Morales was their gobernadorcillo at that time.
The remaining inhabitants of this coastal settlement in Lobo followed later to the new island settlement. Here a new parish was established by 1691. In 1698, that coastal settlement was abandoned. The Augustinian spiritually administered to the new parish for some 30 years from 1691 to about 1721.
Second Relocation to Safety
After a relative space between the Mohammedans and the Spaniards during the Moro wars, the province of Batangas was again the object of Moro raids by 1716. The administration of the parishes in this area was then ceded to the Dominican fathers after 1721. Because of the increasing Moro raids of the period, they feared that Rosario could still be attacked by the Moros. It still could be reached in less than a day’s walk from the coast of Lobo. The Dominican fathers decided to transfer Rosario farther north one league (about 7.5 km) south of Lipa, perhaps shortly before or after 1739.
The devout inhabitants of Rosario had sought the divine guidance of the Holy Lady of the Rosary once again. They held a novena on their solemn trek north towards Lipa. They followed the old inland trail from Hilerang Kawayan crossing the plains of Tubig ng Bayan now Padre Garcia. The last day of their novena ended in the south bank of Tubig ng Bayan. Here it was decided to relocate the town of Rosario.
The place they left in Hilerang kawayan is now called Pinagbayanan. It is one of the more progressive barangays of the Municipality of Taysan. The vestiges of the old town site are still present – the street layout, the market place, the church site, and the cemetery which the residents still use to this day.
The Rosary Culture
The devotion to and faith in the Holy Rosary by the religious of Rosario did not waver in the vicissitudes of the Moro wars, and even to this day. This kind of culture perhaps fired a native son of Rosario, gaspar Aquino Belen, to write the first Tagalog pasyon, “Mahal na Pasion ni Jesu Christong Panginoon natin na tula” published in 1706. He was rightly called by Epifanio delos Santos, Patriarca de los Poetas, Autores de la Passion (the patriarch of Passion authors, 1916.)
To this day, this culture is still much in evidence among the faithful of Rosario. Of late, its heightened observance of Lent is the town’s annual Penitensyahan.
The Old Grandeur of Rosario
The fertile fields of the new town settlement yielded bountiful harvest in the hands of their industrious settlers. They worked on the plains and swamps of the place. They became adept at the wet culture of rice. The town grew to become the rice producing town of the province. Its people prospered. In gratitude for the peace and prosperity of the town, its people had helped built a church built for their beloved Lady of the Holy Rosary.
The church was described in a 1751 document to be of light materials, but it had a fully furnished, painted and gilded retablo mayor (altar) in 1776, Rosario became a Parish. The church was continuously improved until it had a wall of stone, a tiled roof and a bell tower by 1837.
Rosario then was a vast territory. It was bounded on the north by Lipa, on the east north-east by the province of Tayabas, on the west by the present day Ibaan, on the south, the shores of Batangas province. The wide plains and large tract of fertile lands, the rich hunting grounds of its forest in the mountains, attracted people from nearby towns as well as from Batangas, Bauan, Taal and Tanauan to settle in Rosario. Roads from the towns of Lipa, Tiaong, and Ibaan were opened to reach Rosario. From Rosario roads were also opened to the south and the eastern part of the town. A civil court and a parochial secondary school were soon established.
Before the middle of the 19th century, Rosario was a thriving large town of southeastern Batangas. Its territory covered about 1/5 of the land area of the province. It had to give births to two large parishes; San Juan de Bolbok in 1846, then Taysan in 1860 which included Lobo. In 1848, San Juan was officially separated from Rosario as an independent town. Taysan was already independent of Rosario in 1850 when it became a parish in 1860. Lobo became a separate town in 1871 and its parish was created 3 years later (1874). Rosario still had many barrios after the establishment of these towns and parishes.
The parishes in Batangas, now again under the Augustinian Order, were turned over to the Recollect Order in 1864. Fray Santiago Benito delas Cinco Llagas was the first Recollect Priest to handle the parish of Rosario. Rosario became a vicariate center under the Reverend Father Fray Mariano Pena. He was the Provincial vicar. Much improvement of the town and the parish church was made during his term. The court house was reconstructed. The existing secondary school which was one of the 10 in the province was rehabilitated. Roads and bridges were repaired. Such was the development in Rosario in the last decades of the Spanish rule.
It was this period of Rosario’s progress when a native son, the Reverend Father Vicente Garcia was ordained. He acquired the titles of bachelor of Canon and Civil Laws, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Divine Theology. He held several high positions in the church administration, among them as trial judge of ecclesiastical cases, “Examinador Sinoda” in Manila and as acting “Cura del Sagracio” in the Archdiocese of Manila.
The Philippine Revolution (1896-1898)
Outbreak of the Revolution
In the last day of the Spanish rule, Rosario appeared not to be among those directly involved in the anti-clerical nor anti-Spanish movement engulfing several towns of Batangas. In the history of the province, there were no recorded serious abuses committed in Rosario by either the local friars or by the local Spanish authorities. Rosario had been a quiet town. However, the elite members of the town and their leaders were sympathetic to the cause of revolution.
Father Vicente Garcia, for his part and at the risk of his life, made a brave defense of the cause of the Filipinos as expounded by Dr. Jose Rizal in his “Noli Me Tangere”. He wrote under the pen name “V. Craig”. His unswerving loyalty to God and to his people gradually caused the church hierarchy to recognize the brilliance of the Filipino seculars and placed them on equal footing with the white priests.
The Revolutionary Period
In the later phase of the revolution, Don Melecio Bolanos, Municipal President of Rosario (1894-1897) heeded the call of Gen. Miguel Malvar to join the fight for independence. He roused his countrymen who organized groups that gave support to the fighting men of Batangas. With the help of the principals of the town, they organized an armed group and took possession of Rosario. The friars had earlier abandoned their church. Freed of Spanish control, Rosario elected a new municipal president, Don Leon Magtibay in 1898.
Bolaños, a product of Malabanan School where Gen. Malvar had studied, volunteered his services to Gen. Malvar’s army. Bolaños was commissioned colonel and given command of the local insurectos. Rufino Goyena better known as Kabesang Pinong was commissioned captain. Goyena was a classmate of Gen. Malvar. Protacio Recto, a brother-in-law of Bolanos was made lieutenant. Among others given officer rank later was Evaristo Zuno as captain and remembered well as Kapitang Baristo. Their command had hardly any activity as Rosario had not been an area of armed conflict during the revolution.
Col. Bolanos requested for some assignment. He was given custody of a handful of Spanish prisoners. They were among those who surrendered in their garrison in Tayabas when attacked by the forces of Gen. Malvar on August 17, 1898. They were brought to Rosario from Lipa early in 1899.
The Spanish Prisoners in Rosario
Fifteen Spanish soldiers and their two officers arrived in Rosario hands bound and loaded in 5 carromatas (calesas). They looked dirty and were in worn out clothes. Above all they were starving. Their arrival produced an air of fiesta among the residents who cheered at this glorious event of the revolution.
The prisoners were assigned a place in an abandoned rice field near a creek owned by the church. It was mosquito infested – an unhealthy place. Here they had poor and inadequate food provisions. The prisoners had to remain manacled. Lt. Protacio Recto, brother-in-law of Col. Melecio Bolanos, was assigned officer responsible over the prisoners.
After a week, the 2 Spanish officers requested the revolutionary officials of Rosario for improvement of their conditions. In return they offered to work in the fields, pound palay, paint the church and do the household chores.
The prisoners were then placed in the tunnel which coursed thru the church toward the river (Tubig ng Bayan). Their condition was not much better than before. They were later taken to the houses above the tunnel. The following night, two of the prisoners escaped. The remaining prisoners were punished. They were again shackled. They were deprived of food for two days. The two escapees were later found hanging in the forest in a tulisan territory. Some of the prisoners became ill.
The two Spanish officers, Lt. Mediano and Lt. Viamonte, requested for a dialogue with any of Lt. Protacio Recto, Col. Bolanos of Padre Garcia, for better treatment and medical attention for the sick prisoners of war. Padre Garcia intervened for a kinder treatment of the prisoners. Col. Bolanos accepted the offer of the Spanish soldiers to place themselves in the service of the Filipinos without losing their status as prisoners-of-war to ease the difficulties of their detention.
Lt. Mediano, the more senior of the 2 officers, was accepted by Padre Garcia to be the caretaker of the church while Lt. Alejandro Viamonte had chosen to be in the service of Col. Bolanos. The rest of the prisoners were taken by some Filipino families as helpers in their farms or in their households. They were under such arrangement until their liberation in January 1900 by the Americans.
Fil-American War – 1899-1902
Rosario had practically been a combat-free area during the Philippine Revolution. In the Fil-American War that followed, there was only a brief skirmish in the poblacion on the arrival of the Americans, yet the town and its people suffered considerably during this war. One of the most important events of the war and in the history of Batangas transpired in a barrio of this town.
The Americans came to Rosario from Lipa about 3:00pm of January 13, 1900. They were on horseback consisting of 12 men from the 38th and 39th Volunteer Infantry with Col. Robert L. Bullard, Col. George S. Anderson, Lt. Col. Crane and a Spanish prisoner-of-war as guide. They were in pursuit of Gen. Malvar’s retreating force which had left Lipa earlier with several dozen more Spanish prisoners and to rescue a reported handful of Americans. The report about the Americans was a hoax made by the Spaniards to incite the Americanos.
The Poblacion was practically deserted when the Americans arrived, except for the few men of Col. Bolaños guarding the town and the Spanish prisoners. The guards disappeared after they were fired at by the invaders. The residents had taken to the forest surrounding the town. The Americans came upon some 70 Spanish prisoners in all including all those earlier detained in the town.
The rest were those brought along by the retreating Filipino soldiers. They were part of Col. Nava’s (Spanish) force that were earlier captured by Malvar’s men and detained in Lipa. The Spanish prisoners were grateful to be liberated by the Americans and expressed their wish to be brought at once to Manila.
Lt. Mediano appeared to be the Spanish prisoner who led the Americans to a large amount of revolutionary fund hidden in a lot owned by a former municipal official. They discovered a number of boxes filled with silver coins amounting to some 20,000 Mexican pesos. The boxes of money were loaded in 2 carromatas (calesas) and the liberated Spaniards were instructed by the American troops to escort them back to Lipa. The American followed later to Lipa.
Early American Occupation
The Americans did not at once put up a garrison in Rosario. From their garrison in Lipa, scouting parties were sent out to scour the outlying barrios of Rosario in search for the remnants of Malvar’s men who had gone into hiding in the mountains of Rosario, San Juan, Lobo, Taysan and Batangas City.
The Guerilla War
At this point of the war, the church of Rosario and its convent were burned down together with the rest of the town. There were accounts that the burning was done by the local forces to discourage the Americans from establishing a garrison here.
Late in January 1900, Gen. Malvar reorganized the Filipino Army in Batangas into a guerilla force. He had the guerilla warfare carried on in the mountains of the neighboring towns of Rosario, San Juan, Lobo and Taysan even after President Aguinaldo proclaimed the end of the war on April 19, 1901. Shortly after the establishment of a civil government by the Americans in Batangas on May 3, 1901, Malvar met his military lieutenants in a remote barrio in Rosario. There was a general agreement to continue the fight and all but a few local leaders elected to remain in the field. The only important exception was Col. Bolaños, the former municipal president of Rosario, who turned himself in a few weeks later – about June 1901. Malvar was often in the outlying barrios of Rosario as he directed the war in eastern Batangas.
During the frustrating campaign against Malvar, US troops frequently used torture to extract information from enemy soldiers and supporters of the resistance. Common was the administration of the water cure, severe beatings and destruction of Filipino property and burning of their homes. Before the town was burned, a trooper had destroyed an image of the Virgin Mary in the Rosario church and taken away a piece of the ivory from the head.
After about twenty-two months of campaign under four different American Commanders, the guerilla war in Batangas was far from over. On November 30, 1901 Brig. Gen. Franklin Bell was assigned to end the war in Batangas. He used the most ruthless and inhuman means to bring the population of Batangas to their knees. The adopted the so-called concentration (zona) policy for all towns of the province. This resulted in an astoundingly high level of civilian deaths… and led to the widespread abuses on the part of the US military.
Concentration and Conquest
Civilians were required to move into a designated area in the town with all their supplies, work animals and belongings. Those from the barrios were not to return home without permission from the military authorities. Food found outside the zone was to be destroyed or confiscated. People found outside the zone were to be captured or killed. The troops were free to pursue the enemy relentlessly and make life more miserable for the wealthy and influential residents and the relatives or guerilla leaders of the town.
The concentration policy was adopted to prevent the civilians from giving aid to the insurrectos. It was aimed at starving the forces of Malvar to surrender. It was then that a garrison was established in Rosario to implement the policy.
In enforcing the concentration policy abuses against and torture of civilians were committed not only by US troops but also by the Filipino collaborators serving under the US armed forces. These were the Ilocano scouts and the Macabebe scouts. Among the outrageous acts committed in Rosario by the American forces were the beating, torturing and killing. Don Vicente Luna, a former Municipal President and the father of Malvar’s adjutant, Luis Luna, was a helpless victim of these forces. His residence was set into fire and his body was thrown in the flames of his burning house. A 2nd Lt. F.B. Hennessy, assigned to the 17th Co. of Ilocano Scout under Bell’s brigade, was charged for this outrageous act but he was not formally prosecuted.
Bell’s 1st expedition to the main hideout of the insurgents in the mountains of eastern Batangas happened in the morning of December 31, 1901. The tail end of his expeditionary force in the east started in barrio Mabato, passing thru the mountain barrios of Mabunga, Mayuro, Tulos, Calantas and Matamis of Rosario, on their way to Apar and Jaybanga of Lobo and to the Poblacion. The US troops spent a week in marching to Lobo and back again. Along the way they burned thousand cavanes of palay, killed hundred heads of carabaos, cows, horses and hogs. As the war continued, civilians in the concentration zones were suffering from severe shortages of food, diseases like malaria, measles, small pox, dysentery and cholera. Crude death rate (of various neighboring towns) ranged from 100 to 200 per thousand. Between 75 and 95 percent of the cattle population of the province were lost either to rinderpest or killed during the war by mid 1902.
Final Episode of the War
In the final days of the battle for Batangas, Gen. Malvar was with his wife and children, together with a few aides and their families and the family of Maria Dimayuga Vda. De Malabanan with her 4 children. They were hiding and constantly on the move in the outlying barrios of Rosario in the south. Here, the general was directing the war. Late in February 1902, military operation was suspended in the area around Rosario where Malvar was thought to be where negotiations might take place for his surrender. The Americans set up a big detachment in Sitio Balugbog in Barrio Baybayin of this town. The plan failed, a major military operation was mounted against his remaining forces late in March. He was surrounded by American soldiers and native volunteers. In his hideout in Rosario, his wife and 2 small children were sick and his group had not eaten for several days. He felt that his group could no longer withstand the ordeal.
On April 13, Malvar asked Don Luis Luna, his former adjutant for a talk. With Don Luis came Don Engracio Buquir and his 2 former colonels, Don Gregorio Katigbak and Don Cipriano Kalaw. They talked for hours. Three days later, after being assured that he (Malvar) would be treated fairly by the Americans, he issued orders to his remaining units to surrender. On the same day, April 16, 1902, Malvar with his family and the group with him went to the US Army detachment in Sitio Balugbog in Baybayin, Rosario.
According to an account of an eye witness, Regina Malabanan, then a girl of nine in the group of Malvar, they were received by the US soldiers who were in formation. They entered the camp in single file and passed through the line of soldiers. The soldier then broke rank to rejoice at this turn of event. Here ended in Rosario an important event of the Fil-American war. Later in the day Malvar and his group were escorted to Lipa by cavalry men and presented to Gen. Bell.
Relocation of Rosario Once More
The suffering of inhabitants of Rosario did not end with their release from the concentration zone by the end of April 1902. Many still died of diseases and contracted while in hiding from the Americans and during their forced confinement in the zone. Many farms were not planted due to the war itself, and the dying of cattle and work animals from rinderpest. Worst still was the appearance of locusts in June destroying much of the rice crops the farmers were able to raise.
As early as the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the incidence of diseases plaguing the country had been felt in Rosario by its officials. They have noted the poor drainage of the town being in a swampy area and the problem of water supply for household use. Don Melecio Bolanos during his term as municipal president had already in mind the relocation of the town to a more suitable site had it not been for the impending war.
In the early military occupation of Rosario, a cavalry officer Captain Ed H. Boughton came upon the springs at the foot of Tombol Hill. He found the place an ideal site to relocate the burnt town. With the help of his fellow Americans, and with cooperation from the town’s principal citizens, the planning of Rosario at the southwest of Tombol Hill was blue-printed.
On June 9, 1902, a council of the town’s citizens met beside Tombol springs to formally reorganize the municipal government Rosario. Elected were Don Geronimo Carandang as president, Don Diego Rosales as bise-prisedente, Don Luis Grenas as secretario, and Don Leon Magtibay as tesorero. Civic minded citizens donated land for the public structures. Don Antonino Luancing donated the sites for the municipal building and plaza, and the public elementary school. Esteban Coloma donated the site for the municipal cemetery. The old market site now the location of the Laurel Park and the Shoppers mart, was a donation from some families among them the Manguiats.
The American civil government acknowledged Rosario in Act No. 958 “ An Act reducing the twenty-two Municipalities of the Province of Batangas to Sixteen…” enacted on 23 October 1903; “The Municipality of Rosario shall consist of the present territory and that of the Municipality of Taysan with the seat of government at the present municipality of Rosario”. (Sec. 1, No. 4).
For sometime during the American period, Taysan was again a part of Rosario.
The former town site became Barrio Lumang Bayan. Here still remained the seat of the church administration. Rosario at its new location had only a temporary chapel of cogon and bamboo materials on a leased lot. Here the priest from the old church in Lumang Bayan celebrated mass only on Sundays and attended to religious services requested by the residents.
In 1908, Cenona C. Magtibay, president of the women church organization raised funds for the purchase of a lot for the church of Rosario. Then, prominent men and the principal families of the town joined in the project to build the church. It was constructed on the lot adjacent to the site of the municipal building and plaza. This was at the instance of Don Antonino Luancing, then the municipal president. Despite these developments, the Roman Catholic Church still refused to make Rosario a parish with own priest. This paved the way for the town’s leading men, headed by Don Melecio Bolanos to consider joining the nationalist movement for religious freedom of Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, the Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Don Melecio was a former classmate of Bishop Aglipay. The parish of Rosario was offered and accepted by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. On January 19, 1909, on the Feast of the Nuestra Sra. Del Rosario, Bishop Aglipay celebrated the 1st Aglipayan mass in the church of Rosario – getting a foot hold in this part of Batangas for his church.
Cenona C. Magtibay and the clan of Francisco Escano, among the few personalities who did not join the new sect, were left without a church. Magtibay had to donate his own piece of land for the Roman Catholics to build a church on. In 1910, the Roman Catholic Church assigned Fr. Eulalio Mea as its 1st parish priest in Rosario.
The Rosario town fiesta which was used to be celebrated on January 19, was moved to April 22 in the early 1920’s, on the petition of students studying in Batangas and in Manila to give them time to attend the fiesta while on summer vacation.
The Church Nationalists of Rosario
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente or the Aglipayan Church gained many adherents among the prominent families of the town. Among those who joined Don Antonino Luancing were the families of Don Engracio Buquir, municipal president (1910-12); Col. Melecio Bolanos, Capt. Rufino Goyena, and Capt. Evaristo Zuno, former municipal president, Don Leon Magtibay and Don Luis Grenas; the families of the Cuarteros, the Quizons, the Trillaneses, the Mindanaos, the Jarenos and the Carnos among others. However Rosario remained a predominantly Catholic town. Before the split of the Aglipayans into two factions after Liberation, celebration of religious events and festivities by the 2 churches of Rosario, were a spectacle to watch for their pageantry and pomp – the carosas and the participants in the processions the dagit and Pagbati during Holy Week, the band competition assigned to each during fiesta and the sagalas during the May festival.
Rosario Until the Pacific War
Rosario developed to remain among the premier towns of the province. Palay, its principal product, made Rosario the Rice Granary of Batangas. Palay trading remained in native hands. Retail trade of other goods was in Chinese hands. Rosario was the administrative center of the school district comprising the towns of eastern Batangas. During the early incumbencies of Presidente Venustiano Escano (1922-31) the town became noted for the construction of its unique water works system. A concrete tank was embedded in the highest point of Tombol Hill where water from the noted Tombol spring was force-pumped by a stationary engine built beside the spring. Water pressure along the distribution lines was strong. This water works system was considered the best in Batangas at that time.
Before the advent of the Commonwealth period Rosario was already a vibrant town. It continued to be so under the leadership of Dr. Crisanto A. Gualberto who was elected alcalde in 1936. The progress of the town was interrupted only by the outbreak of the war in 1941.
Short-Lived Japanese Occupation
In the Commonwealth Period, 21-year old, Filipino male citizens had to register for military training. The town’s young men, who qualified, underwent the six month military training in different training camps in Luzon. Its ROTC cadets were later inducted into the service as lieutenants. Among them were the brothers Enrique and Jose M. Zuno, Indalecio Magsino and Dr. Jose R. Gregorio.
Later in 1940 a Philippine Army training camp was put up in barrio (barangay) San Roque. Here were sent the trainees from the Bicol provinces.
The newspapers and the radios carried the daily news about the Sino-Japanese war in China. The pair of Japanese candy dealers, plying the route in this part of Batangas in motorcycle with sidecar, stopped their trade. Then, Japanese-made goods were banned in the market.
The news of the war came on a school day late in the morning of December 8, 1941. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and some military installations in the Philippines. School children were sent home by their frightened teachers. Poblacion residents were required to construct dug-out drills, as protection against bombing attack. Former military trainees were assembled in designated recruitment points and brought to their assigned military units. The trainees at the camp in San Roque marched out east to Tayabas (Quezon) province. Poblacion residents started evacuation to the barrios. Resident drivers and conductors of the Batangas Transportation Company (BTCo.) had to go with their buses to bring troops to Bataan. They stayed there during the war. Three cargo trucks and a car in Rosario were commandeered by the army.
According to Dr. Jose R. Gregorio, then a 1st Lt., he and his fellow officers in Rosario had reported to Camp Murphy by December 18, 1941. By then, some enemy planes had been observed by some residents in a dog-fight – later learned to have been participated in by a Capt. Fernando (after whom the air base in Lipa was named).
The Chinese stores, then mostly located along the south side of the street of the former market site (now the Laurel Park) were opened to looters, when the news of the Japanese landing in Mauban and Siain, Quezon on Christmas eve of 1941 came. The looting was permitted to prevent the goods from falling into enemy hands.
Arrival of the Japanese Imperial Army
The first sound of battle was heard in Rosario from the direction of Tiaong just before New Year of 1942. The invading forces of the Hiro Detachment that landed in mauban met resistance in barrio Lusakan of Tiaong. The battle lasted through the night. The flashes from the gun fires and the paths produced by tracer bullets from the opposing forces were visible in the area around barrio Alupay. But it was a squad or two of the advance guards of the Mura Detachment that landed in Siain and made their way through San Juan that reached Rosario first. They were riding on bicycles with rifle slung across their backs. Meeting no resistance, some of the advance guards returned for the main force of their unit. Hundreds came in bicycles too, in the next few hours.
The Japanese that came from Tiaong arrived riding in motorcycles with sidecars. Then came from both groups their mechanized units, followed by foot soldiers. They waited for each other and regrouped south of Lipa in their final drive to Manila. Along the way, the invading Japanese forces foraged for food, some were rough and harsh, and a few molested and even raped women.
A few civilians, the Japanese advance forces met were surprised to learn that a few officers could speak English and Filipino. They were later learned to be the same Japanese who were in the Philippines before the war, some as candy dealers. They were intelligence agents.
A cavalry unit stayed for a time in Rosario. The side streets of the town became stables to hundreds of Japanese horses and mules which are much larger than our native horses.
A mopping up operation was conducted by Japanese army in the mountains of Eastern Batangas. A unit started from Rosario. It followed the same mountain route the Americans used during the Fil-American War passing through the mountain barrios (barangays) of Tubahan, Tulos, Calantas and Matamis of Rosario. There were no reported armed encounters. But abuses were committed by some Japanese soldiers along the way.
During the Occupation
Shortly after the arrival of the Japanese Occupation forces, the municipal government of Rosario was made to function under the same pre-war officials. Its Alcalde, Dr. Crisanto A. Gualberto deftly guided the town through the war years. The town’s old Chief of Police, Isabelo Zuno, declined to render further service.
The immediate relatives of the Bataan survivors of Rosario, held prisoners-of-war in Capas, Tarlac were notified of the scheduled release of the prisoners. Most of the survivors were sick and starving. A few came home without an arm or leg; others with a badly damaged face or body.
Among the early casualties known were Lt. Enrique M. Zuno, Lorenzo Manguiat, Margarito Eje, Santiago Perez, Pedro Zuno and David Maranan. They were killed in action; there were other unreported casualties from this town.
Only the Rosario Elementary School in Poblacion was opened during the years 1942-43 and 1943-44. The school year 1944-45 was cut short by the worsening condition of the war. In school, children learned to sing the Kimigayo, the Japanese National Anthem, and an adopted Philippine song for the flag raising ceremony. The Philippine song was a lively one starting with these lines:
“Tindig aking Inang bayan,
Lahing pili sa Silangan
Iwaksi natin ang nakaraan,
Yakapin ang bagong buhay.”
Before the start of the classes, children did the warming up exercise called radjo taiso. They bowed before their teachers at the start of classes to greet them Sayonara (goodbye). Instructions were conducted in English and in Pilipino. Conversational Nippongo and writing in Katakana were taught first by some Japanese. Later, Filipino teachers were able to teach the Japanese language. Among them was the former Miss Gleceria Gutierrez of Baybayin (later Mrs. Esguerra).
The school actively participated in the program on the grant of Philippine Independence by the Japanese in October 1943. This was the finale to “Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” propaganda in this country. It was aimed at winning the cooperation and loyalty of the Filipinos to Imperial Japan.
The “rondas” or neighborhood guards, organized just before the war in the Poblacion and in some barrios were again organized. This time they were required to arm themselves each with the sharp-pointed top of bamboo pole as spear. They were to help keep peace and order in the barrio.
The Philippine Constabulary (PC) too, was formed again as the national police of the New Philippine Republic. Many joined this organization, including some PC and army Bataan veterans. The Philippine Constabulary took over the police duties from the Japanese military administration. In some instances some PC men and officers were even as strict and harsh as the Japanese authorities. A small PC detachment was once stationed in this town to help the local police.
Very few young men of the town were recruited by the Japanese to join the training of a new army of Filipino soldiers. They were locally called the “Yuins.” Almost all of them later left their training camp.
In several upland barrios of the town cotton production was tried by a Japanese company. The farmers were obliged to plant cotton alongside their standing rice crop. Cotton thrived well, but the project lasted only a season due to the worsening condition of the period.
The Guerilla Movement
This resistance movement was introduced in Rosario by Jorge Espina and Maximo Bool of the Fil-American Irregular Troops of Col. Straughn. Here, Espina met Toribina Eje of Cahigam and married her. Not long after, Espina was captured by the Japanese somewhere outside of Rosario and executed.
The guerilla organization continued to grow. One group was led by Bataan veteran Galicano Luancing Jr., nicknamed Boton. This group had its base in Maugat (of Padre Garcia). The other group was led by the father and son, Venancio and Isaac Farol of Macalamcam. Those from the area around the barrio of Tulos and Calantas joined the group led by the Sulit brothers of Taysan. Many of the Bataan survivors joined the movement. Also joining the organization were Angel Arias, Esteban de Guzman (alias Capt. Little) and Cristeto Alday, among others, who earned the guerilla rank of captains. The many who joined or supported this resistance movements risked their lives and limbs at the hands of the Japanese and later even at the hands of some PC soldiers at that time.
As a countermeasure to the movement, the Japanese ordered the “zona” of the Poblacion and several barrios. Adult male residents and the home guards or rondas of these areas were ordered to assemble in the school ground of the Rosario Elementary School beside the Bantok River. The hundreds who came found machine guns in front of them. Here they were kept under the sky for about three days and two night without food and water, and guarded by Japanese and PC soldiers. They were harangued by the Japanese and the PC officials to cooperate with the Japanese Military Administration. They were asked to surrender firearms they have and warned not to support nor join the guerillas.
It was terrifying experience to those in the “zona” so their families left home. The few who had still firearms were allowed to go home to surrender them. The town alcalde, Dr. Gualberto, did not leave his town mates until he was assured that his town mates would be released unharmed after complying with the Japanese demands.
Dr. Gualberto continued his campaign for cooperation with the administration to the approval of the Japanese authorities. With this, he was able to keep the “kampetais” samurai sword away from his neck and save his people from harm. In public meetings during his campaign he was assisted by Galicano Luancing Sr., School Supervising Principal, and father of guerilla leader, “Boton”. The old man Luancing denounced Boton as a bad example of a son disobeying his father by joining and leading a guerilla group. Their ploy kept the guerilla assassins from aiming their guns on Gualberto’s head.
Captured guerillas were summarily liquidated as in the case of Jorge Espina. Suspected guerillas suffered the same punishment like Gregorio Ebreo, a former police agent from Barrio Tiquiwan. Suspected guerilla supporters were arrested and tortured either by the Japanese or by the PC authorities. Luis Caguimbal, a big rice mill operator in Sambat Baybayin (later after the war was elected vice mayor) was arrested and detained for some time in the PC camp in San Juan, Batangas. He was suspected of giving support to the guerillas. These men were among the early men to suffer in Rosario for the guerilla cause.
However, to the guerillas were attributed the disappearance of one of the members of the town’s old family – Casiano of the Quizon brothers – reportedly on account of an old feud with one of its leaders. Julian Luna (father of Mayor Feliscisimo H. Luna) and Lupo Urea were liquidated by a rival group – President Quezon’s Own Guerillas (PQOG) – from Tiaong. This group (most of them on horseback) once made a raid on Rosario. They took away with them several fine horses. Worst… their leader abducted for him a pretty young woman from a decent and peaceful old family of the town.
The PQOG’s did not venture again to Rosario. The Rosario guerillas began their harassments and offensives against pro-Japanese elements and even against the Japanese soldiers early in 1944.
A Japanese sentry fell asleep in his post, carelessly left his rifle lying beside him. Amado Agoncillo, a guerilla lad of about 15 years ran away with the soldier’s rifle. The poor soldier was physically punished by his commanding officer for the loss of his rifle.
Two PC soldiers were abducted in a gambling house near the Rosario Central School in Bantoc, one late summer evening, despite the presence of a PC detachment in the Poblacion. The two were Cpl. Ernesto Capili and Cpl. Eugenio Reyes. They were not of the detachment in the Poblacion, but from other PC units. They were residents of Rosario and were home for a visit. Capili was summarily liquidated for having reported to the PC authorities the guerilla involvement of Luis Caguimbal. The commanding officer of Reyes, a certain Lt. Armando Real, secretly negotiated with the guerillas, for the safe release of Reyes. Reyes was released unharmed. He returned to civilian life. All other PC members and “yuin” soldiers from this town eventually left their camps, some joined guerillas.
In Alupay, just after one midnight in August 0f 1944; a Japanese military truck plunged into the Alupay River. The Japanese were not aware that a Japanese demolition team had earlier blasted that Alupay-Pinagsibaan Bridge. By about 3:00 pm of the same day, the survivors were attacked by the guerilla group led by Capt. Esteban de Guzman.
The six Japanese soldiers, who survived the accident and the guerilla attack, shed off their uniforms. They were mostly in their G-strings only in their escape back to Lipa. They over took this author and his younger brother, on the road in Natu, who were on their way home to town from their farm in Alupay. They were held hostage until they met the truck load of Japanese soldiers rescue team, waiting on top of the road slope before the Natu-baybayin boundary. The two boys after bidding the Japanese (sayonara” (goodbye) were told to hurry home.
The Japanese started shooting at houses, people and cattle along the way back to the place of the accident and the attack. On reaching the place, they set fire to that area of Alupay and Pinagsibaan before leaving for Lipa with their casualties.
In October of the same year, two Japanese soldiers went to barrio Itlugan riding in a calesa. They were foraging for food. A guerilla group led by Leoncio Urea and Primo Zara shot them dead. The Japanese took along two policemen Francisco Olayres and Hermogenes Cruzada to Itlugan to retrieve the dead soldiers. On the same place the two policemen were executed. Two weeks later the Japanese bayoneted to death a poor barbosa. He was suspected theft of properties in a lumber bodega. His body was thrown into a dug out.
Difficulties and Sufferings
Food shortage was serious. Many families had to mix (kisa) ground corn in cooking their rice meals. Later, they had to mix finely chopped kamoteng kahoy, other root crops, and even green bananas. Salt, fish and sugar were hard to secure. Malnutrition sat in among many families.
The country was flooded with Japanese paper money. Small items cost by the hundreds of pesos… finally the paper money became worthless.
The Japanese soldiers too suffered from these difficulties; they had resorted to confiscation of food items even from civilians’ home resulting to the shooting to death of the Japanese soldiers by the guerillas in barrio Itlugan.
Signs of Liberation
A Japanese fighter plane, returning from a mission in the south with its group, crash landed in Tampayak, now barangay Sta. Cruz. The pilot and its gunner suffered only bruises. Curious civilians (the author among them) were allowed to come near the downed aircraft while a companion plane kept hovering close until rescued by their ground forces unit.
High altitude flying planes streaking north soon began to be visible in the sky in Rosario. They appeared more often, and later in much lowered altitude. Their star markings became plainly distinguishable on their bodies.
In one aerial encounter with the Japanese planes, a small group of US light bomber planes had to unload their parachute bombs in now barangay San Jose. There were many casualties among the residents of the place who came close to the descending parachutes.
The last Japanese army contingent in Rosario had made two big caves at the base of Tombol Hill (west of the grotto area now). They also made a cave at the northeast corner of Rosario Central School (the now cemented bank side, under its H.E. building) near Bantok bridge. When alerted of the enemy planes above, the soldiers hid in those caves. In about early January of 1945, the Japanese demolition team blasted the remaining small bridges in Rosario. Finally the two caves at the base of Tombol Hill were also blasted, before they all left for Lipa. The author, together with several young boys, visited the blasted caves a few days later. The Japanese had destroyed their small equipment and their ammunition stored in the caves.
Start of Atrocities Ending the Regime
On February 12, 1945 at about 10:00 o’clock in the morning, a Japanese military truck with soldiers on board arrived in Rosario from Lipa. In front of the residence of Simeon Baes, they stopped and called on the five civilians they saw to board their truck. These were Pastor Abutal, Bernardo Tejada, Fermin Reyes, Anastacio Ulit and Leonardo Belen. They went to the direction of Taysan supposedly to forage for food. The Japanese returned later in the afternoon without the five civilians. Some were in barrio San Roque, the Japanese stopped their truck to fire at a group of men who ran away on seeing them.
On the same day the five civilians were found under the Mahalnadyong Bridge in Taysan hacked and bayoneted to death. The news started the mass evacuation to the mountains and interior barrios of Rosario the following day.
The author’s group together with all the family members of his six uncles and aunts left the Poblacion in the morning. They took the short-cut route (avoiding the usual road and trails) to Tulos. The procession of men, women and children carrying belongings on their heads or shoulders… small children in baskets (bankil) loaded on horsebacks attracted the attention of people along the way. They also prepared to leave their homes on learning why the mass evacuation.
In Sitio Putol in Bulihan, near the school, the group while resting was alerted by the rush of people to the bamboo groves and forested areas. There were Japanese soldiers on the rampage in barrio Baybayin just a few kilometers away. The author’s group safely reached Tulos. They learned later that the report was true. Among the several killed on the attack were Zacarias Cruzata and one Pedro Magtibay. The Japanese soldiers had earlier in the morning that day left three massacre victims in the Poblacion before proceeding to Baybayin. These were Leon Jareno, the father and son – Felix and Moises Zara.
Rosario was now a ghost town. Some Japanese soldiers occasionally came for more victims. In one, on March 13, 1945, they found two old women left hidden in a dug out. They were bayoneted to death. In another foray these ruthless soldiers killed almost the entire family of Eustaquio Tolentino consisting of three children, his wife and his mother. Only Eustaquio survived the massacre.
The Japanese came again and set fire to some houses and buildings along the main street (now Gualberto Ave.) the municipal building, the market (then located in what is now Laurel Park) the Catholic Church and the Rosario Central School. A week later they came again riding on a gas tanker intending to burn the rest of the town.
They were intercepted in barrio San Roque by the guerillas led by Capt. Jose M. Zuno. They were almost all killed in this ambush. The Japanese never came back thus ending their short lived but atrocious occupation in Rosario.
Arrival of the Liberation Forces
Shortly after that ambush of the Japanese Soldiers in barrio San Roque, Tombol Hill was subjected to mortar attack by the U.S. forces. Then guerrilla elements (some from Cavite) attached to the advance units of the 11th Airborne Division, arrived and briefly occupied the town. A small patrol of U.S. soldiers came in the latter part of March 1945, and set up an observation post on top of Tombol Hill, before the arrival of the main liberation forces.
The evacuees, on learning of the developments in the town, started to return home. They were jubilant on the arrival of the units of the 11th Airborne Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. These units met south of Lipa (north of Rosario, in the area of now Padre Garcia) on March 30, 1945. The unit of the 11th Airborne Division was left to mop up the overran area , assisted by the guerrillas. It set up camp in Rosario with headquarters at the residence of Alcalde Gualberto.
An army field hospital was put up in the municipal nursery ground. It treated both army and civilian patients. The 1855th Signal Company of the 11th Airborne camped and set up the communication facilities in the burnt Catholic Church premises. The other units were camped around the town — in the plaza, in the burnt market place and in the other open spaces.
U.S. soldiers were commonly called "G.I. Joes". On their arrival they were loudly greeted by the civilians: "Victory Joe" with the "V" sign of the hand. G.I. Joes shared their supply of cigarettes with the menfolk; and candies with the women and children. Some civilians were hired to work in the camp as mess hall helpers and tent boys . Some women did the laundry work. They were paid either in canned goods or in Philippine peso. Later, laborers were recruited to work on construction projects and in the base camp in Batangas.
The unit of the 11th Airborne Division stayed in Rosario until about 1945, then moved to Mataas na Kahoy.
Post Liberation Administration
On the reorganization of the local civil government, the U.S. military authorities installed the pre-war officials to their former positions except the alcalde of the town, Dr. Crisanto A. Gualberto. The CIC of the U.S. military authorities arrested Dr. Gualberto on charges of collaboration (a common charge against officials who served during the war). He was publicly displayed in the town plaza as collaborator to the dismay of his town's people whom he had served with fortitude during the war . He was sent to the Iwahig Penal Colony along with Don Claro M. Recto and many other national political leaders of that time .
The U.S. military authorities sought the assistance of the Catholic Parish Church in looking for someone to be appointed alcalde of the town. Rev. Father Luis Mortera recommended a very respected resident, Dr. Fernando M. Escano. His family is one of the old and respected families of the town. He declined the honor to be alcalde and instead, he asked for medical supplies to help him open the public dispensary. The military authorities granted his request .
Jose B. Zuño, among the highly regarded men of the town, was appointed alcalde. After a brief term of Mr. Zuño, Atty. Jose P. Recto was appointed to be the next alcalde. He was the last alcalde under the Commonwealth Period, and became the First Mayor under the Third Philippine Republic
Under the Third Philippine Republic
First Independence Day Celebration
A simple ceremony in front of the makeshift municipal building of Rosario marked the celebration of the 1st Independence Day of the Third Philippine Republic on July 4, 1946. A platoon of Bataan veterans, led by Lt. Indalecio T. Magsino, participated in the lowering of the American flag, and the raising of the Filipino flag. The Alcalde or Mayor Recto planted a commemorative Independence Tree (a narra seedling) infront of the "municipio."
In the same year the town's first private high school - Padre Vicente Garcia Memorial Memorial Academy (PVGMA) - was founded by Dr. Melecio Z. Bolaños, Crisanto A. Gualberto, Fidel Luna, and Mayor Jose P. Recto among others.
Early Post War Developments
Before the war, Rosario was the premier town of Eastern Batangas. It took the town several decades to regain its pre-war prestige in the province. It had sunk to the lowest classification - a fifth class municipality. This was not due alone to economic devastation it suffered during the war. It was more on the account of the violence of its local politics, and the quality of some leadership it unfortunately had.
In 1947, the Grand Old Man of Rosario, Don Antonino Luancing, was appointed mayor when Mayor Recto left for the Justice Department to become a fiscal. The 1st post-war local election was to be held that year. Don Antonio did not run for the mayorship of the town.
Dr. Crisanto A. Gualberto, who earlier had been freed of charges of collaboration and released from prison, now ran for mayor against guerilla Major Isaac Farol. Dr. Gualberto was the pre-war political kingpin of the town. He was not discouraged by the rough election campaign he had been through. He lost the election but passed the test of nerve of the campaign harassment unscathed. (He later studied law and became the municipal judge of Rosario).
Mayor Farol appointed guerilla Captain Angel Arias as chief of police. Captain Arias was tough chief of police. Locally he was almost legendary in maintaining peace and order in the trouble spots of the town.
Shortly after the election in 1947, Lumang Bayan, with several other barrios in the north, agitated to become a separate municipality. They succeeded early in 1949 and became the Municipality of Padre Garcia - named after its famous son, Padre Vicente Garcia. The new municipality carved about a third of Rosario's territory.
In the Presidential Election of 1949; Mayor Farol, though a Liberal Party member, supported fellow Batangueño Dr. Jose P. Laurel, a Nacionalista, for president. Pres. Quirino was recorded to have been given zero-votes in Rosario. Quirino was re-elected president. When Batangas guerilla leader, Francisco Medrano, rose in rebellion, Mayor Farol mobilized his former guerilla force to join Medrano, but the rebellion ended soon.
By 1950, the Hukbalahaps were active in this Southern Tagalog area. In some parts of the area, the Huks were able to enter and ransack some towns. In Rosario they were able to stay as near as Bagong Pook and its adjacent barrio of Quilo-quilo in Padre Garcia for sometime. In the mountain barrios of Rosario, they were able to attract sympathizers and even won some adherents. Among those who became active in the Huk movement was Nemesio Banaag of barrio Tulos. Locally, he became known as Commander Linda. He later surrendered to the authorities.
To counter the Huk's threat of entering the town proper, Mayor Farol and Captain Arias had heavily armed civilian guards, they were former guerillas and they guarded the town at night. Rosario was for sometime an armed camp at night until the threat was over. The Huks never made an attempt to enter the Poblacion.
In the brooding politial turmoil that was to subject Rosario for decades after the war, saw the emergence of a club. Led by the political and some social and business leaders of the town, a caucus was held at the residence of the Chief of Police, Captain Angel Arias. Purportedly it was for the holding of a reception and ball for the coming town fiesta in April 1951. A club was organized with membership from among the elites of the town. It adopted the name: Batikan Club. Jose E. Agoncillo was elected its preident.
The club ceased to exist after the incumbency as club president in 1956 of then Chief of Police Felicisimo H. Luna (later became a mayor). It was brought back to life after 23 years later by then Ex-Mayor Jose E. Agoncillo in 1979. Since then, the club has fostered fellowship, cooperation, unity and service to the community.
The Batikan Club is considered as one of the most enduring and successful socio-civic organizations in the province. Prominent personages of the province, of Metro Manila and even national figures would had been less acquainted with Rosario, if it's not because of the Batikan Club which had them as guest speakers.
Mayor Farol ended his term in August 1951 to run for provincial board member in the election of that year. He had Teodoro Cuartero, a fellow guerilla from barrio Cahigam and was a member of the landed Cuartero family, appointed as acting mayor. He was to be pitted against Captain Arias who also had resigned as chief of police to run for mayor.
Arias had Jose E. Agoncillo as his running mate, and the support of Dr. Crisanto A. Gualberto, the former alcalde of Rosario. Cuartero was supported by former Mayor Farol. In the campaign trail, both candidates had heavily armed body guards with them. Although the political climate was tense, the voting was not marred by violence. Arias and Agoncillo won the election, but subsequent events ushered Rosario into an era of violent politics lasting until 1990.
Political Episodes of the Era
Mayor-elect Angel Arias did not become mayor of Rosario. He was scheduled to attend a pre-Christmas party in the town plaza in the evening of December 23, 1951. While still in front of his residence - then located just across the BTCo (BLTCo) station, now the BATELEC Office - he was mowed down by carbine fire by a gunman hidden between the parked BTCo buses. This happened despite the presence of a company of soldiers from a Battalion Combat team stationed in the town proper.
Vice-Mayor Elect Jose E. Agoncillo was sworn into office as mayor in January 1952. On February 22 (2 months after the death of Mayor-elect Arias) former Acting Mayor Cuartero was slain in barrio San Carlos in the residence of Juan Soriano, while mediating a case there.
Mayor Agoncillo replaced Gaudencio Manigbas as chief of police with guerrilla Captain Esteban de Guzman (alias Captain Little). Early in 1954, a political move by the Liberals - then in power - was made to oust Mayor Agoncillo from office.
First -councilor Fortunato Inandan was sworn into office by Malacañang on February 16, 1954, as acting mayor of Rosario. For a few days Rosario had tow mayors. On this issue, Agoncillo prevailed. Hardly five (5) months later, in the evening of July 9, 1954, Agoncillo's chief of police Captain de Guzman, was shot dead in midtown. Charged for murder of Capt. de Guzman were former Police Chief Gaudencio Manigbas, two policemen, and some former guerrillas from Macalamcam.
The trial of this murder case was a provincial sensation then. Governor Leviste gave, full support to the widow of Capt. de Guzman, in the prosecution of the case. The defense panel was headed by a Liberal stalwart, Atty. Meynardo Farol, a relative of former Mayor Farol. The accused were all convicted and meted death penalty, but later reduced to life imprisonment. Finally they were all pardoned!
Mayor Agoncillo had Felicisimo H. Luna appointed as chief of police after Capt. de Guzman's death. In the election of 1955 Mayor Agoncillo was re-elected along with the election of the 1st lady ever elected councilor of Rosario - Miss Isabelita Comia. Chief of Police Luna resigned his position before the election of 1959, to run for mayor.
On Mayor Agoncillo's attempt for 3rd term, he lost to his former Chief of Police, Felicisimo H. Luna.
Mayor Luna was successively re-elected until the 1980 election. He was mayor for twenty two (22) years (1960-1982), when he succumbed to illness on November 14, 1982. In his last bid for re-election during the Martial Law election in 1980, nobody ran against him anymore.
Politics has become a serious preoccupation in Rosario starting early in the 1950’s. It had resulted to violence and deaths of political leaders, the politicians themselves, and even their family members, until 1990.
In the earlier shooting incident, in the 1960’s, Barrio Capt. Teodoro Guno, better known as Kapitan Doroy, escaped death but he was badly wounded. He had to go into hiding for sometime in Kalumala, Santa Teresita.
In 1969, the residence of Chief of Police Ireneo Bautista in Bagong Pook was shot at by vehicle-riding gunmen.
In 1970, the son of Juan Asa a former candidate for mayor, was killed in an ambush in their own barrio of Puting Kahoy.
On March 21, 1971, Mayor Luna himself narrowly escaped death, with his driver, when his car was ambushed in Ermita, Manila. A policeman escort died, while, another was crippled. Mayor Luna’s arm was badly injured.
The imposition of Martial Law in the country by President Marcos in 1972 momentarily put a stop to the violent politics in Rosario. The protagonists seemed to have come to their senses. In the election of 1980, nobody ran against Mayor Luna anymore. The position of vice mayor was contested only by re-electionist Vice-Mayor Felimon Magracia and Brgy. Captain Doroy Guno. Guno was supported by ex-Mayor Agoncillo. Re-electionist Magracia won by a slim margin.
On November 14, 1982, Mayor Luna died suddenly of illness. Vice-Mayor Magracia succeeded to the office as mayor. In Magracia’s place, Antonio T. Luna, the son of the late mayor, was appointed as vice mayor. There was peace in Rosario throughout the Martial Law period.
After President Marcos was deposed by the People’s Power Revolution in February 1986, better known as EDSA I – the new dispensation replaced the municipal government officials of Rosario in April 1986 with a new set, headed by ex-Mayor Jose E. Agoncillo as OIC Mayor, and Kapitan Teodor Guno as OIC Vice-Mayor.
Among the ten (10) OIC Sangguniang Members appointed were: a retired division superintendent of schools, Galo M. Manalo; a rural bank manager, Patricio R. Zuño; a former vice-mayor, Jaime S. Bagting; and former councilors, Jose M. Guerra and Daniel Endaya. The ABC president, Lope I. Cordero; and SK Chairman, Francisco S. Calingasan, were retained in their positions. The 3 other members were also select residents of the town: Emma Z. Urrea, Felixberto Barbosa and Eugenio Batilo.
The new set of officials was assuming their respective offices on April 25, 1986. Before OIC Vice-Mayor designate, Kapitan Dorol Guno, could take his oath of office; he was shot dead in the Rosario Cockpit – in broad daylight before many people – during a ‘pintakasi’ on April 23 – just after the town fiesta. His son, Joselito Guno was appointed OIC Vice Mayor. This is another of the unsolved murder cases of the town.
In the congressional election of May 11, 1987, former Judge Jose E. Calingansan was elected congressman – the first from Rosario. His cousin, OIC Mayor Jose E. Agoncillo, had to resign to run for mayor in the election of January 18, 1988. The congressman’s daughter, Mrs. Marife C. Barrera, was appointed OIC Mayor, making her the first woman of Rosario act as mayor. His son-in-law, former Vice Mayor Antonio T. Luna, and former Mayor Felimon T. Magracia both run for mayor, Luna won together with his running mate, Rolando R. Sevilla. In this election, a lady candidate topped the results for councilor, or SB Kagawad, in the person of Miss Elizabeth Marquez.
Just after twenty two (22) months in office, Mayor Luna was also assassinated inside the Rosario Cockpit arena in the afternoon of December 9, 1989. A bodyguard of the mayor was also shot dead. One of the assassins was slain in Brgy. Sta. Cruz by responding policemen.
The political vendetta did not end with the assassination of Mayor Antonio T. Luna. Two months after the death of Mayor Luna, his elder brother, Brgy. Capt. Julianito T. Luna, was also shot dead in the front yard of his home in barangay Namunga, on February 8, 1990. These two deaths also remained unsolved.
Other Significant Developments
During the period of unsettled political peace in Rosario in the 2nd half of the 20th century, there were some other significant developments. The Batikan Club, which was organized in 1951, provided the social aspect of celebrating the annual town fiesta. It had grown to be involved in more meaningful and responsive civic organization.
The local government offices which up to 1958 were located in temporary quarters – on the old pre-war dispensary building and in a make-shift building – now had a new municipal hall built during the last term of Mayor Jose E. Agoncillo. The Rosario Municipal Hall was from the pork-barrel fund of then Speaker Jose B. Laurel. It was then one of the finest municipal halls in the province.
The Rosario Rural Bank, Inc. was the first rural bank established in the town. It was incorporated in December 1961, with the Laurels of Tanauan as among the lead incorporators. Today, this bank has become a branch of the President Jose P. Laurel Rural Bank, Inc. Late in the 1960, the bank directors, saw the need to reconstruct the church building of the Parish of the Holy Rosary. They initiated a fund raising campaign that lasted for several years to help build the church.
At about the same period saw saw the rise of the town’s first private ten bed hospital, of Dr. Juanito M. Caguimbal. In 1968, it was expanded to become the Caguimal General Hospital accredited with the Medical Care Commission (now PhilHealth), where SSS and GSIS members were able to avail of the benefits of the Commission.
Around and in the Poblacion, subdivisions were opened led by the Villa Felisa Subdivision, the Sto. Rosario Subdivision and the Rodelas Subdivision.
There was a noticeable growth in the town’s population, trade and industry. Gradually, the Filipino merchants of the town took over the retail trade which before was controlled by the Chinese. The Chinese community shifted to the manufacturing and while sale industries. The rest were integrated into the mainstream of the Filipino society becoming more Filipinos than Chinese.
The growing commercial activities of the town necessitated the relocation of the public market to a more spacious place. The open space allotted for public use (required under PD 957) by the Rodelas Subdivision, a residential-commercial subdivision was large enough intended to be the next market place. The municipal government built a new market on this open space. Market vendors refused to transfer to the new market, the entire old public market was mysteriously burned down one midnight in 1969. Business came to life in the new public market and the Rodelas Subdivision became the commercial center of the town.
The town’s cattle market operation, a major source of municipal income, was not only neglected, but ill-managed. Cattle dealers sometimes fear for their personal safety. Some reported to be even practically maltreated by some town officials. Rosario finally lost the market to Padre Garcia, which developed to become the biggest cattle market in the country.
By 1979, Rosario was among the lowest class municipality of the province — a fifth class municipality.
With the advent of the 1980’s, domestic investors came in to invest in the multi-million peso agri-business enterprises. The more notable among these are the Luz Farm Inc. of the Sarmientos in barangay Pinagsibaan, and the Puyat Pig Development (Phils.) in barangay Sta. Cruz.
Many others followed establishing their commercial piggery farms in several barangays of the town. While the fees and taxes they paid improved the municipal government income, the wasted from their farms polluted the town’s stream and river systems, making them biologically dead.
Early during this period, too, the 1st two barangay high schools of the town were established. These were the Tulos Barangay High School and the Baybayin Barangay High School. These were made possible through the efforst its two native sons: Mssrrs. Aurelio A. Adelantar and Galo M. Manalo. They were both division school officials of Batangas. Initially, these high schools and others that followed, operated through tuition fees. Later their operations were nationally funded. They became known as national high schools.
In 1984, the first private elementary school of the town – the Sto. Niño Formation School was established by Mrs. Araceli A. Calderon.
In Calm Political Atmosphere
Vice-Mayor Rolando R. Sevilla succeeded as mayor after the assassination of Mayor Antonio Luna on December 9, 1989. He was succeeded in turn as vice-mayor by the number one elected SB Kagawad, Miss Elizabeth Marquez – making her the fist lady vice mayor in the history of the town. The brief administration of Mayor Sevilla marked the period on non-violent politics.
The Mahal the Vigen Maria (MVM) District Hospital, project of Congressman Calingasan, was built in Brgy. Namunga. It became operational in 1990, making available its medical services and facilities also to patients from the neighboring towns of Rosario.
In the same period, too, the Regional Trial Court, Branch No. 87 was established here.
Incidentally, during this new administration, the grotto of Christ’s Stations of the Cross, conceived by businessman Antonio Z. Luna, came into being. Mr. Luna was provided by the municipal government some 2,300 sq. m. space at the foot of Tombol Hill for this religious project.
This space was transformed grotesquely, before, by sand quarrying and part of it later became a garbage dump.
Here, rose the fourteen (14) stations of the cross with the life-size characters of the Holy Passions. This grotto or the Way to the Cross has become a local religious tourist attraction during the Holy Week. Above the grotto, on top of Tombol Hill, stands the huge statue of Christ with arms extended in welcome gesture. This statue has become a landmark of Rosario.
Also during this administration, the Municipal government of Rosario agreed to provide the national government agency, tasked to implement the Municipal Telephone Program, with a space for its office and facilities. Rosario conditionally donated property some years later to a private company, the DIGITEL Telecommunication Philippines, Inc., in violation of the terms of the donations.
Former Brgy. Captain Rodolfo G. Villar was elected mayor in the election of 1992. In his inauguration, outgoing Mayor Sevilla was with Mayor-elect Vilar at the ceremony to the delight of the audience.
This spectacle of the political rivals in a friendly turn-over of office had not been witnessed in Rosario for so long in a time. Various development projects were put into place by the new administration.
This was in preparation for the expected implementation of the development plan to transform Rosario to be the Agro-Industrial Center in Southeastern Batangas under the CALABARZON project. Its Sangguniang Bayan passed resolutions declaring large areas as industrial estates in six barangays namely: Mabato, Pinagsibaan, Puting Kahoy, San Isidro, Calantas and Matamis. In these areas 1,400 hectares and other sizeable land areas available for development for factories and agri-business facilities sites, housing projects, science and recreational parks, resorts and golf courses. These plans have awakened the enthusiasm of various groupings of foreign and domestic investors. Rosario is declared special economic zone of Batangas under the CALABARZON project. A number of rural banks and commercial banks came in and put up their branches here.
In barangay Maligaya, about 17 kilometers southeast of the poblacion, was built on a thirty (30) hectare land, the Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC). It is, then, the 1st ever Federation Internationale L’Automobile (FIA) homologated race track in the Philippines. The group that conceptualized belonged to the Shell Group of Companies, Philip Morris, Phil. Inc., Toyota Motor Philippines Corp., Norkis-Yamaha Trading, and Hilton Motor Corp. (owner of the Circuit). Around the BRC, many non-residents of Rosario have invested heavily in developing sizeable lands into orchard, cattle or poultry farms.
The "Araw ng Rosario"
In June 1994, Mayor Villar thought of celebrating the founding of Rosario. Mr. Conrado T. Reyes was directed to undertake a research on the history of Rosario. The initial research findings stirred the historical interest of the eleven select historical committee members, other municipal officials and the more literate residents of the town. A digest of the towns history: "Rosario: Its Origin and Development", was the cover article in the Rosario Fiesta '95 Souvenir Program.
The Sangguniang Bayan decided to declare June 9, 1997 and every year thereafter as "Araw ng Rosario" under Res. No. 14-96 dated March 5, 1996. The Historical Committee proposed the commemoration of the 310th Foundation Year of Rosario and the 95th Year of Establishment in Tombol on the "Araw ng Rosario" in 1997.
The committee was converted into a council - The Rosario Municipal Council for Culture and Arts - by the Sangguniang Bayan under Res. No. 105-96 and Ordinance No. 43 dated September 17, 1996. The Council took charge of the preparation and programming of the three day celebration of Araw ng Rosario for June 7, 8 and 9 in 1997.
The commemorative marker about Rosario (by this author) in front of the Municipal Hall was unveiled on the first day; while the winning entry of Mrs. Fe Samonte-Bravo to the "Hymno ng Rosario" writing contest was played on the last day of the celebration. (A similar commemorative marker of the Hymno ng Rosario now stands close to the Statue of Dr. Jose Rizal and angled to face the National Flag).
The request for the President of the Philippines to declare June 9 of every year as "Araw ng Rosario" was granted under Proclamation No. 88, dated March 4, 1999.
In the 21st Century
A Premier Town Again
After losing its position for several decades as a first class municipality of Batangas; Rosario finally acquired its 1st class place again before the advent of the 21st century. Trade and industry had risen, increasing the collection of the municipal treasury in fees and taxes, surpassing expected levels.
Early in the new century there are already some eight (8) rural banks and three (3) commercial banks – the Landbank of the Philippines, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Metro Bank which have established their branches here.
Cell sites have been installed in several locations around the Poblacion and in other barangays, complementing the existing telecommunication facilities of the PLDT Toll Station and Digitel Phils. Inc.
Many of the amenities of an urban community are now present in Rosario. The town's other growth areas are catching up with progress and modernization. In Barangay Masaya, the Puyat Steel Corporation has established a galvanizing plant producing the APO Galfan G.I. sheets. Nearby has commenced the establishment of a commercial recreational and residential hub — the Pueblo Niño Town Center.
The Batangas State University has opened its extension of its Rosario Campus in Barangay Namunga of the site donated by the Zuño and Inandan families. A few years later, a private college, the Teodoro Luansing College of Rosario was also established in the same barangay.
Mayor Villar had to end his 3rd consecutive and last term in 2001 as required by law. His wife ran for mayor to continue and further enhance their legacy of notable peace and order, significant economic growth and big investments.
Mrs. Clotilde G. Villar was elected the 1st lady mayor of this town.
The following election of 2004, the late Hon. Felipe A. Marquez fondly called Mamay Ipe became the new Municipal Mayor.
The new administration at once was able to secure funds from the provincial and national governments through the help of Sen. Ralph G. Recto to undertake the rehabilitation of the Poblacion main streets, the improving the facade of the Municipal Hall, the rehabilitation of existing facilities like the construction of additional buildings in the public market. The annual Sinukmani Festival and Sisterhood with Makati City happened. Production of History Books were completed.
Following the untimely departure of Mayor Mamay Ipe Marquez, the Municipality of Rosario entered a new chapter in its history when the HON. MANUEL BOLEA ALVAREZ was sworn in to become the new Municipal Mayor.
Beginning 2012 under the current administration of MAYOR MANNY ALVAREZ, the Town of Rosario has been witnessing unparalleled economic growth and development happening at almost an exponential rate, with new investments coming in and existing businesses pursuing expansion aggressively. It is as if every 6 months, the Poblacion and elsewhere along the major transit corridors within the municipality, transformation is going on at a surprising speed, with many at neighboring towns marveling at what’s going on in what is envisioned to become the METROPOLITAN ROSARIO.
Vision and Mission