Municipality of Rosario History
The geographical context of pre-colonial Batangas
Before the Spaniards came, there were large centers of population in the west and northwest coast of Batangas, such as Nasugbu, Balayan, and Batangan (now Batangas City). Calatagan, Lemery, and Taal were old settlements. Taal, Balayan, and Nasugbu were trade outposts of people from other parts of Asia.
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 worshiped 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.
First settlers of Rosario
A parish appeared to have been established on the southwestern coast of Batangas, where a river (now called Rosario River) runs through 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. Its inhabitants fled inland north to safety. They went upstream of the Rosario River and then the Kansahayan River.
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 Señora 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.
Relocation of Rosario to preclude further Moro incursions
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. Due to 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-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 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.
Separation of Rosario, San Juan, Taysan, and Lobo
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, and on the south of Batangas province shores. 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.
Woes of dire colonial dominations, and the revolts toward triumph
© PVGMA: The Golden Years 1946-1996 Souvenir Program
In the later phase of the Philippine Revolution, Don Melecio Bolaños, 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.
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.
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.
On November 30, 1901 Brig. Gen. Franklin Bell was assigned to end the war in Batangas. He adopted the so-called concentration (zona) policy for all towns of the province. 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.
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 cattle and work animals died. 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 Bolaños 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 some time during the American period, Taysan was again a part of Rosario. But eventually, by virtue of Executive Order No. 43 dated November 11, 1918 by Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison, Taysan was again made a separate municipality.
The former town site became barrio Lumang Bayan and is presently the Municipality of Padre Garcia. 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.
First Aglipayan mass in Rosario
In 1908, Cenena 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 Bolaños 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 foothold in this part of Batangas for his church.
Rosario and the adversities of Japanese occupation
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.
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 Zuño, declined to render further service.
The Guerilla Movement was introduced in Rosario by Jorge Espina and Maximo Bool of the Fil-American Irregular Troops of Col. Straughn. 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 because 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. After the Liberation, 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. Atty. Jose P. Recto was the last alcalde under the Commonwealth Period and became the First Mayor under the Third Philippine Republic.
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) in front of the “municipio.”
The rise of town’s first notable establishments
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. 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.
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 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 RCBC Savings Bank.
At about the same period 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 Caguimbal 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 Villa Felisa, the Sto. Rosario and the Rodelas Subdivisions.
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 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 waste 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 efforts its two native sons: Messrs. 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. The Mahal the Virgen Maria (MVM) District Hospital, a 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.
The grotto of Christ’s Stations of the Cross, conceived by late 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.
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 the Risen Christ with arms extended in welcome gesture. This statue has become a landmark of Rosario.
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 Kilton 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.
Declaration of June 9 as Araw ng Rosario
In June 1994, Mayor Rodolfo G. Villar thought of celebrating the founding of Rosario. Mr. Conrado T. Reyes was directed to undertake a research on the history of Rosario. 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 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.
Rosario’s major economic recovery: Reclaiming its 1st Class Municipality Status anew
Rosario finally acquired its 1st Class Municipality status 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 8 rural banks and 3 commercial banks – the Landbank of the Philippines, the Bank of the Philippine Islands and Metrobank which have established their branches here. Cell sites have been installed in several locations around the Poblacion and in other barangays. 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.
Mrs. Clotilde G. Villar was 1st elected 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. Following the untimely departure of Mayor Mamay Ipe Marquez, the Municipality of Rosario entered a new chapter in its history when the HON. MANUEL B. ALVAREZ was sworn in to become the new Municipal Mayor.
Beginning 2012 under the current administration of Mayor Manny Alvarez, the Municipality of Rosario has been witnessing rapid 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 CITY OF ROSARIO.