Last updated on September 30, 2019
Long before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines, large centers of population already thrived in Batangas. Native settlements lined the Pansipit River, a major waterway. The province had been trading with the Chinese since Yuan Dynasty until the first phase of Ming Dynasty in the 13th and 15th century. Inhabitants of the province were also trading with Japan and India. The Philippines ancestors were Buddhists and Hindus, but far from India and intermixed with animistic beliefs.
Archaeological findings show that before the settlement of the Spaniards in the country, the Tagalogs, especially the Batangueños, had attained a semblance of high civilization. This was shown by certain jewelry, made from a chambered nautilus’ shell, where tiny holes were created by a drill-like tool. The Ancient Batangueños were influenced by India as shown in the origin of most languages from Sanskrit and certain ancient potteries. A Buddhist image was reproduced in mould on a clay medallion in bas-relief from the municipality of Calatagan. According to experts, the image in the pot strongly resembles the iconographic portrayal of Buddha in Siam, India, and Nepal. The pot shows Buddha Amithaba in the tribhanga pose inside an oval nimbus. Scholars also noted that there is a strong Mahayanic orientation in the image, since the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara was also depicted.
One of the major archaeological finds was in January 1941, where two crude stone figures were found in Palapat in the municipality of Calatagan. They were later donated to the National Museum. One of them was destroyed during World War II.
Eighteen years later, a grave was excavated in nearby Punta Buaya. Pieces of brain coral were carved behind the heads of the 12 remains that were found. The site was named Likha (meaning “Create”). The remains were accompanied by furniture that could be traced as early as the 14th century. Potteries, as well as bracelets, stoneware, and metal objects were also found in the area, suggesting that the people who lived there had extensive contact with people from as far as China.
The presence of dining utensils such as plates or “chalices” found with the remains also suggest that prehistoric Batangueños believed in the idea of life-after-death. Thus, the Batangueños, like their neighbors in other parts of Asia, have similar customs of burying furniture with the dead.
Like the nearby tribes, the Batangan or the early Batangueños were a non-aggressive people. Partly because most of the tribes in their immediate environment were related to them by blood. Some weapons Batangans used included the bakyang (bows and arrows), the bangkaw (spears), and the suwan (bolo).
Being highly superstitious, the use of agimat (amulet or talisman) showed that these people believed in the presence of higher beings and other things unseen. The natives believed that forces of nature were a manifestation these higher beings.
The term ‘Tagalog’ may have been derived from the word taga-ilog or “river dwellers” referring to the Pasig River located further up north of the region. However, Wang Teh-Ming in his writings on Sino-Filipino relations points out that Batangas was the real center of the Tagalog tribe, which he then identified as Ma-yi or Ma-i. According to the Chinese Imperial Annals, Ma-yi had its center in the province and extends to as far as Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon, Bataan, Bulacan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Nueva Ecija, some parts of Zambales, and Tarlac. However, many historians interchangeably use the term Tagalog and Batangueño.
Henry Otley Beyer, an American archaeologist, also showed in his studies that the early Batangueños had a special affinity with the precious stone known as the jade. He named the Late Paleolithic Period of the Philippines as the Batangas Period in recognition of the multitude of jade found in the excavated caves in the province. Beyer identified that the jade-cult reached the province as early as 800 B.C. and lasted until 200 B.C.