A family weekend had us going for a daytrip to join in the festivities in Batangas. I haven’t attended a Filipino fiesta for a long time that it really got me excited to enjoy one, not to mention the opportunity to get to explore the town where my wife’s family had its roots. It was going to be a day of laughter and exploration in the small town of Bauan.
Established as a visita in 1590, the town of Bauan was originally situated on the southern shorelines of Taal lake. The present location, along Batangas Bay, was established in 1690 and is the fourth site of relocation of the town. Bauan had a bigger land area during earlier times but parts of its jurisdiction later on were granted municipal status. It has been identified as part of Metro Batangas which is largely why it is continually developing in terms of commerce.
Immaculate Conception Parish (Bauan Church)
The Bauan Church, located at the center of town, is a focal point of locals from the town’s humble beginnings to the present. It is one of the century-old churches in the province. The first church was built along the slopes of Mount Macolod but an eruption of Taal Volcano prompted the first resettlement of the community and the church. The present church is the 7th structure to be built after the previous ones were destroyed by natural calamaties and the Philippine Revolution.
The church structure that was completed in 1881 was said to be the most artistically built in the whole of Batangas. It was also a repository of rare books collected by the then parish priest, Father Felipe Bravo. In fact, the church had a museum for natural history. Unfortunately, all these books and collections were destroyed when the church was razed down during the 1898 Philippine Revolution.
The present church structure was a restoration done in 1938. The church and the belfry stands as an attraction at the town center. An image of the wooden cross or what locals respectfully call “Poon” stands at the center of the courtyard and atop the church’s facade. The simple facade is a complete contrast to the grand interior of the church. The beautifully painted high-ceilings, the dome, and the gold-colored altar is a grand interpretation of the local’s faith through the years. Again, an image of a cross stands on a secondary altar adjacent to the main altar.
The cross or the “Mahal na Poong Santa Krus” is a revered image in Bauan. As the story goes, the cross was said to be made in 1595 as a protection from ghosts. However, the cross is often associated to other miracles that happened in the area. The cross is also believed to have protected Bauan from both natural and man-made calamities. This has been the main reason for the devout faith on the miraculous image of the crucifix.
Plaza Orense is a small town plaza located just right in front of the church. Like other Philippine towns, the plaza is the main venue for events and celebrations. A stage is located on one side of the plaza and the rest, within its vicinity, are open spaces. It is relatively small compared to the other plazas that I have seen and I could imagine how the crowd spills over along the provincial road and Kap Ponso Street when there are events being held.
Apart from being an events place, the plaza also serves as a reminder on the bravery of local Filipino heroes. At the corner facing the church stands a monument dedicated to Andres Bonifacio, the man behind the Katipunan. The other corner holds another monument that aptly recognizes Bauan as the “town that refuses to die”. The monument is dedicated to the local heroes who fought during World War 2.
Bauan Municipal Hall
On the other end of the provincial highway, infront of the church, stands the Bauan Municipal Hall. The compound holds the offices that cater to the public welfare of Bauan residents. It is the seat of power of local governance of the municipality. What stands out when you visit the hall is the architecture that has a good fusion of the new and the old.
The original art deco facade of the munisipyo was preserved during the renovations. The facade features elaborate and stylized designs of agricultural products and was designed by Juan Arellano. Behind the culturally significant facade stands a more modern designed building that is home to the local government offices. It was great to see how culture and history is valued despite the onset of development in Bauan.
Despite the economic development in Bauan, the public market has maintained its strong business relations with the locals. Located a few blocks from the church, it is the go-to-place of locals for affordable supplies. It is the center economic activity in Bauan as seen by more popular “city” brands in the vicinity.
The public market is undergoing renovations when we visited. Too bad that we also visited late in the afternoon as most of the stalls were either closed or was wrapping up the business day. There were market activities still but it was not as vibrant as the usual Sunday market vibe.
As already mentioned, the present location of Bauan is the fourth site of relocation since the founding of the municipality. This time the poblacion lies along the shores of Batangas Bay. Like any other by the shore towns, Bauan has its own version of a bay boulevard - the Boulevard Aplaya.
The Boulevard Aplaya is a road strip that lies along the coast of the bay. It is a largely a residential area and the road leading to the aplaya can be a bit of a challenge. The strip gives you a nice view of the bay and the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, the place needs to be developed further and regularly maintained so that more locals and guests can enjoy afternoons in the boulevard.
One pasalubong that is a must when you find yourself in Bauan is Londres. This soft bread coated in sugar is a popular snack among locals, mine too. It goes best with coffee and tablea in the morning and breaks. Make sure that you get one before exploring the town because it is so good that it easily gets sold out.
There are other snacks that you can bring home from Bauan. Some of our favorites are suman, the round cookies called pasensya, and merengue. Coffee lovers will have a hey day with Batangas Barako while chocolate lovers get a treat with their tablea.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Bauan is often referred to as the “gateway to Mabini” but there is more to the place than just passing through it. More than its history, culture, and pockets of attractions, the people of Bauan make the experience. Their warm hospitality and, at times, their curiosity gives you the warmth and nostalgia of an old Philippine town. An hour or two of exploring the town of Bauan will give you that natural transition to a laidback day or weekend.
More often than not, we always look forward to exploring the popular spots and the places that we pass through are overshadowed by the main destination. Here’s a tip… the next time that you go on a roadtrip, start early and take it slowly. Stop along the route and explore. Trust me, you will be surprised with what you will discover along the way. It will also make the day or weekend trip experience more memorable.
Getting there: You can take a bus headed to Lipa City or Batangas City where you can take a jeep for Mabini. Ask the driver to drop you off at Bauan.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.