After the eruption of Taal Volcano, I have been seeing more news about the faith of the Batangueños, the people of Batangas. I’m from Alitagtag and the most revered patron saint of our town is the Mahal na Poong Santa Cruz, (The Holy Cross). It has been the belief of the people of our town that the Holy Cross will keep them safe. It has been proven over and over throughout the centuries. The Taal Volcano Eruption of Jan. 12, 2020 is one of them. Here is the Holy Cross in a procession on Jan. 16 through town in thanksgiving for her protection of the people of Alitagtag.
Five years after the establishment of the mission of Bauan, a giant cross made of anubing, a local hardwood in the same species of breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis, was found in an area called Dingin near the town of Alitagtag. It was on a promontory looking out to sea on the north, to the mountain of Makulot on the east. It was said to have protected the people of Bauan, a nearby town, from pestilence, locusts, droughts, and volcanic eruptions.
The cross was made from a very strong post of a demolished house and erected in the village of Alitagtag to drive away a plague of ghosts. The cross was described as 2.5 meters in height with a 1 meter crosspiece. The cross was also said to walk around the village (perhaps while driving away the ghosts) and that water gushed from one of its arms. In 1611, it was reported that Fr. San Agustin wrote that natives placed the cross in the mouth of the crater of Taal Volcano to silence it.
The miracles attributed to the cross attracted many devotees and a decision was made to move it to the bigger Bauan parish church after attempts of nearby parish priests failed. The priest from the nearby town of Cuenca came down and tried to pull out the cross but to no avail. The cross wouldn’t bulge. Another priest tried to bring the cross to his church in Taal, another nearby town, but was prevented from doing so when the sky turned gray and loud thunderbolts and dreadful lightning went across the sky. Finally, the priest from Bauan attempted it and the cross came out quickly and lifted itself up. It was then taken to Bauan and became the patron saint of Bauan.
Before its enshrinement in Bauan however, the cross diminished in size because devotees chipped away pieces of the cross and made miniature replicas and were worn as necklace talismans. The parish priest got worried that the cross would be all used up so they cut the cross in half and made another cross out of the bottom part and gave it to the Parish of Alitagtag. They also enclosed the cross in silver so people could not take chips out of it. It featured a sun embossed with a human face in silver at the center with radiating rays where the arms intersect. The cross was later moved to a couple of unidentified places to escape the violent eruptions of Taal Volcano before finally settling in Dingin near the lake in late 17th century.
The cross has been a part of the community life in Alitagtag. The Parish of Alitagtag decided to make the cross as their patron saint. Bauan had their fiesta on May 3 to honor the Holy Cross and since Alitagtag was an offshoot of the town of Bauan, it was decided to celebrate another Fiesta in Alitagtag on the same day.
Years ago, the cross was brought up to the hill and mass was celebrated there. By 1970’s, they made a shrine on the hill and eventually it was made into a National Shrine. The May 3rd celebration is mostly a religious undertaking with procession of the Holy Cross from the main church in town to the shrine and a mass is said at the shrine by the Bishop.
Source: A booklet about the Holy Cross of Alitagtag edited by my godmother, Dr. Celing Recto.