Large centers of population already thrived in Batangas before the Spaniards arrived. Native settlements lined the Pansipit River, a major waterway near Taal Lake.
Batangas first came to be known as Bombon. It was named after Taal Lake, which was also originally called Bombon. Some of the earliest settlements in Batangas were established in the vicinity of Taal Lake.
In 1570, an expedition led by Spanish conquistadores Juan de Salcedo and Martin de Goiti explored the coast of Batangas on the way from Panay to Manila. Salcedo was wounded in the foot by a poisoned arrow during a skirmish with the natives on the Pansipit River. However, the Bombon inhabitants were easily subdued. As Jose Rizal pointed out, “The people, accustomed to the yoke, did not defend their chiefs from the invader. . . The nobles, accustomed to tyrannize by force, had to accept foreign tyranny when it showed itself stronger than their own.”
Delighted by the rivers and “excellent meadows”, the Spaniards began settling the coast, mainly through the granting of tracts of land (encomienda) to deserving individuals and religious orders to spread Catholicism. The Augustinians were particularly prominent in the colonization effort and gained control of vast tracts of land. They established cattle ranches in the hills.
In the same years that de Goiti and Salcedo visited the province, the Franciscan missionaries came to Taal, which later became the first Spanish settlement in Batangas.
In 1572, the town of Taal was founded by the Augustinians in the place of Wawa, now San Nicolas and its convent and stone church were constructed later. From there they began preaching in Balayan and in all the big settlements around the lake of Bombon (Taal). The Augustinians, who were the first missionaries in the diocese, remained until the revolution against Spain. Among the first missionaries were eminent men which included Alfonso de Albuquerque, Diego Espinas, Juan de Montojo, and others.
Officially the Province of Bombon was founded by Spain in 1578, through Fr. Estaban Ortiz and Fr. Juan de Porras. It was named after the name that was given to it by the Muslim natives who inhabited the area.
During the first ten years, the whole region around the Lake of Bombon was completely Christianized. It was done through the preaching of men who had learned the first rudiments of the language of the people. At the same time, they started writing manuals of devotion in Tagalog, such as novenas and had written the first Tagalog grammar that served other missionaries who came.
In 1581, the Spanish government abolished Bombon Province and created a new province which was much larger but parts of it were broken off into new provinces over the years. The new province which came to be known as Balayan Province was composed of the present provinces of Batangas, Mindoro, Marinduqe, southeast Laguna, and Camarines.
Balayan was the capital of the province for 135 years from 1597-1732. In 1732, it was moved to Taal, then the flourishing and most progressive town in the province. After the devastating eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754, the old town of Taal, present day San Nicolas, was buried. The capital was eventually transferred to Batangas (now a city) for fear of further eruptions where it has remained to date. Batangas City became the capital in 1754.
Important parishes were founded throughout the following years:
1572 – The Taal Parish was founded by the Augustinians
1581 – The Batangas Parish under Fray Diego Mexica
1596 – Bauan Parish administered by the Augustinian missionaries
1605 – Lipa Parish under the Augustinian administration
1774 – Balayan Parish was founded
1852 – Nasugbu Parish
1868 – Lemery Parish
The town of Nasugbu became an important center of trade during the Spanish occupation of the country. It was the site of the first recorded battle between two European Forces in Asia in Fortune Island, Nasugbu, Batangas. In the late part of the 20th century, the inhabitants of Fortune Island discovered a sunken galleon that contained materials sold in the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.
As one of the first eight provinces to revolt against Spain in 1896, Batangas saw much action during the revolution. It was also one of the provinces placed under Martial Law by Spanish Governor-General Ramon Blanco on August 30, 1896. This event was given distinction when Marcela Agoncillo, also a native of Batangas province, made the Philippine Flag, which bears a sun with eight rays to represent these eight provinces.
The region also suffered attacks by slave-seeking Moros, throughout the 17th century; the remains of old stone forts still exist in Batangas City, Bauan and Lemery.
From the 18th century, Batangas enjoyed rapid economic growth, spurred on by the introduction of the coffee bean. Coffee thrived in the rich volcanic soil, fueling the rise of the Taaleño middle class and leading exports during the mid-19th century. However, the spread of coffee blight destroyed plantations in the late 19th century, and the industry has never fully recovered.
Batangas was one of the earliest provinces established by the Spaniards who settled in the country together with the provinces in the island of Panay, Ilocos Sur, and Pampanga. It was headed by Martin de Goiti and since then has become one of the most important regions of the Philippines. Over the years, the province has been called Bombon, Balayan, Taal, and Batangas.
Insight Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes