The capital of Batangas was once Taal. Then 1754 happened
Residents living along Taal lake catch fish as Taal volcano erupts in Tanauan town, Batangas province south of Manila on January 14, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
The capital of Batangas was once Taal. Then 1754 happened
Ratziel San Juan ( - January 15, 2020 - 5:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Since the phreatic (steam-driven) eruption of Taal Volcano on Sunday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has been preparing for a worst-case scenario not unlike the said volcano’s 1754 eruption.

Around 265 years ago, Taal Volcano erupted for a hellish seven month period, burying four Batangas towns under ash and volcanic matter.

The plinian eruption (large explosive events that form dark columns of tephra or rock fragment and gas) forever changed the course of Taal, “then the flourishing and most progressive town in the province,” according to the official Batangas website.

Before the provincial capital was changed from Balayan to Taal in 1732, the Taal Volcano erupted in 1634, 1635, 1696, 1698, 1705, 1707 and 1731. A major one also took place in 1749 when Taal already been named capital.

However, it was the 1754 eruption "that finally destroyed the Lake Taal towns," as described in a Philippine Studies journal article titled "Sunken Ruins in Lake Taal: An Investigation of a Legend."

"The volcano constantly belched fire and smoke columns and spewed such quantities of lava 'that only the waters of the lake saved the people on shore from being burnt,' wrote Fr. Bencuchillo. [Apparently, Fr. Bencuchillo was, by then, the Taal priest]," the journal article read.

Fearing for their lives, the surviving population came to abandon Taal which was compared by the priest to the biblical destruction of Sodom.

The provincial capital then became Batangas City, which borders the Batangas Bay.

Most official government sources say the change in capital happened in 1754, but the Batangas website has conflicting information suggesting that the correct year is 1889.

“[I]t wasn’t until 1754 that the capital (Taal) was destroyed by the Great Taal Eruption of 1754. It was in 1889 that the capital was moved to the present, Batangas City,” reads the site’s history page.

“After several calamitous eruptions of Taal Volcano that buried then old Taal town site, the capital was transferred to Batangas (now a city) in 1754 where it has remained to the present,” read a different page of the same website.

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