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Quick Facts on Tabaco City

LAND AREA: 117.14 km2 (45.23 sq mi)

POPULATION: 125,083 (As of 2010)



Brief History

The recorded history of Tabaco began in 1587 when Franciscan missionaries began converting the
inhabitants of the town of Cagsawa to Catholicism. In 1616, the Rev. Fr. Pedro de Alcareso, became the
first permanent minister of Tabaco. He built a stone church dedicated to Christ's forerunner St. John the
Baptist who since then became the patron saint of Tabaco.

Over the years, Tabaco became the largest and the most strategic settlement and in mid-17th century,
the province of Albay was divided into two. The first was Partido de Tabaco which included the present-
day towns of the First District of Albay, Legazpi, Daraga and Catanduanes. The other division, which was
Partido de Iraya, included the towns currently making up the Third District and parts of Camarines Sur.

Known even then for being a town of great charm and character, Tabaco was in fact no stranger to
natural calamities. In 1811, a powerful typhoon wreaked unimaginable destruction on Tabaco. Because
the storm all but stripped the town bare, it earned the nickname Bagiong Oguis (white typhoon).

Three years later, in 1814, tragedy struck anew. Mayon Volcano erupted violently and rivers of molten
lava rampaged down its slopes even as showers of white hot ash and burning boulders destroyed
villages and completely buried Tabaco's neighbor Cagsawa. The eruption claimed an unprecedented
number of lives and took away much of the people's livelihoods since rice fields were rendered
completely unproductive for many years thereafter.

Tabaco was spared much of Mayon's wrath but it took a full decade for it to recover from the damage.

The Americans arrived in Tabaco on February 9, 19 00 under the command of Col. Walter Howe. Despite
the well-documented courage and patriotism of Tabaquenos, the superior armaments and well-trained
soldiers of the American army hastened its conquest of Tabaco and adjoining towns.

With the restoration of peace after World War II, the residents of Tabaco started rebuilding their lives
and their land. By the time the Philippines gained independence, Tabaco was once again a thriving town.

The Smith, Bell and Company house in Tabaco City is an idiosyncrasy. The Spanish-era structure of
durable stone and delicate capiz was once the offices of an import-export firm dealing in abaca whose
origins dated from 1868.

The incongruity lies in the fact that the former commercial establishment was bought in 1965 by the
talented poet Angela Manalang-Gloria. The company house of a firm engaged in buying and selling was
purchased by a woman known for her literary brilliance. A house of trade became the home of an artist.

This architectural wonder built of stone blocks adjoined with mortar and molasses, with its weathered
wooden doors decorated with sunburst fanlights and second storey windows of mother-of-pearl, has
withstood more than a hundred years of typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

Manalang-Gloria Ancestral House & Smith, Bell & Co. (Tabaco City)
Manalang-Gloria Ancestral House & Smith, Bell & Co. (Tabaco City)
8 Photos · Updated 9 years ago
House of trade, history and poetry TABACO CITY – A century-old, Spanish-style house of stone and
capiz shell windows in Tabaco City in Albay looks as illustrious as its former occupant, Angela
Manalang-Gloria, regarded as the “matriarch” of Filipino women poets in English. It was doubly
significant, therefore, when the National Historical Institute unveiled last week two markers at the
Manalang-Gloria ancestral home near the city’s international port. Sitting on a 3,700-square-meter
property, the house was built in the early 1900s by a wealthy Bicolano, Don Mariano Villanueva. It
was considered one of the most beautiful houses of its kind in the country. Its old Spanish
architectural design has been preserved through the years and protected from renovations. With an
800-sqm floor area, the two-story structure has four big bedrooms, two living rooms, a dining hall, a
kitchen, a terrace and a basement. The stairs, floors, ceiling and windows are wooden. Capiz in the
windows filter the glare of tropical sunlight. Bahay na Bato Though seemingly bare, the house has
some old furniture, photographs and some of Manalang-Gloria’s books. In the mid-1900s, the house
became a trading center of Smith, Bell and Co., an American-owned merchandise firm which had a
branch in Tabaco. Manalang-Gloria, described as a “pragmatic businesswoman” in a literary
biography written by Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, bought the house in 1965 for P50,000 from an
American agent of Smith, Bell and Co., who was clueless of its real estate value. Manlapaz said the
poet felt no compunction for having “taken advantage,” as it were, of the agent’s ignorance because,
she maintained, it was his business to know what he was selling. Legazpi City museum curator
Erlinda Belleza said the bahay na bato, or the stone-and-wood houses of the 19th century, is a
product of native and Spanish parentage. In the book “Igkas-Arte: The Philippine Arts During the
Spanish Period,” the bahay na bato features a sala (living room) flanked by bedrooms with wide
doors and bounded, sometimes on two sides, by the volada or airy gallery. Space flows from one
room to another. When all doors to the rooms are opened, the house becomes one vast space. It
has an elaborate system of openings and shutters—the windows wide and high, sometimes
extending the whole length or width of a room, the book said. Elemelita Almosara, NHI deputy
executive director, said the agency put up the historical markers in front of the house after a team of
heritage architects surveyed and analyzed its features. Tourist attraction “Based on an analysis of
the NHI, the Bahay-Kalakal (trading house) of Smith, Bell and Co. is really a remarkable and classic
bahay na bato, the oldest in the city of Tabaco,” Almosara said. Tourism regional director Maria
Ong-Ravanilla said the place would be included in Bicol’s tourism packages. More than the grandeur
of a heritage site, what makes it significant is the story behind it, she said. The site would be of great
help in showcasing the rest of the historic city, Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro said. “We want to give
our tourists good memories of how we once lived and how simple life was before.” According to
Manlapaz, Manalang-Gloria bought the house only for investment purposes. Although she found it to
be very beautiful, she never considered moving into it. “I don’t like living in an expensive house,” she
was quoted by the biographer as saying. Manalang-Gloria’s clan today values the old house in a
much different way. While the matriarch had no room for sentimentality, her only daughter and
heiress, Angelina Gloria-Ong, lives a less complicated life as a housewife. Poet’s clan “It was only
during the last few months of my mother’s life when she lived in the house she had bought. It was
where she died in August 1995,” Gloria-Ong, 65, said. “People would think my mother was romantic
because she was a poet. But she was more of a businesswoman—strict and very conservative,” she
said. She said the recognition given by the NHI both to the house and to her mother has made her
feel proud and honored. Gloria-Ong said she started to live in the house only in February 1995. Now,
only the sixth of her eight children—Michael, 28—also lives there. The rest, except the youngest,
have their own families. Michael said his nephews and nieces still frequent the place, which is near
their school. The clan also holds special family occasions in the house. “After the markers were
placed, passersby would come near and read them. Nobody gave this much attention to our house
before. Now the people begin to appreciate it,” Michael said. Gloria-Ong said the family was willing
to open some parts of their house to the public and tourists someday. Source: Philippine Daily