≡ Menu

V. Gironiere and ‘Tapuzi’

[This is part of a collection of posts serializing the second chapter of Pasyon, Awit, Legend.]

All of that said, Gironiere was a plantation owner in rural southern Luzon from 1819 to 1839. This is a period and a location for which we have few sources. Any accurate material which could be gleaned from his account would thus be unique.1 We must, however, approach this material with extreme caution and deep hermeneutical suspicion if we are to recover anything of historical value. Our approach must discard as historically unreliable any portion of the text which glorifies Gironiere.2

Paul P. de la Gironiere

Portrait of Paul P. de la Gironiere, by H. Valentin, in Aventures d’un Gentilhomme Breton aux îles Philippines (1855)

Gironiere wrote of an excursion to ‘Tapuzi.’ He introduced Tapuzi as “a place where bandits, when hotly pursued, were enabled to conceal themselves with impunity.”3 It was “situated in the mountains of Limutan. Limutan is a Tagalog word, signifying ‘altogether forgotten.'” The name Tapuzi, he stated, meant ‘end of the world.’

Gironiere claimed that Tapuzi was formed in Limutan by bandits and men who had escaped from the galleys, who now “live in liberty, and govern themselves … I have often heard this singular village mentioned, but I had never met anyone who visited it, or could give any positive details relative to it.”

In his story he travels with a guide, a former bandit, up a ravine which was defended from above by stones which could be pushed down upon intruders. An immense block of stone falls in front of them; it is a warning. They are then led by guide from Tapuzi to a village of sixty thatched huts. He meets with the ‘matanda sa nayon’ [village elder], leader of Tapuzi. When Gironiere identifies himself, the old man responds, “It is a long time since I heard you spoken of as an agent of the government for pursuing unfortunate men, but I have heard also that you fulfilled your mission with much kindness, and that often you were their protector, so be welcome.”

The ‘Tapuzians’ feed Gironiere “milled corn and kidney potatoes.” This is an accurate description of a diet which swidden agriculture in the Sierra Madre mountains would have allowed. Although the majority of kaingin — mountain or jungle fields cleared for planting — are used for rice, occasionally corn is grown instead. The old man tells Gironiere, “Several years ago … at a period I cannot recollect, some men came to live in Tapuzi. The peace and safety they enjoyed made others imitate their example … ” Tapuzi would thus have been populated by waves of remontado migration. This corresponds with our few other sources on the matter.

The old man tells Gironiere of the social and economic structure of the village. “Almost all is in common … he who possesses anything gives to him who has nothing. Almost all our clothing is knitted and woven by our wives; the abaca … from the forest supplies us the thread that is necessary; we do not know what money is, we do not require any. Here there is no ambition; each one is certain of not suffering from hunger. From time to time strangers come to visit us. If they are willing to submit to our laws, they remain with us; they have a fortnight of probation to go through before they decide. Our laws are lenient and indulgent.”

Based on this information, Gironiere describes Tapuzi as “a real, great phalanstery, composed of brothers, almost all worthy of the name … On the other hand, what an example that was of free man not being able to live without choosing a chief, and bringing one another back to the practice of virtuous actions!” Gironiere is editorializing. His reference to phalansteries and thus to Fourier, is completely out of place. Hermeneutical suspicion dictates that we must throw out all of his material on the social structure of Tapuzi. The line about not knowing what money is, is particularly suspect; it is likely that the remontado population was actively engaged in trade.

The old man continues. Formerly ‘Tapuzians’ lived “like savages.” But the old man had restored Christian practices. “I … put my people in mind that they were born Christians.” He officiated mass, celebrated marriages, and baptized infants. Information in Norman Owen’s study of Bicol indicates that remontados would occasionally enter the villages to receive religious services.4 We will discard Gironiere’s claims regarding the old man functioning as the village priest.

Gironiere offers to inform the Archbishop of Manila that he might send a priest. The old man declines. “We should certainly be glad to have a minister of the Gospel here, but soon, under his influence, we should be subjected to the Spanish government. It would be requisite for us to have money to pay our contributions. Ambition would creep in among us, and from the freedom we now enjoy, we should gradually sink into a state of slavery, and should no longer be happy.” This seems again to be Gironiere editorializing.

None of the Tapuzian women, Gironiere observes, had ever been out of their village, and had scarcely ever left their huts. This statement is absurd.

Prior to Gironiere’s departure the old man tells him a legend: “At a time when the Tapuzians were without religion, and lived as wild beasts, God punished them. Look at all the part of that mountain quite stripped of vegetation: one night, during a tremendous earthquake, that mountain split in two — one part swallowed up the half of the village that then stood on the place where those enormous rocks are. A few hundred steps further on all would have been destroyed; there would no longer have existed a single person in Tapuzi; but a part of the population was not injured, and came and settled themselves where the village now is. Since then we pray to the Almighty, and live in a manner so as not to deserve so severe a chastisement as that experienced by the wretched victims of that awful night.”

We are at many degrees of remove from any original legend that Gironiere may have heard. All that we can say to be likely is that there was a legend associated with Tapusi which pertained to a mountain which was split in two. This correlates nicely with the many legends of nag-uumpugang bato. We thus see the legend of the origin of Tapusi associated with the same geographical feature which dominates the Carpio legend of San Mateo. We cannot however treat the text of the legend as it is found in Gironiere’s account seriously; it is a continuation of his editorializing. In the end, we must conclude that all of his conversation with the old man is suspect and should be discarded for purposes of historical reconstruction.

Carte Topographique du Lac de Bay.

Carte Topographique du Lac de Bay from Vingt Années, 1853.

Vingt Anné was translated by the author and published in the United States in 1854 as Twenty years in the Philippines. The English edition did not include a map. Vingt Anné, however, did. It is a beautiful, A4 sized fold-out map in the back of the book, and is unique in Philippine cartography.5 The map clearly indicates the approximate location of Tapuzi, at considerable remove from San Mateo and Pamitinan, in the Limutan valley. Waterways are marked in blue, Jala-jala in pink. The waterway which enters Laguna de Bay at Tanay stretches up between Bosoboso and Tapuzi. Valle Tapuzi sits between two rivers which unite to its south and head eastward off the map. These rivers are not printed in blue, but are clear. At the upper left a winding river is labeled Valle de Lanatin, on the upper right, “Sabang del Ro. Limutan.” This fork never reaches the top of the page. The river that they unite to form reads “Ro. Gaudaboso aue desagua en el mar de Binangonan de Lampong.” To the right of this river: “Darangitan.” [Daraitan]

This location for Tapuzi/Tapusi is historically accurate. It is borne out by a history of the parishes of the religious province of San Gregorio Magno written in 1865 by the discalced Franciscan friar Félix de Huerta. A paragraph buried within the 720 page tome states


Some eight leagues distant from the mission of San Andres, to the north across an elevated spine of mountains, is the River Limotan and on its banks is a ranchería [small settlement], which, was gathered by Francisco de Barajas, and made Christian by the signing of a pact on May 6, 1670, and on the next day May 7, in the said year, were baptized the first seven people of the said ranchería. From the year of 1670 to that of 1675 the fervent zeal of the above mentioned Fr. Francisco de Barajas caused many more to join the mission, including the surrounding rancherías named Tapusi, Asbat, Mamoyao, Macalia, Dadanbidig and Maquiriquiri, Bantas, and Binoagan.

This mission grew prosperously until the year 1700, at which time the government had intended to oblige the mission to pay tribute. All fled to the mountains, the mission was completely lost.6

Here we see that prior to being an “inaccessible den of ladrones,” Tapusi was a ranchería, a small pueblo. It became part of the Spanish mission of San Andres, in the ‘Limotan’ river valley, but the residents fled to the mountains as remontados in 1700 when forced to pay tribute. Gironiere’s geography is accurate.

Gironiere’s account pared back to its core of plausible historical details reveals a community of remontados, built up by waves of migration, engaged in subsistence corn agriculture, located in the Limutan River valley, with an origin legend based on the same geographical feature as the Bernardo Carpio legend: nag-uumpugang bato.

And what of the cave of San Mateo?


  1. Gironiere is not only an important source of historical information; he was an important literary influence. He wrote a small privately published work late in his life entitled, Paul de la Gironiere, Mœurs Indiennes et Quelques Pensées Philosophiques Pendant un Voyage a Majaijai (Iles Philippines) (Nantes: Imprimerie de Vincent Forest et Émile Grimaud, 1862). It received no notice in the nineteenth century, but wound up as item 1184 in T.H. Pardo de Tavera’s Biblioteca Filipina. The ilustrado community in Madrid would thus have had access to this text. It tells of a journey to Majayjay, the site of the Cofradía de San Jose uprising, and of Gironiere’s encounter with a bandit, with whom he has a lengthy discussion about legal and illegal means of changing society. The dialogue parallels the Ibarra-Elias dialogue of Rizal’s Noli very closely. The work was translated into English as Paul de la Gironiere, Journey to Majayjay, trans. E. Aguilar Cruz (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1983). The dialogue with the bandit runs from pages 19 to 31.
  2. For instance, Gironiere told a story of shooting a monstrous crocodile. Many ridiculed the story as outlandish. The truth was a bit more complicated. There was an enormous saltwater crocodile shot when and where Gironiere claimed. The skull was sent to Harvard Museum of Natural History and is still displayed there. Gironiere, however, did not shoot the crocodile; an English visitor to the region did. See Thomas Barbour, “An historic crocodile skull,” Copeia 126 (1924): 16.
  3. Paul de la Gironiere, Twenty Years in the Philippines (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1962), 113; all of the following is taken from this account pp. 113-7.
  4. Norman G. Owen, Prosperity without Progress: Manila Hemp and Material Life in the Colonial Philippines (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1984).
  5. Paul de la Gironiere, Vingt Années aux Philippines: Souvenirs de Jala-Jala (Paris: Comptoir des Imprimeurs Unis, 1853).
  6. “Á unas ocho leguas distante de la mision de S Andrés, hácia el N atravesando una elevada cordillera de montes, se halla el rio Limotan y en su márgen habia una ranchería, la cual, convino con nuestro R.P. Fr. Francisco de Barajas, hacerse cristiana por escritura firmada el dia 6 de Mayo de 1670, y en efecto el siguiente dia 7 de Mayo, de dicho año, fueron bautizadas la siete primeras personas de dicha ranchería. Desde este año de 1670 hasta el de 1675 fueron agregándose á esta mision por el celo fervoroso del citado Fr Francisco de Barajas, las rancherías circunvecinas denominadas Tapusi, Asbat, Mamoyao, Macalia, Dadanbidig, y Maquiriquiri, Bantas, y Binoagan.”
    “Esta mision siguió prósperamente hasta el año de 1700, en cuya época habiendo intentado el Superior Gobierno obligarlos á pagar tributo, se huyeron todos al monte, perdi\’endose enteramente la mision.” (Félix de Huerta, Estado geográfico, topográfico, estadístico, histórico-religioso de la santa y apostólica provincia de S. Gregorio Magno [Binondo: Imprenta de M Sánchez y Co., 1863], 573).
{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment