Home » Filipino History » When Taal Lake was not yet a lake

When Taal Lake was not yet a lake

That the towns of Taal and Lemery are starting to display volcanic fissures due to the recent phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12 should not be surprising had their people known their violent geological history.

Before the mid-18th century, Taal Lake was technically not a lake because it was connected to Balayán Bay via a wide channel (encircled in red). Subsequent eruptions buried this channel, creating what is now a large part of the Municipality of Lemery (named after José Nicolás Francisco Pablo Lemery, the Governor-General who ruled the country at the time of Rizal’s birth). One old Spanish newspaper (the name escapes me at the moment) even reported that a huge chunk of a mountain called Malaquíng Bintî —otherwise known as Binintiang Malaki, that picturesque little cone that we all know from postcards— was flung all the way to where Lemery is now situated due to a violent eruption. That closed the channel, blocking the waterway. Thus Taal Lake was born. That cataclysmic event also trapped several sea animals, including bull sharks, inside the lake. When the lake’s salinity subsided due to years of rainfall, these sea creatures learned to adapt to it instead of dying out (unfortunately, the bull sharks did not survive the notorious #BobongPinoy mentality; they were totally wiped out sometime in the 1930s). Today, what is perhaps a remnant of that ancient channel is now the Pansipit River which divides Lemery from the heritage town of Taal. Both towns, especially Lemery, sit on fragile grounds.

And even as we speak, it appears that the volcano is again trying to take away that last, small outlet that connects its lake to the sea.

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

This map is from the famous 1734 Murillo Velarde map, the so-called “Mother of Filipino maps”.

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15 thoughts on “When Taal Lake was not yet a lake

  1. Thank you very much for a very enlightening and informative piece. One has to really understand what happened in the past (history) in order to understand and gain a better perspective of the events at present and how to prepare better for the future. How Taal Lake was formed is fascinating but at such horrible costs!
    I was in Lemery last Saturday for animal rescue and feeding ops. The fissures there are getting wider by the day. There is a big probability that the town of Lemery might meet the same fate of the towns before. Praying that it wouldn’t.

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    • I did a road trip last Sunday(Jan 19) starting from Sta rosa -Tagaytay road circlinv hhe Taal lake thru the roads of Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Palico–Balayan-Batangas road until reaching the town of Lemery then to the Taal heritage town. I see the long cracks/fissure transversing on the pave road of the Lemery town. I was so sad seeing the town empty of people which was so busy before this eruption.

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  2. I remember when we went to Taal crossing the Taal Lake I was told by the boatman that the lake used to be a farm land until such time when Taal erupted that changes the landscape and turn into a lake.

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  3. My wife is from Lipa. Until today, the locals call Taal Lake “dagat”, which suggests that the local language still reflects the time when Taal was in effect an inland bay.

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  4. How come the town of Tuy Batangas is never metioned in history . My mother is from this place . There is a joke that even the Governor of Batangas doesnt know where this town is ….

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    • Hi John! Am from Tuy, and we have the same sentiment. Everytime people mention of towns in Batangas, I always look for our town to be mentioned in news or written in newspapers, though at times it was.

      Who is your mother and from what place is she in Tuy?

      Thanks.

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  5. Joed Panopio – 100% Incorrect. What is now Lake Taal is the caldera of what used to be a mountain. The edge of the original crater is what is now called Tagatay Ridge. The land where Tagatay is now was at once about 1/3rd of the way up the original mountain, which itself was a volcano. Lake Taal is no different that Crater Lake in Origin, USA.

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    • What you are talking about is thousands of years ago. You are correct then with your research but the author explains the activity and the event that happened almost 200 yrs ago when taal volcano erupted. In fairness with the author, he gave a fair thorough and reliable info with the transformation of taal lake.

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  6. There is a very good book called “Mysteries of Taal” which goes into great detail about this. It’s written by Thomas Hargrove. I bought it years ago at National Bookstore. Perhaps they still carry it.

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  7. Utoy nakalimutan mong isali ang Agoncillo. Ang bayan ng Agoncillo at Lemery ay magkatabi at parehong wala sa mapa nun unang panahon. Ang bayan ng Taal ay mataas kaya meron na yan nung unang panahon. Kung nakapunta ka na sa simbahan ng taal, nakikita mo dun yung mga talaba na nakadikit dun sa may paanang gilid ng simbahan katunayang nasa tabing dagat noon ang simbahan.

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  8. The name Laguna de Taal means Lake of Taal. It was, and is a lake; a caldera formed by a prehistoric eruption about 300,000 years ago. The Pansipit River channel (encircled in red) was the outlet to Balayan Bay, just like the Pasig River to Manila Bay.

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  9. Old folklore have said that two lakes will join together in laguna and batangas, all towns and cities between them will vanish under water and malvar will be the bayside.

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