Last January 29, my wife and I had the privilege to witness the launching of Santa Rosa Heritage (Magazine of Old Santa Rosa) at Seda Nuvali. A publication of Architect Mario Zavalla, himself a cultural icon of La Laguna’s heritage city, the magazine features various articles about Santa Rosa’s rich history. I am in fact one of the magazine’s contributors, thanks to my good friend (and Architect Zavalla’s life partner) Gemalin Batino, the Executive Director of the Kilusan Cuartel de Santo Domingo (KCdSD) which is tasked in taking care of the group’s namesake Spanish-era bastioned fort.
The austere event was graced by the presence of Congressman Danilo Fernández, former Mayor José Catindig Jr., and members of the KCdSD (Atty. Jun Ragaza subbed for Mayor Arlene Arcillas who was then under the weather). Batangas-based historian Derrick Manas gave a brief lecture about the historical ties that bind the Tagálog provinces of La Laguna and Batangas while motivational speaker and author, Architect Tzarina Saldaña, gave an inspiring talk about the importance of heritage.
The maiden issue of the 56-page glossy magazine highlights Santa Rosa’s heritage landmarks such as the Bantayan or the 19th-century welcome arch, the Casa Tribunal (which is now the city’s museum), and the Cuartel de Santo Domingo which was publicly declared last year as an Important Cultural Property of the National Museum of the Philippines. The magazine’s pages are dominated by Gemalin’s writings, most interesting of which is her argument that Santa Rosa’s purported original name is not what it really is. Throughout many decades, locals have been made to believe that Santa Rosa’s original name was Barrio Bucol when it was still part of Biñán. Gemalin counters this in the magazine:
Contrary to what we all know, it is not Bucol, but Bucal. During that time, the name of a town was generally derived from its geographical location: a bed of springs. Bo. Bucal was composed of five places named Ytaás, Ybabâ, Aplaya, Tagapo, and Balibagó. Ytaás and Ybabâ (Ylaya and Ylawod) are the terminologies used to depict direction of the flow of water as in “upstream-downstream riverine polarity”.
We can also see with our own naked eyes that Tagapo, Aplaya, Ybabâ, and Ytaás are almost within the sea level of the shorelines of Aplaya and not “naka Bukol” (lumped in English) as what locals claimed to be the origin of the name Bucol. No scientific explanation can prove that Bucol is upland hilly.
Gemalin even went so far as to visit the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, Spain just to prove her point. From there she was able to secure copies of rare documents and maps pertaining to old Santa Rosa as evidence to prove her hypothesis (I told her that very few Filipino historians had the privilege of exploring its nine kilometers of shelving).
The magazine also features many other articles about Santa Rosa City’s heritage, history, and its people. My three-page contribution is about the general history of the people of the province. Gemalin also included my translations of old Spanish documents pertaining to both Santa Rosa and its mother town, Biñán. Architect Zavalla and Gemalin plan to release two issues of the magazine yearly. This modest project is a great leap forward to further emphasize and disseminate the importance of not only the city’s history and heritage but of the province’s overall cultural upliftment.
Copies of Santa Rosa Heritage are available at the KCdSD office (old Santa Rosa High School, on top of Maybank) located at Feliciano Gómez Street corner José Rizal Boulevard in Población, Santa Rosa City, La Laguna, to the right of the old town plaza. Proceeds of the magazine will fund future projects of the KCdSD. Please contact Ms. Gemalin Batino for more details. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.