Lipa City has been historically popular for its coffee, Our Lady, and Ate Vi. We’ll talk about the Star for all Seasons and the first female mayor of Lipa may be in another blog post, when we get the chance to meet the now Batangas governor in person.
For now, let’s talk about two historic events that made Lipa a national sensation.
The ancestry of the people of Lipa is traced to the the two Bornean Datus Dumangsil and Balkasusa. The recorded history of Lipa began with the coming of the Spaniards led by Martin de Goiti in 1570. The Augustinian missionaries established a mission center which they named in honor of the Christian martyr San Sebastian.
Like most towns surrounding Taal Volcano, Lipa moved a number of times upland to escape from destruction brought by volcanic eruptions. Its church was reconstructed at the same time along with the moving of the towns people.
The construction of the Lipa Cathedral started in 1779 and finally completed in 1865. As described by Fr. Pedro Galende in the coffeetable book Angels in Stones, the Lipa Cathedral is a typical mission style composing of three buildings – church, convent and bell tower.
For about six months, around the years 1886 to 1888, Lipa became world’s only supplier of coffee. During that period, this Batangas town became a national sensation for its wealth and the envy of other towns.
Seeds of Liberica species from Mexico was introduced to Lipa by Augustinian missionaries. The unparalleled prosperity came to Lipa when coffee producing countries in Europe and the Americas were infested and the town became the world’s sole supplier of coffee bean. With an annual municipal income of Php. 4,000,000, the Reina Regente Maria Cristina granted the title of Villa to Lipa in 1887.
During the period of wealth and extravagance, landowners built palatial mansions and furnished it with top of the line European furniture. The fashionable store La Estrella del Norte in Manila’s high street, Escolta put up a branch in Lipa to cater to its A-list clients.
Like in most towns in the country, Lipa was burned to the ground during World War II. Only handful of mansions remain today. One is the Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House, which miraculously survived the bombings. The house has been restored as a vacation house and was recently turned into a private museum.
Casa de Segunda was home to Don Manuel Luz and Segunda Katigbak. It was turn into a musuem dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal’s first love, Segunda Katigbak. While most of the furniture in this 1880’s ancestral house were recently acquired to match the look and feel of the house. But there are a few furniture that is part of the original house like the marble chess table. It is said that Don Manuel Luz defeated Rizal in a game of chess in this same table.
The coffee boom in Lipa ended. For the next years, Lipa was a quiet town until in 1948 when for the first time the Blessed Virgin made an apparition to a postulant in a small Carmelite Monastery in Lipa. The apparition of the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, the messages to the visionary Teresita Castillo, and the shower of rose petals is another event in history that made Lipa a national sensation.