Back to Balic-Balic: Origin of the Name
What is the origin of the name of Balic-balic, Sampaloc, Manila? We have three (surprise, surprise?) versions on how the hills of Sampaloc got her name.
The first version can be called the “dead-end” story. The long road, called Calle Balic-balic (today’s G. Tuazon) stretches from the poblacion of Sampaloc and way up to the hills of Sampaloc which was a dead-end. People had nowhere else to go but back (balic-balic) to where they came from. We can’t be certain when Calle Balic-balic was built, but old maps of Manila circa 1890’s shows Calle Balic-balic with the cemetery on the left side. The road continues until it meets Santol although the map shows a broken line possibly indicating that the road may not be finished.
Photo above shows map of Sampaloc, Calle Balic-balic circa 1899.
The second version is another “dead-end” story but this version echoes the time when Balic-balic Cemetery was still open for burial. In 1897, Fr. Antonio Martin de Vidales , parish priest of Sampaloc, and Fr. Emilio Gago, parish priest of San Miguel (Manila), signed an agreement whereby one-half of Balic-balic cemetery was sold to the parish of San Miguel. According to some old-timers, the residents of San Miguel had a peculiar tradition when burying their dead at Balic-balic. Apparently, the people of San Miguel showed great reluctance in parting with their beloved departed. The funeral procession was led by four people carrying the casket of the dead. Every twenty steps or so, somebody would shout “balic” and the casket carries would take ten steps backwards. The “balic” sequence is repeated until somebody would shout “Sulong.” The backward and forward choreography thus became a common site along the road the leads to Sampaloc cemetery and thus people referred to the hills where the cemetery was located as “balic-balic.”
Photo above shows funeral procession (Romblon Island) circa early 1900’s.
The third explanation comes from the Malay tradition of naming places after plants abundant in the area. In this case, Balic-balic comes from a plant/tree with a scientific name of “Pongamia Pinnata (a close cousin of the narra tree). The tree grows to a height of 15 meters and a diameter of about 45 centimeters. The flowers are purplish. and the oil from the seeds have been considered as antiseptic, cleansing, and with healing properties.
Which of the three versions comes closest to the truth? Or are all three part of the history of Balic-Balic?