Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tacloban History: Shattering the Barrier to Development

Before, Kankabatok was original name of Tacloban to indirectly refer to the property of its first dwellers, the Kabatok. They resided on the vicinities of what is now known as Sto. Niño Church. Eventually, other wanderers like the Gumoda, Haraging and Huraw settled in areas nearby.

By 16th century's end, Kankabatok was mostly under Palo's political administration, the other handler of it being Basey's (Samar) parish. In 1770, it was discovered by the Augustinians, taken over by Franciscans (1813) and renamed Tacloban. So, how did Kankabatok evolve into Tacloban? Tacloban derived its name from Taklubs which were carried aback by the former people. A taklub was a manual device made of bamboo which was used by fishermen to harvest crabs, fish and other crustaceans. These men would respond "(to) Tarakluban" when being asked where they would go. Tarakluban was the very place where the fishermen would use the Taklub. In time, they became more familiar with the name, and so Tarakluban took prominence, which then became Tacloban.

The question still remains unsolved as to whether Tacloban underwent the stage of being a municipality since age-old records have been destroyed during one typhoon's devastation. However, rumors say that it officially became a municipality in 1770. Two years before, Leyte and Samar parted into two provinces, each with a political-military constituent Tacloban's strategic location made it a vital trading spot between the two great islands. The city's seaport may be one of the reasons for its success in trade.

Leyte's assignation of capital was stubborn in a way that Tacloban was not the first, but the last city to be proclaimed as chartered city by virtue of R.A. No. 760 on June 20, 1952. Grounds for such proclamation include: a) ideal port situation and b) sufficient and highly-maintained equipment and facilities.

Colonel Murray's visit in 1901 earned him the title as Leyte's first military governor. His first official move was the opening of the Tacloban seaport to international trade and commerce. During the Pre-WWII era, Tacloban became the commercial, education, and sociocultural center of Leyte. Highly exported products were copra and abaca. The premier local institutions at that time were the following: Leyte Normal School, Leyte High School, Leyte Trade School, Holy Infant Academy and the Tacloban Catholic Institue

On the 25th of May 1932, Japanese forces occupied Tacloban for three years. They built up the city, developed it and improved its airfield. San Pedro's sufficient size (fit for big vessels) convinced the Japanese Imperial Naval Forces to set Tacloban as a port of call and entry. Many people at this time considered this period as the darkest, horrifying part of Tacloban history, and with the whole country under the Japanese invasion, a lot of incidences of human abuse were committed. To counter this, local guerilla groups were formed and operated in Leyte, the most recognized of which was Col. Ruperto Kangleon's group.

Leyte was the first to be liberated by the combined Filipino and American troops. General Douglas MacArthur’s assault troops landed in the Tacloban and Palo beaches (White Beach and Red Beach, respectively) and in the neighboring town of Dulag (Blue Beach) on October 20, 1944. These landings signaled the eventual victory of the Filipino and American forces and the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous promise: "I Shall Return." Leyte was the first province to be freed by a combined army of Filipinos and Americans. On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur's troops reached the shores of Tacloban, Palo and Dulag. These happenings meant successful triumph over Japanese control and started the "I Shall Return" fever.

On the 23rd of the same month, at a ceremony in Tacloban's Capitol Building, General MacArthur, accompanied by President Sergio Osmeña, declared Tacloban the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government and subsequently, the Philippines' temporary capital as Manila inflicted so much damage from the Japanes-American War while the whole country is still being fought for in different regions. The provincial government of Leyte and the municipal government of Tacloban were then re-established.

Atty. Paulo Jaro was Tacloban's Liberation Mayor, and the first mayor of this capital upon inauguration of the Philippine Republic was Hon. Epifanio Aguirre. On January 8, 1960, General MacArthur began his very own "sentimental" adventure in Leyte.

The city's development continued through the 20th and 21st century, aided by local and international investments, and relatively good governance. However, surveys unveiled that a lot of families still had its human development status below the poverty line.

Last October 4, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed Tacloban as a Highly-Urbanized City, ratified by more than half Taclobanons in a tight race to declaration on December 18, 2008.

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