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Tacloban City

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Photographs: Graham Naylor

Tacloban City

[Source: Alain Charles J. Veloso, www.nationmaster.com.]

Tacloban is the largest city in Eastern Visayas, as well as its regional capital. It is the center of commerce, tourism, education, culture, and government in the region with a population of 189,100 people (2004 estimate World Gazetteer). It is a picturesque city embraced by the scenic Cancabato Bay, located in the San Juanico strait, which divides the islands of Leyte and Samar in eastern Philippines.

The city has been a major trading town since the late 18th century. It is well-known for its role in World War II, being a major base of the US forces and the first town liberated under Gen. MacArthur, from the Japanese Imperial Forces. For a time, it served as the capital of the Philippines while Manila was under Japanese control. The city is also known for being the hometown of the flamboyant Philippine First Lady Imelda Romuladez-Marcos, whose Romualdez family still commands a large following politically, in the area.

Economically, Tacloban is one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines. It is the site of the region's biggest airport, and has a well-sheltered deep natural harbor. Its major export product is copra. The government has established an economic zone, the Eastern Visayas Regional Growth Center (EVRGC) to take advantage of its large pool of skilled and educated workers. Investors in the EVRGC are given a generous package of tax exemptions and incentives, as well as other privileges, byt the national and local governments. The city is an attractive investment location because it is powered primarily by the large geothermal power plant of Leyte (of which Tacloban is the capital). The Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant is one of the largest in the world, providing hundreds of megawatts of electricity, impervious to fluctuations in oil prices. Water resources are also abundant. Tacloban is also the gateway to the Leyte Industrial Development Estate in Isabel, home of the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Plant, the biggest fertilizer factory in Asia, and the Philippine Associated Smelter and Refining Company, the country's biggest copper procesing plant.

The City is the site of large state run educational institutions like the [University of the Philippines] Tacloban, the Leyte Normal University, and the [Leyte Institute of Technology]. Private schools include the RTR Foundation, the Asian Development College, Holy Infant College, Leyte Colleges, St. Paul's Business Schools, and the St. Scholastica's College.

The longest bridge in the Philippines connects the city to the third biggest island of the Philippines, Samar. The bridge spans 2.14 kilometers and is one of the major tourist spots in the city.

Port of Tacloban

The Port of Tacloban is located in Tacloban City at the South end of San Juanico Strait and in the North Eastern side of Leyte Island at latitude 11°15’.8 North and longitude 124°15’.1 East. It is accessible from the north through San Juanico Strait, an approximately 30 km long channel between Samar and Leyte, and from the South through San Pedro Bay or Leyte Gulf, as the larger body of water is called.  Port of entry is open to foreign trade principally handling passengers and also domestic cargoes. For more information go to the Philippine Port Authority Web Page.

 History of Tacloban

[Source: "Leyte Towns", Welcome Back to Tacloban, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]

For several decades, Tacloban was a barrio of Basey, Samar. At the time, the place was known as Kankabatok - meaning belonging to Kabatok, because its most prominent inhabitant was named Kabatok. The change of name came about in this manner: Kankabatok was a favorite haunt for fishermen. They would use a bamboo tray called 'taklub' to catch crabs or shrimps. When asked where they were going the fishermen would answer, "to tarakluban", which meant the place where they used "taklub" to catch crabs. Later, the name was shortened to Tacloban.

t is not definitely known when Tacloban became a municipality because records supporting this fact were destroyed during a typhoon. It is commonly believed that Tacloban was officially proclaimed a municipality in 1770. Others however maintain that it was in 1669 during which time there was a rain of ashes. It was the Augustinian mission followed by the Franciscans who sparked the people's interest in religious activities. Within a year's time the first church was built with two lofty belfries under the untiring effort of Fray Aniceto Corral.

Carigara was the capital of Leyte at the time. With Don Hipolito Gonzales' incumbency as alcalde mayor of the province, a popular clamor for the transfer of the seat of the province came up. Thus, on October 5, 1774 after the construction of the Casa Real and the prison, the transfer of the seat of the provincial government was officially approved. In the year 1824 however, Don Pedro Antonio became alcalde mayor and restored Carigara as the provincial capital on march 31, 1824. This enhanced bitter disputes. It was finally Don Ceferino Fernandez, alcalde mayor in 1827 who succeeded in pacifying the controversy.

The final approval for making Tacloban the capital of the province of Leyte came on February 16, 1830. The decisive reasons for choosing it as capital were: (1) it had the ideal location of the port area, (2) the place was well-sheltered and adequate.

During the Philippine-American war on January 17, 1899, General Vicente Lukban (for whom a street is named in the San Fernando district) came to Tacloban to talk about the problems of the people. The provincial government was evacuated to Palo while General Mojica and his men prepared to fight the Americans. On January 31, 1900 General Kohe arrived with an American team to negotiate a cease-fire and surrender of the province. He was firmly refused. On the following day armies stormed the trenches and by 2:00 PM, the province was in American hands.

General Mojica and his men fled to the interior towns and it took a long time for the Americans to cajole every town until every revolucianario had surrendered. Mojica and Lukban eventually yielded to American sovereignty. Captain Leon Rojas, Sr. surrendered last. He led his men in a colorful pageant of surrender by riding on a white horse to the spot where the Americans formally received them. When peace finally, Rojas was designated chief of Police of Tacloban. A company of American soldiers was placed under his command.

n February 1901, the first American military governor of Leyte, Col. Murray, assumed office. He had only one aim in mind: gain the friendship of the people by getting their confidence. In a gesture of sincerity, he opened Tacloban to world trade. Civic-spirited citizens cooperated and organized a committee for peace. Don Gabriel Galza, the founder, became its first president. Their first undertaking was to petition Governor Murray for the release of prisoners who were in Tanauan. The governor received the petition favorably and thus peace and order in the whole province was completely restored.

With American military rule over, Taclobanons who were trained in the art of self-government took over the reins of the administration. Catalino Tarcela became the first provincial governor. There were others who were responsible for the progress and development of Tacloban. Among them were Lodovico Salazar, known to all as Capitan Lodo, the first public teacher of the town (a street is named after him). Lodovico Basilio, known as Capitan Bigong, and Capitan Martin Hidalgo. Of the womenfolk, Doņa Eulalia Rubillos, wife of Governor Vicente Diaz is remembered for having served the first Filipino flag that fluttered in the Leyte sky when the revolutionary government was established.

On May 24, 1942, Tacloban awakened to see Japanese imperial forces in its midst. The town offered no active resistance to their oppressive occupation. For little more than two years, it suffered from hunger, terror and brutalities of the invaders. Despite the ugliness of war, the people never forgot to pay homage to their Patron saint, Sr. Santo Niņo, by celebrating the town fiesta. One such big commemoration was on the fiesta of 1843, on June 30 where an industrial and agricultural fair was held in the old Leyte park. Here, hate and sorrows of war were forgotten so that it became one of the most remembered carnivals the town ever held. The mayor at that time was Vicente Quintero.

Leyte was the first in the itinerary of MacArthur's return route to the Philippines. Thus, on October 20, 1944, while the waters of Leyte Gulf were calm and clear, six battleships hit the beaches at Cataisan Point and nearby areas. Before twilight, the Tacloban airstrip which was the objective of the day was recaptured by the first division. The entire Cataisan Peninsula was soon under the command of Major General Verne D. Mudge at 3:00 PM of October 21. This day, Tacloban was liberated from the enemy. In a rousing welcome, Filipino civilians line the streets greeting the liberators. Chewing gun, cigarettes, chocolates and wide American smiles flowed freely - all symbolic of friendship and freedom.

On October 22, 1944, Tacloban City was safely back in American hands. On October 23, 1944, General MacArthur announced the establishment of the Philippine Civil Government on the steps of the provincial capitol. He installed Sergio Osmeņa Sr. as the president in the presence of Lt. General Walter Krueger, Lt. Gen. Richard Sutherland and Col. Ruperto Kangleon with a guard of honor consisting of First Lt. John Gregory and 30 dirty and tired but efficient-looking soldiers.

After the liberation, Tacloban's first appointed mayor was Paulo Jaor. The inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines saw Epifanio Aguirre as mayor of Tacloban.

On June 20, 1952 by virtue of Republic Act no 760, Tacloban City was born. Dr. Ildefonso Cinco, last mayor of the Municipality of Tacloban became the first city mayor.

Tacloban City has grown from a small fishing barrio of Basey to a bustling, growing center of commerce and industry, into probably the first most important city in Eastern Visayas.

Places of Interest

[Source: "Leyte Towns", Welcome Back to Tacloban, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,

Leyte Provincial Capitol

Located on Sen. Eņage Street fronting Plaza Libertad and the University of the Philipppines Visayas Tacloban. Built in 1907, it is the seat of the provincial government of Leyte. Historic viewing of mural depicting the First Mass in Limasawa in the Orient and Gen Douglas Mac Arthurīs landing; became the seat of the commonwealth Government of the Philippines when President Sergio Osmeņa, Sr. came in 1944 with the Liberation Forces of General Mac Arthur.

San Juanico Bridge

Located at crossing over San Juanico Strait, Brgy. Cabalawan, Tacloban City; 10 kms. from the city proper, accessible by passenger jeeps, buses, motorcabs, and private vehicles. Longest and most beautifully designed bridge in the Philippines; picturesque of San Juanico Strait with a thousand whirlpools.

Price Mansion

Located on Justice Romualdez St., Tacloban City. An example of the American colonial home built in 1990. Sturdy mansion where Gen. Mac Arthur put up his official headquarters and residence when he came with the Liberation forces in October 20, 1944.

Redona Residence

Located on T. Claudio St., Tacloban Ciity. Official residence of President Osmeņa, Sr. when he came with the Liberation Forces in October 1944 until the philippine commonwealt was re-established in Manila.

Santo Niņo Church

Located in front of Rizal Park, corner Real and Zamora Streets, Tacloban City; Image of Santo Niņo, patron of Leyte; also known as the Church of Liberation.

Stations of the Cross

Located on top of the hill above Serin District overlooking Tacloban City. The 14 stations of the Cross in more than life-size concrete forms leading the 18- foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tacloban City Hall

Atop Kanhuraw Hill in front of Sto. Niņo Church, Tacloban City. Seat of the city government of Tacloban City. Offers a panoramic view of Cancabato Bay, San Pedro Bay, San Juanico Strait, Cataisan Point and Samar Island.

Divine Word University

Located on Avenida Veteranos, Tacloban City. Repository of relics and artifacts from Samar and Leyte; burial jars that date back to 1582; porcelain relics that show early trade with China and even relics of the Stone Age; diggings from Sohoton Caves.

Peopleīs Center and Library for Samar and Leyte

Equipped with a social hall, gymnasium and a reading room. Historical documents of the rich cultural heritage of the people of Samar and Leyte; a collection of dioramas of the 82 ethnic tribes of the Philippines, a collection of books on the humanities.

Sto. Niņo Shrine & Heritage Museum

Located adjacent to Peopleīs Center, Tacloban City. Paintings of the 14 Stations of the Cross done by Filipino artist, wooden bas-relief of the legend of the First Filipino man-woman (si malakas at si maganda); tastefully decorated guestrooms of varied Filipino motifs; spacious ballroom; priceless collectors items.

SOS Children Village Milagrosa & Youth Village

Located at Brgy. Diit, Tacloban City. Well maintained villages; a beautiful school building and cottages housing orphans donated by an Austrian Philanthropist, the late Dr. Herman Gmeiner.

National Maritime Polytechnic. Located at Brgy. Cabalawan, Tacloban City 10 kms, (right at the foot of San Juanico Bridge). A multi- million training complex which stands in a 15-hectare campus along picturesque San Juanico Srait. With technical and financial asistance from the Japanese Government, this graduate academic institution was set up to upgrade the skills and knowledge of Filipino merchant seamen. Enjoy a tour and briefing on the latest ship navigation technology.

San Juanico Strait

Located at Brgy. Cabalawan, Tacloban City between the islands of Leyte and Samar - the South entrance at Tacloban and the entrance at Babatngon. Beautiful islets and infinite whirlpools; rushing waters, scenic viewing; water skiing, fishing, guano caves.

Madonna of Peace

Located at Foot of Kanhuraw Hill near the City Hall, Tacloban City. Ladscaped garden with statue of the goddes of Peace called Maria Kannon by Japanese people who donated it; ornamental plants, view of Magsausau Boulevard and Kankabato Bay.

Buddhist Temple

Located at Anibong Dist., Tacloban City at the foot of the hill, 100 meters away from Leyte Progressive High School. A beautiful 2-storey pagoda where monks and buddhists make their worship, prayers and offerings; overlooking the city and Samar Island.