History and Culture

The Story Behind Abuyog’s Humble Beginnings..

AbuyogAbuyog is the home of the famous and vibrant Buyogan Festival. It brings pride to the Leyteños for representing and winning street dance contests in various events such as the Sinulog Festival in Cebu and the Aliwan Festival in Manila. Abuyog Leyte is a 1st class municipality in the province of Leyte. It is known as the largest town in the island of Leyte in terms of land area. It is facing the Leyte Gulf which flows out into the Pacific Ocean. Bordered by its daughter towns; Javier in the north and Mahaplag in the east. Meanwhile, Silago and Sogod are at the southern border.

ABUYOG! The town got its name at the time the Spaniards sailed and landed at the shores of the Abuyog River to fill up their supplies. They saw the shore and noticed the swarms of bees flying about, they then asked the natives “Como si y llama el pueblo?” or “What is the town’s name”, the natives thought that they where asking what the insects were called, they answered “buyog”. So the Spaniards repeated what the natives said, “Ah! Buyog” and eventually the town came to be known as Abuyog to which the Spanish historians often used as reference to the whole island of Leyte. However, in the history of the town, though booming with abundance, it remained ambiguous because of the absence of a powerful chieftain.

Abuyog Leyte has a lot of opportunities. Earlier immigrants assuredly took a lot of these opportunities from the rich soil. Due to this, a lot of people from the other parts of Leyte, namely Samar, have migrated to Abuyog in search of a better living. The town’s language is acquired from the name “melting pot” and it came to a point where it became “waray-waray” due to the Samar immigrants.

It was way back in 1588, due to the account of the unjust administration of the official encomendero, when the people rebelled. Captain Juan Esguerra had to send a chastising force to bring to account the assassins of the encomendero. Moreover, it was in year 1613 when Sanguiles and Caragas looted and attacked the town.

In 1655, the Jesuits discovered Abuyog and made the area as their second post and as Dagami as their center post. During 1716, the founding of the town and its parish happened under the patronage of the apostle of the Indies, St. Francis Xavier. By the year 1768, the Augustinians took over the management from Frs. Jose Herrera and Cipriano Barbasan. From the story of Fr. Augustin Maria de Castro, he said that the people during that time were very wealthy and aggressive and were commonly known as moros. After a few years, the town was given to the Franciscan Order, year 1843 and Fr. Santiago Malonda was appointed as the first Franciscan parish priest of the area. In 1851, a road from Abuyog to Dulag was made.

By those early years, the captains that were recognized were Ciriaco Costin, Eulalio Brillo, Faustino Remanes, Foran, Galza, Nicolas Mandia, Prudencio Remanes and Vicente Tiaoson. In the years 1896-1899, Eulalio Brillo became the president and Nazario Tupa followed his suit in 1900. However, his term was completed by Eugenio Villote.

Not too long, the obnoxious pulahanes attacked with their leader ,Faustino Ablen, in 1901 to 1906. People who remembered that time witnessed the destruction of the municipal building and the slaying of ex-leader Capitan Eugenio Villote, Pedro Gonzaga and two other police officers.

Abuyog was classified in the third district of Leyte during the electoral division that was established by the Philippine Assembly. However, during the Commonwealth regime, it was moved to the fourth district of Leyte. However, despite these the dip in classifications, the town prospered under the administration of Arturo Brillo, Vicente Brillante, Basillio Adolfo, Antero Brillo and Ricardo Collantes who stayed for three political terms. Pedro Gallego was elected as mayor in 1940 and served until 3rd of July, 1940. After him, Catalino Landia was appointed as mayor on 4th of July, 1946 and was re-elected and stayed in his position for three terms.

The town prospered even more with the inauguration of the first passenger bus service in year 1925. And in the year 1936, vice president Sergio Osmeña inaugurated the Baybay – Abuyog road. It linked the eastern and western coasts of Leyte for the first time.

During the time of World War II, the town was occupied by the Japanese but they later abandoned the area due to guerrilla pressure on the 13th of October 1942. Unfortunately, they came back on 26th of November 1943 and appeared to be stronger but still encountered losses from the hands of the guerrillas.

It was on the 14th of July 1944 when the submarine “Nautilus” landed on the shores of Abuyog to unload 72 tons of weapons, ammunition, food and propaganda materials for Leyte and Samar guerrilla forces in Barangay San Roque of Abuyog. Japanese troops abandoned the town of Abuyog when the American Armada was sighted off the Leyte Gulf. When the American finally landed, they joined forces with the Filipino troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Philippine Constabulary units. When liberation ended, classes resumed in Leyte and Samar. The elementary school classes were officially resumed on the 4th of December 1944 under the accountability of the Philippine Civil Affairs Unit. Subsequently, the development of Abuyog town went on calmly under the eminent leadership of Mayor Catalino T. Landia.

Abuyog’s culture is merely the same with the rest of the Leytenos, who are known to be tough and brave. However, Abuyognons are also known to be sweet and friendly people. Hospitality is ever present even way back during the time of the Spanish sailors, where they were kind enough to welcome the newcomers. These days, people of Abuyog are known to visitors for their warm welcome and also their love for dancing during the street dancing event of the town’s festival.

The people of the town can also be distinguished through their “waray-waray” language. This is because of the distinctions of certain articles in the waray-waray language. Whilst Taclobanons use ‘ha’ or ‘han’, Abuyognons use the same articles used in Samar which are ‘sa’ and ‘san’.