Profile and Brief History
The Municipality of Abuyog is located at the eastern part of Leyte along the seacoast of Leyte Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by the town of MacArthur, on the northwest by the Municipality of Javier, on the south by the Municipality of Silago, Southern Leyte and on the west by the Municipality of Mahaplag and on the east by the Pacific Ocean and Leyte Gulf. It is 61.62 kilometers to Tacloban City along the Philippine Friendship Highway. It is 10.02 kilometers to the Municipality of MacArthur, 18 kilometers to the town of Mayorga, 24.98 kilometers to the town of Dulag, 11.73 kilometers to the town of Javier, 27.18 kilometers to the town of Mahaplag, 41.44 kilometers to the interior town of Burauen, 46.19 kilometers to the town of Baybay and 2.5 hours by motorboat to the town of Silago, Southern Leyte. It is situated at 125° 01’ 00” North Latitude and 10° 45’ 00” East Longitude.
HOW ABUYOG GOT ITS NAME
Danghol Hill, a beautiful landmark northwest of the poblacion, according to mythological research, it could be seen in a far distance off shore where the fairy called “Opayda” during fair weather could be heard singing. Her beautiful voice guided fisherman bound for home. The legend handed down from generation to generation that the barangay was peaceful and orderly. It was a town which has been treated to such personalized and friendly governance.
When the Spaniards landed at “Homono” Island, presently known as Homonhon, they found no potable water. Some of the crew sailed westward to look for water and landed on the shore covered by a swarm of bees. Surprisingly, the headman accompanied by his tribesman met the Spaniards cordially. When the Spaniards asked the natives about the name of the place, the natives replied: “Ah, Buyog!”… thinking they were asked about the swarm of bees on the seashore. From then on, the Spaniards called the barangay Abuyog, actually after the insects called “Buyog”.
Before the 16th century, migrants from the southern part of the island of Samar settled along the shore between two mouths of big rivers, the Cadac-an and Bito Rivers. They organized the first Barangay with whom a headman was chosen but his power came from the direction of legendary fair maiden commonly called “Opayda” at Danghol Hill. The headman commanded obedience from the tribesmen through his dream that emanated from the unseen ruler.
Danghol Hill, a beautiful landmark northwest of the poblacion, according to mythological research, it could be seen in a far distance off shore where the fairy called “Opayda” during fair weather could be heard singing. Her beautiful voice guided fishermen bound for home. The legend handed down from generation to generation that the Barangay was peaceful and orderly. It was a town, which has been treated to such personalized and friendly governance.
When the Spaniards landed at “Homono” Island, presently known as Homonhon, they found no potable water. Some of the crews sailed westward to look for water and landed on the shore covered by a swarm of bees. Surprisingly, the headman accompanied by his tribesmen met the Spaniards cordially. When the Spaniards asked the natives about the name of the place, the natives replied: “Ah, Buyog!” – thinking they were asked about the swarm of bees on the seashore. From then on, the Spaniards called the Barangay Abuyog, actually after the insects called “Buyog”.
However, the recorded visit of the Spaniards to Abuyog that we can read from history today is in the year 1565. In the book, TRACING YOUR PHILIPPINE ANCESTORS, Volume 2, Page 383, by Lee W. Vance in collaboration of Violeta C. Canon (Copyright 1980 by Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, 230 West 1230 North Provo, Utah 84601) states that:
“In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi also visited the Leyte area, stopping at Abuyog and Limasawa.
“Jesuit missionaries began laboring in Leyte soon after its exploration. By 1580, a mission had been established at Barugo, and another had been begun at Abuyog by 1595, followed by others at; Dulag, Carigara, Palo, Tanauan, Alangalang and Ormoc. With the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines in 1768, these missions and parishes were taken over by Augustinians. The parishes of eastern Leyte (namely: Leyte, Carigara, Barugo, Jaro, Babatngon, Tacloban, Palo, Alangalang, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, Abuyog, Hununangan and Hinundayan) were turned over the Franciscans in 1843. In 1850, the rest of the parishes in western Leyte were turned over by the Augustinians to the diocesan secular clergy. By the end of the Spanish regime in 1898, the Franciscans (who were all Spanish) were forced to leave their eastern Leyte parishes to the care of the diocesan secular clergy”.
On page 387 of the same history book, it stated that Abuyog was a Spanish encomienda as early as 1591. And, to explain what is meant by “encomienda”, on page 165, it says:
“Provincial and local governments date back to early Spanish times. Shortly after the conquest, Legazpi divided the country into large estates, assigning them to the care and administration of deserving Spaniards as a reward for their services to the crown. These parcels of land were called encomiendas or repartimientos, and the holders of these parcels of land were called encomenderos. In exchange for military protection, education, Catholic indoctrination, and police protection of the people in his encomienda, the encomendero had the right to collect taxes from all male inhabitants between sixteen and sixty. These rights to an encomienda generally lasted for two generations. By the end of the Sixteenth Century, there were about 300 encomiendas in the Philippines, the first being granted by Legaspi in 1570 to the Spanish citizens of Cebu.
“The village chief, formerly called a datu, was now known as the cabeza de barangay (chief of the barangay), and help to collect the tribute money (often appropriating any surplus to himself). Often grave abuses were committed in the collection of tribute and the operation of encomiendas, although several encomenderos were free from blame. In general, the system of encomiendas proved to be unpopular, for most of the encomenderos lacked sympathy for the Filipinos and often were tyrannical. When general discontent was so great that complaints against the encomenderos were taken to Spain itself, Philip II in 1574 forbade the encomienda system (just four years after it commenced). Governor-General de Sande tried to enforce the royal decree, but it was not until fifty years later, in about 1620, that this unpopular system of land holding was finally abolished.
“After the abolition of encomiendas, provincial and municipal governments called alcaldias (provinces), which in turn were subdivided into pueblos (towns). These towns were again subdivided into barrios or barangays, each of which is composed of sitios (hamlets) or villages. The provincial head was the alcalde mayor (governor, or literally, mayor), who replaced the former encomendero. By 1580 there were only four organized provinces (alcaldias), but as more areas of the country were pacified, more provinces were established…”
Considering the richness of the soil, people migrated to Abuyog from different directions. It acquired a name, the “melting pot”, but since majority came from Samar that influenced its dialect, it is noticeable that in the eastern part of Leyte people speak “waray-waray” differently from the towns to the north. There was an increase in population that the people moved inland through the Higasaan River valley and organized the first barangay called Matagnao. It was the entrance of trade and commerce. Some moved westward through the Bito River and they organized a Barangay called Inayopan. Others moved farther inland along the Higasaan Valley, Barangay Anglag was formed and across the mountain ranges, they organized Mahaplag along the Layog River Valley. On the northeastern part of the town, the Barangay of Naliwatan and Manlilisid were organized.
The migrants increased rapidly that a pueblo was created during the Spanish regime. It has an area of less than ten (10) square hectares. The church was erected in 1750 and rebuilt on April 18, 1781 improving its appearance with the intention and/ or purpose to copy the image of the Roman renaissance adorned with exquisite icons and silver altars. It has been constructed through force labor while carpenters made the interior decorations from Samar. In 1885 the Presidencia building was completed and Captain Prudencio Remanes was the first Filipino administrator of the pueblo.
During the insurrection (1900-1901) Abuyog patriots led by Eduardo Chuilla, Commander Basilio Angues, “Ating Dagan” and others wiped out patrol of American detachments along the Layog River, in Capacohan and other places. U.S. Army Captain Duncan died in an early encounter but Duncan’s name maintained through out the operations to maintain the enemies’ morale.
More than five hundred boleros gave up their lives at Baliri in exchange for one American when one insurrecto had a change of heart and run away as the Americans were coming into the insurrectos’ camp. That was the greatest and gravest mass sacrifice of Abuyog patriots in the fight for freedom, circa 1900.
In the turbulent days of the Pulajanes, several atrocities were committed led by a stranger, Faustino Ablin. During those days, natives killed natives. On one dark night, a column of farm folks wearing red bands across their breast and on their hats and marching to the rhythm of clicking flamenco and knives, accompanied by the words, “Abansin Tagadtad!” marched into the town. The Pulajanes hauled down the town executive, Kapitan “Genio” (Eugenio Villote) and several policemen from their homes and killed them in cold blood. Another atrocious act committed by the Pulajanes was on August 4, 1906 when they attacked the town, killed several people, and burned the municipal building. The first and original site of the municipal building then was located in Calle San Francisco (nowadays, in front of Gabaldon Building) before it was transferred before World War II to the present location. In fact, the Philippine Legislative in its Act No. 1955 in year 1909, appropriated the amount of One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty-Nine Pesos (P 1,899.00) “for the relief of the Municipal Government of Abuyog, Leyte on account of the loss of fire of currency upon the occasion of the burning of the municipal building by the Pulajanes on August 4, 1906.” (See: Philippine Legislative, Volume 7, page 267.)
During World War II, Abuyog, like other well-known of the Province of Leyte, had also important role played during those dark days in Philippine History. Abuyog local guerillas fought the Japanese Imperial forces since July 1942. Due to intense guerilla pressure, the enemy abandoned the town on October 13 after four months of occupation. But they came back strong to reoccupy the town on November 26, 1943. But these guerillas of Abuyog engaged the enemy in a “hit and run” battles. One of these battles happened on May 5, 1944 when Japanese two-pronged patrol fell into the guerillas trap and lost their commanding officer and two-thirds of their number at the Maitum Hill, in barrio Odiongan. There were numerous undocumented accounts of heroism of these unsung heroes and until finally the Japanese withdrew once more and retreated towards Ormoc before the Leyte Gulf Landing of 1944.