The History of Towns in Region VIII, Philippines
These histories were taken from the book Leyte Towns, Histories/Legends by Francisco S. Tantuico Jr of Tacloban City. Click on a town and view the history below the menu.
The earliest known inhabitants of Tanauan were a family of three: Calanao, the father, Makasanay, the mother and Sangad, their daughter. Their settlement was along the bank of the Bukid River at the foot of Adil Hill.
In 1661, a Chinese mestizo by the name of Juanillo Siengco with his wife Susana Baga and two other companions left Sugbo (Cebu) to look for fertile farm lands. They came to the eastern coast of Leyte and entered the Binahaan River. They sailed upstream and soon found a favorable place to land. They lost no time in surveying the area of lush vegetation.
They soon came in contact with the settlement of Calanao. They lived in harmony with each other sharing whatever blessings came their way and mutually helped each other in solving problems.
In the course of time, Juanillo's son, Josep, married Sangad, Calanao's daughter. Born out of the union were five daughters and a son. From the families of Juanillo Siengco and Calanao, a tribe was formed which gave Tanauan its first town officials.
The settlement of Calanao and Juanillo was exposed to the marauding moro pirates who created a reign of terror along the eastern coasts. To seek refuge from these invaders, they built a stone-walled enclosure, "cuta," in the area called Buaya.
In 1687, a Jesuit missionary visited the settlement. The "cuta" pleased him and suggested that the church be built inside it. Juanillo Siengco, together with his people built the church inside, made of strong wood and stone. The first sacrament of baptism was held in mass to many of the inhabitants.
In 1701, a Franciscan friar took over the settlement. He was not satisfied with the location of the church so he ordered the people to build another one nearer the coast. The new edifice was erected near the bank of the Mangga River, now Solano River. In 1704, the church was completed. It not only served as a house of worship but also as a refuge by the people against typhoons and marauding moro bandits.
During the Spanish period in 1701, the first town officials were appointed by the Spanish authorities. Don Josep Siengco was the first capitan with the official title of Gobernadorcillo. Between 1701 and the first American occupation, 43 persons became chief executives of the municipality.
On February 2,1900 American troops under Commander Hendrick Allen arrived in Tanauan. The first capitan under the American regime was Esteban Aparri, Sr., who was the Alcalde from 1901 to 1909.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the incumbent mayor was Pedro A. Villegas. However, during the Japanese occupation, Rufo Cobacha was considered as the first appointed mayor under the Japanese rule since Pedro Villegas refused to serve the Japanese.
In 1943, guerillas burned the town. This resulted in the total destruction of the municipal building and all its records, big houses of Spanish architecture along Calle Real (now Imelda Blvd.) and the life-size stations of the Cross which were drawn by "carros" during processions on Good Fridays.
The last mayor was Eugenio Avila, Jr. Who succeeded Pedro Bulik whom the guerrillas killed in Barrio Mohom.
The liberation of Leyte or Tanauan in particular resulted again in the destruction of the municipal building (Lian Chong Bldg.) and the few remaining houses along the Calle Real that were not burned by the guerrillas.
The American troops entered the town through Barangay Calogcog. Barangay San Roque up to Sto. Nino became the airstrip of the 13th Airforce. The 118 General Hospital was located at Barangay Cabuynan.
Benito Saavedra was the first appointed mayor followed by Rufo Cumpio, Dionisio Boco and Pelagio Tecson. The seat of the municipal government was the Santos Building while the convent behind the parish church served as the emergency hospital for the towns people.
The legend of how Tanauan got its name is this:
When the early settlers along the eastern coast of this province were subjected to the rampant lootings, killings and other abuses of the moro pirates, a system of warning the inhabitants had to be set up.
A watchman was assigned to a look-out tower atop a towering Molave tree to warn the settlers of the coming marauders. This was called "Tan-awan" in the dialect.
A hollow trunk suspended from one of the branches of this Molave tree would be beaten to warn the populace of the approach of these pirates.
Because of this tall Molave tree used as a look-out tower or "tan-awan," the town got its name.