Local Heritage

Pre Historical  Background

Most of  the islands across Catbalogan were part of the Samar mainland, and much of what  is now the bottom of Maqueda bay stood above water, an alluvial plain, and a  few thousand years ago. It went underwater. As the rocks tell on its Samar  arc’s western edge down warped; resulting in a vertical fault running from  northwest to southeast “between and beyond” Calbayog City and  Catbalogan. This rotated thirty degrees clockwise. The glacial melting raised  the sea level by ten meters at the highest. The water rose fairly rapidly in  geological terms. By 1400 BC Catbalogan’s topological setting was complete: a  narrow crescent of coastal plain bounded by the setting was complete: a narrow  crescent of coastal plain bounded by the Antiao River on the north, by an arc of  hills on the east and the south, by Maqueda bay on the west. On the newly risen  waters, new islands that in time would be named now as Barangays under the  Municipality of Catbalogan namely – Cabugawan, Buri, Darahuway, Basiao and  Majaba. Lithic artifacts like flake blades and burins had been dug up on some  of them, mostly notably from Buad or Municipality of Zumarraga now, where the  digging turned up enough evidence to indicate a stone tool industry. From Buad  came Catbalogan’s first settlers, according to legend. For a fact, the first  Catbalogan’s were typical of the early peoples in the Maqueda Bay coastal area,  who often buried their dead in a jars along with “old jewelry, pottery and  other vessels of antiquity”, which the 17th century Jesuit chronicler said  were found “not infrequently” in hidden grave sites, like those dug  up in 1922-1924 near Catbalogan. Thus, confirming that Catbalogan is an old  settlement.

Legendary Origins

It is  said that Catbalogan was originally known as KATBALAUGAN, after a shrub called  “balaug” that used to thrive along its seashore and the sandy banks  at the mouth of the Antiao River. Before the coming of the Spaniards, fishermen  from the Island of Buad (now Zumarraga), whose custom was to set out fish at  the start of the dark nights of the “Katdulom” phase of the month’s  cycle and return only when they ended, would run their boats up this balaug –  lined shore of the Samar mainland to rinse their fishing nets (pagsawsaw  hanpocot) in the Antiao River and, having hung the nets out to dry on the  shrubs, take a rest. It was just a place to lie down but a good one, for later  those fishermen permanently settled with their families in the  Kabalaugan:  Balaug Land.

In short,  before the once uninhabited place metamorphosed into a small settlement, then  to a pueblo and today a booming town, it started with a simple and humble  beginning purely influenced and dictated by Mother Nature – its God’s given  geography. The uninhabited place was a coastal plain and on its interior side  was plain to moderately rolling and steep. And it is embraced or surrounded by  the Marine Rich Maqueda Bay (the Fish Basket of the Region) and it is the place  where the fresh water of the huge Antiao River meets the calm seawater of the  Maqueda Bay. The place became a safe haven for seafarers, fishermen and sailors  for a temporary mooring and sanctuary to take a break from long sea journey,  katdulom, bad weather and above all a refuge from marauding Moro Pirates.  During that period, the place was teeming with moored small and big sailboats  when the northwest and southwest monsoons blew during the month of July, August  and September – “Habagat,” where the weather is almost unfriendly to  small fishermen.

Arrival of the Jesuits  and becoming the Cabecera of Samar

October  15, 1596. The Jesuits firstly landed a little north of Catbalogan, in Tinago,  Tarangnan, and there set up their first mission residence and became the  conquista in Samar. Villages were converted into a pueblo by being merged with  nearby villages of Cotay, Cawayan, Canhawan and others. The Catbalogan  Residence has jurisdiction over six pueblos: Catbalogan itself, Calbiga,  Paranas, Bangahun (now Gandara), Yvatan and Capul. Since the Jesuits double as  administrators and engage in trade (they have warehouses in Catbalogan and  Paranas for wax, pearls, medicinal plants), Catbalogan became not only a  missionary center but also a center of Government and Commerce: the CABECERA  (CENTER) OF SAMAR.

Moro Raids

1600 –  1800. Two centuries of Moro raids ravage the coast of Samar. Every year the  Moros came to plunder the towns, find wives; carry off men and women to be sold  in Bornean Slave markets. Catbalogan was not spared. But the chain of moro  raids inflicted in the whole Samar Island during that period, Catbalogan  fortification and defenses was the most feared by the Camucones or Moro  Raiders.

Brisk Trading

1850s as  the Moro raids die off, commerce revives, and exports from Catbalogan to Manila  and Cebu grow. Varied products from the whole Island of Samar are sold to  Catbalogan merchants and transshipped by bulk directly to Manila and Cebu.

The  trading was so rapid, that in 1872 a wharf for steamships and mail service was  proposed in Catbalogan. 1893 two steamships from Luzon call the port of  Catbalogan every fifteen days.

Merchants  who were mostly Chinese mestizos were handling most of the trading then.

The Church of  Catbalogan (1760 or 1762)

A great  fire destroys the beautiful church that the Jesuits built in Catbalogan, which  had been under their administration for some 152 years, however, when the  following King Charles II’s order of the previous year expelling them from all  Spanish territories, the Jesuits leave Catbalogan in 1768. Their place had been  taken over by the Franciscans. Historically and perennially, Catbalogan is the  “Cabecera” Capital Place since the Pre Spanish time and up to the  present. In the year 1600s, Samar Island became one province. Later the Island  Province was divided into three provinces, Catbalogan remain to be the  Provincial Capital of Western Samar – now Samar.

After  centuries of being a trading center and a “melting pot” it evolved  into what it is today; a “Booming Metropolis” or the center of In  Migration where it is now branded as the, “Trucking Services Capital of  the Region.” Its external trading partners are; Luzon, Cebu and Mindanao  linked by Maharlika/Nautical Highway where Catbalogan is the mid point and lone  corridor from Luzon to Mindanao making the place the Main Regional Terminal of  inter-regional busses.