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.
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.
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.
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.