Dulag is a third-class municipality in the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) in the Philippines. This coastal town covering 11,007 hectares of land is home to 44,143 residents. It lies 36 kilometers south of the concurrent regional center of Eastern Visayas and the administrative capital of provincial government of Leyte, Tacloban.
Popularly known as the “Liberation Town”, Dulag survived and risen from the ruins of the Second World War and at present time, a thriving coastal town fronting Leyte Gulf.
The residents and territories of Dulag are governed by the barangay, municipal, provincial and national governments of the Philippines.
Dulag is subdivided into 45 barangays (the basic political unit in governance in the Philippines). Of the 45 barangays, 11 are within the urbanized poblacion (town proper); while, 34 are situated in the rustic countryside.
Dulag was a vital center of commerce in the eastern sector of the Leyte Island. Local and foreign ships docked at its seaport carrying merchants from seafaring nations who barter their products for local materials like abaca, copra, tobacco, rice and wine with the natives. Large warehouses Casa Sontua, Casa Petiksi, Casa Limpingco, Casa Ortega, Casa Gotauangco, and Casa Florentino lined the coastal shores of Dulag and fostered trading from neighboring towns Dagami, Tabontabon, Burauen, La Paz, MacArthur (formerly Taraguna), Julita and Mayorga. Goods from these towns were exported through Dulag to foreign countries.
Other etymological versions explaining how Dulag got its name includes “dulao” (the medical herb turmeric, curcuma longa),”nagdudulag” (bones of wild animals scattered by hunters; scattered settlers), and “dalag” (vernacular term for catfish, ictalutus punctatus, thriving along Candao River).
From Municipality of Dulag to Tacloban City (36 kilometers)
HISTORY OF DULAG
Dulag is one of the few barangays in Leyte that antedated the discovery of the Philippines in 1521. It is situated in the eastern coast of Leyte. There are several versions as to how Dulag got its name. The first was that in the early years of the 18th century, the town was already a flourishing community, the center of trade and commerce in eastern Leyte. The town then was considered the center of commercial activities going on thus it was named Dulag, the German term for center. Another version states that it is the etymological variation of a certain herb called “dulao” which grew abundantly in the area. Dulao is a kind of plant which is yellowish-green in color used as a food seasoning for a local dish. Because of its abundance, the place was called after this herb. The third version states that there was a time when bones of different kinds of animals were scattered all around the place. Whenever people would see bones all around, they always commented, “nagdudulag hin tul-an.” This means that bones were scattered all around. The word nagdudulag was then shortened to Dulag. The last version says that the name could have come from the name of the first settler whom legend says was named Dulagdulag.
The first Jesuit missionaries arrived at Dulag in September 1595. An ecomendero, Don Pedro Hernandez brought them in his boat from Cebu. The missionaries, Fr. Alonzo de Humanes and Fr. Juan del Campo, first coaxed the natives to settle within the limits of the sitio instead of living far from each other. After this was accomplished, the Jesuit fathers built a church and a convent.
A nucleus of some 60 boys from Palo was formed by the fathers for the first mission school in Dulag. In the church compound they were taught their three R’s and religion. Using the crudest of materials, the boys learned the Spanish language and helped serve as interpreters to the missionaries on their missions. The burden of supporting the boys began to tell on the resources of the padres but periodic allowances from the encomendero permitted them to continue with their studies. The school was patterned after a Jesuit school in Antipolo in Luzon, which the Jesuits had founded earlier.
Dulag became a booming locality by May 1596. It became the centrum of commercial activities. The Jesuits made great progress at conversion. They became successful especially when the principales of the town allowed themselves to be baptized.
Years of peace were suddenly broken when on October 29, 1603, moro raiders ravaged the town. Wild confusion followed after the arrival of 70 vintas full of moros. Some of the precious possessions of the church were fortunately evacuated before the moros finally landed on the shores of Dulag.
Bolisan, the moro leader sailed away to Surigao after 700 captives and rich loot had safely been stored in the holds of their vintas. Fr. Hurtado, one of the missionary priests was himself a captive. During the years that followed, the padre was able to teach Christianity to the moros. He was later ransomed and returned to Dulag.
The moro raids were said to have burned 10 churches in Leyte. Sacred images were destroyed, sacred vessels were looted, and new Christians enslaved.
After the moro raids, more misfortune struck the town. Two typhoons destroyed the church and laid waste the harvest of the season. An earthquake of violent proportions followed this. In 1610, a locust invasion destroyed more crops. In September 1611, more typhoons added to the desolation of the people. As if to climax the lean years, the moros returned in 1613, destroyed the church and town, burned the harvest and carried of men, women and children to be sold as slaves. The parish priest, Fr. Pascual Acuña was also captured by the moros. He was later released in exchange for a moro chief named Pagdalunan who was captured by the Spaniards.
Before the Jesuits left in 1768, they had built a brick church under the avocation of the Nativity of Our Lady. It was significantly called the “Refugio.”
After the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Augustinians took over then parish. Fr. Cipriano Barbasan is specially remembered for enlarging and remodeling the church. He was responsible for the ornamentation of the church altar and the construction of lookout towers of the hills of Calbasag and Mount Laberanan in San Jose. Both were solid edifices of brick which served as places of refuge during subsequent attacks by the moros.
In 1843, the first Franciscan parish priest arrived. Under the direction of Fr. Francisco Rosas, the first road to Abuyog was constructed.
A long line of gobernadorcillos ruled the town. From Basilio de Paz to Hilario Saño, the town progressed further. During the revolutionary period, Julio Villagracia and Rosendo Cornel governed. Like other towns, Dulag suffered from depredations of the insurrectors and the pulahanes.
During the American regime, Emilio Celso Abad was elected the first capitan. The steady progress of the town resulted in the expansion of the town limits.
Marcial Lagunzad was the mayor of Dulag when the Japanese occupied the town. He was tactful, so many lives were spared but unfortunately he died during the early days of the liberation during an American bombing raid.
The landing of the American forces, which took place from October 17 to 20, 1944 took a heavy toll on the Municipality’s townspeople. The church, public buildings as well as residences were razed to the ground. The streets that used to be concrete and asphalt crumbled to rubble after concentrated American shelling.
For a time, after the shelling of Dulag, the seat of government was transferred to Mayorga, one of the barrios. Slowly, the people returned to the town and under the leadership of Mayor Nicolas Bautista, Dulag, phoenix-like, rose from the ashes.
Transcriber’s Note: One of the reasons Dulag was so heavily shelled during the American invasions was an airstrip located in present-day Barangay Rawis. The American’s needed to gain control of the airstrip in order to further the invasion. The old remains of the airstrip are still present in Barangay Rawis today (although much overgrown with surrounding jungle). Many Dulagnons continue to refer to Barangay Rawis as ‘the airport.’ — Brian Watson