The City of Tacloban (Filipino: Lungsod ng Tacloban, Waray: Ciudad han Tacloban) is a port city approximately 360 miles southeast of Manila. It is the first in Eastern Visayas to be classified as a Highly Urbanized City. It is the capital of the Philippine province of Leyte and is the largest city in terms of population in Eastern Visayas. It is also considered as the regional center of the Region VIII. Tacloban was briefly the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth Government, from October 20, 1944 to February 27, 1945.
In an extensive survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center and released in July 2010, Tacloban City was ranked among the top ten most competitive cities in the Philippines. Tacloban ranked fifth overall, and second in the emerging cities category.
Tacloban was first known as Kankabatok, an allusion to the first inhabitants of the place – Kabatok. They established their dwelling in the vicinity of the present day Sto. Niño Church. Others who came later were Gumoda, Haraging and Huraw who erected their own settlements in nearby sites. Huraw’s domain is the hill where the city hall now sits. The combined settlements acquired the name Kankabatok, meaning Kabatok’s property.
By the end of the 16th century, Kankabatok was under the political administration of Palo and part of the parish of Basey, Samar. It was discovered in 1770, by the Augustinian Mission, who were superseded by the Franciscans in 1813. During this period, Kankabatok was renamed to Tacloban.
The change of the name came about in this manner: Kankabatok was a favorite haunt of fishermen. They would use a bamboo contraption called “Taklub” to catch crabs, shrimps or fish. When asked where they were going, the fishermen would answer, “(to) Tarakluban”, which meant the place where they used the devise to catch these marine resources. Eventually, the name Tarakluban or Tacloban took prominence.
It is not known when Tacloban became a municipality because records supporting this fact were destroyed during a typhoon. It is commonly believed that Tacloban was officially proclaimed a municipality in 1770. In 1768, Leyte and Samar were separated into two provinces, each constituting as a politico-military province. Due to its strategic location, Tacloban became a vital trading point between the two provinces.
The capital of Leyte was transferred from one town to another with Tacloban as the last on February 26, 1830. The decision to make Tacloban the capital was based on the following reasons: 1) ideal location of the port and 2) well-sheltered and adequate facilities. On June 20, 1953, Tacloban was proclaimed a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 760.
The arrival of Colonel Murray in 1901 made him the first military governor of Leyte. His first official act was the opening of Tacloban port to world commerce. Before World War II, Tacloban was the commercial, education, social and cultural center of the Province of Leyte. Copra and abaca were exported in large quantities. The leading institutions were: The Leyte Normal School, Leyte High School, Leyte Trade School, Holy Infant Academy and the Tacloban Catholic Institute.
On May 25, 1942, Japanese forces landed in Tacloban – signalling the beginning of their three-year occupation of Leyte. They fortified the city and improved its airfield. Since San Pedro Bay was ideal for larger vessels, the Japanese Imperial Naval Forces made Tacloban a port of call and entry. This time was considered the darkest in the history of Tacloban and the country due to the incidences of torture among civilians, including the elderly. In response, guerilla groups operated in Leyte – the most notable of which was the group of Colonel Ruperto Kangleon.
Leyte was the first to be liberated by the combined Filipino and American troops. General Douglas MacArthur’s assault troops landed in the Tacloban and Palo beaches (White Beach and Red Beach, respectively) and in the neighboring town of Dulag (Blue Beach) on October 20, 1944. These landings signaled the eventual victory of the Filipino and American forces and the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous promise: “I Shall Return.”
Three days later, on the 23rd, at a ceremony at the Capitol Building in Tacloban, General MacArthur accompanied by President Sergio Osmeña made Tacloban the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government and subsequently the temporary capital of the Philippines until the complete liberation of the country. The provincial government of Leyte and the municipal government of Tacloban were re-established.
Atty. Paulo Jaro was the Liberation Mayor of Tacloban. The first mayor of this capital upon inauguration of the Philippine Republic was Hon. Epifanio Aguirre. On January 8, 1960, General Douglas MacArthur made his “sentimental” journey to Leyte.
Landmarks in the area include the Joseph Price Mansion where General MacArthur set up headquarters in 1944 and the Redoña Residence. These two structures in Tacloban played a vital role during the liberation of the Philippines.
The city has been proclaimed as a highly-urbanized city by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on October 4, 2008 and ratified by the people on December 18, 2008.
Tacloban – where a relaxed ambiance complements the city’s urban environment. Located at the heart of Eastern Visayas, Tacloban is the center of commerce, education, government as well as the region’s major tourism service center. As the gateway location, all major destinations to the region can be reached from the city. Tacloban’s history is showcased with exhibits at the palatial Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum and People’s Center and Library, which houses rare books from all over the world, as well as dioramas depicting the early life of Filipinos. Memories of World War II are kept alive at the Hotel Alejandro Photo Gallery and CAP Heritage Buildings (formerly Price Mansion), which served as General Douglas MacArthur’s command post. The Philippine – Japan Peace Commemorative Monument and Park and the Maria Kanon Madonna of Peace Shrine are reminders of the people’s quest for peace and renounce war as a means of resolving conflict. Take a stroll and appreciate sunrise at the Balyu-an Park overlooking the serene San Pedro Bay. The park’s amphitheater serves as venue of cultural shows and sporting events an at night, its the scene of get-together’s and band concerts. Swing it out on the 18-hole San Juanico Park Golf and Country Club. Have an exciting evening around the city’s commercial district, the Tacloban Astrodome and Robinsons Place to satisfy your appetite for seafood and other savory dishes or to chill-out in Tacloban’s fun-packed bars.