Tanauan is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 45,056 people in 9,224 households.
The town got its name from a towering Molave tree which served as a look-out tower, “tan-awan” in the dialect. A look-out would watch for the feared Moro pirates who would every now and then plunder and loot the settlements along the coast.
The first known settlers were the family of Calanao, his wife and daughter. In 1661, Juanillo Siengco’s family joined the Calanao family in the settlement along the bank of Bukid River at the foot of Adil Hill. By the time their settlements were more developed, the plundering of the Moro’s along the cost became intensified and for their refuge, they built a stone-walled enclosure “cuta” in the area of Buaya. In the course of time, Juanillo’s son Josef, married Calanao’s daughter, Sangod, and from the families of Juanillo Siengco and Calanao a tribe was formed which gave Tanauan its first officials.
In 1710, the first town officials were appointed by the Spanish authorities. From 1710 to the first American occupation in 1900, 47 persons became chief executives of the Municipality. During the American Regime from 1901-1943, another set of municipal executives followed. When the World War II broke out, Pedro A. Villegas was the incumbent Mayor.
When the Japanese occupied Tanauan, Leyte the incumbent Mayor Pedro Villegas and his secretary Janario Perez refused to serve the Japanese forces. Thus, Rufo Cobacha was appointed Mayor followed by Pedro Bulik who was killed by the guerillas. Finally, Eugenio Avila, Sr. was appointed and was incumbent Mayor when the combined Filipino and American Liberation forces occupied the town.
During the Japanese occupation, the town was burned by the guerillas in 1943. This event destroyed the Municipal Building including its records, and all the big houses of Spanish Architecture along Calle Real. The liberation came resulting in further destruction of the Municipal Hall( Lian Chong Building) and the few remaining houses along Calle real. However few lives were lost as the town’s people were warned and took refuge at the Parish Church. During this time, Benito Saavedra was appointed Mayor then succeeded by the following in the order of incumbencies: Rufo Cumpio -1945; Dioniso Boco – 1946 and Pelagio O. Tecson – 1946-1947.
After the liberation period, Dionisio Boco was the first Mayor succeeded by Pelagio O. Tecson again. Tecson was the Mayor during the Martial Law Period and the so called “New Society” up to February 25, 1986 EDSA Revolution when Felix Cortes was appointed OIC Mayor. The local election held on February 1, 1988 resulted in the election of Charles R Avila. He was subsequently appointed as Administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority in January 1991. Rodolfo Cinco, the Vice-Mayor succeeded him as Mayor.
In the May 1992 synchronized election for national and local officials. Atty. Roque A. Tiu won over 5 candidates for the mayoralty position. Tiu was the Chief Executive of the town until his second term ended in 1998. Mark Gimenez became Mayor in 1998 to 2001. When Atty. Roque Tiu ran again in 2001, he won over Gimenez and is now the current chief Executive of the Municipality of Tanauan. (source: Tanauan Leyte Municipal Website)
Liberation of Tanauan by the Allied Forces in World War II
On October 1944, during the famous Leyte Gulf Landings, part of General MacArthur’s landing forces, the X and XXIV Corps from the United States Sixth Army, including the soldiers of the Philippine Commonwealth Army of the 91st, 92nd and 93rd Infantry Division, pushed toward Tanauan to liberate the town from the Japanese occupying forces. In the early days of the campaign to liberate the island, the Air Force was desperately in need of airstrips for US planes. The Tacloban airstrip, which was captured by the Sixth Army early on during the landings, was already crowded, and both the Buri and San Pablo airstrips in the vicinity of Burauen were fast deteriorating due to bad weather, coupled with its unsatisfactory soil conditions, making it hard for the US fighter planes to land safely. The Fifth Air Force decided to abandon the Burauen airstrips and chose to build a new one located 7 miles south of Tacloban, the Tanauan airstrip.
About a month after A-Day, the Sixth Army Command Post, which has been located on the proposed airfield site of Tanauan (located at now modern day barangay Santo Niño), moved to Tolosa so that the Engineer units could start work on the Tanauan airstrip. Once the airfield was ready for operation, all Marine Aircraft Group 12 (MAG-12) planes in Leyte, which played an important support role for the Sixth Army, moved from Tacloban Airfield to Tanauan Airfield on December 1944. The airfield was also used by the 312th Bombardment Group (Nov 19, 1944 – Feb 10, 1945), 340th Fighter Squadron (Dec 15, 1944), 341st Fighter Squadron (Dec 14, 1944), 460th Fighter-Interceptor Training Squadron (Dec 12, 1944), and 433d Troop Carrier Group (Jan 19- May 31, 1945), and played a vital role as American bombing campaigns and close aerial support for US combat troops intensify during the war against the Japanese forces, and greatly increased the number of land-based planes that could operate from Leyte as the combined US & Filipino Forces move to liberate the entire country. The entering the Philippine Commonwealth troops in Tanauan coutinues by helpul to the American troops in the town.
With the withdrawal of the combined Filipino-American forces, the airfield was abandoned. Today, remnants of this airfield can still be traced in the area called “Pawa” located in barangay Sto. Niño.