Historical Background of Guiuan
Guiuan is widely known for two significant events in history. In 1521 Magellan first set foot in the Philippines soil in a small island southwest of the town. In 1944, the American forces under Gen. MacArthur launched its liberation of the Philippines from Guiuan where a powerful armada of sea crafts was based.
Before the Spanish missionaries came, Guiuan was already a “bungto” which does not exactly correspond to the word town, because it was no more than relatively big cluster of houses. In its surrounding area, there were numerous hamlets known as “mga gamoro in Bisaya” which the Spaniards identified as Rancherias. The Datus (whom the Spaniards latte called principales) governed the people in these hamlets.
In 1595, the Jesuits form Dulag, Leyte came to Guiuan to evangelize the inhabitants in a systematic way. Guiuan was thus the first township (pueblo) in Eastern Samar (formerly known as Ibabao or Cibabao) to be Christianized by Spanish Missionaries. Later, the Jesuits worked for the consolidation of this “bungto” by embarking a program called reduction”. This begins the settlement of the town of Guiuan.
Historically, Guiuan – or Guiguan, as the bungtowas formerly called – was called Butag (Guiuan que Ilamaban en su antiguedad Butag), no doubt because the place now designated, as Butac was its earlier settlement. The name Guiguan, according to a 1668 manuscript, was derived by the natives from the term gigwanum, a Bisayan term for salty water. “Esta este pueblo de Guiguan que, segun la significacion de esta lengua bisaya, quierer dice “aqua salobre”, porque gigwanum es lo mismo que fuente o pozo de agua also salada.
Religious education, the only form of education introduced by the Spanish colonizers in the place, was a compulsory requirement. To bring Christian religion closer to the people and to provide them a suitable place for religious ritual, a huge stonewalled church was built by voluntarily manual labor. Under the direction of the Jesuits, the edifice was molded into an ancient architectural beauty that could withstand centuries of time.
A Governadorcillo assisted by the Vice-Teniente Mayor headed the municipal government. The collection of taxes was assigned to the Cabezas de barangay who collected taxes from every male and female 18 to 60 years of age.
As early as 1899, changes in the set up of the municipal government were implemented. A Mayor was appointed to head the local government. These changes bring improvement to the town of Guiuan. Bridges, roads and school building were built.
The outbreak of World War II forced the people to flee into the mountains for their daily subsistence. However, Guiuan was still lucky because the municipality was spared from the roar of artillery and tanks, incidents of massacre, bombings and other war activities. It was only on June 28, 1943, that several Japanese soldiers set foot on Guiuan soil. Contrary to what have been expected, a cordial relation existed between the Japanese soldiers and the natives of Guiuan. This encourages the pole to come down from their mountain shelter, and resumed a normal life in the municipality.
Except for a few killings of suspected traitors by both Japanese and guerillas, Guiuan has no tragic memories written in its history.
On Nov. 27, 1944 a US Navy submarine chaser made a reconnaissance duty in preparation for establishment of its Naval Base. On Dec. 1, 1944, a fleet of LCTs, Liberty Ships and barges landed into the Guiuan Territory loading weaponry for one of the biggest Naval Base in the Far East at that time. There were about 50,000 service men in the base.
The surrender of Japan on August 1945 stop the naval operation. Al surplus properties were taken over by Surplus Property Commission, an agency of the National Government created for the purpose. Representatives from the Commission took over the custody of inventoried properties and sold them to the highest bidders. Many influential businessmen got rich from various surplus property transactions.
In 1945, Tubabao Island was chosen to be the site of no less than 6,000 displaced White Russians from China under the care of the World Council of Churches. The Refugees were sent by the International Refugee Organization out of China to escape Communist enslavement. Stores, replacement parlors, bars and beauty salons were found in the campsite. People find income opportunities from these small businesses in the campsite.
Since then, Guiuan is making its way to progress.