My Hometown: Palo
Palo is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 47,982 people in 9,272 households.
History of Palo
The discovery of the advancing communities of Palo dates back to the early 16th Century A.D. along the banks of Bangon River. However, local historians believe that the settlement of Palo started as early as the 10th to 13th century A.D..
The first known settlement were the kingdom of Takuranga, first name of Palo under King Guban, and the Kingdom of Kaluugan, the second name of Palo under King Pitik. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, some other settlements were formed which also became the succeeding names of Palo, until finally in 1550 Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi coalesced the settlements and named the new confederation “Palo”. The other settlements were Kasangitan, Binangalan, Kasuguran, Bunga, Bangon and Guindapunan. The settlers of Bunga played a vital role in the history of Palo, having formed the settlement of Bangon which is now the town center. Palo formally became a town in 1768 with Kapitan Balasabas as its first administration.
Accordingly, the early settlers of Palo were the clans of Panganuron, Kadampog, Manlangit, Kumago, Kawaring, Kabalhin, Kumagong, Maglain, Bilyu and Dilyu.
Palo is considered to be one of the most historical towns of Leyte. It is well known as the site of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines together with Philippine and American military forces after a period of exile in 1944. Hill 522, a hill located near the town center, was the site of fierce fighting between Allied and Japanese forces during the Second World War. The metropolitan cathedral of the archdiocese, located right across Palo’s municipal hall, was used as a hospital for wounded Filipino and American forces. A memorial now stands at the beach site where MacArthur and his troops landed, locally known as the MacArthur’s Park. The first Gabaldon Building is also situated in Brgy. San Joaquin Palo, Leyte. It was inaugurated by President Sergio Osmena.
The town is very active in commerce and in tourism. It attracts a significant number of tourists every year. The town also has its historic Municipal Building which was the former Seat of the Provincial Government of Leyte. Its location is conducive to and ideal for trading and commerce.
Palo is strategically located in the northern part of the Province of Leyte, 8 miles from the capital city of Tacloban. It is composed of 33 barrios (barangays) with a total population of 40,000. The main source of income for most of the citizenry is the buying and selling of farm products and the production and fermentation of the local wine “tuba”.
Palo is a town that takes pride not in its material wealth, which rates poorly in terms of economic growth, but in the fame and glory of its being a rare “Town of Firsts”—culturally, historically and spiritually.
The landmark that has brought Palo to the annals of world history is the Red Beach, in barangay Candahug, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur first landed to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese occupation on October 20, 1944. Palo was also once the capital of Leyte. The town’s Purissima Bridge was the first steel bridge built in the province.
In 1957, sitio Campitic was converted into a barrio, while barrio Baras-Candahug was divided into two: Baras and Candahug. Barrio Maliron was renamed as Libertad.
On the spiritual side, Palo is believed to be a sacred place by clerical observers. It is the seat of the ecclesiastical province, the Archdiocese, where the Roman Catholic Archbishop resides in Bukid Tabor. One can find the Metropolitan Cathedral in Palo. Also, the seedbed of vocations to the priesthood is found at the Sacred Heart Seminary and the St. John the Evangelist School of Theology. Two Paloan nuns were also Superior Generals in their respective congregations. To date, there are 79 ordained priests and 106 nuns from the town alone.
Palo has established its identity as a conservative and religious town with a highly cultural characteristic that makes Paloans extremely proud of their birthplace.
MacArthur Landing Memorial Park
The Leyte Landing Memorial is a memorial to the landing of General Dougals MacArthur and his men at Red Beach. It is located in Candahug, a barangay of the municipality of Palo in the province of Leyte. Also known as the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park, the memorial consists of larger-than-life bronze statues of the general with other men, including then Philippine president Sergio Osmena, Jr., standing in a manmade pool. The memorial was erected in tribute to MacArthur’s fulfillment of his promise to return to the Philippines after it was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines ended soon after MacArthur landed at Red Beach on October 20, 1944 with 225,000 troops and 600 ships. The anniversary of this event is commemorated annually at the park with a reenactment of the famous landing, attended by local and foreign dignitaries.
Commonly called Guinhangdan Hill, from the root word: “hangad” which means to look upward (522 ft. up), was the entrance to the first liberated town of Palo in 1944 after having been heavily bombarded to destroy the garrisons built by the Japanese artillery units; foxholes built by the Japanese still exist; memorial marker built by Mie Prefecture. Fierce fighting for the control of this strategic hill lasted two days (Oct. 20-21, 1944) and cost the lives of about 50 Japanese soldiers and at least three American soldiers.
Palo Metropolitan Cathedral
The Palo Metropolitan Cathedral was constructed on 1596 under the direction of the Jesuits who founded Palo and also used for some time as thier residence. Eventually this was taken over by the Augustinians on 1768 and by the Franciscans on 1843. Although the Augustinians were the first to spread Catholicism in the place, the construction was spreaded by Jesuits, Fathers Juan del Campo and Alonso de Humanes who taught the few inhabitants with the Gospel and later baptized, taught the children to read and write, pray the rosary, sing hymns and play the flute. Later, another Jesuit became a permanent Parish Priest who was instrumental in bringing together as a community the baptized natives and Father Humanes. He became successful in this work that he was able to convert more pagans to the catholic faith. By 1600, Palo had become a central missionary station with the jurisdiction over the missions of Dagami, Malaguicay, Malirong and Banabon. The catherdral was repaired by Fr. Augustin built the two towers on 1850. Fr. Pantaleon dela Fuente added new features from the money he won from a lottery in Spain, he then installed a clock on the façade on 1896. This was also proclaimed a catheral on the 25th of March, 1938. Msgr. Manuel Mascariñas, first bishop.
This is an old house in Palo Leyte owned by the old dons of Leyte, Don Pedrosa, a founder of the Prudential Bank (now merged with the Bank of the Philippine Islands). He’s also the grandfather of that CNN anchorwoman Veronica Pedrosa whose family was exiled during the Marcos time. While I was growing up, the first floor used to be the Public Library, with lots of donated books from the US. The building is designed after the Spanish old homes in the Philippines.
Holy Froday / Pamalandung
Pamanlandung in Waray means ‘meditation on the Crucifixion of Christ’. This is a festival held every Holy Week in Palo where the crucifixion is reenacted from the Last Supper to the Resurrection of Christ. During Holy Fridays, there’s a street theater participated in by the whole community that reenacts the capture of Jesus, the sentencing and the crucifixion at the calvary ‘hill’ which is only a stage set up for this purpose. Around 3pm, the crucified Jesus is brought down, and if you’re new to the town, don’t be surprised to see the people rush to get souvenirs of the branches and leaves (‘basbas’) that were propped on the stage. They say these are blessed and holy and have curing qualities. Between 5 and 6pm there’s a long procession of all the saints and Jesus statues from all over Leyte.
My Barangay: Cogon
History of Barangay Cogon
Barangay Cogon is 1.3 km southeast of poblacion Palo bounded on the north by Barangay Salvacion, on the east by San Pedro-San Pablo Bay, on the south by San Joaquin River and Barangay San Joaquin and on west by San Joaquin River and Barangay Takuranga. It has a total land area of 719,812 hectares of flat lands with sandy soil type. Its main product is coconut. Swamplands which comprise about 37% is planted to Nipa where families derived additional income in making nipa shigles for sale. But the main occupation of the people is buy and sell, mostly on fish vending. Some are fishermen but many of the males also gather sands on the river beds for sale to truck operators and contractors.
Barangay Cogon got its name from the cogon grass that abounds all over the place at that time. The areas used to be a path, people used pass when they travel by foot, the only means during the early part from Barangay San Joaquin to the Poblacion of Palo. This was during the time when cars where not yet used and there were no road network at that time. Along this path, cogon grasses of the thrives and when the traveller look right and left, he can see the vastness of the cogon growth, so far and side.