Eastern Visayas Region of Leyte and Samar

The twin islands of Samar and Leyte form the core group of the East Visayas region. Both offer excellent natural harbours for ancient seafarers coming in from the Pacific Ocean. Not much is known of the islands’ pre-Hispanic origins due to lack of archaeological diggings in the area. Its remoteness contributed to its isolation from pre-Spanish trade and commerce with China. But most people agree that the same group Negritos settled in the islands some 30,000 years ago. These people walked over land bridges from the regions of Borneo and Sumatra. Arab traders originating from Borneo and Sabah are believed to have introduced Islam and their developed culture beginning in the 14th century well ahead of the first Europeans. However, their influence did not take root since these traders did not stay long enough to intermarry with the natives. Magellan's Cross in Cebu PhilippinesThe nature of their trade was to exchange artifacts and items for precious metals such as gold and silver and then leave when their business was done.

However, recent diggings point to an established society a century before Magellan arrived. Broken pottery shards showed that the people were trading with merchants not only coming from China during the Ming Dynasty period but also with traders from Siam (Thailand), Cambodia and Vietnam. When Magellan arrived in 1521, excavations in the coastal town of Cabalian showed it was ruled by a local chieftain named Malitik who was a tributary (a lower-ranked chief who pays tribute) to King Siagu. Another example of a well-established society in pre-Spanish times was the Malayan town of Ormoc (old name was Ogmuc) with its own laws and customs. The culture then was centred on the main business of survival in hard times. Carigara was another ancient township that had a thriving agriculture due to the crude irrigation system introduced by migrants nearby Bohol Island.Large fragments of earthenware jars seemed to indicate that jar burial was practiced in Leyte because of the accompanying human skeletal remains.Ferdinand Magellan An aberration during this time was the proliferation of slaves since next to gold, a man’s stature in society and personal wealth was measured by the number of slaves under him. Generally, these settlements were just small barangays of informal groupings that constantly wage wars with the other groups nearby. Each group was in constant preparedness due to incessant raids, ambuscades, slayings, robberies and slave capture. This very fierce independent stance led to constant hostility that prevented settlements from coming together in friendship, mutual assistance and military alliances to repel foreign invaders.


The Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines in 1521 and constituted the first contact ever with the Europeans. Magellan dropped anchor in the small island of Homonhon in south-eastern Leyte. His arrival was close to the holiest of all holidays which is Lent. So on that Good Friday (some 2 weeks after arrival), he sealed a kasi-kasi (blood compact) with Rajah Kolambu who was the emissary of the King of Limasawa island. 1st Catholic Mass in the PhilippinesThe first ever Catholic mass in the Philippines was celebrated on that succeeding Easter Sunday. The implicit political pact did not last long since successive Spanish expeditions met with hostile native reception. The death of Magellan in the Battle of Mactan was like a warning bell that tolled far and wide throughout the archipelago. Most of the recent history of Leyte was similar to the other Philippine islands which were close associated with the Spanish efforts at evangelisation. 4th Philippine PresidentThere was a brief native revolt against conscription of Bisayan shipbuilders being sent to Cavite shipyards constructing galleons but quickly put down. During the war for liberation, the Commonwealth Government under Pres. Sergio Osmeña was established in Tacloban under Gen. MacArthur’s orders. Present day Leyte is remarkably progressive without the accompanying dirt of urban sprawl. Its large area is still sparsely populated and still has room for growth. It is a matter of marshalling the resources together for progress.



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