THREE HUNDRED EIGHT SIX years ago, a settlement was founded by our forefathers which assumed the role of a cabeceria of all towns in the northwestern part of Leyte. That was way back in 1620, almost a century after the discovery of the archipelago. The inhabitants, in their own antiquated dialect, called the place Hinablayan derived from the word “sablay” which meant hang. Due to the bravery of the natives, they subdued and hanged dead enemies on branches of trees.
The place was quickly forested with big tall trees. It was a jungle, so to speak. The people lived in makeshift huts on branches of trees. In these times, when weapons such as spears and arrows were used, fighting and hunting were their pastimes. For food, they ate root crops they planted on the hills at the east. The Cabigohan plains was partly utilized to other plants. For viand, they killed wild animals such as deer, wild pigs, monkeys and others. For fish. oh, there were plenty. The shores were teeming with fish they could easily catch with their arrows the tails of which were tied to trees.
As the years rolled on, those who first bore the brunt of conquering nature’s barriers to make this town as it is at present numbered 4,447. After the Spanish conquestadores visited the place, they organized themselves under a cabeza de barangay. Maulo was the first chieftain. Under him, the natives did not know of fears invaders and interlopers. Decades later the chief was name capitan municipal who was appointed by the Spanish authorities.
In 1737, the first Jesult missionaries arrived. They built the first church (to us these days, a chapel) within a wall of stone bricks at the left side of the present church. There was a partial clearing of the settlement. The people live in peace, all right, contented on what they had.
Moro Marauders. In the afternoon of Nov. 9,1784, twenty-five vintas full of moro pirates attacked the settlement. Brave natives repulsed and fought back but most women and children rushed and took refuge in the church behind the stone wall called cotta!
On the following day more than a thousand more moros landed and when they found out that the natives were in the church, they beleaguered the place and started burning the sacristia. Fortunately, the people inside foiled the attempt to set fire on the church. There were pirates who succeeded in climbing the walls and got into the church, they clashed, killed and got killed. Several men, women, and children are killed but they did not give up hope in San Francisco Javier in whom they pinned all their trust and faith. When they realized that they had little food inside the church, they decided to face the enemies in the open.
With fervent prayers to the Almighty and entrusting their lives in San Francisco Javier, they got their weapons-spears and arrows- and prepared for the showdown. The church-door which the Moros could not even open and they themselves could not, too, open before when they set to run to the mountains, suddenly opened as if there was an invisible force that did it. And in the church-yard a hand-to-hand fight was made; strength versus strength and blood poured from the dead and the wounded. When the Moros knew that their Datu Principal was seriously wounded and their Pandita Mayor was dying specially that their drum and three rodillas were taken by Hinablayanos, they scampered to their vintas leaving behind their wounded comrades and some weapons. The natives attributed their victory to the aid to San Francisco Javier and from that time on, they adored the saint and made him their patron.
However, the church was burned in one of the later moro assaults. The present one which was destroyed during World War II and which posed as mute witness to the viciousness of war was reconstructed in 1952 thru the untiring, and selfish Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Pablo B. Lola. It was the second temple of God which the missionaries erected through forced labor of a little group of hard working brown pygmies. The structure is the great land mark of the town. Towering above all other buildings, it does not only serve as reminder of Castillian colonial policy but also a blood and tears, and sweats and the toils of our forebears. This sanctuary of prayers was constructed through the leadership of Bugto-Pasan, Balirasay, Alho, and Tumbalasay who led daily the too little brown construction in thirty solid years.
The church is a marvelous piece of creation when viewed against a background of modern engineering appliances. True to the spirit of Castillian domination, the people were one and whole in their religious belief and customs. The hold which the Roman Catholic Church had among the population was so deep and abiding that even during the four decades of American occupation, infiltration launched by other religious denominations became utter and an overwhelming failure.
The Name Palompon. Then some Spanish soldiers came from a neighboring place on a sailboat. As they entered the harbor, they saw a cluster or bunch o mangrove propagules called “tungki” floating over the shallow waters in front of the place. They decided to rename the place as Paung-pung. That paung-pung of “tungki” stuck on the shallow shoal until the tide could not wash it away. It grew into trees and formed into an islet now called Tabuk, few yards from the mainland. The islet from which the place is named, stood and standing as a staunch apostle of sailors’ refuge during storms and also made the harbor not only the safest but the most beautiful in the whole province. It was in later years when the natives changed and spelled Paung-pung to Palompon.
Religion and Economy. At the time Paung-pung was yet a part of the parish of Hilongos. Marriages were solemnized in far Hilongos. That was also true to baptism of babies. The faithful had to travel far over mountains and valleys and across rivers and plains. Babies grew big before they were baptized. After years of Christianization, the Jesuits, left the place and the Augustinians took over. On November 12, 1784, Paungpung got its parochial independence from Hilongos.
At the beginning of the American occupation, the manpower of Palompon was 10,199. In the census of 1918, the town registered 16,208 inhabitants. In 1939 there were 29,120 people. In 1948 we became 30,858. The revenges of World War II have made this little gain we have made in manpower.
Palompon is fortunate to be free from the economic strangulation of land barons and business magnates. There was a time in the past when a few families wanted to establish a demarcation line between social classes but their attempts proved futile and were in the end rewarded by their disappearance in Palompon’s social world.
Education Sector. The progress Palompon made in education and culture has certainly been remarkable. During the Spanish regime the schools established here were more of parochial schools that of religious training. In 1901, the Americans arrived here under Captian Cooke and true to their avowed intentions, they established English schools under the direction of Mr. Boodroo. Palompon became the center of learning when intermediate classes were opened in 1915. The pupils of these grades came as far as Camotes in the South and Biliran in the North. To meet the demands for better housing facilities of ever-growing school population a Plan No. 10 semi-permanent school building was built in 1925. Other needed buildings were built from year to year to make the schools more or less adequate.
The first attempt to establish here a higher school of learning was in 1932 when Mr. Pablo Mejia founded the defunct Palompon institute. For reasons not definitely known it survived for only a year. Before World War II the enterprising director of the Visayan Institute of Cebu, Atty. Vicente GUllas, opened a branch of his institution to fill the crying need of the youth of Palompon for a high school education. After liberation he focused his interest to the improvement of the Visayan Institute which became a great university. He could not reopen the school here. Then the public-spirited citizens of Palompon seeing the urgency and feeling the compulsion of the need for a high school here, pooled together their resources and founded the present Northern Leyte College which, if rightly directed, will eventually grow.
Culture Scenario. The standard of culture of our town was comparable to that of the most advanced towns in this province. Ibarras of other towns of high intellectual background would come to woo some of our accomplished Maria Claras. Ex-senator Jose Veloso, Fiscial Apostol and the late Pongos of Davao and some others met their better halves in wedlock in this place. This degree of culture is still in our midst but it has expanded and embraced a greater portion of our population. While before it was a monopoly of the rich now it is a possession and a heritage of the middle class.
It is realized that we cannot present a string and detailed portrayal of Palompon’s march to progress along all fields of human endeavors. What we have just done is a brief and simple story of the struggles o f the people of our beloved town who have attempted to secure for themselves a place in the sun and a legacy to bestow upon future generations. (Gleaned from the research made with Mr. Francisco Marcial in 1949 on the records of and interview with the late Jorge Marilao)
Author: Arcadio A. Molon, Jr.