To my grandchildren, grandchildren’s children and youths of Lawa-an whose curiosity and want of information from this profile may warrant referring to this work, the same is lovingly dedicated.
The idea of writing this profile was first suggested by Mayor Pio C. Diasanta, now deceased, and afterwards seconded by the members of the Municipal Council (Sangguniang Bayan) to be included as “annex” to the Town Fiesta ’85 Program but which did never materialize by reason of some unavoidable circumstances. To them, I sincerely acknowledge their inspiration and encouragement.
Many of the details of this profile were made possible through the contributions of some respectable old folks presently residing in Lawa-an, such as Mr. & Mrs. Rosendo D. Gavan concerning the plight of the first settlers; Mr. Hilario Tiozon about the family name of Etifania; Mrs. Martina G. Tigley who disclosed the deception of the banana- trunk warriors and the subsequent construction of the stone-tower; Mrs. Eufrosina G. Gadicho her reference to the sequence of Tenientes del Barrio within the Gabornes clan; Igmedio Gacho relating the participation of Lawa-an in the Balangiga Massacre; and Mrs. Clotilde G. Bumby filling some additional details in the manuscript. To them, I likewise extend my gratitude and acknowledgment.
C. G. Gavan 1985
HISTORY OF LAWA-AN
Profile Venture of CRISPIN G. GAVAN (1917-1994)
This is a brief profile of Lawa-an, the latest municipality out of the twenty-three towns comprising the province of Eastern Samar. It is bordering Western Samar on its south-western tip.
CURRENT HAPPENINGS: (1985)
As of this writing, Lawa-an has already undergone two stages of attack by the New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists, the first of which was in the morning of November 16, 1984 when a strong bond of more than 200 heavily armed men suddenly entered the town proper, violently confiscating the firearms of the unsuspecting members of the PC/INP detachment, terrorizing the innocent civilians and robbing them of valuables. Being the first of its kind that ever happened in this municipality since time immemorial, our policemen were rather caught off-guard and taken aback except the Sub-station Commander, CpI. Francisco Gavan, Jr., who managed to return the NPA fire, but withdrew after a minute or two of battle-testing. This action killed one NPA, modified later by the sporadic fire of two CMDF members, inflicting one more casualty upon the said outlaws.
Again, four months later, at about 7:00 o’clock, AM, March 10, 1985, another attack of a more drastic and crucial magnitude was attempted by the same insurgents. This writer had the rare chance of witnessing exactly what actually transpired as he was virtually trapped in the house of one Macario Guiño directly opposite the Rural Health Center where the insurgents deployed and started the attack.
Fortunately, the handful of our defending force (6 or 7 were in the vicinity of the municipal building at the time) were sufficiently warned of their coming and were instantly in their foxholes and improvised embankments when the outlaws arrived and immediately tried to penetrate the hedge-obstructed area behind the above-mentioned house where this writer was in hiding.
As the firing grew in volume and intensity, it became clear that our defenders, apparently summoning enough courage, were not going to withdraw but were determined to hold their ground. Nobody budged an inch, despite of the overwhelming odds of being greatly outnumbered. For two long hours some thousands of bullets were exchanged. At last the NPAs pulled out, somberly bringing with them their own casualties (4 dead and 2 wounded). Of the defenders, there was not even a scratch.
In their hasty retreat, an NPA member was overheard inquiring from a companion what happened in the main area of battle, saying: “Л/a onan-o kamo?” (How did you fare?) at which the other answered: “Waray pakadali.” (Not successful.) Then the former said: “Balíka ta.” (Let’s go back.) But the latter angrily retorted: “Den ako, Hi kamo naia. Matig-a.” (Not me. You go yourselves. It’s hard.)
A hand-grenade, one round of M79 ammunition, a fully loaded Armalite magazine, a water canteen, a pair of jungle boots and a hunting knife were left behind by the outlaws and recovered by the police.
Friends and even relatives are now mistrusting each other, suspecting one or the other as an NPA sympathizer or supporter of active members. There is now widespread agitation as many residents have gone to other places to escape reprisal or harassment from either side. Under close analysis, one might come to the conclusion that the cause or causes behind this deplorable situation is due to some disgruntled individuals bewitched by dirty politics all over again. And unless otherwise stipulated by divine intervention, such misguidance of irresponsible elements in our midst may flare up into an awful tragedy. The future of this town whose memorable past has been full of glory and ablaze with romance, is in serious jeopardy. One thing certain: Lawa-an shall never be the same again.
What is bewailing and hard to understand by the people is the fact that many of the participants in these sneak operations were identified as native residents of Lawa- an themselves, composed of malcontents, low-minded peasantry and social outcasts, acting as guides to expose the identities of NPA’s black-listed persons in the government service. Their motives cannot be explained or understood by their concerned relatives in the población. Apparently, it is their unbelief in the supposedly democratic processes of the government or its operation of social justice that spurred these skeptics afar from the law.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: How Lawa-an Got Its Name
It was probably in the latter half of the 14th or early part of the 15th century, or thereabouts, long before the colonizing Spaniards started spreading the cause of Christianity and converted the Filipinos into the folds of the Roman Catholic faith, that an enterprising young couple by the names of JUAN (Guingot) GABRILLO and his wife ETIFANIA HALBAY, together with their children, set sail one day in a small sailboat from Guiuan, in search of a greener pasture of an ideal place to settle. On their westward journey along the wooded coastline of Southern Samar, they reached a small island known as “Monbon” which was bordering the mouth of what is now the Lawa-an river. It was just in time to see that a severe storm was brewing from the western horizon.
Being apprehensive of their safety should they remain in the said island, they decided to move inland, hastening towards the coastal jungle in their immediate front, to seek shelter behind the trunk of a towering tree which was clearly visible from the sea. It was behind that great tree that the frantic family was divinely protected from the roaring fury of the storm and a dire calamity was happily averted.
When the typhoon subsided the next day the couple noticed that another tree of the same height and stature was also growing on the opposite bank of the river, twin sister to that of the other side - both so majestic and impressive in appearance, such that the branches up above completely overshadowed the river in-between.
After a hasty and meager breakfast of hot porridge, the small family looked askance of their surroundings and was deeply impressed by their new environment. The jungle growth even along the seashore bespoke fertility of the soil; the abundance of rattan and “hagnaya” vines was easy source of income and the shallow sea beside them was teeming with marine life of all kinds. All these offered suggestions that the place was ideal haven for habitation. So they abandoned their journey westward, instead, started building a makeshift hut at the foot of the same Lawa-an tree where they took refuge, at the same time, collecting whatever few belongings they could salvage from the wreckage of their boat.
The days and weeks that followed were a series of trips inland by Juan Guingot - to cut rattan and hagnaya vines hereabouts or, perchance, he might find some edible fruits or root-crops nearby. Still further, he found unmistakable signs that the area was infested with wild life. The presence of these predators posed quite a problem to his intended plan of growing a vegetable farm; nevertheless, Guingot presently started his clearing (caingin) and the making of traps to capture some wild hogs or monkeys for food.
As was predictable in situations like this, Guingot reconstructed his sailboat, loaded it with rattan and hagnaya vines and sailed back to Guiuan where he sold his cargoes, telling the people and his friends along the way how he, with his family, was overtaken by a dreadful storm and escaped disaster behind the trunk of a giant Lawa-an tree. He emphasized to them the bright prospect of settling in the area partly as a token of gratitude and reverence to that haven of refuge - the enormous trunks of the twin Lawa-an trees; but most importantly, that the surrounding area was abundant and ideal for habitation.
“Mamatay lak О-toy”, Juan Guingot would excitedly employ the slang and flavor of the Guiuan vernacular, “mamatay lak, dadi okoy ha Lawa-an (naming the place Lawa-an for the first time), ayaw pag-alang. Di ka mawawara hit doro-ongan kay kita gud iton hita-as nga kahoy ha dagat.” (Boy, when I die, stay here in Lawa-an, don’t hesitate. You will never get lost of the loading dock because the tall trees can be seen from the sea.) Indeed, there was no other point of reference more appealing to the settlers this outstanding landmark conspicuous from the sea.
That was how the present town of Lawa-an at first received its name. Ironically, five wide centuries have come and gone; people have lived and died along with generations in accordance with the short span of human life, but the name “LAWA-AN”, a former barrio of Balangiga, province of Eastern Samar, has remained, to this day, unchanged.
Months and years crowded past. Many people by then were new Catholic believers - converts from paganism and idol worship. In their enthusiasm for Christianity, they gathered together in small groups to discuss or talk about their new faith and/or about their way of life. As news traveled fast enough by word of mouth in those days, people were sufficiently informed in due time about the new settlement; thus, was started an influx of excited travelers, all attuned to the prospect of adventure and the romance of migration in Lawa-an as though a gold deposit was found.
Sometimes people would come in numbers, sometimes singly from nearby places, then from farther east and distant west like Leyte and the Bicol region. It is said that Boholano peddlers bearing the GACHO family names chose to remain in Lawa-an with the idea of getting happily married to some modest country beauty in the area. Many came only with scanty clothing on their backs with nothing more than the will to work and cast their lot in cooperation with the other settlers.
There is the story, as an example, of a young revolutionary from somewhere in Luzon named Julian Flores. He was a deserter and a desperado wanted by the Guardia Civil in Manila. At first, he went to hide in Dulag, Leyte, thinking that his whereabouts can no longer be traced by the Spanish authorities. But one night, Julian Flores was tipped by his friends that some persons were hunting for him. Immediately, that very night, he slipped out of town, stole a banca and paddled across the sea towards Samar, and upon reaching Capines point, left the stolen banca and trekked eastward along the seashore until he finally arrived at the tiny Rawis peninsula where Juan Guingot and his bond of settlers were encamped.
Whereupon, Julian Flores humbly introduced himself before the breathless crowd and frankly told them everything concerning his plight as a fugitive including his desire to join and stay with them should they accept him into their fold.
Guingot was all but very willing to admit him as one of their members on condition, however, that he (Julian) should be willing to change his family name, that is, to forget “Flores” and become Julian Gadicho, instead, so that in the event of a further hunt of his person in the settlement, he could not be pointed out as Julian Flores, the escaped renegade, but Julian Gadicho, a peaceful and harmless innocent man. Julian, without second thought, readily agreed. What better fate or fortune, he thought, could he ask of God and man!
Thereafter, Julian Gadicho was Juan Guingot’s favorite and regarded him as one of the most active settlers in the camp. And, in his constant and close association with his new acquaintances, he fell in love with Guingot’s charming daughter, Marciana, eagerly married her, to be blessed later on, with the birth of a son christened Carlos Gadicho, destined to become the first Teniente del Barrio of Lawa-an.
TROUBLES AND PETTY PROBLEMS
Obviously, the first settlers were beset by persistent rumors about strange, naked cannibals called the “ONGLO”, and were in existence and roaming the jungle wilderness of Samar. These were hairy human beings, of enormous height and size, whose elbows and knees were said to be as hard as stones. They were jungle wanderers without permanent dwellings but would just lie down on their bellies behind tree-trunks to sleep wherever they were benighted. They thrived on raw meat they could capture and wild fruits in the forest. Being shy and timid creatures, the Onglo moved inland with occasional visits to the seacoast as predators and rapacious burglars. They stayed away from the coastal settlers whose hunting dogs they greatly feared and avoided. It is said that their body-odor was similar to that of the wild hogs and whenever the dogs sensed their presence by way of their smell the Onglo would be chased or pursued without let-up throughout the jungle. Because of their animal-like mentality and backward way of life, they have ended up in utter extinction.
Another disturbing factor that bothered the later peaceful life of the settlers was the serious threat posed by the occasional appearance of Moro Vintas (Pangko). The Moros, at the time, mistook the sea separating Samar and Leyte to be a great river basin suited for their marauding expeditions, on the pretext of selling or bartering their wares (tan-bark and fancy jewelries), but in reality, they meant to plunder the coastal villages, kidnapped able-bodied men and women to be sold or bartered among the cannibals (Tidong) in the island of New Guinea or North Borneo.
As a precautionary measure, it was Etifania, wife of Juan Guingot, who initiated the construction of a stone-tower off Rawis, seat of the settlement, to protect the people from the plundering Moros. With the assistance of the early Spaniards, the work was led and supervised by Julian Gadicho, later taken up and completed by Carlos, Julian’s son. When the construction was completed, it was the simple policy in the settlement to sound the alarm the moment More Vintas were sighted off the coast, thereby all women and children would gather inside the tower while the men being armed with bow and arrow, bolos and spears, would remain on top and around the tower ready to defend their families happen what may. As a result, never was there any effective attempt of attack by the Moros until the passage of time rendered the tower in ruin.
However, long before the tower was in existence, an attempt at landing was ventured by four or five Vintas (Pangko) which, one early morning’s sunrise, dropped anchor and hastily sailed away upon seeing the shoreline of Lawa-an occupied by scores, if not hundreds of warriors in staggard formation seemingly ready and poised for battle. In reality, these would-be warriors were merely banana trunks left standing on the sand, dressed like warriors, holding bolos, spears or bow and arrow. This simple decoy was a deception to make the Moros believe that the place was heavily defended. As usual, the scheme was attributed to Etifania’s ingenuity - that genius of a woman in ancient military strategy, the centerpiece and rallying figure of the booming settlement. This skillful feminine endowment was to be inherited by her grandson, Carlos, in his coming manhood.
Naturally enough, marriages and intermarriages became common within the settlement, perhaps even among distant relatives, as can be gleamed from most bonafide natives in Lawa-an this day whose family names begin with the letter “G”. Perhaps it was due to inadvertent errors or corruption in the assignment or distribution of family-names or simply coincidental on the part of the Spanish friars performing the baptism of newly born babies at the time, the real truth is quite difficult to account.
Indeed, it is uniquely a wonder nowadays that many present-day residents are a conglomeration of family names beginning with “G”, such Gadicho, Gabornes, Gavan, Gayda, Gamalo, Gabrillo, Gacita, Gacillos, Guiño, Gapul, Gacho, Gade, Gacus, Garrego, Gagaboan, etc.