Tacloban was known as Kankabatok, a name alluded to the first inhabitants of the place – Kabatok. They established their dwelling in the vicinity of the present day Sto. Niño church. Others who came later were Gumoda, Haraging and Huraw who erected their own settlements in nearby sites. Huraw’s domain is the hill where the city hall now sits. As a whole the combined settlements acquired the name Kankabatok, meaning Kabatok’s property.
By the end of the 16th century, Kankabatok was under the political administration of Palo and part of the parish of Basey, Samar. In 1770, the Augustinian Mission discovered the place, they were superceded by the Franciscans in 1813. During this period, Kankabatok was changed to Tacloban. The change of the name came about in this manner: Kankabatok was a favorite haunt of fishermen. They would use a bamboo contraption called "Taklub" to catch crabs, shrimps or fish. When asked where they were going, the fishermen would answer, "(to) Tarakluban," which meant the place where they used the devise to catch these marine resources. Eventually, the name Tarakluban or Tacloban took prominence.
It is not definitely known when Tacloban became a municipality because records supporting this fact were destroyed during a typhoon. It is commonly believed that Tacloban was officially proclaimed a municipality in 1770. In 1768, Leyte and Samar were separated into two provinces, each constituting as a politico-military province. Due to its strategic location, Tacloban became a vital trading point between the two provinces.
The capital of Leyte was transferred from one town to another with Tacloban as the last on February 26, 1830. The decision to make Tacloban the capital was based on the following reasons: 1) Ideal location of the port and 2) Well-sheltered and adequate facilities. On June 12, 1952, Tacloban was proclaimed a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 760.
Tacloban is a "waray" speaking city. The dialect is officially called "Leyte-Samarnon." A decade before the end of the Spanish sovereignty, the place was dominantly a typical colonial community. Most of its residents were either pure Iberian families or the new generations of Spanish-Filipino blood. Today’s population consists of a healthy mix of Spanish and Chinese mestizos, foreign expatriates and the native Leyteños.
The arrival of Colonel Murray in 1901 made him the first military governor of Leyte. His first official act was the opening of Tacloban port to world commerce. Before World War II, Tacloban was the commercial, education, social and cultural center of the Province of Leyte. Copra and abaca were exported in large quantities. The leading institutions were: The Leyte Normal School, Leyte High School, Leyte Trade School, Holy Infant Academy and the Tacloban Catholic Institute.
On May 25, 1942, The Japanese Forces landed in Tacloban, they fortified the city, improved its airfield, a since San Pedro Bay was ideal for larger vessels, the Japanese Imperial Naval Forces made Tacloban a port of call and entry. The Japanese started the three years occupation of Leyte. That event was considered the darkest in the history of Tacloban and the entire nation, because men and women and even the ages were tortured. During this time, many guerilla groups sprouted in Leyte the most notable was the group of Colonel Ruperto Kangleon.
Leyte was the first to be liberated by the Americans. General Douglas MacArthur’s assault troops landed in the Tacloban and Palo Beaches (White Beach and Red Beach, respectively) and in the neighboring town of Dulag (Blue Beach) on October 20, 1944. These landings signaled the eventual victory of the American Forces and the fulfillment of MacArthur’s famous promise on "I Shall Return."
Three days later on the 23rd, at a ceremony infront of the Capitol Building in Tacloban, Leyte, General MacArthur accompanied by President Sergio Osmeña made Tacloban the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government and subsequently the temporary capital of the Philippines until the final lliberation of the country. The provincial government of Leyte and the municipal government of Tacloban were re-established.
Atty. Paulo Jaro was the liberation Mayor of Tacloban. The first mayor of this capital upon inauguration of the Philippine Republic was Mr. Epifanio Aguirre.
On January 8, 1960, General Douglas MacArthur made his "sentimental " journey to Leyte.
Never to be forgotten by a pure Taclobanon, are these landmarks: the Joseph Price Mansion where General MacArthur setup headquarters in 1944 and the Redoña Residence. These two structures in Tacloban played a vital role during the liberation of the Philippines.
Tacloban has grown by leaps and bounds to become the premier city in Eastern Visayas and the gateway to the region.
Tacloban’s upcoming Eastern Visayas Regional Agro-Industrial Growth Center located at Barangays New Kawayan, Old Kawayan, Sto. Niño and Tagpuro will host light and medium manufacturing industries, mostly joint ventures with Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese capitalists. The industries that will rise on this estate are relatively labor-intensive and are projected to directly employing more than 5,000 factory workers. Additional jobs are expected by the ancillary service industries. Tacloban has generous natural endowments, existing market potentials and readily available indigenous raw materials. It has adequate support system of financial resources, aggressive City Government policies, stable and ample supply of water and power, efficient communication and transportation systems, improved infrastructure facilities, and a liberal package of investment incentives. All these will make Tacloban City an attractive venue for local and foreign investors and definitely transforming Tacloban’s dream, as a major tourist destination in the Philippines, into reality!