Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Esperanza origins

Municipal Hall of Esperanza (File photo)

TO MOVE forward to progress, knowing the past and learning its significance is an important aspect.

A growing municipality in Agusan del Sur, Esperanza looks back to its roots and honor the people that made its place what it is today.

The origins

Before the Spanish colonization, Esperanza was known as Wawa-Ojot - a native name of a place situated along the Wawa and Ojot Rivers.

The name Wawa-Ojot is derived from the traditional custom of the natives wherein relatives and friends coming from neighboring communities gathered for merry-making activities during harvest time. The settlements along the rivers were occupied by the Manobo tribe, the hills by the Higaonons and the thickly forested mountain by the Banwa-ons. The Higaonons and the Banwa-ons were nomadic tribes, while the Manobos settled themselves in huts built out of indigenous materials along the rivers.


In 1521, the Spanish colonizers established a town center and built a Church to attract the natives to move in and embrace Christianity.

Christianization undertakings were steered by a Jesuit - Reverend Father Saturnino Urios. The church became not only a place of worship but also the meeting place to discuss matters on religion, taxation, voluntary labor, and loyalty to the King of Spain. It was during this time that Esperanza got its name.


Natives, led by Datu Ligcuban, defied the Spanish authority and refused to be baptized into Christianity. He utterly told the emissary of Father Urios to bring him first his head before he will accept baptism. He led several attacks on the soldiers patrolling the town.

Father Urios still convinced Datu Ligcuban to embrace Christian religion, but failed which made him secretly hire Datu Sag-od of the neighboring tribe to kill Datu Ligcuban and bring his head to Butuan.

Political Subdivisions

During the American occupation and up to the middle part of the Philippine Republic, Agusan del Sur was divided into political subdivisions with the rivers as the natural boundaries. One of the political subdivisions was the Wawa-Ojot which comprised of the Municipal Districts of Las Nieves, Esperanza, Concordia, Maygatasan, Maasin, Nuevo Trabajo, Remedios, Guadalupe, Bakingking, Baylo, Bunaguit, San Luis, Sta. Ines, Verdu, and Milagros with the seat of government in Esperanza. These subdivisions were administered by a Deputy Governor and the Municipal District by Municipal District Mayors.

It is interesting to note that within the period of American occupation, Esperanza contributed to the world’s famous museum collections - Golden Tara, a Javanese icon which excreted gold dust. It was found by a native named “Belay.” The discovery of the golden image reached the attention of the Military Deputy Governor of Butuan Governor Blas Baclayon who bought it from the native. The same was then displayed in a Carnival exposition in Butuan which was bought by another prominent man from Cebu and displayed it in a Carnival in Manila. Finally, an American tourist bought the image which eventually ended being displayed at Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, USA.

Another important event that is memorable to the municipality was the installation of the Fil-US Guerilla Camp under the command of General Wendell Fertig. It was in Esperanza that the emergency currency notes were printed and circulated in Eastern Mindanao and Visayas during World War II.

Municipality of Esperanza

After World War II, the settlers from the different regions of Luzon, Visayass and Mindanao kept on coming to Esperanza. The influx of settlers reached to its height during the 1950’s when logging industry boomed. Most lowlands were occupied by settlers and reservations were accorded to the cultural minorities.

By virtue of Executive Order No. 611 signed and approved by President Elpedio Quirino on September 11, 1953 upon strong representation of then Congressman Marcos Calo, the Municipal Districts were organized into a Municipality of Esperanza.

It began to exist as a regular Municipality on September 27, 1953 upon installation to office of the first municipal officials namely: Mayor Alfredo Patanao, Vice Mayor Antero Romao, and Councilors Marcelo Rara, Bonifacio Callanta, Francisco Norteg, and Severino Castro.

The Eastern and Northeastern portion of the Municipality of Esperanza consisting of Barangays Bayugan, Maygatasan, Nuevo Sibagat Mahayahay, Verdu, Mabuntay, Salvacion, Caridad, Sagmone, Calaitan, Sinadjap, Malindao, Noli and Fili were separated from the Municipality by virtue of Executive Order No. 440 approved on August 6, 1961 by President Carlos Garcia. (With PR)


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