I’ve been getting questions from Americans who are following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and its aftermath, both in the regular news and here, and are interested in and curious about Rena’s hometown of Lawaan (thus “our” hometown), but confused by references to both Lawaan and Guinob-an as her home town — plus other references to places like Bolusao, Betaog, and Maslog in connection with Lawaan. I can’t imagine why this would be at all confusing…….just kidding. So, herewith: “Lawaan 101” for interested non-Filipinos. (And the “comments” section is there for any corrections that might be necessary from Pinoy brethren if I botch any of this. I won’t be pikun about it if you correct me, and I realize the potential for hilarity and mayhem when one foreigner tries to explain all of this to other foreigners.)
Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao
The Philippines is about 1,300 miles from top to bottom and consists of 7,200 islands, more or less, depending on whether it’s high tide or low tide (that’s a joke, sort of), and these are broken into three main groups — Luzon, the big island in the North that includes Manila; Visayas which includes a whole bunch of islands in the middle but most notably Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Panay, and Negros (I’m sure I have offended someone with the ones I didn’t mention by name but there are too many….); and Mindanao, the big island in the south.
First of all, we are talking about the island of Samar and the province of Eastern Samar. Here s a map of the track of Typhoon Haiyan, showing Samar Island. The island of Samar is roughly 200 miles from north to south, and fifty miles across (these are rough figures for general orientation).
Now, zooming in, here is a closer view of Samar and Leyte (the rest of these will be Google Maps). On this map, Lawaan is marked — and you can also see Guiuan (where the storm made landfall) and Tacloban, the Capital of Leyte which has been the main focus of the news coverage. (You can click on any of these maps and enlarge them.)
Lawaan is a “municipality”. In the Philippines there are “Cities”, “Municipalities”, and “Barangays”. A municipality like Lawaan is a bit like a town and county combined. It consists of the Town Proper (Filipinos refer to this as the “poblacion” — an old Spanish term) and outlying villages within a defined geographic area (like a county).
The Municipality of Lawaan is divided into 16 “barangays”, which used to be called “barrios’ (Spanish again), and which are the smallest government unit. Here are the sixteen barangays of the Municipality of Lawaan, along with population figures for each, taken from the 2007 Census — the most recent. You will note that the “Poblacion” barangays in the town proper are designated by a number (like a precinct?) while the coastal barangays each have a name. So here is a closer map showing Lawaan and the named Barangays (the other ones are in the city proper).
Our barangay is Guinob-an and Rena’s cousin Rose Sagales Neely is from Bolusao. You can see both of them on the map…
Barangay Poblacion 1 (1,165)
Barangay Poblacion 2 (120)
Barangay Poblacion 3 (159)
Barangay Poblacion 4 (182)
Barangay Poblacion 5 (271)
Barangay Poblacion 6 (232)
Barangay Poblacion 7 (352)
Barangay Poblacion 8 (1,155)
Barangay Poblacion 9 (543)
Barangay Poblacion 10 (916)
San Isidro (164)
So …. for those who’ve been asking about Lawaan and where it is situated — hope that helps. There is a lot more to say about Rena’s hometown — we’ll do that separately. But for now, I’ll end with this …. Lawaan has it’s own sweetly beautiful theme song ….. If ever there was a song that captures a sense of pure, innocent, unaffected, unadorned beauty and the yearning for home — this is it. The song is presented by BLUE — Binibining Lawaan Unified Enthusiasts.
Words by Norberto Gacho and Neil Tenefrancia
Music by Neil Tenefrancia
Instrumentation by JR Elacion
Performed by Liezl Elipe
And here are pictures of Guinob-an taken yesterday, after the storm. The man in the blue tank top is Rena’s brother Sunny, who was unaware his picture was being taken (we got this from Facebook, from someone who took pictures passing through).
And here is a beautiful picture of Bolusao from Rose Sagales Neely showing how it used to be — and hopefully will be again one day (or better).