A glimpse into the family’s history and roots in Samar

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
A glimpse into the familyâs history and roots in Samar
This columnist’s son Paolo D. Planas (center) with Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza with wife Gigi and son Nico and his girlfriend Louise in Biri island, famous for their rock formations.

When people ask me what my province is or where the Dazas are from, I proudly reply that we are from Samar and that I consider myself “Waray.” Much of this Waray pride is due to my paternal great-grandfather, Eugenio S. Daza, the father of my grandfather, the late Gabriel Daza.

During the Philippine-American war in 1899, Eugenio Daza was appointed as commander of the revolutionary forces in Eastern Samar. The Battle of Balangiga, which my great grandfather planned in 1901, is referred to as one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the American army in the Philippines and earned him the title “Brain of the Balangiga massacre.” It is the historic event where more than 40 American soldiers were killed in a surprise attack by several hundred local folk in the town of Balangiga on Eastern Samar Island.

Because of the attack, the Americans took the three bells from the town church as war trophies. I guess this marks the first time a Daza made it to the history books and is a glimpse into our family’s Samar roots.

On the other hand, my paternal grandmother Angeles Rosales Ortega hails from Calbayog, Western Samar. Though my grandparents both came from Samar, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit any of their hometowns.

I remember how my lola, who passed away in the ‘90s, used to say that Samar was such a poor province and that typhoons always visited the island. And even if I don’t speak the dialect, like I’ve said, I do consider myself Waray.

Stunning rock formation on Biri Island, Northern Samar.

My love for Samar must have rubbed off on my 16-year-old son Paolo D. Planas, who recently became curious about our family history and asked if he could visit Samar. Since I’ve never been there myself, I asked my cousin, Rep. Paul Daza of the first district of Northern Samar, if he could host Paolo for a few days in his hometown of Catarman. Paul immediately agreed and arrangements were made for Paolo to visit Samar earlier this month.

Paolo described the capital as a “laid-back but charming” town. He even named a few quaint cafés that he feels Manileños will enjoy: Verena’s, Beehive and Café Eusebio’s became his favorites after his cousin Nico and Nico’s girlfriend Louise took him there.

He also visited the baywalk located along the coastal area of Catarman, which has a night bazaar with lots of food stalls and is the hippest place to go to unwind. Paolo said that this was a project of his Tito Paul. Paolo also visited the town of Bobon, where he witnessed his first kuratsa, a local dance native to the Samar provinces, which is essentially a courtship dance wherein several pairs of dancers raise funds for the local church. Even if the dance event went past midnight, the spirit of the exuberant Nortehanons was still vibrating until the wee hours!

Paul also told Paolo that Biri Island was a “must see,” and it did not disappoint. Paolo was in awe when he saw the island’s famous rock formations. To him, its majestic and natural wonder was unlike anything he had ever seen before. It was also quite a nice place to take a long walk while taking in the gorgeous scenery.

According to the locals, the best time to visit the island is during sunrise or sunset when the temperature has cooled down a bit.

View from MikoMiko Resort in Mondragon, also in Northern Samar.

For Paolo, the highlight of his trip was when he accompanied his Tita Gigi (Paul’s wife) to a wedding reception at MikoMiko resort in the municipality of Mondragon. MikoMiko is a beach resort whose scenic views of the sea and villas reminded Paolo of the villas he saw in Phuket. Paolo isn’t sure if it was the love of the newlyweds filling the air or the fireworks display that capped the wedding celebration that made MikoMiko so captivating, but there was indeed something that made the place extremely special for him.

Through the years, Northern Samar has developed a negative reputation because of its insurgencies, poverty and frequent typhoons. However, things are changing for the better, thanks to efforts of the local government to develop tourism and local livelihood programs. There are now two flights a week from Manila to both Calbayog and Catarman, which are just around an hour away via plane ride. In addition, each province has several clean and inexpensive decent boutique hotels to choose from. Food specialties include their famous pili nuts, various kakanins, dried fish and so much more!

After Paolo fell in love with Catarman and raved about his brief visit, I am definitely accepting Paul’s invitation to visit his home province in the very near future. That way, I’ll be able to declare that I am a Waray with even more conviction the next time I’m asked where my family is from.



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