TALALORA, Samar-For many Filipinos, the name of this place is synonymous to sorcery, but when you explore this island town, there are more stories waiting to unfold.
Known in the past as haven of faith healers, nobody would even dare to offend the locals here for fear of being hexed as a form of vengeance.
In the Philippines, there are only three places stereotyped as home of this folk magic – Siquijor, Sorsogon and Talalora.
Perhaps somebody heard of the many stories about this town. Maybe they were frightened, freaked out, decided not go visit the place, swore to not come again.
There are many stories about Talalora. Some of them are true, some of them are not, and some of them are half-true. Some stories are true because it really happened, it’s part of the town’s history.
Some are not true because other people fabricated these stories to make it appear that Talalora is something to be scared of and is not worth visiting for.
Talalora, a farming and fishing town in Samar is an interesting place, filled with things that someone will find amazing and unique.
Talalora is a former village of Villareal, Samar. Some said it was hard to locate since vines called ‘Talolora’ were all over the place.
“When I was assigned here, my father and I had difficulties finding this place. We had to ask many people if they knew where this could be located. It was like Talalora never existed!,” recalled an old school teacher who requested anonymity.
After the liberation period, it was created as an independent town on June 22, 1947. During World War II, the Japanese set up their camps in the place. They made the school ground their barracks.
Life was hard during the war, but Fulgencia Macato, 86, said that although they feared the Japanese and Americans, they have not experienced starvation.
“It was like everything was abundant. Though we were relocated to far-flung areas, it seemed like we had plenty of food,” she said.
Back in a day, the entire island community was not divided into villages. When it was declared as an independent town, mayors were elected.
The wharf destroyed during the war and the previous typhoons was reconstructed. Infrastructures were put up and the people felt change was already just outside their doorstep.
This town had undergone different series of changes since then.
You have probably read in some online articles such as in Wikipedia that Talalora is known to be one of the centers of witchcraft and wizardry, just like Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. It was true then.
There were those who really knew how to cast voodoo spells against someone. Many knew how to perform rituals and incantations.
Had someone been their customer, just tell them what they would do, what someone’s wish to happen to their enemy and then the one who performs the spell would do the rest.
They also had special kinds of plants, which give someone the rashes and marks nobody wanted to have. These plants were known as Harupay.
Witchcraft was commonly known in the place as barang palakad. Those who performed it were called himangnoan. Learning how to do sorcery was mandatory if someone came from a family who were identified as witches.
It was considered as something worthy to be inherited from their parents, had they been matriarchs and patriarchs of the witches’ clan.
The Hobrado and Jomaya families were the well-known witches then. If they hate someone, they point their fingers at him and something was believed to have happened. Sometimes, they disappear. Sometimes, they transform into another being.
Macato said all these happened before the liberation period. People weren’t educated until after the Japanese regime. When the country was free from the foreign oppression, everything seemed “formal” and “normal.” The generation who followed have gone to school and were educated that’s why the number of sorcerers “dwindled.”
“Everything was in control and in order after the liberation. People changed. Talalora even changed, it became a town. Everybody was encouraged to go to school,” she recalled.
When educational schemes were introduced and almost everybody was then sent to school, victims of any sort of witchcrafts decreased. The lady even remarked how the people of Talalora today differ from their ancestors who were labeled as “witches and wizards.”
MORE ABOUT TALALORA
Fishing and farming remained as the town’s primary livelihood. The Isanan family made baskets out of rattan vines called kanastro. They were sold in Tacloban and for a while, Talalora was recognized because of these products.
As a village of Villareal, priests had to go there to deliver sermons especially during the town fiesta every 25th of July. It was former and late mayor Benito Gerardo who put up several establishments in the town.
He reconstructed and rehabilitated the town hall, which then looked like a dove’s cage, the bleachers, and the telecommunications office, among others.
There were no villages such as Village 1 and 2 then. Malaguining village was a part of Sta. Rita, Samar. The Independencia and Mallorga villages were also under Villareal. Now, as a municipality, Talalora is composed of 11 villages.
Samar Island is known to be rich in history and culture. The same is true to Talalora. The elderly here still knows how to perform special kinds of healings or more popularly known in the province as hilot, takdom, tayhop, and loon. These are used by healers to treat several kinds of illness.
Hilot or massage is used to soothe and repair broken and displaced muscles and joints. Takdom, loon, and tayhop (no equivalent English word) are believed to cure anxiety, body pains, depression, and stress.
These are commonly needed by those who just had a traumatic experience and pregnant women and those who are said to be bewitched.
Healers performing these two whispers in the head of the patient, chants rituals, and gives off smoke made from incense, herbal plants, and other things believed to contribute to the desired effect.
While these are still practiced nowadays, the rural health unit opposes the idea of it since they believe these will never be applied in science.
Rhey Ian Buluag, the town’s health officer said that these are outdated forms of healing and that they do not guarantee that a patient will be totally cured.
“As a generation that values technology, this is not applicable in today’s world anymore. Maybe it was then but other forms of medication are now available, being developed, and being studied. Maybe it’s time that we, as citizens of this town, should embrace that,” he said.
True as it may seem today, but there are still some who prefer to be treated by the healers than the doctors.
For Lealyn Ranit, 40, these alternative methods of treatment are sometimes the solution to the ailments endured by the body. To her, there is no harm in trying these things.
WHEN IN TALALORA
Talking about the town this long may make you more curious of where to go when in here. For a total stranger, the place may not be that appealing to your eyes, but wait ‘till you see what lies behind, so to speak.
Everyone is invited to visit the glorious white sands of Bacsal Beach, Daram, Samar, fronting or facing Talalora. With the newly-built cottages in there, one would definitely feel the hot weather under the glaring sun.
Your visit would not be complete if you do not visit the Mini Park located at the top of the hill where the army and the militiamen set their barracks.
This mini park lets visitors see how close Daram is to Talalora. It’s just a swim away. This place also provides you a beautiful view of the town proper especially at night.
Mouth-watering dried octopus and squid give someone a hearty meal. Seafoods such as crabs, lobsters, shrimps, seashells are also profuse in the place.
But of course, delicacies like rice cakes, moron, cassava cakes, and sweet potato chips are also served once you crave for them. Talalora has plenty of root crops which are used as ingredients in making them [delicacies].
If you’re looking forward to more exciting activities, the Uway festival which is usually staged during the town fiesta, can take you there. This depicts the history of the town and the citizens’ strong devotion and faith to its patron saint, James the Greater, one of Jesus’ disciples.
MUCH TO EXPECT
Talalora may be a peculiar town to some, but it shows promising growth as of today. The local government is doing their best trying to improve the things that need improvement. Yes, it had projected a negative image once but today’s picture is not the same as before.
The town has changed a lot and will continue doing so for a couple of years. There’s much to expect from it now, now that it has been rediscovered and the untold stories were unfold.
By Kimberly Mae I. Ortego/PNA