The legend of Olongapo

Posted 7 years ago

Legends and folk tales abound in most towns in the Philippines and Olongapo is no different. There are a number of stories of how the city got its name.

According to one version, there lived in these parts a long, long time ago, an old rich man. Olongapo was described as a vast rice field back then and this old man was said to have owned every square inch of that land. Nevertheless, he was gentle and generous and was respected and loved by all.

Olongapo City’s eponymous Ulo ng Apo Intersection

One day, the people found out that the old man was missing, which was a bit odd since it was a habit of him to be up and around especially during the harvest season. After three days without any trace of the old man, the people around the village grew more apprehensive and the his fate became the talk of the town. His disappearance remained unexplained, but the greater mystery was the appearance of his body without a head; the old man’s head was never found.

From then on, residents of the village referred to the place as Hulo na Apo, which in Tagalog means old man’s head.

Another version maintains that Olongapo is but a bastardized pronunciation by the Spaniards of the Tagalog phrase: Hulo na Apo. The story goes that a Spanish officer asked a native for the name of the place and the native, apparently misunderstanding the Spaniard, replied: “Hulo, na Apo,” which meant, “There is nothing beyond, Sir,” referring to the fact that Olongapo was the edge of the province’s peninsula.

Other people, on the other hand, tend to believe that Olongapo means Hulo na Apo or the chief’s home. They insist that in ancient times, Olongapo was the home of a powerful tribal chieftain.

The most popularly accepted version of these folk tales, however, says that there was once a tribe whose people were disunited. A wise old man seeing the evils that dissension has sown among his people, stepped forward and united the tribe under his leadership. A group of miscreants did not appreciate the old man’s noble action and disliked the idea of the tribe having a single competent leader.

One day, the wise old man just disappeared. After a long and exhaustive search, the old man’s body was found but with the head missing. The natives attempted to locate the severed head of their leader but were ultimately unsuccessfully.

A boy in the village, however refused to give up and made a vow to not stop searching until he could find the old man’s head.

Then one day, the boy finally found the old man’s head resting on the tip of a bamboo pole. The miscreants apparently wanted to humiliate the wise old man and his legacy so that discord would again prevail among the natives. Upon seeing the head, the boy ran back to the village shouting, “Ulo ng Apo!” “Ulo ng Apo!”

The phrase somehow stuck and the place became known as it is called today – Olongapo.

And thankfully, according to the legend, the old man’s head instead became a symbol of the unity for the villagers, much to the dismay of the miscraeant.

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