The name Samal was derived from the word Sama, a tribal group found in the island. People used the word Samal because of the Visayans who miscalled the word Sama. The first Datu in the island was Datu Taganiyug, a native of Peñaplata, Samal. In the past, the people of Samal name a place about what was the said place known for. For example, the name Peñaplata was derived from the word “piña” or pineapple because of the abundance of pineapple in the area. This, however, is folk etymology as peñaplata literally means “rock of silver” in Spanish. Tagpopongan is the first barangay in Samal which name was from the word “tagpo” or meet. It was called so because in the past, this place is chose by the datus as their meeting place. The word Samal was also known before because it was commonly used as surname by datus. Abu is the national costume of Samal long time ago. The first business transaction in the island was during the Chinese era. Spanish influence was also felt in the island.
The Pacific War, which happened during World War II, also struck the island. Japanese fighter planes bombed Samal. Japanese occupied the island and forced the people to work for four years until they were expelled by the Allied forces. After the war, infrastructure was built, like schools, churches and stores in the area.
The time came in July 8, 1948, when the entire island itself becomes part of the newly created municipality of Samal; it was the official founding of the municipality. Five years later in 1953, the municipality of Babak was created from Samal, marking the political division of the island between the two municipalities. Now came the political division of the island between the three municipalities, when the municipality of Kaputian was created from the island in the year 1966. In this period, the living qualities between these three municipalities became low and extremely rural.
In 1969, a proposal to create the sub-province of Samal was created by Republic Act No. 5999 and covered the area of the present-day city. The act was enacted without President Ferdinand Marcos’ approval. However, the sub-province was never inaugurated.
The city was created through Republic Act No. 8471 in January 30, 1998. This organic act paved the way for the dissolution and merger of the three former-municipalities of Samal, Babak, and Kaputian into one local government unit, now officially named as the Island Garden City of Samal.
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