The historical development of Catarman, started from its inception as a tribe before the coming of the Spaniards until this date where it looms to recent technologies and even more progressive than anyone could have ever expected.
Before the coming of the Spaniards, Catarman was called the Ibabao tribe of the extensive Maguindanao Kingdom, which extended from Mindando to Bicol (Oton Tribe). The Ibabao extended from the southernmost tip of Samar Island to the territories close to Bobon in the northernmost part of the island. The Spanish conquistadores freely applied the name Ibabao to the island when it established its Civil Government. The similarities in the dialects of these areas both in words and in tones traced to their single root as the people
Catarman derived its name from the Turkish words “attar”, which means oil of the roses and “inman” or “aman” synonymous for Muslim holy men. It was one of the thirteenth pueblos established by the Spaniards in the province of Ibabao (Samar), and was one of the settlementson the northern side of the island. The pueblo was named “Calatman” and was recorded as one among the pueblos in the “Islas de Pentados” referred to as the island of Samar and Leyte.
In the early years of the settlement of the northern shores of the island of Samar, a small group of related families went looking for a place more or less free from attack of sea marauders or pirates. They came upon a spot where the coral rocks extended far out to sea. They concluded that these coral rocks would deter an immediate landing of pirate for their sea craft could be smashed by the waves against the rocks. They also noted the bamboo grooves which abound close to the shore and would give them materials for building their houses so they decided to settle on the spot. They built their houses from the bamboos and nipa from a nearby swamp and built their homes. The settlement expanded rapidly as other families arrived.
Catarman was once part of the Provincia de Ibabao which extended from what is now Allen down to the municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. The first missionaries belonging to the society of Jesus, brought the Gospel to the people of Catarman in 1649, and then to the rest of the established settlements. For a long time, Catarman had no resident priest. She was under the care of the mission center of Palapag which then covered the area from Biri to Borongan. When she became a visita of Bobon, Fr. Raymundus Claramont, based in Bobon, ministered to Catarman, particularly in 1697.
The strategic location of Catarman and its comparatively better socio-economic activities played an important role in the direction it is taking now. When the province of Samar was divided into three provinces by virtue of R.A. No. 4221, dated June 19, 1965. Catarman was chosen as the seat of the provincial capital. When the province of Northern Samar was established as a separate diocese from Samar and Eastern Samar, again it was chosen as the seat of the diocese.
The yearly August 28-29 fiesta of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Catarman is the ultimate of mini-fiestas celebrated in honor of religious figure protector beginning with the Three Kings after an all-night Year’s Thanksgiving down to the Sto. Nino, Holy week, perpetual Help, the assumption, and all the other minor saints celebration. Fiesta is celebrated in the belief fostered by the Roman Catholics that each town has to have a saint-protector and acts as the bridge between God and man, intercedes for the town’s interest and generally acts as would be a diplomat act to secure the municipal or Bario interest. The fiesta celebration is celebrated with dance. At the dance hall the vivacity of the “curacha” performed with verve and vitality, takes a new significance as one recognize the steps of the “rigodon de honor” in its opening steps, the pandango, pantomina, lubi-lubi, tinikling and the coy oriental fan dance. “curacha” honors the prominent personalities present at the fiesta dance hall.
Today, Catarman is considered as a first class municipality and looms even bigger than anyone could ever have expected, and is heading for cityhood with happy, contented, friendly, hospitable and law-abiding people.