Leyte is one of the Philippines’ most historic provinces as it has witnessed many significant events that formed the history of the country. Being the site not only of a major rebellion against the Spaniards, Leyte is also the famous landing site of the US forces during World War II led by General Douglas MacArthur.
Leyte is passed through by many low mountain ranges similar to Samar and Visayan Islands. A rugged and impassable ridge runs from the northwestern section to the southeastern extremities. Many extinct volcanoes are also found in this province, the most important of which is Mahagnao.
Leyte is bounded on the north by Carigara Bay, San Juanico Strait and Leyte Gulf on the east, the Visayan Sea and Ormoc Sea on the west, and Southern Leyte on the south. The capital city is Tacloban which has the the most important seaport on the eastern coast while Ormoc City is the primary outlet on the western coast.
Leyte is home to the following interesting tourist destinations:
- The San Juanico Bridge. Tagged as the longest bridge in the country, the San Juanico Bridge allows tourists who pass by the bridge to see marine species well preserved and taken care of the provincial government. A breathtaking sight of the waters of San Juanico Strait is enough to make this land the top 5 tourist spots in Leyte.
- The General Douglas MacArthur Landing Memorial. This is situated at Red Beach in Palo. The memorial features statues depicting the historical and victorious return of the American Liberation Forces led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, which happened in 1944. These statues are visible from a distance as they are more than 10 feet in height.
- The Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum. This museum displays the most important artifacts and relics associated with the culture, heritage, and history of the province. Several structures and images depicting local myths like “Malakas and Maganda” are built within the premises of the museum.
- Our Lady of Assumption Church. This church is visited yearly by thousands of devotees from the province. The church’s historical and architectural value make it an attractive tourist spot in the province.
- Sun ok Fish Sanctuary. This is a well-maintained fish haven where tourists can find various types of coral reefs and exotic marine life. A visit to this sanctuary may be followed by rock climbing in the nearby rocky hill.
- The Yamashita Lines. This follows a 50 kilometer stretch along the national highway from Puntapina of the Capoocan-Kananga boundary in the north, through the heart of Ormoc, passing through the mountain in the east and down to the Palanas River of Albuera in the south. It is also known as the Ormoc Corridor during the Japanese invasion.
- Lake Kasudsuran. This is a 5 hectare lake within the forest of Barangay Gaas, Mt. Janagdan of Baybay, Leyte.
- Sogod Bay. This is where big fish sanctuaries are found making it an excellent dive site and other water sports activities.
- The Mahagnao National Park. This park has beautiful and unexploited virgin forests where one can see amazing craters, hot spring, multi-colored mud and rocks, and a variety of orchids and beautiful flora species.
- Red Beach. This is the famous landing site of the US Allied Forces during World War II. It is located along the shores of Palo.
- Agua Dulce Artesian Well is located in Ormoc City. There were six flowing wells constructed in the city during the Spanish time. Agua Dulce and three other wells are still existing and are the major sources of Ormocanos drinking water.
We bought a one-way ticket to Tacloban during APEC week, with no plans whatsoever on what to do, where to go and when to go home—while slightly distressing at times when we wondered if we’d make it in one piece back to comfortable lodgings, the sense of freedom was refreshing. We just took with us our backpacks with a hodgepodge of things in it and decided to embark on an adventure—this lack of planning, while fun, can be a little disorienting for those not used to backpacking or spontaneous travel, but if you’re a newbie who’s ready to spread your wings and have some unplanned fun, the rest of this should sound like a good idea to you!
Before you get packing and hop aboard a plane, though, here are a few reminders for the excited traveler in Leyte and Samar.
- Transportation is difficult—and you will be spending a lot of money to move around, so get your change ready…
Although it’s easy enough to locate trusted van services to get you around, these are all subject to overcrowding—they definitely try to fit in as many passengers as they can for the trip. If they can place a stool in the spaces between chairs to maximize the number of people that can fit inside the vehicle, so expect movement to be hampered by the increased weight of the people (and their cargo, phew) inside the van. Additionally, because we wanted to see a lot of places, and they didn’t really have the train or taxi systems Manila kids were used to, you’re bound to spend a substantial chunk of your budget on transportation. We rode the bus, the van, the tricycle, the raft, the habal-habal, even a banca. You name it, we rode it!
- …and because of this, expect tricycle drivers and boatmen to jack up the prices if you’re not a local or traveling with one.
Despite the fact that we were Filipinos just like them, our gigantic hiking backpacks were a dead giveaway that we were tourists from another part of the country. We found ourselves constantly being charged way more than the standard price. As the vans had standard charges, we avoided being stiffed there, but for the motorcycle and the habal -habal, the prices were ridiculous. A reason why we weren’t consistently falling prey to overcharging was because we asked some of the locals how much was charged by each form of transportation—don’t be shy, people are very friendly there and responded to our questions readily. Some of my friends who went traveling in the area later also took the time to ask the DOT about the proper prices for transportation—incredibly useful information.
Not everyone tried to take advantage of us. Some of the van drivers were actually kind enough to first go down and get us a tricycle, then haggle the fare down for us before we showed ourselves. The initial prices were unbelievable—the starting one for tourists would be something like P100 per head on a tricycle, then when they’d be done haggling it would actually just be P30 per head!
- We had slight difficulty in communicating with them
We found that speaking in Ilonggo was more understandable to the locals, so we ditched Tagalog at some points to make ourselves understood. Expect to have some trouble conveying what you need done or where you need to go—the world does not revolve around Metro Manila, guys! Nevertheless, people are quite accommodating here and very patient with trying to translate what you mean, so don’t give up!
- Expect to pay for everything in cash.
Very few places accept credit cards—and there aren’t too many ATMs in the areas we visited as well, so it’s best to have plenty of ready cash on hand, especially if you’re not going to spend a lot of time in the city centers.
The locals were surprised to see us touring during APEC week, to be honest. We were often asked why we were there in the first place, and we actually had plenty of reasons for being there. Region 8 is absolutely beautiful! Here are some awesome destinations worth visiting in the region.
1.) Sambawan Island
This lovely white island has many coral gardens which are perfect for those who love to dive or go snorkeling. Definitely a must-see!
Read more : Sambawan Island – The Little Island That Could
2.) Ulan Ulan Falls
Only one of three falls located in Biliran, the crystal-clear falls are perfect for swimming.
Read more on Ulan Ulan Falls
3.) Kalanggaman Island
A beautiful, isolate sandbar, this island is perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Read more about Ulan Ulan Falls
4.) Ulot River
The torpedo boat ride that we took here was quite the wild adrenaline rush. If you’re into more adventurous activities, give it a go!
5.) Biri Island
This was definitely the best attraction we got to see while traveling. The rock formations are absolutely majestic—more details below!
6.) Sohoton Cave
This cove, which hosts a beautiful lagoon, feels like a fairytale environment thanks to the haunting limestone formations.
While there, there were a few attractions that we were told about, but missed because of our travel and time constraints. We definitely don’t want to miss out on these next time, though!
It’s a pity we missed out on the largest cave system in the Philippines—the large cave chambers are said to be as huge as stadiums. This is certainly going on the bucket list.
Also located in Calbiga, these picturesque falls found in Samar is known as the Small Niagara Falls of the Philippines for a reason—the roar of the rushing water is allegedly as intense as thunder!
The multiple streams of water going through the many rock formations of these falls makes this quite the sight even for the most jaded eyes of an experienced traveler.