I have always heard good stories about the province of Leyte and its nearby provinces from friends who have lived there or have been there. Monumental and historic structures, islands with pristine beaches and other interesting sights have attracted my curious mind even back then. And I am just happy that I have already set foot in the island and its nearby provinces.
Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) consists of the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar. I thought it was possible to explore five (5) of these provinces in five (5) days but I thought wrong. Even though different means of transportation are available in these places, key destinations for a traveler are relatively far from each other. Or if not, the transportation needed to go from one place to another is not always available.
This is the second part (2nd) of a 5-day, 3-province travel covering Leyte (and a bit of Southern Leyte), Biliran and Eastern Samar. It should be noted that Tacloban, Leyte’s capital, serves as the gateway to other key cities and places in Eastern Visayas. I entered the region via Tacloban and from there I went to Lawaan and Guiuan of Eastern Samar (first part of this travel). After spending overnight in Eastern Samar, I went back to Tacloban to explore the city and spent the night there (second part of travel). The following morning, I (along with two of my friends this time) headed to Biliran. There we explored Sambawan Island as well as the provinces’ waterfalls. After spending the night in Biliran, we went back to Tacloban and spent the remaining time exploring some more before heading back to Manila.
The biggest province in the Eastern Visayas region, Leyte province comprises the northern and central parts of the island of Leyte. Having a total of 6,313.33 sq. km, it is home to about 1.7 million people. Its capital is Tacloban, which serves as the gateway to the region. The Leytenos speak Waray-Waray, though many also speak Cebuano, Tagalog and English.
This province has earned its mark in history when it became the site of the largest naval battle in modern history which took place during World War II. Also, it was the place most affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November of 2013. Thousands were killed and many properties were damaged during that time. Thankfully, the Leyteños are already gaining back their spirit as modifications are already in place as they recover from the said tragedy.
WHAT TO EXPLORE IN LEYTE
MacArthur Memorial Landing Park
One of the most historical places in the country, Leyte is where General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines to start the liberation of the country from the Japanese forces during World War 2. The park is located in a 6.78-hectare plain along the coastline of Barangay Candahug in Palo, Leyte.
The park’s main feature is the seven huge statues planted on a cemented pool depicting MacArthur and his entourage during their historical landing. If you ever wonder who were with him during that time, they were the then Philippine President-in-exile Sergio Osmena, Liutenant General Richard Sutherland, Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo, Major General Courtney Whitney, Sergeant Francisco Salveron and CBS radio correspondent William J. Dunn.
Designed by sculptor Anastacio Caedo, these statues mark the spot where MacArthur fulfilled his promise of returning to the country. A few days after their landing, the largest naval battle in history transpired. The combined forces of America and Australia battled the then weakening Imperial Japanese Navy, and this resulted to thousands of casualties and many warships destroyed on both sides.
Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum
One of the places that surprised me when I visited it in Tacloban, Leyte was the Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum. I was really thinking it had something to do with religious statues, artifacts and such but it turned out that it was a former rest house of the Marcos family. Since 1986, the shrine/museum is already under the requisition of Presidential Commission on Good Government.
The shrine and museum got its name because a religious landmark in honor of the Holy Child (Sto. Niño), the patron of Tacloban, was built in it. It served as a chapel (see the picture) with rooms at the side showcasing various motifs or regions of the country. These rooms contain beds, linens, artifacts and the like inspired by places like Palawan, Ilocos or Bicol or made out of things like shell and abaca.
Aside from these rooms, beautiful paintings and other antiquities can be found in this two-story structure. Gifts from various governments around the world to the late President Marcos and his wife adorn the halls and rooms.
As a former rest house, the shrine/museum still has the rooms occupied by the former presidential family, complete with beddings, furniture and other personal things of the Marcoses. Bongbong Marcos’s room still has his collection of various currencies around the world as well as his grades while growing up.
If you really want to learn about Tacloban and Leyte in general, this place is not to be missed. You have to pay P200 for the entrance fee and an additional P30 if you’re going to use your camera. (This has been waived, though, for me because I went here solo).
Leyte Provincial Capitol
Built from 1917 to 1924, the Leyte Provincial Capitol is a stunning structure that showcases neoclassical architecture. Aside from serving now as the seat of the local government of the province of Leyte, its significance traces back to the Philippine Commonwealth period as it served as a temporary seat of the Philippine Commonwealth government under the presidency of Sergio Osmena.
The structure has undergone restorations in which various parts have been added including bas reliefs. The bas relief depicting first Christian mass is constructed at the left side of the capitol while a bas relief containing the historical landing of MacArthur can be seen at its right side.
San Juanico Bridge
Stretching for 2.162 kilometers, San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge spanning a body of seawater in the country.
Connecting the islands of Samar and Leyte, it is part of the Maharlika Highway (also called Pan-Philippine Highway), which is the longest highway in the Philippines as its network of roads, bridges and sea routes connect the regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
A real beauty in its design, this bridge was constructed by Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines from August 1969 to December 1972 as supervised by the Bureau of Public Highways (DPWH back then). It was inaugurated in 1973.
San Juanico Bridge is also called “Marcos Bridge” as this was one of the monumental projects of the former president during his early years in office. Said to be a gesture of his love for his wife, Imelda Marcos (whose family hailed from Leyte), the megastructure was built with a whopping budget of $21.9M.
Despite its old age, San Juanico Bridge has withstood a lot of typhoons including Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
M/M Eva Jocelyn Shrine
As said earlier, Leyte was one of the severely damaged places during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) on November 2013. Records show that thousands of people were killed because of the typhoon and locals that I have talked to in Tacloban said there were a lot more than what was reported. Aside from the thousands of casualties, many buildings and vehicles were destroyed. One of these vehicles was MV Eva Jocelyn, a cargo ship that was washed out inland, ravaging houses in the coastal area of Barangay Anibong in Tacloban.
The bow of the ship has now been converted and turned into a memorial park.
Boy Scout Monument
Just about a kilometer away from the MacArthur Memorial Landing Park, the Boy Scout Monument can be visited for about 5 to 10 minutes of walking. The monument is said to be where the 12th National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines was held from December 27, 2001 to January 2, 2002.
According to Tourism in the Philippines, the monument is said to depict scouting as a vibrant and dynamic movement as it serves the needs of the Filipino boys in their quest for excellence and better quality of life.
Probably the go-to-place to eat in Tacloban that I always get to hear from friends and bloggers alike is Calle Z. And when I’ve already tried the place, it’s not a surprise anymore. Even though I only got to try their bulalo (which is actually good considering I’ve already tasted some of the best ones in Tagaytay and Manila), I could say their place is a favorite because their food is not only yummy, it also isn’t too pricey. The place could get crowded especially on weekends, though, but I went here on a Thursday night so I liked the ambience that I experienced.
Along the street of P. Zamora is where you can buy your pasalubong. Key chains, ref magnets and food such as chocolate mormon and binagol can be bought here for very afforadable prices.
A taste of Southern Leyte
I was meaning to go to Southern Leyte during my travel in the region but due to shortness of time, I only was able to go to one of its famous landmarks: the Agas-Agas Bridge. To learn how I went here from Tacloban, read my detailed itinerary below.
Touted as the highest bridge in the Philippines, the 89-meter high and 350-meter long Agas-Agas Bridge is a prestressed concrete beam bridge in Bgy. Kaupihan, the town of Sogod in the province of Southern Leyte. Like San Juanico Bridge, it is a part of Maharlika Highway.
The bridge was constructed in 2006 to cut down the driving time of motorists and passengers going to and from the Visayas-Mindanao regions. It is also said that the mountainous section of Agas-Agas in the Pan-Philippine Highway before was prone to landslides especially during heavy rains. This was solved when the bridge was built.
Outdoor activities like ziplining among others were said to be done in the bridge before. I was disappointed when I found out it was currently inhibited. My habal-habal driver at that time told me it wasn’t because of political reasons. I hope this gets to be resolved soon so as not to waste the potential of the place for tourism.
WHERE TO STAY IN LEYTE
Avenida Verteranos cor. Juan Luna St., Tacloban City
(053) 570-0267, (053) 570-0267
I stayed for one night in a standard air-conditioned room in GV Hotel for one night. It costed me P600, which is higher than what was written in travel blogs I have read. It turned out that they have just increased their prices in January 2018. Anyway, the room that I went to has television with cable, air-con, toilet and shower and a single bed. The electronic door is only able to open via a card that is given at the reception. There is wi-fi here but only in the reception area.
Welcome Home Pensione
161 Sto. Nino St. Bgy. 32, Tacloban City
I, ,along with two of my friends, spent our last night in the region here in Welcome Home Pensione House. The place is nice and the room where we stayed is huge. It is equipped with large beds, television with cable, air-con, big cabinets with hangers, drawers and mirror. It costed us P1200 for this room. Only downside is that it doesn’t have its own comfort room.
LEYTE Travel Itinerary
Day 1 – Eastern Samar trip (Read my first Leyte travel blog to learn about this)
Day 2 – Tacloban City tour in the afternoon
2:30 PM – Our van arrived in Van-van’s Terminal in Tacloban from Guiuan. I rode the tricycle (fare: P8) and went to GV Hotel to check-in for the day. I washed up for about 30 minutes before going out again to explore the capital of Leyte.
3 PM – I visited the Sto. Niño Shrine and Museum, which is just a 5-minute walk away from GV Hotel. I was surprised to find out that it has an entrance fee of P200, but since people told me it is worth-visiting to, I paid to explore the place. There will be a tour guide who will welcome and accompany you at the place.
4 PM – The tour usually ends after 30 minutes but because I was with other visitors (groups of 2 and 3 people joined with me), it ended after an hour. I asked for directions on how to go to my next destination, which is the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park. In front of the museum, I rode the jeepney with the route Robinson’s Place (fare: P8). I alighted at Robinson’s Tacloban and rode the jeepney with the route Campetic (you can also ride the jeep with the route Palo, but a kind local told me it would take me a longer time to go there as jeepneys in front of Robinson’s would wait for the vehicle to be full of passengers before leaving; fare is still P8). After about 10 minutes, I dropped by in front of Philippine Science High School- Eastern Visayas Campus. Multicabs (tricycles) are parked in front and I rode one with other passengers who are also going to the monument. Fare was P10 for each passenger.
5:30 PM – I took my time in the memorial park to take pictures and observe people in the area. I was planning to go to San Juanico Bridge but the park’s security discouraged me as it was already late- it’s about to get dark soon. He was right. I didn’t mind, though, because I was planning to go there with my friends who would be going to Leyte the following day. I immediately set my mind to go to Leyte’s Provincial Capitol and so I asked for directions on how to go there. I went back to Philippine Science via habal-habal (I was solo this time because it would take a long time for multicabs to get full especially at that time. It was a good decision as my habal-habal driver asked me if I wanted to take pictures of the Boy Scout Monument, which is about a kilometer away from the MacArthur Memorial Park, before going to the main road. Of course, I said yes. Hehe. Afterwards, we went to the main road and I rode a jeepney with the route Magsaysay. This route is bound to go in the way of the Provincial Capitol.
7 PM – After taking pictures of Leyte Provincial Capitol, I decided to go back to the hotel first to freshen up before having my dinner. I walked towards Savemore (about a kilometer away) and rode a multicab there going back to GV Hotel (fare: P8).
8 PM – I intended to have dinner in Calle Z, which is only about a 5-minute walk from the hotel. I feasted on their bulalo, which the waiter said is their best meal.
*Travel to San Juanico Bridge
It was during another day when my friends and I went to San Juanico Bridge. We intended to go there early in the morning of Sunday so that not too many vehicles would be passing by. We talked to a habal-habal driver in front of our hostel, Welcome Home Pensione, and we decided to rent his habal-habal so we could take our time taking pictures in the bridge. It took us about 40 minutes going to the bridge. Kuya driver said he would just be parking and waiting at the foot of the bridge. We really took our time well while in San Juanico Bridge. After an hour, we went back to the foot of the bridge. Kuya driver also let us visit the place where EVA Jocelyn rummaged through several houses along the coastline of Tacloban when Typhoon Yolanda hit our country. We initially paid P200 to kuya because it was what he told us before going to the bridge but he asked for another P200 as he said the fee was only good one-way. TAKE NOTE, before riding habal-habal or any other vehicle that you would be renting, make sure your plan is clear. It appeared that kuya driver was ripping us off, but we agreed to pay another P200 because he waited for us patiently the entire time we were at the bridge.
List of expenses:
Multicab (tricycle) from Van-van’s terminal to GV Hotel – P8
GV Hotel – P600 (air-conditioned room with toilet)
Sto. Nino Shrine and Museum – P200
Jeepney from Sto. Nino Shrine and Museum to Robinson’s Place Tacloban – P8
Jeepney (with route Campetic) from Robinson’s Place Tacloban to Phil. Science High School – Eastern Visayas- P8
Multicab with other 3 people going to MacArthur Shrine – P10
Multicab (special trip) going back to PSHS- Eastern Visayas – P30
Jeepney (with route Magsaysay) from PSHS to Leyte Provincial Capitol – P10
Multicab from Savemore (about a kilometer away from Leyte Provincial Capitol) to GV Hotel – P8
Dinner in Calle Z – P140
Dessert in McDonald’s – P54
Total for this part of the trip: P1,066
Done during the 5th day of my Eastern Samar travel:
Tricycle to San Juanico and MV Ema – P400 (divided into 3: P133.33)
P150 – Tacloban to Mahablag Crossing (via van in Van-van’s terminal)
P250 – Habal-habal to Agas-agas Bridge (via Boy Guison, my travel guide there)
P120 – Van from Mahablag Crossing to Robinson’s Tacloban
P400 – Pasalubong (chocolate moron, binagol, among others) and ref magnets
Thank you for reading, guys! Watch out for the third and last part of this Eastern Visayas travel blog!