The island of Leyte may not be as popular as its neighboring islands in the Visayas area of the Philippines. But don’t underestimate this island (and the province of the same name). It can very much compete with other islands in the country, both in history and travel destinations.
Leyte is located in the Eastern Visayas region, with the city of Tacloban as the capital of the province. It is connected to Samar, the eastern-most island in the Philippines through the famous San Juanico Bridge, known to be the longest bridge in the Philippines and also one of the most beautiful ones in the country. The San Juanico Bridge is not the only site to see in this part of the Philippines. Mostly, tourist sites in Leyte are remnants of a rich history.
First things first: how to get there? There are a number of ways by which one can reach the island of Leyte. From the Philippines’ capital, Manila, one can take an airplane and land in Tacloban, the only city labeled to be “highly urbanized” by Philippine standard and itself the capital city of Leyte. Travel time is about an hour and ten minutes. If one decides to travel by sea, there are two options: one is by taking a 36 hour trip by boat from Manila or leaving from Cebu by Fast Boat (a smaller boat) to Ormoc, another city in Leyte, and travel by land to Tacloban.
An island found in Southern Leyte, Limasawa, is said to be the birthplace of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines. Not just that! Flash forward to the American period of the country. The Battle of Gulf Leyte is actually the largest naval battle of the Second World War. It’s even a candidate for being the largest naval battle in history. Because of these historical events, many markers and monuments have been put up to commemorate such important, yet, underappreciated chunks of history.
San Juanico, as mentioned above is one such site. Another site to see is the Leyte Provincial Capitol where a beautiful mural that shows the First Mass of Limasawa in the Orient, as well as the landing of General Douglas McArthur, can be viewed here. The Leyte Landing Memorial in Red Beach, Palo is where the marker for the landing site of the American Liberation Forces. A lagoon with the life-size statues of General McArthur and his forces also stands.
A more popular destination would be Lake Danao. A violin-shaped lake bordered with the cloud-capped mountain ranges. Wild animals roam the surrounding forests and the lake is also home to the giant eel. There’s also the Sto Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum that contains the paintings of the 14 Stations of the Cross created by various Filipino Artists.
Like many other provinces in the country, Leyte also boasts of its colorful and vibrant festivals. It is these festivals that help propel the province forward to be at par with more advanced and developed provinces in the Philippines.
Given enough time, and a little promotion, Leyte will soon become a full-blown tourist campaign all on its own.