Admittedly, the regions of Eastern Visayas are some of the areas I haven’t visited as much. Joining the #SailEast fam tour with Tourism Promotions Board was a great opportunity to familiarize with the area. To experience, even partially, what these places have to offer. In our four-day tour we ventured to Southern Leyte’s idyllic shores and islets, Leyte’s island gem and Samar’s Eco-adventure spots.
The port city of Ormoc is the largest city in Leyte and the second largest in Eastern Visayas. It’s landscape of gentle plains and low rolling terrains is home to probably one of the world’s sweetest pineapples – Ormoc’s queens pineapple. There are more than 500 hectares of agricultural land and at least 210 hectares are devoted to pineapple plantations. In our stay in Ormoc, we drove one early morning to visit one of these plantations to get a glimpse of how the city’s prime crop are harvested.
I have passed by this iconic bridge in Eastern Visayas several times already. I realized I have not written about it yet as this megastructure deserves its own entry. The San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge over a body of water in the Philippines. Connecting the city of Tacloban, Leyte to the town of Sta Rita in Samar. The bridge spans 2,164 meters (7,100 ft) crossing over San Juanico Strait. This meandering steel bridge is a man-made wonder worthy a stop when in Tacloban to marvel at this architectural feat. Travel on foot along its side pedestrian lane to enjoy the picturesque views at the strait.
For the past four years, Kalanggaman island has risen to fame. It started when German luxury cruise company Hapag-Lloyd made a stop to this small island in Palompon, Leyte back in 2013. The MS Europa, considered as the “most beautiful” of its luxury cruise ships unloaded about 400 passengers on this 6-hectare large island. They only stayed for a couple of hours but it was enough for visitors to be awed by this small island with a beautiful white beach, coconut tree dotted island and picturesque sandbar. Soon, photos and videos of the island went viral in the internet dubbing Kalanggaman Island as one the most beautiful sandbars in the world and has one of the best beaches in the country.
Eastern Visayas is one region I wish to explore more in my next travels. There’s a lot in the area I haven’t been to yet and I know Eastern Visayas got some stunning natural attractions from caves, waterfalls and geological formations. That’s why I was excited to join #SailEast, a familiarization tour of Eastern Visayas, particularly Leyte, Southern Leyte and Samar. We hit the ground running and headed to one of our first stops, Lintaon Peak and its 16,000 Blossoms in Baybay, Leyte.
I think the world already knows what happened to Tacloban, Leyte more than three years ago (November 2013). Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated Tacloban and the surrounding areas putting the region on a global spotlight. Pre-Haiyan, one of the fanciest seaside resorts stood in Palo, The Oriental Leyte. It received the brunt of devastation being located by the beach. But three years would be more than enough to pick up the pieces. Along with the province and the city getting back at their feet, the Oriental Leyte was rebuilt. Last November 2016, the hotel opened its doors again, softly to the public.
I remember Yolanda so well. It was the onset of our Travel Mindanao tour three years ago (2013). I was at the airport and my flight to Butuan got cancelled. I got upset but found out sooner how petty my disposition was compared to what was happening to the people in Tacloban. As Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was ravaging Tacloban and the rest of eastern Visayas, communications line were cut-off leaving the rest of the country to wonder what was happening. When we finally got a glimpse of what has transpired, it looks like a scene straight out of a dystopian series or movie. Dead bodies everywhere, infrastructure devastated and people are in shock, still in disbelief of what happened to them. No one can imagine this could happen. An unforgettable bleak moment in the country’s history.