Eastern Visayas is special for me, and I will never get tired of mentioning it many times. LOL!
It was 2000 when I first traveled to Tacloban. I was a high school student then, and I qualified for the National Schools Press Conference, an annual country-wide writing competition for students which was hosted by the city that year.
Aside from the fact that it was my first plane experience, in Tacloban, I got a glimpse of the very first signs of what I should be doing in my life, signs that I had ignored for many years. I traveled to Tacloban as a student writer, and it was the first sign that I should pursue writing.
But being unfocused, stressed and all, I have been wandering for many years, doing works from the media to BPO, shipping, to the corporate world. Until when I was 30, exhausted and clearly wanted to feel alive again, when I launched my travel blog. Then it finally clicked. The blog grew until such time that I was able to quit my corporate job to do this full time.
In 2015, I was invited for my first ever Fam trip with TPB, and it was in Eastern Visayas, exploring Samar and Leyte.
In 2019, I am back for the PHITEX post-tour in the region. I traveled Samar and Leyte for 4 days with the PHITEX delegates. Sharing you here our awesome experience as well as the tourist attractions in the region. I will be writing separate blog posts for each attraction to share the experience in full detail. But for this post, I’ll give you a quick tour of these tourist spots in Samar and Leyte.
San Juanico Cruise
Would you like to witness the iconic San Juanico Bridge from a different perspective?
Some of you probably have already experienced San Juanico bridge by taking a photo of it while in transit, or by getting off the vehicle by walking on the bridge to take photos. But how about cruising the San Juanico Strait, and experience what it looks like beneath the San Juanico Bridge.
San Juanico Cruise lets you experience all that. This is a community-based project that started in 2015 to promote ecotourism as well as to provide livelihood for the residents.
Over the years, The San Juanico Cruise has become a popular tourism activity not only for the locals but also for the domestic and international travelers. This was our first activity when we arrived in Tacloban. It was such a nice way for us to start our day by witnessing the beauty of nature along the San Juanico Strait while relaxing on a boat.
We finished the cruise at Sta. Rita, Samar where we had our breakfast at San Juan By The Bay Floating Restaurant.
Full Blog Post: San Juanico Cruise in Leyte
San Juan By the Bay Floating Restaurant
Located on the other side of San Juanico Bridge if you’re from Tacloban, San Juan By the Bay Floating restaurant in Sta. Rita, Samar is another successful community-based tourism project, spearheaded by ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, LGU and DOT Region 8.
It started in 2016 with the purpose of nurturing ecotourism as well as to provide a livelihood for the community.
We experienced the warm waray welcome when we arrived at the floating restaurant, offering us some of the best local dishes of Samar. It was a satisfying breakfast with the awesome view of the iconic San Juanico Bridge and surrounding lush nature.
Aside from the floating restaurant, a 400-meter boardwalk lets the tourists witness the rich mangroves in the area. If ever you visit Samar, head on to Sta. Rita and experience the delicious meals and warm hospitality that is truly waray.
Full Blog Post: San Juan By the Bay Floating Restaurant
Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge Park
Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge Park is part of the Samar Island Natural Park, a 450,000 hectare protected landscape in the Philippines. This is one of the remaining rich rainforest in the country.
Please note that Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge is just a tiny part of the entire Natural Park which is about 841 hectares. This is popular among tourists who wanted to get close to nature and enjoy some adventure. Among the popular activities at Sohoton are caving and kayaking towards the huge natural bridge. A must experience when you visit Samar.
Full Blog Post: Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge Park in Samar
The weavers of Samar have been getting quite a lot of attention in social media in the past years. Thanks to the Spark Samar tourism campaign of the town, supported by the Department of Tourism.
In Barangay Basiao, women weavers are doing their works under the shade of Saob Cave. Tikog leaves, which is the raw materials for making banig and other handicrafts, is conducive to the cool temperature of the cave.
During my last trip to Basey, Samar we witnessed how women weavers do their work while under the cave. Weaving in Basey is a major industry, creating livelihood to most women in the community.
We can show our support for the women of Samar, not only patronizing their products, but also by ensuring that they are well-paid for their creativity and hardwork. DOT is actively supporting them to market their products worldwide, and some NGOs are helping them to make weaving as a sustainable livelihood. Let’s support projects and programs that help their livelihood sustainable.
Full Blog Post: Saob Cave: The women weavers of Basey, Samar
Kalanggaman island still remains as one of the most beautiful sandbars in the Philippines.
I remember my amazement during my first travel in Kalanggaman in 2015, and now that I am back, I am impressed with how the LGU and the community were able to preserve this Leyte’s gem. They have been true to their promise of protecting the island against the possible destruction from mass tourism.
On my second visit, it is clear that they have been doing a great job. For those who want to travel to Kalanggaman, Palompon is just a 2-hour land trip from Tacloban. Proper coordination at the Municipal Toursim Office is required to secure slots for the boat rental. They are implementing strict environmental regulations to protect the island.
Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Samar is indeed great for adventurers and nature lovers. Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride at Ulot River in Paranas, Samar is just one of the many offerings of the province for that thrilling adventure.
Ride the long motorboat, fast enough that it cuts through the strong currents of the Ulot River. The experience is about 11 kilometers of the entire 90-kilometer long Ulot River from Samar to Eastern Samar province.
This is another award-winning community-based project of LGU’s Spark Samar and the DOT.
Visit San Juanico Bridge
Your travel to Tacloban or in the Eastern Visayas would not be complete without witnessing the iconic San Juanico Bridge. In the beginning of this post, I’ve share to you the San Juanico Cruises, that lets you explore the San Juanico Strait and witness the bridge from a different perspective.
But you can also do the usual tourist activity which is taking photos on San Juanico Bridge.
Explore Tourist Sites in Tacloban
Tacloban is not just Leyte’s capital city. It has attractions that deserve to be explored by any visitors. During our my last travel with the PHITEX delegates, we visited the Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum.
This used to be the house of then-President Marcos and his wife, Imelda, who is a native of Leyte. The structure has a grand ballroom with extravagant furniture, which only shows the lavish lives of the former President’s family during the Martial law. Now, it is a museum, open to the public. Aside from Sto. Nino Shrine, some of the notable spots near Tacloban are McArthur Landing Memorial Park (Palo), M/V Eva Jocelyn Shrine, and lots of restaurants offering delicious Filipino dishes.
A night of networking
On the last night of the trip, the DOT Region 8 organized a B2B networking event to connect the local travel companies in the region with the PHITEX delegates who are travel agency owners and tour operators from different parts of the world.
It was a night of celebration of new friendships and connections for future tourism collaborations.
Leyte -Samar Tour Itinerary
Here is just a sample itinerary of our tour. Feel free to tweak or even create your own itinerary when you travel to Eastern Visayas, this just serves as a guide.
- San Juanico Cruise
- Breakfast at San Juan By the Bay
- Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge Park
- Saob Cave
- Basey Weaving Center
- Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte
- Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure
- B2B Networking event
- Tacloban City Tour
- Flight back to Manila