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Leyte is a province of the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. Its capital is Tacloban City and occupies the northern three-quarters of the Leyte Island. Leyte is located west of Samar Island, north of Southern Leyte and south of Biliran. To the west of Leyte across the Camotes Sea is Cebu Province. [Wikipedia]

Capital: Tacloban
No. of towns: 43
Land area: 6,268.3 sq. km.


The total population of Leyte as of May 2000, was 1,592,336 persons, an increase of 81,085 persons over the 1995 Census of Population (POPCEN) results. This translated to an annual growth rate of 1.13 percent, from 1.89 percent in 1995. If the current annual growth rate continues, the population of Leyte will double in 62 years. A corresponding increase on the number of households was also recorded at 322,579 households, higher by 21,421 households over the 1995 figure. This resulted to an average household size of 4.92 persons, slightly lower than the average household size recorded in 1995 and the national average of five persons. Census2000

Location. The Province of Leyte is bounded on the north by the Carigara Bay and on the east by the Leyte Gulf, by the Visayan Sea on the west, and on the south by the province of Southern Leyte.

Brief history. Leyte has a colorful history. Leyteños were among the first to welcome the Spaniards but they were also among the first to resist the invaders. Leyte was one of the provinces where the early seeds of nationalism were planted.

In 1521, Magellan sailed from the island of Homonhon, Samar to the island of Limasawa, Leyte, entered into a blood compact with Rajah Kolambu. On Eastern Sunday, March 31, of that year, was celebrated the First Mass in the Philippines. Some historical researchers, however, are now disputing this.

The next century witnessed a religious uprising lead by Bancao, the Limasawa chief, and his high priest, Pagail. The revolt began in Carigara and spread to neighboring towns before it was quelled. 27 years after the 1622 uprising, another revolt hit Leyte - an offshot of the Sumoroy rebellion then simmering in Samar. And in the center of the disturbances, the village of Bacor, rebels burned the church and its convent.

By 1768, Leyte, now separated from Samar, became a politico-military province. The set up continued until the end of Spanish rule, when Gen. Vicente Lukban took over Leyte and Samar in the name of the Revolutionary Government.

It was WWII, however, which placed Leyte on the world map. On Octrober 20, 1944, Gen. Mac Arthur, at the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, and accompanied by Commonwealt President Sergio Osmeña and Gen Carlos P. Romolo, landed on Palo, Leyte to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.

On May 22, 1959, the province was divided into Leyte and southern Leyte.

Major industries. The plains and valleys are fertile, producing hemp, copra, corn, rice, tobacco, bananas, papayas and pineapple. The swamps teem with nipa and mangrove, and the mountains yield rattan and timber. There are thousands of hectares of virgin forests with wealth just waiting to be tapped.

Language / Dialect. The "Waray" is generally spoken by the people of Leyte except those who live in the western side who generally speak Cebuano.

Points of interest

Mac Arthur Leyte Landing Memorial

Located on Red Beach near Palo is a monument marking the spot where General MacArthur is said to have landed with the Liberation Forces in 1944.

Mac Arthur Beach Resort

It has 45 first-class rooms, a cafe, beach kiosk, picnic tables, nipa house, a children´s playground and swimming pool.

Hill 522

Located in Palo 12 kms from Tacloban, plus a little trekking 522 feet up. Commonly called Guinhangdan Hill, this was the entrace to the first liberated town (Palo) in 1944, after having been heavily bombarded to destroy the garrisons built by the Japanese.

Hill 120

Located near Dulag is the Hill where the first American flag was raised by the LIberation Forces of the U.S. Army on October 20, 1944. Panoramic view of Leyte Gulf and surrounding coastal towns.

Battle of Baluarte Marker

Located at Baluarte, Brgy. Minuhang Barugo. Site of the historic battle between Filipino guerrillas and Japanese Imperial Forces at dawn of August 24, 1944. Significant because there was no Filipino casualty while all the Japanese except one were killed in the encounter; beautiful and symbolic monument made up of three stairs: at the topmost stand 3 rifles each crowned by a helmet: measuring 3.5 x 3.5 meters. This concrete structure is fenced by big silver-colored chains; on one side area 3 flagpoles which look like bayonets.

Hilongos Bell Tower. Located in Hilongos, it is the highest existing bell buit during the Spanish era; historic viewing.

Japanese War Memorial Cemetery. Located at Brgy. San Diego (Buraueun) Site of one of the fiercest battles fought in Leyte for the liberation; Japanese cemetery frequently visited by memorial tour groups.

Buga-Buga Hills. Located in Villaba. Mountain stronghold of General Suzuki where thousands of Japanese soldiers died defending the area and hundreds of fAmerican lives were sacrified in the assault to capture this hill during World War II; frequently by big Japanese memorial tour groups and bone hunting expedition and object of pilgrimage by domestic and foreign tourists.

Philippine-Japan Peace Memorial. Located on Carlota Hills, Ormoc City. An impressive memorial marker put up by relatives of Japanese WW II veterans from Nagoya and Gifu Prefectures; one of the city´s picturesque hills overlooking Ormoc Bay.

Boy Scout Monument. Located on Rotonda at Fatima Village, Tacloban City. The first Boy Scout monument in the world in human form; erected in 1941.

Monument of the Filipino soldier. Located at Brgy. Pawing (entrance) Leyte Government Center Palo. A tribute to the Pilipino World War II soldiers and veterans who offered their supreme sacrifice for the sake of freedom.

Palo Metropolitan Cathedral. Located in Palo, 12 kms. westwards along national highway. Converted into an evacuation hospital of the Allied Forces of Liberation and refuge of civilians during World War II in 1944; founded in 1596 by Augustinian friars; viewing of the famous Hill 522 overlooking Palo.

Breakneck Ridge. Located at Brgy, LImon, Capoocan. Site of one of the bloodiest battles in Liberation of the battle areas, nearby hills and valleys.

Dio Mainland Resort. Located at Brgy. San Jose, Tacloban City, 7 kms. from city proper. Commonly called Baluarte San Jose where remnants of World War II - 2 Japanese pill boxes and a cannon still exist and preserved for viewing; panoramic view of Leyte Gulf and Samar Island.

Visayas State College of Agriculture (VISCA). Located in Baybay. Standing on an 80-hectare campus on the foothills of Baybay mountains, VISCA has emerged as premier agricultural college in the South. With a total area of 1,000 hectares, the college has established a reputation in root crop farming: beautiful landscape; long stretched beaches for swimming and boat riding; panoramic view of Camotes Sea; breathtakingly beautiful sunset on summer evenings; museum for specimen on wildlife.

White Beach. Located at Brgy. San Jose, Tacloban City. Ideal site for fishing, swimming, boating, skiing, and picnicking.

Red Beach. Located at Brgy. Baras & Candahug, Palo. Landing site of the allied forces headed by Gen Douglas McArthur during the Liberation of the Philippines in 1944; panoramic view of Leyte Gulf and Samar Island; ideal place for promenading, picnicking, swimming and windsurfing.

Balugo Falls. Located 10 kms. north of Tacloban; can be reached by hired vehicles and private cars. Developed area with beautiful tropical trees, flowers and shrubs; two swimming pools and dressing rooms; nursery for vegetables and trees.

Bislig Bay Fishing Village. Located in Tanauan. Rich fishing grounds, sandy beach, colorful fishing boats are among the attractions the village can offer.

Mt. Kankahanay. Located in Jaro, region of scenic grandeur with virgin forests, very cool climate, almost 4,000 ft. above sea level; hunter´s paradise.

Daguitan Rapids and Danao Lake. Located in Burauen. Hiking or horseback riding to the lake; swimming and picnicking on Danao Lake; riding the Daguitan Rapids in makeshift rafts of banana trunks or the steadier, softer rubber tires fashioned into rafts; 2-hour exciting ride; beautiful scenery, lovely tropical plants.

Mahagnao National Park. Located in Burauen. Established notional park since 1937; offers inspiring craters, hotspring, multi-colored muds and rocks, lakes, virgin forest with giant ferns and orchids, lagoon with colorful carps, and temperate climate.

Leyte Mountain Trail. An outstanding trekking area which starts from the Mahagnao National Park, Burauen, to Danao Lake and Tongonan National Park in Ormoc, a distance of approximately 40 kms.

Rainforest tour, beautiful lakes - Mahagnao, Malagsum, Casudsuran and Danao; the spectacular Guinaniban Falls, breathtaking view of mountains, forest, plains and the small islands of Samar and Leyte from the crest of the central Amandiwing Mountain Range; the profusion of tropical flora and fauna including colorful insects, butterflies, dragonflies, and bugs and giant millipedes, deers, wild boar, monkeys, birds, orchids and giant ferns.

Kaupnit Balinsasayaw Park. Located on Mahaplag - Baybay road, favorite campsite, view of the highest peak in Leyte; aesthetic, panoramic and invigorating climate.

Tongonan Hotsprings National Park. Located at Ormoc City. A valley of geothermal power source that can supply power to the whole region when fully developed; cool and relaxing climate; first geothermal power giant to operate in the Philippines.

Lake Danao. Located at Ormoc City, 125 kms. from Tacloban City; 2,100 feet above sea level and 3 kms. long undetermined dept; wild animals roaming its surrounding forest; hunter´s paradise; lake said to be the habitat for giant eel.

Himokilan Island. Located in Hindang, largest island of the Cuatro Islas where the big delicious coconut-cracking crabs called "tatus" are found.

Farmer´s Training Center for Rural Development Sab-a Basin. Located at Sab-a Basin (situated with the towns of Tacloban, Palo, Sta. Barugo, Jaro, San Miguel, Alang-alang and Babatngon). Virgin forest; lovely hills.


Tacloban Festival (Last week of June). The Tacloban Festival kicks off with the Subiran Regatta, an annual sailboat race held at the eastern entrance of the San Juanico Strait.

The Balyuan / Pintados Festival. A pageant re-enacting the historical exchange of images between Barrio Buscada of Basey, Samar, and Tacloban City, which highlighs the annual fiesta of the Sto. Niño in Leyte. Also there is the Pintados Festival, which revives the tradition of painting the body and dancing to the rhythm of bamboo sticks. On the last day is the Tacloban City Festival celebrating the homecoming of its Sto. Niño image marked by much merrymaking in the usual grand fiesta tradition.

Subiran Regatta (June). An annual contest held along the eastern portion of Leyte Gulf. The regatta is participated in by different fishermen living along the fishermens villages of Leyte and Samar. "Suviran" is a native sailboat with outriggers used in small scale fishing. The race is done without using a paddle but only skill and technique to maneuver the sail. The race is held within the Cancabato Bay Area.

Torugpo (Black Saturday). An exciting traditional jousts of native carabaos (pasungay) and horses (paaway) at Brgy. Camansi, Carigara. It was held 300 years ago in defiance to the rigid regulations of the Spanish friars. The yearly carnival offers a complimentary treat to foreign tourists.

Sunduan Ha Carigara ( Easter Sunday). An annual homecoming of Holy Cross Academy alumni of Carigara, Leyte. The celebration consists of cultural, social and religious activities-float parade & contest depicting the rich history of Carigara; cockfighting, songs, dances and drama contests; barrio fiesta; and observance of Lent.

Pamalandong (Holy Week in Palo Pilgrimage). Good Friday. A re-enacment of the Lord´s Passion celebrated in Palo, a municipality 11 kms. away from Tacloban City. It consists of the religious rituals which starts 12:00 at noon at the grounds of the Palo Cathedral. The Good Friday rites include "The seven Last Words" during which the crucified image of Christ (a wooden antique image probably hundred of years old and ingeniously provided with a mechanism by its unknown artist) reacts to each word, until the final death and removal from the cross.

A quaint Good Friday local custom is the gathering of the leaves from the mock-forest where the three crosses stand by the people believing they bring luck, cure illness and other attributes.

This is followed by the procession that includes all the biblical characters of the Passion Play and this caps the rituals for the Good Friday.

Balyuan (June 29). A pageant re-enacting the historical exchange of images between Barrio Buscada of Basey, Samar and Sitio Kankabatok now Tacloban City. It is held in the afternoon and highlights the annual fiesta of Santo Niño de Leyte.

Pintados De Leyte Festival (June). The custom of tattooing earned for the Leyteños the name of Pintados. From ancient history, Roman conquests also made mention of tatooed people in Britons, Saitas, Oriental Tartar, Macasar and other parts of the world.

The origin of the practice is different to determine but the strongest contention is that an ancient priestess instigated it and through the members of her cult, began the custom.

The tattooes, however, became distinctive marks of courage and generally made the origin, orientation and livelihood of the bearer identifiable. The most basic design of tattooes began from ankle to groin and consisted of two bonds a finger or almost two in width. The tattoo in the chest were made like breastplates. When the tattooers did their work more artistically, they left between the bond (which were colored blue) and white designs.

When the missionaries from Spain arrived in Leyte, they found the Pintados gruesome but later learned to appreciate the happy contentment and beauty of the people. With the coming of the Spaniards, the people learned new ways of life and blended this with neo-pagan ways of the Pintados.

Even today, the happy blend exists in the customs and practices of Leyte. The Leyteños have retained their cultural roots while assimilating the changes that progress brings.

Leyte Landing Anniversary (October20). A commemorative program which marks the anniversary of the October 20, 1944 landing on Leyte of the Allied Forces of LIberation. Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur and his men waded ashore at "Red Beach" in the town of Palo where statues of the liberations now stand.

The historic event is usually attended by high ranking government officials and the ambassadors of the United States, Japan and Australia. World War II veterans come on sentimental journey.

Grand Santacruzan (May). A parade and contest of "parol" (lantern) with beautiful "sagalas" participated in by the different barangays of Tacloban. It starts at the historic Leyte Provincial Capitol terrace and ends at Plaza Rizal (one and a half-hour procession) where the winners are proclaimed. Criteria include greatest number of sagalas and participants, most artistic lantern, best lighting and most disciplined group. The Search for Reyna Elena is the culmination of the Grand Santacruzan. The selection´s criteria includes beauty, poise, social graces, talent and intelligence. After the proclamation of the winners, the coronation and the giving of awards and prizes follows.

Pahoy-Pahoy (May). Barugo Leyte. Scarecrow festival.

Fourth Provincial Inter-High School Tourism Quiz (August). Region-wide. A tourism quiz covering regional, national and international topic.

Pasaka Festival (August) Tanauan, Leyte. A dance parade and cultural presentation (comparza) "Pasaka" connotes warm welcome, progress, and religious homage.

Third Regional Tourism Quiz (September). Tacloban City. A tourism quiz covering regional, national, and international topic.

Lubi - Lubi Festival (August 15). Calubian, Leyte. A festival showing various uses of the coconut tree and its by-products thru dances and street revelry.

Kaadlawan Han Samar (November). Catbalogan, Samar. Foundation Day celebrated with socio-cultural activities.

Calbayog Grand Karakol (October). Calbayog City. Joyous street pageantry of dancing devotees.

Christmas Festival in Palo (December). Palo, Leyte. A week-long celebration of Christmas which includes Simbang Gabi, Drum and Bugle Corps Competition. Christmas Cultural Show and a contest for Best LIghted Barangay, Best Belen, and Lantern Contest.

The Islands of Leyte and Samar
bJoycie Dorado-Alegre

The islands of Leyte and Samar are collectively known as the Eastern Visayas Region 8. It is composed of six provinces namely: Samar (25 towns with Catbalogan as capital), Northern Samar (24 towns with Catarman as capital), Leyte (41 towns with Tacloban as the capital), Southern Leyte (18 towns with Maasin as the capital) and Biliran (8 towns with Naval as the capital). The regional capital is the City of Tacloban in Leyte. This is where the regional offices of all government institutions are located. Eastern Visayas has a total land area of 21,561.8 sq. km.


Region 8 has a population of 3,366,917 with annual average growth rate of 1.77% based on the 1995 census. This is distributed among the six provinces with Leyte having the biggest population with 1,643,460 and a population density of 262.2 p/sq.km. This comprise 48.81% of the total population. The next is Samar with 589,373 and a population density of 105.4 p/sq.km.   Third is Northern Samar with 454,195 with a population density of  129.8 p/sq.km. Fourth is Eastern Samar with a population of 362,324 and a density of 83.5 p/sq.km. Fifth is Southern Leyte with a population of 317,565 and a density of 183.1 p/sq.km. And Biliran with 118,012 and a density of 212 p/sq.km.

Based on the said survey, there are 693, 679 families in region 8 with an average annual income of P49,912 per family and an average annual expenditure of P37,522. The remaining amount of P12,390 is the average annual savings.


Based on geologic findings, during the ice ages or Pleistocene period (2 million years - 8,000 B.C), the islands of Mindoro, Luzon, and Mindanao were connected as one big island through the islands of Samar, Leyte and  Bohol.

Diggings in Sohoton Caves in Basey, Samar showed stone flake tools dated 8550 B.C. Other diggings along the Basey River revealed other stone flakes used until the 13th century.

Recent Philippine history also places these two islands prominently. The island of Homonhon in Guiuan Eastern Samar was first sighted by Magellan in his voyage to the orient, one that led to his death in the hands of the men of Lapulapu in Mactan, Cebu. In the next expedition (1565) headed by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, he named Leyte, "Filipina" after Prince Philip of Spain. Leyte and Samar then were ruled as one province under the jurisdiction of Cebu. Samar and  Leyte were separated as provinces in 1768.

The San Bernardino Strait between Samar and Luzon was a gateway for the Spanish Galleon. Royal Port was established in Palapag Northern Samar to protect galleons from winds and stormy seas. In 1649, shipbuilders were drafted to Cavite shipyards to build galleons and other vessels. In the same year, the recruits  led by Sumuroy of Samar staged a revolt which was one of the earliest recorded revolt against Spain.

The 1900's also saw a victory of the locals against the American forces when the people of Balangiga staged a successful raid against the Company C of the American battalion stationed in Balangiga, Samar. The Americans retaliated and killed at least 60,000 Samarnons including civilians.

During World War II, Leyte and Samar figured prominently as battlefields.  On October 20, 1994, American troops led by General Douglas McArthur and Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña landed on Red Beach Palo, Leyte signaling the defeat of Japan. The Battle of Leyte Gulf is known as the biggest naval battle in modern history. For a time after then, the center of the Philippine Commonwealth Government was in Tacloban.

Joycie Dorado-Alegre