Rising from tragedy, this vibrant city in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines is filled with friendly folk, incredible food and quite a number of stories to tell.
Tacloban City in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) is part of Leyte, a province that reverberates with history, from its monuments to its colorful festivals to the local delicacies. But Tacloban, the regional center of the province, is actually autonomous from Leyte. While tourists often breeze through Tacloban en route to neighboring island paradises, exploring the city and its nearby towns for a day or two is a great way to start a holiday.
Highlights for the Traveler
In Palo, about 12km away from Tacloban, stands the Leyte Landing Memorial. This group of statues depicts General Douglas MacArthur’s arrival on the shores of Leyte with his army in 1944, fulfilling his promise to return and liberate the country from the Japanese.
In front of Magsaysay Boulevard is the statue of the Madonna of Japan. The Madonna, a simple statue sculpted with Japanese sensibilities, was a gift from the country in honor of the friendship that now exists between the Filipinos and Japanese.
The ideal time to visit Tacloban is during its festival season between May and June, when the entire city gets together to celebrate. Tacloban holds the annual Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival in June, celebrating the pre-Hispanic heritage of the province. During the festival, participants paint their bodies with bright patterns similar to the tattoos worn by the pintados warriors. It’s a fantastic event for both tourists and locals, full of color and dancing.
Tick two provinces off your Philippine bucket list by crossing the 2.16km San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines, stretching from Leyte to the neighboring province of Samar. Make a pilgrimage to Tacloban Church, 8km from the city center. The church, founded in the 16th century and given a series of facelifts since then, is home to the Santo Niño de Tacloban. Called the King of Leyte, the Santo Niño is considered the protector of the entire province.
To see feats of seamanship, schedule a visit for the Subiran Regatta, which takes place yearly at the end of June. The regatta along Leyte Gulf is a one-man race using local sailboats called subiran. No paddles are used and sailors must rely on their skills and technique to manipulate the sail.
Kalanggaman Island has become especially popular in recent years. Located 80km away from Tacloban, off the coastal town of Palompon, the island is famous for its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches that stretch into long sandbars on both sides of the island. As there are no fancy hotels or resorts on the island, it’s best to book accommodations in Palompon and head to the island for a day trip. If you’re interested in staying overnight, there are very basic cottages and tents for rent.
By Patricia Barcelon, as of January 2020.