Travel Spots in Eastern Visayas

 

Leyte Landing Marker leyte_landing_cut.jpg (5864 bytes)

Historic Red Beach, the scene of the U.S. landing forces in 1944, is 12 kilometers south of the Leyte capital of Tacloban and two kilometers north of the Palo town center.  It is now the site of a park which overlooks the beach and contains the bronze statues that depict General Douglas MacArthur, President Sergio Osmeņa, General Carlos Romulo, and four companions wading ashore.  Annually on October 20, "Liberation Day" is commemorated with solemn rites at Red Beach and festivities in the town of Palo.   The commemorative celebration recalls MacArthur's fabled pledge to return to the Philippines and liberate the country from Japanese occupation.

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The early months of 1944 proved to be the beginning of the fall of Japan's co-prosperity sphere.  Inching his way north from the New Guinea area, MacArthur had taken Central and Southwest Pacific, putting his forces within striking distance of the Philippines.  In June the famous Battle of the Philippine Sea was fought and resulted in the destruction of the Japanese reinforcements for the Marianas.  The defeat, considered one of Japan's costliest, had virtually isolated the enemy in the Philippines.

MacArthur earlier planned the invasion to begin in Mindanao where he thought he could establish an air base for the forces that would strike Leyte.  Instead, he decided to push on straight to Leyte when some sorties in September revealed the vulnerability of the enemy position in the Visayas.  With the approaches swept up of all mines, the Central Philippine Attack Force consisting of 650 ships and four army divisions entered Leyte Gulf on October 20.

The Japanese tried their best to repel the invasion, all to no avail.  At about ten in the morning, General MacArthur, accompanied by President Sergio Osmeņa and Resident Commissioner Carlos Romulo, waded ashore in fulfillment of a solemn promise to return.

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San Juanico Bridge  sanjuanico2_pinas97.jpg (9657 bytes)

Between the islands of Leyte and Samar the narrow, treacherous, scenic San Juanico Strait is spanned by an S-shaped bridge, said to be the longest in Southeast Asia.   Also known as the Marcos Bridge, the two-kilometer-long structure, built 41 meters above sea level, is said to have been presented as a gift and "testimonial of love" by the Philippine president to the first lady, Imelda, a native of Leyte.

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The bridge is part of the Pan-Philippine Highway (a.k.a. Maharlika Highway) that makes overland travel possible from Luzon to Mindanao.  Tarrying on the bridge, one could watch schools of flying fish skim the waves below while fishermen brave the swift currents to cast their nets.

 

 

 

Homonhon Island  homoncoast_nmpc80.jpg (14947 bytes)

At the entrance to Leyte Gulf, Homonhon was where Magellan landed in the Philippines in 1521.  It's a quiet, pretty island with sandy coconut-lined beaches, cliffs, and rocky promontories.  The inhabitants farm, fish, and cut wood.

  On the beach believed to be where Magellan came ashore is a deep stream called Cantilado. Here, some 100 meters from the shore, the Philippine Historical Committee has erected a marker on a rock bearing inscriptions thought to have been chiseled by Magellan's party.   To the west of this spot is a sloping cataract, visible from the sea, that may have been the "Watering Place of Good Signs" that attracted Magellan's thirsty fleet. One can swim in the creek beneath it.  Other noteworthy spots are the spouting rocks at Pigsutan Point and the whistling rocks at Cora-Coraan Point, both phenomena being due to cavities in the rock lashed by surf as it breaks on the shores.

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Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park

Usually referred to as the Sohoton Caves, the eight-square-kilometer park is reached by boat that can be chartered in Tacloban or, more cheaply, in Basey on Samar.  From Basey, the trip up a winding river is engrossing with small villages, nipa palms, and jungle on the banks, and a motley parade of passing river craft. On the approach to the park the river banks consist of limestone outcrops and overhangs.  The first cave reached, and the largest, is Panhulugan I.  Behind a deceptively unprepossessing entrance is a glittering world of spectacularly shaped stone.  Each chamber has a different size, shape, and mood, and is replete with stalactites and stalagmites.  Some walls are of sparkling crystal.  The tranquility within the cave is remarkable.

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A little farther upriver, Sohoton Cave is less spectacular.  Nonetheless, it is worth climbing up concrete steps that lead to a balcony overlooking a natural stone bridge.  Bugusan III Cave, a short distance up a tributary, has an underground stream.

The caves have yielded prehistoric artifacts, Sung and Ming porcelain, and have served as a hideout for Filipino fighters during the Philippine-American War.

 

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