“Southern Leyte is exactly like a lady. She’s pretty on the outside, but the secret she hides within her makes her even more beautiful.” Such is the description in the Department of Tourism website.
Only few Filipinos living outside Eastern Visayas are familiar with, or have heard about, one of the least populated provinces in the country, Southern Leyte. I suppose it sounds new to you. I’ll tell you, Southern Leyte isn’t only a lady. She is a beautiful blue and a ravishing green lady.
A portion of its area facing the mighty Pacific Ocean and lavished with its dense rainforests make Southern Leyte a unique province of its kind. Its God-chosen geographical position and intact thick forests enable Southern Leyteňos to live in bounty and prosperity. Whenever you live uphill or near the seashore, its abundant natural resources give you sustenance to survive.
We are even considered as one of the country’s largest coconut producers. When you travel the scenic roads or visit mountain farms on our land, the presence of coconut trees is inevitable. Due to the viability of this type of livelihood, it is said that more than 30,000 hectares of land across the province are cultivated for coconut farming. A breakthrough for our Southern Leyteňo coconut farmers.
We are also known for fisheries –taking into account that our boundaries are limited by the sea and the Pacific Ocean. In fact, one of the four areas in Southern Leyte is called “Pacific” since the municipalities of this area face the Pacific Ocean. Fishing is therefore the major livelihood in the province. Not only in the Pacific area, but also in the remaining areas, to wit: Maasin, Macrohon, Padre Burgos, Sogod Bay, and Panaon. Southern Leyte is able to maintain the plethora of fish harvest because its people are adhering to the local policies that seek to protect our marine resources, and that enable us to sustain marine life in our fish sanctuaries and respected marine biodiversity areas.
The province has a great number of tourist sites, too. Each municipality has something it can be proud of, like white-sand beaches, islands and refreshing springs. There are the majestic twin barangay islands of San Pablo and San Pedro in Hinunangan; white-fine sand and crystal clear waters captivate you to dive deep into jewel-blue. Next, the Tagbak Marine Park in Liloan where you can enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling and other forms of water activities; and be awe-inspired with its diversely rich marine resources. Lastly, as I couldn’t put all into writing all the beaches and marine sanctuaries, the Tangkaan Beach in Padre Burgos where you will get amazed with its flickering-like-glitter water surface.
The billion peso Agas-Agas Bridge in Sogod is also in Southern Leyte. The enormous infrastructure is the tallest bridge in the Philippines, and it is surrounded by thick forest. Next are the hundred impressive caves of Cambaro in Macrohon. Stalactites, stalagmites and other stunning rock formations will leave you perplexed about how Mother Nature carved the rocks. The historical Santo Niño Church in Malitbog was built in the 1850s. Manually constructed under the Spanish regime, it has still catered to thousands of devotees, especially that its original century-old image was recovered after 32 years of disappearance. Then, the Hanginan Shrine in Maasin, which is flocked by thousands of pilgrims. Locals said that the miraculous image of Senior San Francisco Javier, the patron saint of the pilgrim site, is believed to grant prayers of healing and wishes of seafarers to go abroad.
Above all, the good values of the people of Southern Leyte will doubtlessly make you fall in love with the place. Our being welcoming and congenial, I think, have made us more distinct among others. Our love and care for nature also ascend in each one of us. We put premier importance to our forest and other forms of natural resources because they’re God-given.
As community quarantine restrictions loosen and as boundaries will start to open, your visit to Southern Leyte will be worth it.
By Marlon P. Labastida