Here are the sites to visit:
Leyte is one of the six provinces of Region VIII (Eastern Visayas Region). It has two cities: Tacloban City (the province's capital and the region's as well) and Ormoc City. It is composed of 41 municipalities with 1,393 barangays.
Leyte is the largest province in the region having a total land area of 5712.8 square meters. The region is considered the most densely populated province in Eastern Visayas. In 2000, it registered a total of 1,592,336 population, the 8th largest among the provinces in the country.
One of the biggest attractions of the province is its abundant supply of geothermal power.
The province also houses two of the country's top dollar earners: the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (PHILPHOS) and the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refinery Corporation (PASAR).
Some of its major export products include: copper cathodes, phosphatic fertilizers, raw and refined sugar/molasses, crude coconut oil/copra cake, prawns and bentonite/natural-foundry grades/drilling mud.
Likewise, it is embraced with scenic natural attractions and beautiful historical sites. Some of these are: the famous San Juanico Bridge; MacArthur Memorial National Park in Palo, Leyte; Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum; Leyte Provincial Capitol in Tacloban City; and Lake Danao National Park in Ormoc City and many others.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Return to Leyte
By Dennis Ladaw
OCTOBER 20 marks the 60th year since General Douglas MacArthur made good on his promise to return to the Philippines and liberate the Filipinos from oppressive Japanese rule. Accompanied by 225,000 troops and 600 ships, the general landed on the shores of Red Beach in Leyte Gulf, where a park commemorating this historical event is now located.
Which one is Irving
Berlin? The MacArthur
The General Douglas MacArthur Landing Memorial remains to be a favorite attraction in Tacloban. In contrast to what happened during the much-hyped return 60 years ago, the park today looks more like a symbol of peace. It is well maintained so that people visit the place will relax, frolic or simply enjoy each other’s company. The view of the gulf is panoramic and the cool breeze in the late afternoons makes it the perfect venue to unwind.
Various government and diplomatic officials fly into Tacloban each year to commemorate the general’s return at the Memorial. Ten years ago, the 50th anniversary was marked with a reenactment of the landing. It was a grand scale production, complete with a cast of hundreds. The solemnity of the event, however, was sort of ruined when the American actor playing MacArthur stepped off the LSD vessel a bit too soon. The water was still a bit deep and the way he had plunged into it is straight out of a Leslie Nielsen movie. The scene delivered the laughs, but at least Tacloban’s residents still fondly remember it to this day.
A garden, dubbed the 50th Leyte Landing Anniversary Commemorative Rock Garden of Peace, was built at the park to mark this milestone. The park’s top attraction, however, remains to be the statues of the six liberators led by the general. They’re said to be 1.5 times bigger than life-size and they stand majestically on a man-made mini lagoon. The figures depict MacArthur, President Sergio Osmeña, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, and General Sutherland, among others.
MacArthur’s “entourage” also included Broadway composer Irving Berlin, the man who wrote “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” They didn’t include a statue of Berlin at the park but according to Tacloban native Imelda Romualdez, MacArthur introduced Berlin to her and wrote a song about the Philippines on the spot. He asked her to sing it the following night.
Ironically, this young, lovely lady Berlin met grew up to be First Lady of the land and she would be more synonymous to Leyte than MacArthur’s legendary return could ever be. During Marcos’ long tenure as president, a few noteworthy and controversial landmarks were built in Tacloban. First is the magnificent San Juanico Bridge, which spans the San Juanico Strait and connects the island of Samar to Leyte. Ships headed for Cebu pass through this strait and cruise slowly under the bridge, which is said to be the longest in the Philippines. Philtranco buses from Pasay City cross the bridge and travel further down south to Davao City.
This writer’s first visit to Leyte happened in the late eighties, when everyone could get a glimpse of the then sequestered properties of the Romualdez clan. Visitors gasped at Imelda Marcos’ opulent “Malacañan Palace of the South,” the Sto Niño Shrine. Shanties paradoxically surround the place. Mrs. Marcos is more than quite aware of the and in the documentary Imelda, she said the mansion actually serves as a symbol to the impoverished. An inspiration that if she could make it to the big time, then they could do too.
Just a few kilometers away from the MacArthur Memorial is the Leyte Provincial Capitol in Tacloban City. The building is surrounded by other government buildings, which seem to have been well preserved. Just park a few vintage automobiles in the area and you’re back in the 1940s. The Capitol served as the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth.
Leyte is a scenic island. Tacloban is surrounded by picturesque lakes and hills and the view from the plane as it approaches the airport is breathtaking. The runway is located near the bay which makes the Tacloban airport a place where you can fish for crabs while a Boeing 737 speeds past you and lifts off into the air.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly from Manila to Tacloban City twice a day. For information on hotels, visit the website www.wowphilippines.com.ph