Friday, October 26, 2012

Tacloban, Leyte ~ City Tour

The last destination of The BACKPACKERS is the city which serves as the gateway of Eastern Visayas: Tacloban City. This is where the Leyte part of the famous San Juanico bridge is connecting and the location of Leyte island's only airport: Daniel Z. Romualdez airport. It is rich with history; aside from the longest bridge in the country which was the gift of former President Ferdinand Marcos to his spouse Imelda Marcos, it is also the site of the Madonna of Japan, Imelda Shrine and it is near MacArthur Landing Park; a memorial park built in the comemoration of Douglas MacArthur's landing in the Philippines during the second World War. The BACKPACKERS stayed at the affordable Grand Royale Suites in Burgos Street, a couple of blocks away from the city's downtown. Let us check out the places of interest visited by The BACKPACKERS in Tacloban City:

TACLOBAN CITY TOUR

San Juanico Bridge




One of the most beautifully designed bridges in the country connecting the islands of Samar and Leyte in Eastern Visayas is the San Jaunico Bridge. Its total length is 2.16 kilometers and stands tall above the narrowest strait in the Philippines. It is an architectural delight and crossing it would be worth it as the views are scenic on both sides. From Tacloban City, you can ride a Samar bound van or bus and asked to be dropped to any point in the bridge. Whenever a heavy vehicle passes by, the foundation of the bridge will give its excursionists a shaky feel. And looking down San Jaunico Strait, you will notice a lot of whirlpools and jellyfishes around. While we were crossing the bridge, we noticed that there was a mini shrine in one of the islets below it. One of the most favorite spots is where the arch is located, offering the separation between the Leyte and Samar portion of the bridge. TRIVIA: It is nice to notice that when you are in the Samar portion, the bridge forms an S shape, and when you are in the Leyte portion, it forms an L shape, which we do not know if it is a mere coincidence or part of the architectural plan.

Aerial view of San Juanico bridge
BP Heinz and the bridge
BP Chons arriving at San Juanico bridge

BP April in San Juanico bridge
Our beloved guest Sheryl enjoying the bridge
BP Weng in her infamous shades!
The islet in San Juanico Strait
Welcome to Leyte BACKPACKERS!



Imelda Shrine

Also known as Sto. Nino Shrine, this destination brags of the Marcoses' luxuries and fortune as it previously served as their home in Eastern Visayas. It has a church on its lobby surrounded by several rooms with themes like Abaca, Butterfly, Ilocos, Palawan etc. It could be used as guest rooms and we joked that it could have been the first small business of the Marcoses. Going inside, you need to pay a 65Php entrance fee and an additional 30Php for each camera that you will use for picture taking. A special Sto Nino sandals was required so we had to take our shoes off. The furnitures and fixtures are definitely old, some of which are not well maintained. Upstairs, we were caught in awe at a very spacious lobby, used by the Marcoses for social gatherings sunch as birthday celebrations and ballroom dancings. You can definitely feel the wealthy vibe over there. The rooms in the second floor are separated: the left side (facing the dining area) is a corridor of rooms for the male members of the family and the right corridor houses the rooms for the girls. All the rooms are centralized and contain specific decoration and fixtures. We saw a room dedicated to Fabian Ver, Marcos' trusted bodyguard, and we wondered on how to sign up to become one of their bodyguards and be given this spacious and luxurious room. All in all, it was a nice sight of the wealth and fortune of the Marcoses. And if you would like to visit Imelda Shrine, it is just at Real Street near Tacloban City's center.
The church at the lobby of Imelda Shrine
BP Lead Ivan seated in former president Marcos' chair
BP Percy under a very huge chandelier in the ballroom lobby
BP Marion fascinated by the antique fixtures
The loooong dining table of the Marcoses
The huge mirror captures the entirety of the staircase
A cozy lobby




MacArthur Landing Memorial Park


"I shall return," one of the most famous historic quote extracted from Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Spoken with confidence on March 11, 1942 when he left the country during the second World War, he vowed to be back to drive off the Japanese who occupied the country during that time. This paved way for the government of Leyte to recreate this historic event by building a park dedicated to Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur and his people. This is actually not located in Tacloban City, rather in the nearby municipality of Palo, the seat of catholicism and governance in Leyte. Before reaching the park, you will pass by different regional headquarters of the different government agencies of the Philippines. When we were there, a businessman was offering the tourists to have their picture taken at the park using his DSLR camera. His services were complete with props: military hardhat and boots so that the excursionists may stand right beside MacArthur. The park is a good picnic ground, in which we spent some time relaxing in front of Palo, Leyte's breakwater area where green grasses and trees thrive.
The BACKPACKERS in Palo, Leyte
Relaxing at the park
BP Marion @ MacArthur Landing Park
BP Percy alongside MacArthur and his peeps
One jump for joy for Gen. Douglas MacArthur



Madonna of Japan
photo credit:  http://www.leyte-travel.com/madonna-of-japan.html
Another landmark where a historic monument is located is this park which is the site of the Madonna of Japan. If the French gave USA the Statue of Liberty signifying friendship and freedom, the Japanese gave Philippines the Madonna of Japan after the end of the second world war. It sealed the deal of friendship between the two nations and the freedom of the Philippines from the last foreign occupation.
Ivan, Marion, April and Percy in front of Madonna of Japan





Downtown 
The city's downtown is the popular busy streets where most activities in Tacloban City are seen. It is where most establishments, transport stations, restaurants and stores are located. Zamora Street is the famous hallway where one can buy take home delicacies from the province. You can choose from Binagol, chocolate Moron, Carigara's Pastillas and many more!
Bumming around ~ BP Heinz, Ralph, Chons and Weng
Pasalubong hunting ~ BPs Ralph and Heinz



Robinsons Tacloban
Gaisano Malls are the Visayan regions' version of SM malls and Robinson malls that flock Luzon. But there is one Robinson mall located in Tacloban. This is where we ate our last dinner during our Eastern Visayas backpacking.

Sumptuous!
Our last dinner for the trip




Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport

The establishment responsible for bringing the gates of Eastern Visayas to Leyte, other than the San Juanico bridge, is this airport named under a former House of Representatives Speaker and a member of the Marcos family. According to the Department of Transportation and Communication, it is the seventh busiest out of the 25 airports in the country. Aside from the Communications Tower, the landing area and the aerial facilities, there are stalls within the airport where you can also buy take home goods but at a higher price. 
It was BP Percy's first time riding a plane!
Tita 1 and Tita 2 land in Leyte
It was BP Ralph and Sheryl's first plane ride as a couple
BPs Percy, Ivan, Marion and April before saying goodbye to Eastern Visayas
Heaven...


This wraps up our Ultimate Backpacking in Eastern Visayas spanning five days and two provinces; Leyte and Southern Leyte. It was a very memorable trip spending some time in some of the country's most historic places, record holding bridges, majestic beaches and colorful towns! Special thanks to Sheryl for joining us in this adventure!

The BACKPACKERS really enjoyed it and will be back next time to explore the other island comprising the region: Samar!
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