Tacloban City. One could bring back many bittersweet memories by simply mentioning the place. There’s a memory of bitterness….pain even… Of course, who can forget the Yolanda tragedy wherein more than 6000 lives lost from that devastating super typhoon? And yes, sweetness… and hope… because despite those bitter and painful things that had happened, its people continue to thrive; their resilience is simply inspiring, and you can see it in their smiles. Truly, Tacloban has created a special mark in the hearts of many.
My original plan was to include Biliran in this travel. However, while I was making my itinerary, I realized that 4 days were not enough to cover and enjoy the three destinations. Thus, I crossed Biliran out of my list (I thought it deserves a separate visit) and just focused on Tacloban and Palompon destinations instead.
TACLOBAN IN A NUTSHELL
Tacloban City is the gateway to the province of Leyte; its airport is the busiest in the region, catering to more than a million passengers annually (1,182,951 passengers as per 2016 data). And, those who travel by land from Mindanao to the Philippine capital Manila (and vice versa) also pass through the city via AH26 or the Philippine National Highway (PAN). True enough, the city plays an important part not just in tourism but in terms of economy and logistics.
As mentioned, geographically, Tacloban City is part of Leyte, a province located in the eastern region of Visayas. Administratively, however, the city is independent from any province, though it houses the provincial capital. Its location as well as its terrain and topography contribute to the city’s and the rest of the region’s vulnerability to climate, weather disturbances (it is in direct path of typhoons entering PAR). But this does not hinder the city to create its own mark as a tourism destination in the region. Tacloban has its unique beauty (geographically and culturally), which is why many find it worth-visiting.
PLACES TO VISIT IN TACLOBAN
There are quite a number of places to visit in Tacloban, particularly historical landmarks, so you will never run out of things to do during your stay.
In my visit to the city, I made sure to visit the following:
MacArthur Landing Memorial
“I shall return,” said General Douglas MacArthur as he left the Philippines for Australia to escape from the Japanese forces during World War II. And he did return; his landing in Palo, Leyte marked the commencement of the campaign to recapture and liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupations. MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park was established to commemorate the historic landing of the general and the very purpose of his return – to help for the liberation of the Philippines.
You should not miss visiting the landmark during your Tacloban travel. You will relive the history and appreciate how our people in the past fought hard for the liberty we have today.
Note: I should mention that Palo is not part of Tacloban; it is a municipality adjacent to the city (not that far) so I decided to include it in my itinerary.
Sto. Nino Church.
This church was one of the famous structures severely damaged during the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). However, after some fixing works (and thanks to the generous donors), the church stands tall again – like the resilient people of Tacloban. It houses the miraculous image of baby Jesus, the patron saint of the city.
While the architecture of the church is not that sophisticated, the all-white painted walls (both in the interior and exterior) are quite pleasing to the eye. The belfry tower at the entrance of the church is also imposing, highly noticeable even from afar.
Sto. Nino Shrine.
It’s another interesting place to visit in Tacloban. Some mistakenly label this as the Sto. Nino Church, but don’t confuse it with the latter. The Sto. Nino Shrine is a different structure and in different area.
Also known as the Romualdez Museum, the site provides a glimpse of the past, particularly with that of the Marcoses’ and the Romualdezes’. Its architecture as well as the interior designs are pretty unique, detailed, and a mirror of sophistication. The inside gives visitors some idea on the way of life of the first family during the Marcos era.
Note: The administrator of the museum imposes a 200-peso entrance fee, good for three persons. If you want to get inside but you find the fee pretty expensive, better ask other visitors if they are willing to share on fees. Visits that are for other purposes such as pre-nuptial pictorials are charged way higher.
Tacloban City Coliseum
This public structure is visible even at the airport area. It is just along the main thoroughfare so it is quite accessible. In fact, you will pass by it when you go to Sto. Nino Church from the airport.
At the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, this coliseum sheltered thousands of Taclobanons; it provided safety for them. Indeed, this structure has been a very useful place that it deserves a visit and appreciation.
The outside of the coliseum is a public park; the go-to place of people who just want to hang around and relax.
Holy Cross Memorial Garden
If you want to see where most of the Yolanda victims were laid to rest, visit Holy Cross Memorial Garden. A hundred meters or two from the main entrance of the cemetery, you can already see a sea of whites – the thousands of crosses that serve as markers indicating where the victims were buried.
San Juanico Bridge
Up until now, the San Juanico Bridge – the bridge that connects the Provinces of Leyte and Samar – still holds the record as the longest bridge in the Philippines, extending almost two kilometers across the San Juanico Strait. Isn’t it worth-visiting? Of course it is! Apart from its beautiful architecture, the bridge offers a panoramic view of the surrounding places. No wonder why lots of people, including motorists driving through the Philippine National Highway drop by to breathe some fresh air, to see the beauty of the bridge and the breathtaking picturesque surrounding it – where calm waters meet the cerulean skies in the distance.
PLACES TO EAT IN TACLOBAN
Just like in any other cities in the Philippines, you can just easily find a place for foodtrip in Tacloban. A short stroll in the city’s sidewalks can fill your hungry stomach. You can also find plenty of fastfood chain and typical Filipino diners. Just roam around outside your hotel or just use your Google Maps app to find places to eat just easily.
During my last day in Tacloban, I spent a little more of my budget for food ( I still had some extra money 😀) and so I went out for a foodtrip. There was one buffet restaurant that I tried that I really liked – Stephanie Smoke Haus. The restaurant had great, delicious selections of menu items. I had my lion’s share for only 290 pesos.
WHERE TO STAY IN TACLOBAN
There are quite a number of accommodations in Tacloban ranging from decent hotels to backpackers’ inns to budget hostels.
Many travelers prefer to stay in downtown area for easy access to cheap accommodations, but at the same time, an answer for those who are into bars and active nightlife.
In my travel, I searched for a place to stay in Tacloban through Airbnb. I booked ahead of time to ensure a place for stay.
If you are looking for an alternative accommodation to the conventional hotel setup, you might want to consider staying at Alvez Residence. The place is ideal for couples or groups who want affordable and clean accommodations. I should mention as well that the place is just about 300 to 500 meters from Robinson mall and about 3 kilometers from the airport.
SIDETRIP TO PALOMPON & KALANGGAMAN ISLAND
Palompon is a municipality located in the north-western part of the Leyte Province. It is closer to Ormoc City than to Tacloban. However, if you are visiting the latter, still, making a side-trip to Palompon is worth the time and energy (and money); the place is a gateway to the awesome Kalanggaman Island.
I admit it, the main reason why ‘destiny’ brought me to Palompon was because of Kalanggaman Island (checkout my Kalanggaman Island DIY travel guide). But, I was surprised that Palompon (I mean, the main municipality since Kalanggaman is also part of it) is a gem in itself. The place reminds me of Oslob in South Cebu. Like Oslob, the place offers a pretty laidback way of life, but as well a vibrant community living.
When I went to Kalanggaman, I had the chance to roam around the town proper – visited their famous Church, bought some items from local stores, ate some barbecue, and conversed with locals.
A memorable experience, indeed.
WHERE TO STAY IN PALOMPON
Love Travellers Inn
The inn is just along the main road within the municipality proper and it is just a walking distance from the Eco-Tourism Office. Though there is nothing fancy when it comes to amenities, this inn is enough to bring you the comfort you would want. Simple and clean room, free use of internet, and friendly staff (a BIG SHOUTOUT to kuya Marvin for accompanying me to the Eco-Tourism Office even in a so-early morning – for FREE).
Note: The inn does not accept credit card
Have not tried this accommodation but I heard quite a number of positive reviews about it. You might find it as a good alternative. It is also within the municipality proper and close to the Eco-Tourism Office (in fact, nearer than LoverTraveller’s Inn).
Note: The inn does not accept credit card
SAMPLE TACLOBAN-PALOMPON ITINERARY
11:00 AM – ETA at Tacloban Airport
12:00 NOON – Lunch near the airport
01:00 PM – Holy Cross Memorial Garden
02:30 PM – San Juanico Bridge
05:00 PM – Back to Downtown Tacloban
06:30 PM – Dinner
08:00 PM – Check in at booked accommodation; lights out, rest
06:00 AM – Breakfast
07:00 AM – Early Checkout
08:00 AM – MacArthur Landing Memorial
09:00 AM – Tacloban City Coliseum
10:00 AM – Sto Nino Church
11:00 AM – Sto Nino Shrine (Romualdez Museum)
12:00 Noon – Lunch
01:00 PM – Tacloban Bus Terminal
01:30 PM – ETD for Palompon
05:00 PM – ETA in Palompon
05:30 PM – Hotel checkin
06:00 PM – Downtown stroll (dinner, buy groceries for Kalanggaman island tour, visit popular lanmark, churches)
09:00 PM – Back to hotel, lights out and rest
04:30 AM – Prepare for Kalanggaman Island Tour; Early Checkout from hotel
05:30 AM – Register for your tour at Eco-tourism Office of Palompon
06:00 AM – ETD for Kalanggaman Island
08:00 AM – ETA in Kalanggaman Island
02:00 PM – Back to Palompon Proper
04:00 AM – ETA at Eco-Tourism Office, washup
04:30 PM – Early dinner
05:30 PM – EDT at Palompon Terminal back to Tacloban
9:00 PM – ETA in Tacloban City; Hotel Checkin; lights out, rest
07:00 AM – Breakfast
08:00 AM – Prepare for departure
09:00 AM – Checkout from hotel
10:00 AM – Shop for keepsake items, pasalubong
11:00 AM – Early lunch
12:00 Noon – Depart for Airport
02:00 PM – ETD from Tacloban Airport
SAMPLE BUDGET (EXCLUDING AIRFARE)
- Public transport (jeepney, tricycle fare)for Tacloban tour = 200 (8 pesos is the minimum fare)
- Accommodation in Tacloban (2 nights) = 1500 (@ 750 per night)
- Meals in Tacloban = 6 x 100 = 600 (@ 100 pesos budget per meal)
- Entrance Fee @ Sto Nino Shrine = 200 (the rest of the attractions in Tacloban mentioned above are free of charges/fees)
- Public transport (Tacloban to Palompon and back) = 400 (200 x 2)
- Accommodation in Palompon for 1 night = 750
- Kalangganan Conservation Fee / Registration Fee = 150
- Boat Fee (joiner) = 300
- Plastic lounge rental fee (optional) = 50
- Meals (for breakfast, lunch, dinner x 2, bottled water/drinks, and other personal items (bought at Palompon Proper) = 600
- Pasalubong (optional) = 500
TOTAL: PHP 5,250
TACLOBAN TRAVEL TIPS
- Easy access to public transport (e.g jeepney) so take advantage of it to save; just a short walk from the airport’s arrival area (about 100 meters) you can find the main road where you can ride a jeepney plying from the airport to downtown and back.
- Some attractions are near to each other, so if you have an ample of time, you might want to consider going from one to another by foot (Google Maps is very useful, make use of it to check distance and guided directions)
- Don’t hesitate to ask locals in case you need some help; they were friendly to me; they were more than willing to give a helping hand when asked for direction, where to it eat and stay. For sure, you will get some help from them
- For attractions that require entrance fees, you might want to consider joining a group to save (e.g. Sto. Nino Shrine charges 200 pesos entrance fee for every 3 persons)
- Was not able to try this, but there is what they call Leyte Weekend Icot-Icot Tour, a guided tour initiated by the Provincial Government of Leyte, that you might find a good alternative way of touring around Tacloban City. For only 100 pesos/head (AM tour) and 150 pesos (PM tour) you can visit popular attractions in the city. This could be more convenient for you, plus, you are helping the locals to earn for a living.
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