Tacloban may not be the top-of-the-mind destination of anyone who's itching to explore the Visayas region- as most would say Boracay or Cebu, but it surely is a must-visit for people who (a) are too bored with the same ol' Philippine destinations they go to, (b) need some crash course in Philippine history via travelling (c) will do anything just to taste some good Filipino seafood cookin' and (d) are addicted to caffeine and coffee shops. Tacloban housed what I professed- a couple of years ago- my favorite restaurant of all time, one of the most interesting parks I've ever seen and by far, the coziest coffee shop I've ever entered in to. If you'll stay and read a little longer, you will know where those places are- among other things that truly made my Tacloban experience one of the most memorable and bloggable.
So here we go.
Interestingly, it is said that the hotel closed for 3 years until it reopened last 1994. And you know what people say when buildings become derelict for a long period of time. Brrrr. Since then, this resort had become popular to ghost hunters too, aside from tourists. Go figure!
Nonetheless, the Leyte Park Hotel is still a must-see when going to Tacloban. It also offers eco-tourism based tours for people who would like to experience nature in the heart of the highly urbanized city of Tacloban.
Order the Guso Salad at Otso. I've declared it to the whole world once, Otso Restaurant is my favorite restaurant of all time. I'm not exactly a big fan of seafoods but Otso made me one, in an instant. Make sure to visit this restaurant when you set your vagabond feet on Tacloban. And then order the Guso Salad. Guso, more popularly known as Kappaphycus alvarezii for scientists and geeks, is a kind of sea-veggie that is like Ar-arosep or Sea grape. It's succulent, jelly and fresh! And most importantly, I fell in love with it the first time I tasted it. Get it along with Ponao Soup or with any seafood cookin' of your choice.
Breakfast at McDonald's beside the sea. How 'bout feeling snug and cozy with your McDonald's breakfast early in the morning while overlooking the sea? You'll be lovin' it!
Drop by the Provincial Capitol. It's probably the closest thing to the White House you'll ever see. With its ultra white facade and rich history, the Leyte Provincial Capitol does not only shine because of its color but also with its contribution to the Philippine Commonwealth Government. Did you know that the Leyte Provincial Capitol became the Capitol Building of the Philippines during the 1940's? As recorded, it became the seat of government during the former President Sergio Osmena's reign.
Taste San Pedro Bay's Sinigang na Hipon. San Pedro Bay Seafoods is located at Resort Marina that serves cooked seafoods straight from the San Pedro Bay. The type of dishes they serve range from Filipino, Canadian, American and Italian. I recommend you trying their Sinigang na Hapon served with serving spoon made of coconut shell! Awesome!
Relax at Jose Karlos Coffee. Again I'm not a coffee person but I go inside coffee shops to find some snug spot to relax or do some of my blog posts in. The more popular coffee shops in Manila had become indeed popular and thus gradually lost the cozy atmosphere that I went there for on the first place. But when I went to Tacloban and then found myself inside the loving arms of this local cafe, I knew I was supposed to find this place and write about it someday.
I didn't get coffee but I went for a Cherry Cheesecake and then submerged myself fully into the irresistibly relaxing atmosphere that the cafe was giving me that time.
One of the top coffee shops in the Philippines- they say? Now I know why.
See the Map of Leyte. This is the Map of Leyte. And this is how the island looks like. Right behind this structure is actually the image of the crucified Jesus Christ. You may click here to see the image. [Photo Credits: mikes&mug]
History said it that during 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines, he and his troops held the first Catholic mass in the archipelago in Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte. And thus later on, Leyte became known as gateway to Christianity for the Philippines.
Cross the San Juanico Bridge. Never abandon yet your elusive dream of being at the two islands at the same time. Be at the middle of the longest bridge in the Philippines, San Juanico Bridge, and you'll be in both Samar and Leyte islands at exactly the same time. Though I'm just not sure how sane and legal it is to get in the middle of the bridge and pose the way I did in this picture, no experience on a bridge can be more remarkable. Good thing, vehicles came too rare that time.
Formerly known as the Marcos Bridge, the bridge was built upon the era of the former President Ferdinand Marcos as a Gift and Testimonial of Love for the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, a Leytena. This, among other things, is just one of the reasons why San Juanico Bridge had also become the most controversial and most talked-about bridge in the entire archipelago.
Get some Moron! Contrary to the sound of its name if you say it in front of an English-speaking folk, Moron is one of the most beautiful-tasting Filipino delicacy I've ever placed on my mouth. For me, it tastes like the stickiest and the tastiest kalamay with bits of nuts and chocolate. Yes! Chocolate on a native Filipino delicacy! You'll never find the best-tasting Moron anywhere else but in Tacloban. So don't dare miss it. Try Binagol and Sagmani too.
Visit the Sto. Nino Shrine. When I first heard of the Sto. Nino Shrine, I thought that I was going to a chapel or a grotto. Indeed the shrine is dominated by a chapel that is dedicated to the Holy Child Jesus but the rest of the shrine are various rooms with themes as well as artifacts and artworks formerly owned by the Marcoses.
You'll be astounded! There are 13 themed guest rooms that are unbelievably furnished with expensive and elegant-looking- though now slightly dirty and unkempt- four-poster beds, sofa sets, shelves, cabinets and etc. Each of the guest rooms follow a unique theme such as the Butterfly Room, the Igorot Room, the Capiz Room and etc.
If you found the guest room jaw-dropping, wait 'till you see the other 8 rooms dedicated for each of the members of the Marcos Family. Consider this. The Sto. Nino Shrine is actually one of the 29 Presidential Rest Houses built by the former President Ferdinand Marcos and this one is supposed to be special for having been located at the hometown of her first lady. This explains the presence of the expensive antiques from all over the world including the mirrors from Austria, chandeliers from Czech Republic, tiles from Italy, sculpted elephant tusks from China, floor carpets from Argentina and etc.
Still, a full blog post is not enough to relay everything that I have in mind about my whole-day experience at the Sto. Nino Shrine in Tacloban. In fact, even the former first lady- with all the grandeur and elegance this former mansion had inside its doors- stayed there only for a day.
Indeed, a full blog post may not be enough.
Haggle for the souvenirs! Outside the Sto. Nino Shrine, even your last penny may not be enough! They sell there souvenirs such as the ref magnet for PhP180.00 each!
The more surprising part is that I bought one. And I wasn't able to haggle that much because I need to catch my flight back to Manila and I need a ref magnet. I collect it from the places I travel from.
If you need to practice your haggling skills, this place is perfect!
So there you go, Ladies and Gentlemen, the city of Tacloban in Leyte! So when will your next trip to the Visayas will be?