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Leyte is an island in the Visayas (central area of the Philippines). It is very close to the island of Samar, to which it is connected by the San Juanico Bridge.
Lete is a rugged island covered with densely forested mountains. There are also fertile plains in the northern and western parts of the island.
Administratively the island of Leyte is divided into two provinces: Leyte Province (in the north) and Southern Leyte Province (in the south). Of the northern coast of Leyte island is the small island of Baliran, which is a separate province known as Bilaran Province.
For most people Leyte is famous for its association with three historical personages:
-- the American general Douglas MacArthur who began the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese when on 20 October 1944 he waded ashore on Leyte, fulfilling the promise he had earlier made to Filipinos ("I shall return") when he had been forced to withdraw from the Philippines in 1942 by the Japanese invasion.
-- the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan who visited the island of Limasawa in southern Leyte on his way to Cebu and is said to have conducted the first Catholic mass in the Philippines while there.
-- Madame Imelda Marcos (the former first lady of the Philippines and wife of President Ferdinand Marcos), who was born in Tolosa, Leyte.
The main export of Leyte is copra (30% of the arable land is occupied by coconut palms). Other exports include rice, maize, sugar and abaca (plant whose fibres are used in twines, ropes, paper products, etc.).
On a more sombre note, Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Typhooon Yolanda) passed across Leyte in early November 2013, destroying 70-80% of the buildings and killing 6,300 people.
Tacloban is the capital of Leyte Province in the north of Leyte island. Its main tourist attractions include:
Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Center
Museum in Divine Word University
Tacloban is the gateway to the Sohoton National Park on nearby Samar Island. The city is also host to the annual Tacloban Festival.
Sohoton Natural Bridge (in the Sohoton National Park)
San Juanico Bridge
Red Beach (including MacArthur Park)
Palo (where Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines on 20 October 1944)
North and Northwest: Maripipi, Higatangan
South of Tacloban
Mahagnao Volcano National Park
The town of Ormoz features: wharf; markert; remains of old bridge near City Hall; Zaldiibar Museum; Japanese Peace Memorial.
It is also the starting point for the Leyte Mountain Trail that goes through the Leyte National Park.
An important historical event was the Typhoon Uring that hit the town on 5 November 1991.
Tongonan (including the Tongonan Hot Springs)
Lake Danao National Park
Southwest Coast: Baybay, Hilongos, Bato Maasin, Padre Burgos, Limasawa
Maasin is the capital of South Leyte Province.
Limasawa was visited by Magellan on 25 March 1521 and it was the site of the first Catholic mass in the Philippines while Magellan was there.
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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)