Eastern Visayas is one of the three administrative regions in the Visayas group of islands, and is designated Region VIII out of the 17 regions of the entire Philippines. Wikivoyage divides the Visayas up without using the administrative regions; see the Visayas article for details.
The region is also a destination for marine adventures like scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing. At the southern end of Leyte island, Sogod Bay boasts of a massive underwater coral gardens ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. The smaller island of Biliran is popular to beachcombers with its pristine white sand beaches.
For geological wonders, along its shores at the northern part of Samar island are towering rock formations in Biri and Capul, Northern Samar, and in the Leyte Gulf side of Marabut, Samar. There are volcanic lakes located in the various islands of the region, most notable of which is Lake Danao in Ormoc City.
For road trip adventure, the three major island of the region is encircled by a coastal highway end to end. Countryside driving can be a relaxing experience with views of the ocean and seas atop the mountains of Samar. San Juanico Bridge connects Leyte and Samar islands between Tacloban City and Sta. Rita, Samar. Biliran Bridge connects Leyte and Biliran islands.
Historical sites such as Homonhon and Limasawa islands, two of the stops Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan made during the first recorded voyage around the world, are located in the region. Homonhon Island is at the southern end of Samar Island while Limasawa Island is at the southern end of Leyte Island.
The region is home of the Pintados and Sangyaw festivals. On the month of June each year, Pintados and Sangyaw festivals are held in the region's capital Tacloban City. These festivals are the region's biggest crowd drawing events coinciding with the religious festivities of Tacloban City honoring Señor Sto. Niño, the Patron Saint of Tacloban. Other smaller festivals and festivities are held in every town annually at different dates.
The region includes the large islands of Leyte and Samar, the medium-size island of Biliran between them, and a number of small islands nearby. It is divided into six provinces as follows:
On Leyte Island:
- Southern Leyte
On Samar Island:
On its own island:
- 1 Tacloban City – capital of Leyte province and regional center
- 2 Baybay City – in Leyte province
- 3 Borongan City – capital of Eastern Samar province
- 4 Calbayog City – in Samar Province
- 5 Catbalogan City – capital of Samar province
- 6 Maasin City – capital of Southern Leyte province
- 7 Ormoc City – in Leyte Province
The city of Tacloban is the educational, cultural, commercial and trade center of the region while the neighboring town of Palo, Leyte is where most agencies of the national government is located. Hence, it is the government center for Eastern Visayas region.
Waray people are perceived to be difficult and brave. Although this may be true in some instances, the Warays are just like other ordinary Filipinos who share the same level of hospitality. This perception was rooted to the heroism and galantry of local folks in many battles fought during World War I and II.
The main local languages of the region are Cebuano and Waray, with Waray predominating on Samar Island and northern Leyte, and Cebuano predominating elsewhere. The two languages are related members of the Visayan language group, but are not mutually intelligible. Tagalog is also quite widely spoken since it is an official language and used in schools, but it is not indigenous to the this region. It is also related, but more distantly.
As anywhere in the country, English is common but the level varies enormously and is generally better in the cities and among the educated classes.
As anywhere, many Filipinos speak multiple languages. You should not be surprised, for example, to meet someone whose native language is Waray but who can also speak Cebuano, Tagalog and English, perhaps plus one or two foreign languages picked up during stints as an overseas contract worker.
Tacloban City is the jump-off point of the region. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Asia serve the city from Manila and Cebu daily. Other secondary routes served by local airlines from Manila are Catarman Airport, Calbayog Airport and Ormoc Airport
All cities and capital towns in the region are accessible by bus from Manila, Cebu, Davao. The biggest regional terminal is at Tacloban City where buses and vans have direct connection to all cities and provincial capitals in the region. The five major seaports (ferry terminal) of entry to the region is at Silago, Southern Leyte for buses coming from the island of Mindanao, Bato, Leyte for buses coming from island of Bohol, Palompon, Leyte for buses from Cebu, and the two ferry terminals at Allen, Northern Samar for buses coming from Luzon island. The islands of Leyte, Samar and Biliran are interconnected by bridges with the beautiful San Juanico Bridge connecting Leyte and Samar islands.
For scheduled passenger ferries, Ormoc City is the main entry point from the province of Cebu while the town of Bato, Leyte is the entry port from the island of Bohol. The town of Palompon is the seaport for scheduled passenger vessels from Manila and Mindanao.
Bridges connect Leyte Island to both Samar Island and Biliran Island.
- Buses and vans connect Tacloban City to all other capital cities and towns within the region. From the provincial capitals, mini buses and jeepneys connect the capital city or town to all outlying towns belonging to each province. In some instances within a province, jeepneys and vans connect two major neighboring towns.
- There are available vans for hire going to every destination in the region. In most cases, in rural towns, motorbike for hire is the common form of transportation from the town proper to the inner barangays or villages.
- The entire region is encircled by a coastal road from end to end since most of the towns are in coastal areas. Very few inner towns can be located at the central part of each island.
- San Juanico Bridge - the longest bridge in the Philippines, constructed in the 70s.
- Agas-agas Bridge - the highest bridge in the Philippines.
- McArthur Landing Park - World War II memorial park dedicated to General Douglas McArthur of the United States Armed Forces.
- Coral gardens at Sogod Bay
- Canigao Island
- Calicoan Island surfing
- Pinipisakan Falls
Fly to Catarman, Northern Samar Proceed to Laoang, Northern Samar for white beaches or Proceed to Biri island Then proceed to Allen, Northern Samar Proceed to Calbayog all the way to Catbalogan Either proceed to Borongan going to Calicoan or Go straight to Tacloban from Catbalogan Go to Ormoc, proceed to Maasin Proceed to Sogod Bay, then to Silago Return to Tacloban and fly out
- Scuba dive and snorkel at Sogod Bay.
- Surf at Calicoan Island where international surfing competition is held every year.
- Visit the historical Homonhon Island, where Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, as commissioned by Spain, first set foot on Philippine soil in the year 1521.
- McArthur Park in Palo, Leyte, where General Douglas McArthur made his landing, liberating the Philippines from the Japanese invasion during World War II.
- Take a dip at Danao Lake in Ormoc City.
- Explore the breath-taking Biri island
- See the magnificent Rock formations in Marabut, Eastern Samar.
- Experience countryside setting of the region on a road trip along its coastal road encircling around the region from east to west and north to south.
- Explore the many lakes and waterfalls which are aplenty in the region.
- Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival (June 29-30)
- Binagol, the native sweet delicacy indigenous to the town of Dagami, Leyte sold in the sidewalk of Tacloban City.
- Moron, the rice chocolate delicacy also indigenous to Dagami, Leyte but now made everywhere in the region.
- Tuba, a local wine made from coconut sap with coloring mixture from mangrove bark.
Bigger hotels can be found in the cities of Tacloban, Ormoc and Calbayog. Leyte Park Hotel & Resort in Tacloban City is the region's biggest hotel; it overlooks San Pedro Bay. Beach resorts can be found in outlying coastal towns; one well-known one is Calicoan Surf Camp at Calicoan Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
See the province and city articles for details.
The Eastern Visayas is among the highest risk areas in the country for typhoons; this is where most storms coming in off the Pacific make landfall. Travellers should check weather reports regularly and either take precautions or, even better, get out of the area when a storm is expected.
The Eastern Visayas were hit extremely hard by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest tropical storms on record, in November 2013. Thousands were killed and whole towns flattened. Cleanup and rebuilding were almost done when they were hit again by another big storm, Typhoon Ruby, in December 2014.
For tourists traveling to outlying towns and interior villages, it is advisable to register with the Municipal Tourism Officer at the town hall.
Ferry and bus trip to:
- Cebu at Ormoc City Pier
- Matnog at Allen Ferry Terminal
- Mindanao at Silago Ferry Terminal
- Bohol at Bato Pier
- Masbate at Palompon Pier