Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines, after Mindanao and Luzon islands. It is located next to Leyte Island and the two are joined by a bridge.
Cities and municipalities
Western Samar (Samar)
- Homonhon Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar
With an area of approximately 13,400 km2 (5,200 sq mi), Samar is the third largest island of the Philippines, after Mindanao and Luzon. Most of Samar Island is rainforest and about a third of the island is protected by the Philippine government, as part of the Samar Island National Park. There are a lots of caves in the mountains forming the island's interior, and the province of Eastern Samar has many beaches
Samar was the first island of the Philippines to be sighted by Europeans. Ferdinand Magellan, on the first circumnavigation of the world, realized that he had arrived on another archipelago since his expedition left the Mariana Islands, and sighted an island he named first as San Lázaro. Magellan did not land anywhere on the island, but on Homonhon off what is now the town of Guiuan. The present name Samar derives from samad, which means "wound" or "cut" in various Visayan languages, and dates from 1596.
Samar was the center of one of the infamous American atrocities in the Philippine-American War. On 28 Sep 1901, U.S. Marines led by General Jacob H. Smith, led what would become known as the "March across Samar". In retaliation to Marines killed in the Balangiga encounter — which has been described in the U.S. as the worst American defeat since the Battle of Little Bighorn — Smith ordered every town and village be burnt down and every Filipino male from the age of 10 killed. Smith's orders led to condemnation from other Americans and his court-martial a year after the war ended, and the atrocities remain fresh in the consciousness of Samar residents, especially in Eastern Samar.
Formerly a single province, with the capital at Calbayog, Samar has been divided into three provinces. Most of Samar Island is sparsely populated, and rural poverty is widespread. There is also an active movement to make Samar Island its own region, in a similar fashion with the former Negros Island Region. The total population of the provinces forming Samar Island totals around 2,000,000 (2015 estimate), and the majority of residents are from the Waray ethnic group.
Cebgo has flights to Calbayog from their Cebu hub.
Air Juan has flights to Catbalogan (no IATA) from Cebu.
Major bus companies in Manila plying the Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao route pass through the province since Maharlika Highway runs through the island. Travellers to the province of Samar may ride from Metro Manila at the terminals in Cubao or Muntinlupa.
Once the bus has reached the southern tip of Luzon island, you will take a 30-minute ferryboat to the northern end of Samar, after which you can continue your bus trip, or transfer to a myriad of jeepneys, minibuses and tricycles to take you to anywhere in Samar.
The western coast of Samar Island is traversed by the Asian Highway 26 route, which starts at the ferry port in Allen and continues into Leyte across the San Juanico Bridge.
Non-AC minibuses ply the Catbalogan-Calbayog-Catarman route. There is no fixed schedule, however, and they often run full and stop at almost every barangay and small town. Due to the distances and travel times involved, they don't operate overnight, with the last departure around late afternoon.
Buses from Manila or Mindanao that ply the Maharlika Highway are available all day, however, most only stop in Calbayog and Catbalogan.
Besides the buses, there are many UV Express van shuttles that ply the Catbalogan-Calbayog route almost every half an hour. These vans also ply the Calbayog-Allen and Allen-Catarman routes, with departures almost every hour. A UV from Catarman to Calbayog takes 2 hours and costs ₱100. Unlike the local buses, they run all day, yet with less frequent departures.
From the two urban centers of Catbalogan and Calbayog, there are jeepneys that ply from the two localities going to the various towns in the island.
- San Juanico Bridge between Tacloban, Leyte and Sta. Rita, Samar, is one of the longest bridges in the Philippines.
- Samar Island Nature Park
The region is the caving capital of the Philippines, being home to many cave systems. Interspersed with this cave systems are waterfalls, rivers and underground rivers inside caves. Hence, the region is a destination for extreme mountaineering adventures such as spelunking and trekking.
On the Pacific coast of Eastern Samar, the island of Calicoan is home to an international surfing circuit held every year.
Typhoons are a constant danger in Samar, and travellers must check for weather advisories before travelling. Typhoon Haiyan paralyzed the island, and it took over a year to rehabilitate damaged areas. Expect lack of services when the area is heavily struck.