The laidback and rustic vibe on this side of the Philippines caught me off-guard. I have been to different places in the country that have almost the same kind of vibe but nothing seems to come close to this destination. It makes you fall in love with it and the experience lingers in you so much that you would want to come back. Everything here seems to command peace and serenity. This is #GuiuanAndOnly.
Facing the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean, Guiuan played a silent role in Philippine history - from the arrival of the Spaniards to the liberation of the country in World War 2. You would not think that this quaint beautiful town witnessed historical milestones that most of us only got to read when we were in school. Guiuan is a paradise with stories to share and spots that will keep you amazed and wanting more.
The Shrine St. Anthony of Padua (Sulangan)
Also known as the Sulangan Church, the shrine was dedicated to St. Anthony de Padua who is the Patron Saint of lost items, lost people, and lost spiritual goods. Locals and devotees troop to the church because of it is believed to miraculous. People offer prayers to St. Anthony with the faith that he will grant it to them.
The quaint church was restored after it was damaged by typhoon Yolanda. Its interior was simple and elegant with a crown-shaped altar and a crucifix as its centerpiece. A smaller altar on the right flank of the church bears the revered image of St. Anthony of Padua.
My visit was just in time because the parish was celebrating its annual fiesta. Miss Janet of the Guiuan Tourism Office shared with us that there were a number of activities lined up since it was the first face-to-face celebration after the pandemic. The activity includes the “panata” where the faithful would walk from different parts of Guiuan to Sulangan Church.
There is a different kind of love when it comes to bridges in Guiuan. Since the municipality are composed of islands, two major islands are connected by bridges to the mainland where the town center is located. Calicoan Island is connected to Guiuan via the Pagnamitan Bridge, which I featured in my previous blog, and Sulangan Island is linked by the Sulangan Bridge to Calicoan. These bridges have become an attraction in itself in Guiuan.
The Sulangan Bridge is a steel bridge that spans a saltwater channel that separates the islands of Calicoan and Suluangan. From the bridge, you get to see the rustic beauty of the river side of Sulangan, the still waters of the channel, and a distant view of the island of Homonhon on the west. It is a perfect place to get that “walking on a bridge” shot and a perfect spot to laze around in the afternoon.
Loading Point Beach (Sulangan)
One thing that I really enjoyed in Guiuan was being able to crash into beach spots whenever there is one around. You are not charged any entrance fees so you get to enjoy the feel of the sun, sand, and saltwater on your skin ANYTIME you feel like it. The white sand beach spots were heaven for a beach bum like me.
Loading Point is a white sand beach spot that is adjacent to Sulangan Bridge. The beach is located where the waters that go through the channel meet the waters of Leyte Gulf. It is a no-frills beach spot where you can rent a cottage to enjoy a full day of beach bumming or, just like me, I just found my corner by the shore to enjoy the view and its cool waters.
Loading Point offers a good view of Homonhon Island. It also gives you a different perspective of Sulangan Bridge. You can also enjoy its cool and still waters and, if your timing is perfect, you also get to catch its mini-sandbar.
Linao Cave and Lagoon (Calicoan)
I seriously need to thank the “diwatas” that guard Linao Cave for working their powers for me to experience the beauty of this natural wonder. It took three attempts before I finally got through the cave and enjoy the beauty and cool waters of its lagoon. I seriously think that I was destined to see its natural beauty despite of the circumstances.
Linao Cave and Lagoon is one of the popular natural attractions of Guiuan. The name is derived from the local waray-waray word “linao” which means “clear” to describe the clear fresh waters of its lagoon. The lagoon is located inside a cavern with an overhead cave opening where light passes through. One needs to navigate through a small cave, located adjacent to the lagoon, and swim across a smaller pool to get there. Unfortunately, I was informed by the tourism office that the cave was recently closed to allow nature to recover from its tourism activities. They told me that I can try but they cannot give the assurance that I will be able to explore the cave and the lagoon.
Getting to the location was relatively easy. The jump-off point is located along the main highway and, from there, one would have to walk 500 meters to the cave opening. With my tricycle driver/guide, Kuya Inoy, in tow, our first attempt had us going through the trail in its forested area that routed us back to the main highway. As it turned out, Kuya Inoy was not familiar with how to get to Linao Cave. Our second attempt had us starting all over again from the jump-off while I measured the distance that we trekked. We found another trail, where we made a wrong turn on our first attempt, that lead us to the mouth of the cave. Again, it was closed and we also figured out that we would need a guide to get inside.
As we were leaving, we came across the guide/caretaker of the property. He convinced us to go with him for a third try and this time he guided us through the cave where we had to scramble on rocks and swim across the pool in pitch dark and using a cellphone flashlight. We had successfully conquered Linao Cave and Lagoon!
The best part of exploring the Linao was that we had the cave and lagoon all for ourselves. I was amazed at its beauty and I loved the serenity of the place. I loved how the sound of dripping water echoed inside the cavern. Of course, I did not miss out on the chance to take a cool and refreshing dip in its cold spring waters. My takeaway - keep trying because you will never get to see the what’s in store if you quit on your first try.
Calicoan Surfing Spot (Calicoan)
Guiuan faces the Pacific Ocean on the east. The waves in the Pacific and the coastline of Calicoan make it an ideal spot for surfing. In fact, Guiuan is said to be gearing itself to becoming the next surfing destination in the Philippines. So it is not a surprise that you would find surf schools in the Calicoan area.
I managed to make a quick stop in one of the beaches in Calicoan where one can surf. It sits along the highway and, just like the other beaches in Guiuan, you can crash through it for free. The spot was nice and cozy with a couple of accommodations nearby. The sun was glaring along the coast and I managed to find myself a shaded spot along its white sand coastline.
The beach is picturesque with its perfect view of the waters of the Pacific and white sand. You can hear the sound of the waves crashing from a distance. The water was still at the time of my visit and there was just one guy swimming. The sun was glaring on me but this was a spot where you get to enjoy the beach in its true essence - the breeze, the sound, and the warmth without the crowd.
Veteran’s Park / Ngolos Naval Base (Calicoan)
In the laidback barangay Ngolos is a park dedicated to the veterans of World War 2. The location is a mute witness to two significant events in Philippine history - during the circumnavigation of the world led by Magellan and during the the liberation of the Philippines in World War 2. As I would put it, Ngolos is hallowed grounds for the birth of our nation.
We all know that Gen. MacArthur fulfilled his “I shall return” promise when he landed in Palo, Leyte to signal the start of the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese hands. What most of us don’t know is that Guiuan was a vital point of the liberation. The town became one of the biggest naval bases in the Far East that was set up by the Americans. The Veteran’s Park was the location of the naval base. In fact, the barangay’s name Ngolos was derived from the name of the naval base - US Naval Ground Operations LOgistic Support Base.
After the war, the military forces were pulled out and most of its structure were stripped. What is left of the former base are the remains of the camp’s flagpole and the concrete roads inside the camp. Nature has reclaimed most areas. A small park was installed as a reminder of Guiuan’s pivotal role in World War 2.
Quincentennial Marker (Calicoan)
History is engraved in the islands of Samar. The birth of the Philippines as a nation started on the islands under its jurisdiction. It was believed that Calicoan Island in Guiuan was the first island to be spotted by crew of Magellan before the fleet set foot in Homonhon Island.
As you head towards the beach front, you would come across two historical markers - the historical marker from the National Historical Institute written in Spanish and the Quincentennial Marker. Both markers celebrate the first circumnavigation of the world by Magellan. As narrated, the fleet of Magellan caught sight of the coastline of Calicoan but was not able to dock because of the island’s rugged coastline. The fleet continued on south where they eventually docked in Homonhon Island.
It was a different feeling standing on the white sand shores on this side of Calicoan. You feel the sense of pride as I stood on the shores where our journey as a nation started and where we fought our ground to regain our pride as a country. This was the beauty that welcomed Magellan to our land. I was thinking… were they captivated? I also thought of how many soldiers sat on this shore to watch the sunrise before they went on to fight. How many of them lived to tell the beauty of this destination. I stood amazed as to how this laidback town is packed with natural beauty and a history that it continues to share.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Guiuan is a gem waiting on the side for its turn to get a spotlight. I am happy that I changed my travel plans even if it meant I had to cram on my research while on the road. I got to see the raw beauty of the place from the eyes of how locals see and experience it. Guiuan captured my heart. It is a place that I would not hesitate to go back and explore. I loved everything about it. It slowed me down and it reminded me that my happy place will always be the ones that are laidback, rustic, and off the radar.
Who would have thought that a change in my travel itinerary would introduce me to a destination that perfectly fits me? I have been to a number of place in the Philippines and Guiuan left a huge mark in me. I wouldn’t mind going back to this place to enjoy the Guiuan vibe. It is, unmistakably, a chance travel that had me wanting for more.
Check out my #ByahengOffTheGrid Guiuan Youtube travel video blog here: #ByahengOffTheGrid Guiuan
Getting there: To get to Guiuan, you can take a plane to Tacloban City from any major hub in the Philippines. You can then take a jeep or a trike from the airport to Van-vans Downtown Tacloban Teminal where you can take a van to Guiuan. Travel time from Tacloban to Guiuan is around 3-4 hours.
Tourism Contact Person: Miss Janet Ramos at (0945) 4695971
Trike Contact for Guiuan Tour: Kuya Inoy at (0997) 9617295
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.