I have long figured out that I prefer the not-your-usual Philippine travel destinations. Having been to a lot of places in the country, there is something about the small-town-city vibe that really captures my heart. I prefer the laidback and unassuming locations where locals seem to be unaware of the beauty of their city or town. I guess this is the case of our next destination - the city of Calbayog.
Calbayog City is a coastal city on the western side of Samar. The city is the sixth largest in the country, in terms of land and water area, and is a commercial hub of the province of Samar. The city is known, among travelers, as the city of waterfalls because of the numerous waterfalls that one can explore within its jurisdiction. However for this travel, we won’t be going to far but we will be exploring the city of Calbayog without the falls.
Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral (Calbayog Cathedral)
The St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is considered to be the biggest church in Samar and the first cathedral designated in Eastern Visayas. Established as a visita in 1599, the construction of the present church, in Baroque-Romanesque style, started in 1840. Its floor design was in crucifix form with a dome above the transept.
The church and its adjacent belfry dominates the skyline of Calbayog. The simple facade of the church is highlighted by the image of the “Our Lady’s Nativity” atop its main door and the images of St. Peter and St. Paul stands adjacent to the image. The towering Cathedral Bell Tower stands on the right side of the church.
The interior of the church is highlighted by its grand and beautiful altars. The gold and white retablos were designed to look like a facade of a church complete with spirals. The gold chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and the stained-glass windows of the church complete the church’s design giving it a grandiose vibe. A prayer and baptism room is found at the bottom of the church’s belfry.
Calbayog City Hall and Sacred Heart Plaza
Built in 1925, the Calbayog City Hall is the center of governance of the city. It is houses the local government offices that provide services to its locals. Adjacent to the City Hall is the Handumanan Building that serves as the city’s tourism office. The building was once a jailhouse that was later renovated with a typical-
bahay na bato look.
Just right across the City Hall is the town plaza. The open space park is complete with benches and a children’s playground. It has a good view of the church and the city hall and is a good afternoon spot to lounge around if you want to see and feel the laidback vibe of the city.
Samar Archeological Museum
The Samar Archeological Museum is the only archeological museum in Eastern Visayas. Located with the confines of the Christ the King College, the museum is a repository of artifacts that was recovered and collected by Father Cantius Kobak, a Polish priest and is often referred to, in the academe, as the “Historian of Samar”. The collections include porcelains, burial jars, human bones, and religious artifacts that were collected across the island of Samar.
The museum walks you through Samar’s rich past. The collection includes pre-Spanish period burial jars and human bones that indicated that early Warays already had a concept of the after death, even before the introduction of Christianity in the country. The exhibits also has on display ornaments, instruments, and war weapons that showcased the creativity of tge early settlers of the island. Religious artifacts and antiques from the Spanish period are also part of the display.
It was interesting to find a local private museum that showcased local history. What is more amazing that it started because of the interest of a foreign educator who mapped the island to help us discover more about our past. I just hope that we gather more government support to dig further, know more, and share more about our colorful past.
Nijaga Park and Calbayog River
Snaking through the city is the Calbayog River. The water that flows through the river drains into the Samar Sea. You can actually observe the movement of the sea tides as water drains out of the river during the low tide. The river is said to help ease flooding in the city.
A river esplanade was constructed right along the banks of the city. The walkway sits adjacent to Nijaga Park - another activity center of the city. The park honors the local Calbayog hero, Benedicto Nijaga, who was arrested and executed with 12 other Katipuneros for their involvement in the group. The park bears a bust of Nijaga and Rizal and also plays host to community activities.
The park and the river esplanade are a beauty at night with all its ambient lights. The bridge that spans the river also gives it that dramatic vibe. Its relaxing ambiance make it a favorite afternoon spot by locals in the city.
Port of Calbayog
Calbayog is a commercial hub in the province of Samar. It serves as a gateway to the province with its airport and seaport connecting the Samar to the major cities in the country. The seaport has become a favorite afternoon “tambayan” of the locals.
Less than a kilometer away from the town center, the seaport of the city was still buzzing late in the afternoon, not with business transactions but with locals heading up to its unfinished road project. Fishing vessels line along the mouth of Calbayog River while there were a number of pumpboats who were still waiting for passengers probably headed to the nearby islands. Locals frequent the area of the unfinished diversion road for a quick afternoon run or bike while enjoying the views of the Samar Sea and the surrounding islands.
Spanish Quarter and the Pot-Pot of Calbayog
Walking around the city of Calbayog gives you a unique mix of the rural and city vibe. I must say that I love how the rural vibe outplays the urban feel. The city has a Spanish Quarter where you get to see the collection of old houses of the town. The district is the area surrounding the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. It is amazing to see these old structures fused with modern architecture.
You also get to see the Pot-Pot which is an attraction in itself. The Pot-Pot is a basically a bike with a passenger carriage that was designed like a tricycle. The carriage is also slightly angled up compared to the usual sidecars. It is a popular mode of transportation in the city for short distances.
Malopalo Marble Park
I made a quick trip on the city outskirts as I was pressed for time to head back to Tacloban City for my flight back to Manila. The Malopalo Marble Park is an eco-tourism destination located along the main highway about 20 minutes away from the city. The park used to be a quarry area for marbles and efforts to stop its extraction was successful that it was turned into a park.
One can already see the rustic beauty of the park from the highway. The white rock formations could already be seen from the highway. A river traverses through the park and locals offer boat tours inside the park to appreciate its beauty. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to explore it further.
Malajog Ridge Nature Park
The Malajog Ridge Nature Park is just a few meters away from the Malopalo Marble Park. The ridge and beach spot is nestled behind a towering ridge. The Malajog Beach is a popular beach spot among locals with its gray sand and still blue waters. The park prides itself for having a zipline that traverses to the nearby Daraga Islets.
The beach already had locals enjoying its serene vibe and still waters when I got to the beach. From the coast, you could view the islands of Pawikan and Biyatungan on the horizon. There are cottages and resorts that line the shores but I was quick to notice that the shoreline was clean. The south side of the beach is rugged with its rock formations.
I headed towards the ridge and the rock formations. Concrete platform and stairs were installed along the ridge for ease of visitors in the area. The zipline was not operational on the day of my visit. I managed to climb up the stairs to catch a panoramic view of the shoreline of Malajog. There is also a rest stop at the foot of the stairs where you get to enjoy the more rugged side of the beach.
Food Munch: Calbayog Lechon
Just right along the streets of Nijaga Park, vendors caught my attention for the food that they were selling - lechon!!! Lechon is one of my favorite food and Cebu was always, hands down, my favorite. Well, Calbayog’s Lechon could give Cebu’s a run for their money.
I later on discovered that the streets near Nijaga Park become a lechon strip on Saturdays and Sundays where local vendors get to sell the viand. I did not miss on the chance and got me a half a kilo order to try it out and it was really good. The lechon meat was tender and juicy and you don’t need any “sawsawan” to enjoy it. Now, the best lechon for me is between Cebu and Calbayog.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Calbayog City oozes with that old town charm feel that is laidback and where afternoons are best enjoyed either by the “pantalan” or walking around town with friends. Everything is within reach. You get the urban amenities like malls and posh looking cafes without losing out on a beach spot that is within reach on a weekend. You get the community spirit as they spend lazy afternoons by the plaza where almost everyone knows everyone. This is what we are missing out in the metro. The vibe where the chances of you bumping into someone you know is higher than stumbling as you walk around town.
People would always ask me what do I get from traveling around the Philippines. Well, I get to see beyond the stories that we read in books or what we learn from school. I get to see how communities thrive despite the circumstances that they face. I get to hear, first hand, stories of success or struggles of individuals so I get to understand better. Hindi yung mga nauusong kwentong kunyari naiintindihan pero ang totoo… it is all for the hugot para kunyari nakarelate. I enjoy exploring the Philippines because its raw beauty comes alive more with real stories from real people that I meet along the way. It makes me realize how proud I am to be Filipino and what we need to do to become better Filipinos.
Check out my latest Youtube travel video here: #ByahengOffTheGrid Calbayog
Getting there: You can take a direct flight to Calbayog City although the flights are limited. You can also opt to take a flight to Tacloban City where you can take a van at the VS Grand Tours station in the city proper to Calbayog City. Calbayog City is about 4-hour travel from Tacloban.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.