Baybay: beach, heritage and adventure

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FOR THE TYPICAL Filipino traveler, the beach would always be on top of the list of desired destinations. And as an archipelago of over 7,100 islands, the country is blessed with an extensive coastline of varying qualities of beaches sure to satisfy any traveler.

Binaybayon Festival street dancing
Binaybayon Festival street dancing

The city of Baybay in Leyte has the longest coastline in the province.

It goes without saying that its claim to fame is its long coastline. Punctuated by coconut and palm fringes on Leyte’s western coast, Baybay offers a front row seat to a romantic sunset with crisp sea breeze and unspoilt waters. It may not be as popular as the well-known white sand island beaches, but what it offers is its natural charm away from the madding crowd.

When city recently decided to throw a party to celebrate its patronal feast of the Immaculate Conception, it put to the fore its coastal bounty through the Binaybayon Festival.

The festival was born in 2007 when Baybay was proclaimed a city. It is a thanksgiving ritual influenced by the traditional Waray curacha dance, and by the townfolk’s agrarian way of life, with the street dances depicting the various stages of the planting and harvest seasons.

According to traditional accounts, city’s name can be traced to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the late 1500s. According to the tale, when they asked a native about the name of the place, the local thought he was being asked about the nearby river and beach, so he replied “ang suba kaynunuk nagabaybay sa Sta. Kudos” which literally means “the river is meandering through the village of Sta. Cruz.” The Spaniards were only able to pick up the word “baybay” thus they named the place as such.

Dubbed as the “City of Beauty, Peace and Serenity,” Baybay offers the charm of the upland and coastal ecosystems with the Pangasugan mountain ranges and the tranquil Camotes Sea.

One place to visit is the Visayas State University (VSU), a sprawling educational enclave which has been dubbed as a “resort university” because of its enviable beach-front location. One of the country’s biggest agricultural schools, VSU is a vital component of the blossoming agro-industrial tourism.

The city also takes pride in its 13,820-hectare coconut plantation, the biggest in Eastern Visayas, making it the home of two world-class coconut oil factories and a pulp paper exporter which are often visited for industrial educational tours.

Baybay is also recognized as a “heritage town” in Leyte because of its well-preserved American-era ancestral houses. Visitors can walk around the heritage zone and visit the homes which have become “living museums.”

The centerpiece of this heritage zone is the Spanish-era Immaculate Conception Church, one of Leyte’s most postcard-pretty churches.

Meanwhile, adrenaline junkies can explore the cavernous chambers of Lintaon Cave, wallew in the cool waters of Bakwitan Falls and of Ambacan River, or trek the slopes of Mt. Pangasungan which provided refuge to Filipino guerillas led by Gen. Ruperto Kangleon during World War II.

The hilltop barangay of Lintaon offers guests a breathtaking view of the city and Leyte’s mountains. The area is ideal for a zipline or cable car park, a retreat center, Stations of the Cross, or a back-to-the-basics camping.