Eastern Samar is located in the Eastern Visayas region. It is bounded on the north by Northern Samar, on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by Western Samar, and on the south by the Leyte Gulf. Waray-waray is the major dialect spoken in the province. Eastern Samar had been a significant backdrop of the country’s rich colonial history through the island of Homonhon, where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521 on his way to conquer the Philippines for the western world. Its tiny island of Suluan Guiuan was likewise where the U.S. Army rangers had their first encounter of the Philippine territory in 1944, three days before General Douglas MacArthur made his historic landing in Leyte.
In his account, Pigafetta, the chronicler aboard Magellan’s ship, describes the island of Humumu, now Homonhon, as so: “We found two fountains of very clear water, we called it the `Waters of Good Signs,’ having found the first sign of gold in the said island. There also can be found much white coral and tall trees that bear fruits smaller than an almond and look like pines. There were also many palm trees, some of the good kind, some of the bad. Thereabouts are many neighboring islands. Hence, we called them the St. Lazarus Archipelago because we stayed there on the day and feast of St. Lazarus.”
Historians have since described this part of Samar Island as the “eastern gateway to the Philippines.” The coast of the small province faces the Pacific Ocean and much of the land is rugged with the vast parts forested. The interior part is rough and hilly and covered with dense tropical vegetation but drained by numerous rivers and creeks. Mountain ranges and peaks abound in an interior. Narrow plains hug most of the coastal areas and, in some instances, the banks of its principal rivers and their tributaries.
Find your own small tropical haven, whether it’s the creamy sands and azure waters of Suluan Island or the marine life sanctuary of Kantican Island, which also houses an experimental pearl farm.
Amandaraga is the name of Lawaan’s waterfalls which resembles a maiden’s hair. Favorite island hopping destinations are the twin islands of Ando and Divinuvo in Borongan City. For camping and trekking, explore the Borongan-Llorente Closed Canopy Forest.
The ultimate crowd-drawer, however, is the rising star that is Calicoan Island. Despite the allure of its inland lagoons and wild virgin forests, both locals and foreigners head here for one thing: surfing. The ABCD Beach, the shoreline of choice if you’re staying at The Surf Camp or the Calicoan Villas, offers waves suitable for both beginner or advanced surfers. The local surf season runs from April to November.
Eastern Samar is sprinkled with locations that have hosted some of the country’s most interesting historical events.
Homonhon Island was where Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521. Tubabao Island sheltered thousands of Russian refugees in the 1950s; the refugees were survivors of the Bolshevik Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. And the modest town of Balangiga was the site of a noteworthy chapter in Philippine history — a powerful story involving resistance, revenge and church bells.
The province also hosts the Padul-ong Festival every September, an energetic and grand socio-cultural celebration filled with colourful parades and street dancing.