Leyte is considered the largest province in the Eastern Visayas Region and is one of the six provinces of Eastern Visayas Region. It is located in Central Philippines adjacent to Cebu. The province ranks eighth in size among larger islands in the Philippine Archipelago. It is situated in the island of Leyte and is the oldest province in the region. Leyte is strategically located in the Visayas region. It is bounded on the north by the Province of Biliran, by the San Juanico Strait and the island of Samar in the east, in the west by the Visayas and Ormoc Seas and in the south by Southern Leyte. The province is considered the regional center of the Eastern Visayas where the regional government offices are located and the provincial capital, Tacloban City, is situated. The capital site of Leyte changed several times before Tacloban City became the permanent capital in 1787. The first capital was Carigara, then successively, Palo and Tanauan.
Leyte has a colorful history. Leyteños like to point out of that their forebears were among the first to welcome the Spaniards but later against all odds they were also among the first to resist them when they found out that their rights were at stake and being trampled upon by the Spanish colonizers. Nationalism was strong then and still is very dynamic in the province these days.
In 1521, Magellan sailed from the island of Homonhon, Eastern Samar to the island of Limasawa, Leyte, entered into a blood compact with Rajah Kolambu. On Eastern Sunday, March 31, of that year, was celebrated the First Mass in the Philippines. Some historical researchers, however, are now disputing this.
The next century witnessed a religious uprising lead by Bancao, the Limasawa chief, and his high priest, Pagail. The revolt began in Carigara and spread to neighboring towns before it was quelled. 27 years after the 1622 uprising, another revolt hit Leyte – an offshoot of the Sumoroy rebellion then simmering in Samar. And in the center of the disturbances, the village of Bacor, rebels burned the church and its convent.
By 1768, Leyte, now separated from Samar, became a politico-military province. The set up continued until the end of Spanish rule, when Gen. Vicente Lukban took over Leyte and Samar in the name of the Revolutionary Government.
It was World War II, which placed Leyte on the world map. On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur, the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, and accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen Carlos P. Romulo, landed on Palo, Leyte to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese. The capital site of Leyte changed several times before Tacloban City became the permanent capital in 1787.
The civil government under the Americans was organized on April 22, 1901. The Americans at once saw the need for a road network linking the eastern and western parts of the islands separated by mountain range and culturally by two distinct dialects: the Lineyte-Samarnon or Waray-Waray and Cebuano. The road was formally inaugurated on April 5, 6 and 7, 1937. The Second World War hit the Philippines in 1941; the Japanese occupation followed. Col. Ruperto Kangleon organized a guerilla organization that harassed the Japanese forces in Leyte. In 1944 Leyte became world-famous as the point of entry for the American forces of liberation.
During the liberation, the province was placed prominently on the world map. General Douglas MacArthur, head of the largest United States fleet of transport and warships, accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmena and Carlos P. Romulo, landed in Palo, Leyte to reclaim the country from the Japanese forces. A historical marker in Palo marks the spot in Leyte where General Douglas MacArthur and his army landed on October 20, 1944.
From October 23, 1944 to February 27, 1945, Tacloban became the temporary seat of the Philippine Commonwealth. On May 22, 1959, by virtue of Republic Act No. 2227, the island province was divided into Leyte and Southern Leyte. Years later, on May 11, 1992, the sub-province of Biliran was converted into a regular province. The original Leyte Province was again trimmed down by 8 municipalities.