Southern Leyte is one of the six provinces of Eastern Visayas or Region VIII. This province is famous for the historic Limasawa Island. It is the site of the First Christian Mass in the Orient, following the discovery of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Southern Leyte was formerly a part of its mother province, Leyte, until it became a separate province in 1960 under Republic Act 2227. It is composed of one city and 18 municipalities, with Maasin City as the capital and seat of its lone congressional district.
Canigao Channel bound it on the north by Leyte Province; on the east by the Pacific Ocean; on the south by Mindanao Sea; and on the west the Canigao Channel. It covers about one-fourth (1/4) of the island of Leyte. It has 19 municipalities. Four island and islet are within the territorial jurisdiction of Southern Leyte: Panaon, the only island linked to the mainland by a bridge, the historic island municipality of Limasawa which is the site of the first Christian Mass in the Far East, and the islets of San Pedro and San Pablo in Hinunangan.
Major agricultural crops include coconut, palay, banana, camote, cassava, and abaca. Its rich coastal and marine grounds produce tuna, flying fish, skipjack, herring, anchovies, shellfish, lobster, squid, and spanish mackerel. Principal exports are abaca handicrafts and copra.
Southern Leyte‘s people are Cebuano-speakers whose ancestors migrated from the provinces of Bohol and Cebu. The people’s cultural and linguistic affinities with the Cebuanos have tended to make the people of Southern Leyte identify with the people of Cebu, Bohol and the western coast of the province of Leyte. Most of the people are farmers and fisherfolk, who are noted for their hard work and frugality.
Almost 90% of the province’s people are adherents of the Roman Catholic Church but traditional folk beliefs still influence the people of the province. The farmers hold on to pre-Hispanic beliefs in making offerings and sacrifices before planting begins. Chickens of pigs are ritually sacrificed to ensure that the spirits or the elementals will allow a good harvest.
Maasin is Southern Leyte‘s commercial and cultural showcase. An important edifice that brings pride to the Southern Leyteño is the notable Spanish era church, a relic of time when churches were the only true refuge of the people, both spiritually and physically. The church is embellished with an ornate altar and beautiful images of the saints and is a testament to the continuing religiosity of the people of Southern Leyte.
In the hinterlands of the island of Panaon are found an aboriginal people known locally as the Kongkings. The short, dark and curly-haired members of this ethnic community are reputed to have migrated from Mindanao and usually keep to the interior areas. On occasion, they come down to barter and trade at the market town of Liloan.
The province is known for its Christian faith and religion. Religious shrines are distinct from other churches. Most are situated on hills, overlooking and offering a perfect view of the towns.
The province is also endowed with natural attractions. It boasts of white sand beaches, rain forests, caves, waterfalls, rock formations, and a number of world-class dive sites that never fail to awe even the most travelled and experienced diver. It is home to some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world.
The province has only one existing airport that is located in Pananawan, Maasin. This airport is considered a feeder airport with a total runway length of 1200 meters and width of 30 meters. The DPWH in Maasin reported that a total of 700 1 m of runway, 200 1 m extension and an access road of about 1.4 kms. From the national highway are concreted. At present, however, the airport does not service any commercial flight. It has no terminal and can only accommodate aircraft for general aviation weighing 12,000 pounds and below at daytime.
Southern Leyte has a total of 12 seaports, 2 of which are declared as national ports, the Maasin and Liloan ports and the 10 are municipal ports. Of these 10 ports, five are operational, namely, Maasin, Liloan, St. Bernard, San Juan and Sogod. By sea, travel to Cebu from Maasin port takes an average of 6 hours by ship and 2 hours by Supercat and Waterjet. A ferryboat from Liloan to Surigao takes 3 hours.
There are five designated bus terminals in Southern Leyte: Maasin, Liloan, Sogod, Hinunangan and Silago. But these terminals are open spaces used by buses as parking areas and are therefore not equipped with buildings and other facilities. There are at least four bus companies taking the Manila-Maasin route: Philtranco, Cedec, Inland Trailways and Ciudad. Bachelor takes the Ormoc-Maasin-Davao route. From the capital town of Maasin, by land, it takes approximately five hours travel to Tacloban City, 23 hours to Pasay City or Quezon City and nineteen hours to Davao city via the Liloan ferryboat.