GETTING TO KNOW GUIUAN

Getting to Know Guiuan


Planning a trip to Eastern Visayas? Consider dropping by Guiuan, Eastern Samar’s surfing capital and the site where they say Magellan really first landed.

By Yvette Tan
December 15, 2011


Guiuan (Gee-wan) is a municipality located at the southernmost tip of Eastern Samar, where it faces the Pacific Ocean. The town is popular with surfers, who come here for choice waves. Because of this, many accommodations catering to surfers like Calicoan Villas and The Surf Camp have sprung up in the area, catering to every budget. But there is more to Guiuan than surfing. The town is rich with culture, history, and natural resources.  Many Filipinos haven't heard of Guiuan, but apparently, the area is a hit with foreigners. Here's a list of people who've come across the charming municipality, as well as some of the activities you can try out, should you wish to follow their trail.

Magellan was here first. Every schoolchild knows that Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines via the shores of Mactan, where he met his untimely demise by the hands of the heroic Lapu Lapu. Unknown to most people, Magellan had a weeklong stopover at Homonhon in 1521 for a little RnR. The Philippine Historical Commission recognizes a stone carved with Magellan's name as part of the site.

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Photo by Yvette Tan

The Spanish left their mark in the 16th Century. Guiuan is home to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the oldest and arguably most beautiful church in Eastern Samar. The Spanish-Baroque structure features a carved altar, antique religious icons, and chiselled doorways. Next to it is the Guian Chuch Tower, a product of local forced labor. Only 1/3rd of its original height is left standing, as 2/3rds of it was destroyed by earthquakes many years ago. Both church and tower are located in the middle of town, just a short walk from the transport terminal, and are sights not to be missed. Another religious stop is the St. Anthony of Padua Pilgrim's Park in Sulangan where pilgrims from all over the country gather to offer prayers and candles and ask for an intercession.

The Americans were here, too. Guiuan was a strategic location for American forces during WWII. When they left, they took everything with them except for their airport runway, which was built in 1944 to American Liberation Forces War specifications. The 2,134 meter long and 50 meter wide runway is still there, and will be the site of the municipality's new airport. American WWII paraphernalia such as cutlery and Coke bottles can be seen in a small museum put up by the mayor behind the stage of the town plaza.

Oh, and the Russians as well. More than 60 years ago, the Philippine government allowed several thousand White Russians to seek refuge in the country when they were being forced out of China. They settled in Tubabao Island in 1949 before settling in other countries such as the US and Australia in 1951. Life wasn't easy in Guiuan, but it still gave the refugees hope of a better life, as evidenced by the letters and photographs that can also be found in the museum near the plaza. Recently, well known Russian folk singer Nikolai Massenoff held a concert in Guiuan as thanksgiving for sheltering him and over 5,000 other refugees at a time when they most needed it. Tubabao, by the way, offers a wonderful sunset view.      

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Photo by Yvette Tan

Let's not forget the water babies-surfers, divers, snorkelers, and beach bums. Guian's geographical location is interesting, as it rests in between the Leyte Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. The Gulf side offer calm waters, which make it great for swimming, while the Pacific side, particularly ABCD Beach, has attracted many surfers over the years. Nearby islands also offer relatively isolated white sand beaches, all of them ready to be basked on. Some of these islands also host great dive sites, the current  favorite being Pearl Island. Accommodations won't be a problem, as there are beach resorts along the coast.

Not to mention the environmentalists. Located in Guiuan is the Sur Campanihon Aqua Culture & Natural Park, home to a myriad of flora and fauna, including tarsiers and different kinds of monkeys. The area is also home to lagoons, caves (The Banahao, Timala, and Aguing caves being the most popular), and other natural wonders.

And surprisingly, weathermen. Guiuan is home to PAG-ASA ‘s Philippine Radar Stations, one of eight in the country. Aside from helping the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration determine weather patterns, the Station also offers guests a panoramic view of the town, the Leyte Gulf, and the Pacific Ocean.

Everyone seems to have dropped by Guian. It's about time you visited as well.

How to get there:

Several airlines have regular flight to Tacloban City. From Tacloban, it's a 2 ½ hour bus or van ride to Guiuan. Alternatively, one can take a land trip from Manila to Guiuan via Gold Star Tour Trans, Eaglestar, and Silverstar. The trip will take approximately 18 hours. An airport is in the works, making it possible to fly straight to Easter Samar from Cebu and Manila.

Getting Around:

Tricycles and multicabs are the main ways of getting around Guiuan. Said tricycles and multicabs can be chartered for tours. Pumpboats can likewise be hired to get to the surrounding islands.

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