A First-timer's Memorable Moments in Leyte and Samar, Thanks to The Oriental Leyte

Thursday, August 10, 2017

There was something about The Oriental Leyte's charm that captivated and stole a first-timer's heart. Those 3 days and 2 nights we spent there (though I was the only first-timer) were enough to make me fall in love, but not enough to savor its beauty to the fullest. Majority of our Leyte & Samar trip were composed of first-time experiences and I am more than thankful for The Oriental Leyte, for making this one an extra memorable one. I'm sure anyone who will be visiting this hotel for the first time and maximizing their stay with the tours they can arrange for you will, like me, have a great story to tell.


Upon arriving back in Manila after a 3-day-2-night stay, I couldn't stop talking about our overall travel experience. I couldn't stop showing my loved ones the photos I took and the stories behind them, so in this blog post, I'll try to turn those jumbled stories into a cohesive one with the hopes of imparting at least a tiny bit of the magic to you.

The beauty that is The Oriental Leyte




It's no longer a surprise that The Oriental Hotels and Resorts are all aesthetically pleasing. Each of the properties have their own unique charms and I guess the one for this property is that its entire look and ambiance can easily melt away stresses and worries, even for a little while. It's a happy place of comfort and relaxation. 

When we arrived at the resort at 7:00 in the morning, I barely slept the night before. I had meetings waiting for me; meetings that would require my full attention and full mental capacity which was impossible with a no-sleep state of mind. I worried a lot about that but as we relaxed by the poolside while waiting for the room, for a moment, everything else didn't seem to matter. All I wanted to do was to absorb the beautiful surroundings and think, "Wow. I can't believe I get to be here."

The Oriental Leyte pool area

Evenings have an entirely different charm yet it's as equally captivating as that of day time. They have a bunch of stuff happening at night including a fire dance performance but if I had the chance to stay around a little bit longer, I would have loved to spend quiet nights by the pool while listening to the sound of the waves crashing gently nearby. I would have loved to work on passion projects while having this as my home.

The Oriental Leyte Rooms

Among all the properties under The Oriental Hotels and Resorts, I personally think the rooms at The Oriental Leyte have the poshest feel to it. It's actually a close tie between this and the rooms at The Oriental Luxury Suites but for some reasons, this Leyte accommodation reminded me of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore or Marco Polo Ortigas in Pasig City, Philippines. It must be the spaciousness of it and how the Premier Twin room I stayed at instantly felt like a safe haven in a new land. 


Adventure Awaits 

(featuring San Juan Boardwalk, Sohoton Cave, and Saob Cave)


Spelunking and crossing a 400-meter bamboo boardwalk added up to the list of unexpected experiences in this whole stretch of having a taste of what each property of The Oriental Hotels and Resorts can uniquely offer. 

San Juan by the Bay bamboo boardwalk, Sta Rita, Samar

Our first stop was the San Juan by the Bay Boardwalk, a 400-meter makeshift mini bridge / pathway that stretches across a bunch of mangroves towards a floating restaurant.

San Juan By the Bay, Sta. Rita, Samar

It takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the floating restaurant, depending entirely on how fast you walk and how many stops you take for photo purposes and nature-appreciation. Prior arrangements are required if you want to dine here but for walk-ins, you can take advantage of the other activities like kayaking or simply spending a few peaceful minutes surrounding by nature's beauty. In the distance, you can also see the San Juanico bridge.


Our second day, I got to do something for the first time again. I got to explore an actual cave! There was something about venturing into the unknown that made the entire experience even more thrilling. 


The boat ride to Sohoton Cave in Basey, Samar took about 15 to 20 minutes. We were told that the water would've had a better color but since it rained throughout the morning, the surroundings became quite muddy. Along the way, you'd see other locals rowing their own smaller boats and as you get closer to the cave, you'd get to see the rock formations along the sides already.


Touring inside Sohoton Cave took about 45 minutes. Here, we saw amazing natural formations shaped by time and natural processes and looking at them all, it gave me an overwhelming feeling knowing the cave's walls silently carry millions and millions of years' worth of stories. We heard Filipinos back then used Sohoton Cave as a "body dump" for the American soldiers they killed. The Filipinos hid away above the cave and as the American soldiers ventured through the river, the locals would instantly shoot them with arrows. They hid away the bodies inside Sohoton Cave so that the other American soldiers passing through wouldn't know they are being watched. Come to think of it, that only happened in such a small fraction of time. What else could have happened inside Sohoton Cave in those times long gone?


The photo above is a rock formation I spent a few minutes staring at. I've always had a fascination with angels and this one, even before our tour guide pointed it out, looks exactly like an angel with his back turned. Our tour guide didn't expound on this anymore as it is just an angel rock formation for anyone else, but to me, there's was something deeply striking about it. The rest of the group were already making stories about a fighting couple rock formation but I was still affixed on this one.

Sohoton Cave, Basey, Samar

Spending our morning at Sohoton Cave was beyond exciting and fun. We spent most of our time exploring a part of the cave but there are still more to discover. I wished we had the time, but it wasn't on our side then. I guess that's okay because now I have something to look forward to when given the chance to go back to this beauty.


It was only on our third and last day that we were told we shoul've taken advantage of kayaking to reach the natural bridge (sorry, no photo!) formation of the cave. You can try Googling the image and see for yourself why this is a must to go to.


After Sohoton Cave, we visited Saob Cave next. I think you can still explore much of it as well but we just visited the nanays (a common Filipino term for elder women and a direct translation of "mothers") along the entrance who were hand-weaving banig (mats). They said they opted to work on the mats in the cave because the breeze is cooler and the shade is better. It's good for the material of the mats for easier and smoother weaving.


Something about the nanays fascinated me. Their pacing as they weave every fiber is so skilled, the act was already second nature. Some of them chitchatted with my colleague who was a local in Samar but unfortunately, due to the dialect difference, I didn't pick up most of what they were talking about. It would have been nice to know the stories behind these great elderly women.

Yolanda memorial, Tacloban, Leyte

The photo above is a memorial for those who died in typhoon Yolanda back in 2013. One striking moment about this trip was getting to hear the stories of the people who experienced Yolanda / typhoon Haiyan personally. It's different, you know, hearing the media talk about it or report about it on TV for news purposes versus hearing the emotions of an individual who went through everything. Had those things happened to me, I wouldn't know how to move on from it.

the oriental leyte pool area

There are still so much to learn about Leyte and Samar, and so many adventures yet to be discovered. I'm seriously looking  forward to go back and by then, I would no longer be a first-timer. I'm just a guest excited to be back home at The Oriental Leyte, waiting for yet another Uniquely Oriental experience to happen.

Feel free to inquire about their tours and van rentals for your next Leyte and / or Samar trip!

For more information, visit the website at http://leyte.theorientalhotels.com/

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Keep welcoming new experiences,


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