Tacloban City is the capital of Leyte, and the regional center of the Eastern Visayas. It is by far the largest city in the area.
Though tourism is underdeveloped in Tacloban City, as it is throughout the Eastern Visayas, the city does have a lot to offer to the visitor.
Santo Niño Church
The Santo Niño Church, the largest church of the city, dominates the skyline of Tacloban City. With its distinctive color you can see it from afar, even from the plane just before landing.
The church has daily masses in English and in several Filipino languages.
Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum
The Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum, also known as Romualdez Museum, is a mansion built for the then first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
The Marcos family never used it, though, and after President Marcos was ousted the villa was opened to the public.
Stations of the Cross
Just outside the city, on a hill aptly named Calvary Hill, are groups of larger than lifesize statues depicting the stations of the cross. You have to climb all the way to the hilltop to see all the stations, so visiting them is not for everyone.
You can see all the stations in the blog article Stations of the Cross.
The white Capitol landmark houses Leyte’s provincial government.
When you visit the Capitol, don’t forget to have a look at the beautiful reliefs, on either side of the building, depicting scenes from Leyte’s history.
Madonna of Japan and Japanese Peace Park
The Japanese peace park houses the statue of the Goddess of Peace, also known as the Japanese Madonna. The statue was a gift from Japan, as a symbol of peace and friendship.
The park is a popular destination for young, courting couples.
There are many more attractions in the direct vicinity of Tacloban City. Popular sites include:
- The McArthur landing memorial in Palo.
- The San Juanico Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the country, connecting Leyte with neighboring island Samar.
- Rafael Farm, a landscaped park with a restaurant and function rooms.
The Way on Calvary Hill
In Leyte, just outside Tacloban City, is a hill with the name Calvary Hill. On the slopes of Calvary Hill are groups of statues depicting the stations of the cross. It follows the traditional fourteen stations, from Jesus’ condemnation to His entombment. There is one extra statue on top: Jesus arisen from death.
Follow me as I climb Calvary Hill on my way to the arisen Christ.
Jesus is condemned to death
The first station is Jesus’ condemnation to death. He was condemned by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. Pontius Pilate later confirmed the death penalty. We see Pilate washing his hands here.
Jesus receives the cross
Jesus receives the cross and starts the Way of the Cross. The cross is marked INRI, which stands for Iesus Nazarenus rex Iudaeorum, in English Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. It is based on John 19:19-20:
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Jesus falls the first time
In the traditional series of stations, Jesus stumbles or falls three times. There is no basis for this in the scriptures, though.
Jesus meets His Mother
On our way to the next station, a small child joined us, requested a peso to be our guide, and (after receiving the fee) walked with us to the top. The little kid pointed out the several stations (as if we could miss the large statues!) and posed on each of them, whether we wanted or not.
The next station depicts Jesus meeting his mother, Mary. This station has no basis in the scriptures.
Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
According to the gospels of St Matthew, St Mark and St Luke, Simon of Cyrene carried the cross all the way. He was just a passer-by who was ordered to bear the cross. In the stations of the cross, we usually see Simon helping Jesus to bear the cross, or taking over from Him, after Jesus bore it Himself for the first part of the Way of the Cross.
Veronica wipes Jesus’ face with her veil
The story of Veronica is based on the Acta Sanctorum, not on the scriptures.
Saint Veronica was a pious woman of Jerusalem who, moved with pity as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, gave him her veil to wipe his face. After Jesus used it, the image of His face was miraculously impressed upon it.
Jesus falls the second time
Apparently, Simon of Cyrene has disappeared and Jesus carries his own cross again. He stumbles for the second time. Again, there is no basis for this in the scriptures.
Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
This station is based on Luke 23:27-8:
And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
Jesus falls the third time
Jesus is stripped of His garments
According to the scriptures, the soldiers who accompanied Jesus took his garments and divided them among themselves by casting lots.
Jesus is nailed to the cross
We are nearing the top. My companions (all Visayans) are exhausted by the climb and the heat and stay behind. Except for the little kid, who followed me all the way to the top.
We have arrived now at the actual Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross.
Jesus dies on the cross
The death of Jesus. Jesus dies on the cross, surrounded by three (female) mourners.
Jesus’ body is removed from the cross
This station is also known as Deposition or Lamentation. We see the same three mourning women as Jesus’ body is removed from the cross. One may assume though that someone else must have been present to help remove the body.
Jesus is laid in the tomb
The fourteenth and last of the traditional stations. Jesus is laid in His tomb. Ususally, the last station also depicts covering Him in incense, but I don’t see any incense here.
Jesus rises from death
Not part of the traditional stations, but the most essential part of the story: The arisen Christ. Jesus stands here on top of Calvary Hill, overlooking and apparently blessing Tacloban City.
Views from the hill
Those that make it to the top are rewarded with magnificent views over the city and the San Juanico Strait.