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Southern Leyte
—  Province  —

Map of the Philippines with Southern Leyte highlighted
Coordinates: 10°20′N 125°05′E / 10.333°N 125.083°E / 10.333; 125.083Coordinates: 10°20′N 125°05′E / 10.333°N 125.083°E / 10.333; 125.083
Country  Philippines
Region Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)
Founded May 22, 1959
Capital Maasin City
 - Governor Damian Mercado (Lakas-CMD)
 - Total 1,797.2 km2 (693.9 sq mi)
Area rank 67th out of 80
Population (2007)
 - Total 390,847
 Density 217.5/km2 (563.3/sq mi)
Population rank 62nd out of 80
Population density rank 36th out of 80
 - Independent cities 0
 - Component cities 1
 - Municipalities 18
 - Barangays 500
 - Districts Lone district of Southern Leyte
Time zone PHT (UTC+8)
ZIP Code
Spoken languages Cebuano, Boholano, Waray-Waray

Southern Leyte is a province of the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. Maasin City is the capital of the province. Southern Leyte was once a sub-province of Leyte before it was divided from the latter. Limasawa, an island to the south is part of the province where the first Christian mass was held and is said to be the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines.[1]

The province ranks as the second least populated area in the region. According to 2007 census, the province has a population of 390,847 a 1.13% growth compared to last 2000 census with a population record of 360,160.[2]

Southern Leyte's geological features created several issues in the province after the flooding of Subangdaku River and the awful mudslide in Guinsaugon. Organizations warned the province as susceptible to natural occurrences like landslides and floodings.[3]

Southern Leyte contributes to the economy of the country. It forms an important part of the inter-island transportation system of the country, with ferries transporting people and goods between Liloan and Surigao del Norte in Mindanao. The province is well known for its quality abaca products and the country's major producer of abaca fiber.




Early settlement

As early as 1898 during the Spanish and American periods, there had already been existing as "sub-province" consisting of the municipalities from Palompon to Hinunangan, with Maasin as the center. Some government offices have already been established in Maasin on the southwestern part of Leyte to govern the area.[4]

Historically, the governing city was the depository of cedula tax collections from Palompon to Hinunangan. This was administered by the office of the Administrado de Hacienda, equivalent to the Provincial Treasurer, a position under Secretario de Hacienda.

There was also established in Maasin a Court of First Instance, then known as the Promoter Fiscal, where all minor administrative and other cases from Palompon to Hinunangan were heard and disposed of.[5]

During the Spanish colonization, the province was sparsely populated. The continued raiding of Moro slaves discouraged the province to grow and develop. However, on 19th century, immigrants from near provinces like Bohol and Cebu populated the area.

On 1942, Ruperto Kangleon held a conference in the town of Sogod, when the first attempt in Malitbog, a town to the east, failed to succeed due to many leaders stayed away. He was trying to unify all guerrillas helped to the Philippine Commonwealth troops during the outbreak of World War II.[6]

On 1944 to 1945, the Allied Philippine Commonwealth Army soldiers and the recognized guerrillas attacked by the Japanese Imperial forces beginning to liberation in Southern Leyte, and the American troops landed in Leyte on October 20, 1944.

Independent province

Due to change of sovereign powers, all the offices in Maasin except the Fiscal’s Office were abolished and reverted to Tacloban, the capital of Leyte. This created a major problem because of the dearth of transportation, the difficulty in managing the affairs of government in Tacloban and the language barrier between the Cebuano-speaking South-westerners and the Waray Easterners. The difficulty of managing the entire island from the main city suggested the need to separate the island into two provinces.

At first there was a general movement for a Western Leyte and soon after, many prominent men and leaders rallied behind the movement. Six attempts to pass a law for the division of Leyte were made. On the sixth attempt, then Congressman Nicanor Yñiguez introduced into the House a division law similar in substance to that of the Kangleon Bill, but recognizing the impossibility of creating an East-West Division, he instead opted to make his own district a province.

Abandoning the first bill, Congressman Nicanor Yñiguez presented House Bill No. 1318 proposing a new province of Southern Leyte comprising the Third Congressional District of Leyte to include 16 municipalities, from Maasin to Silago in the mainland, and in the Panaon Island.

The bill became Republic Act 2227 otherwise known as an "Act Creating the Province of Southern Leyte" and was signed into Law by President Carlos P. Garcia on May 22, 1959. On July 1, 1960, Southern Leyte was inaugurated as a province with sixteen municipalities and Maasin as the capital town. Thus the third District of Leyte became the province of Southern Leyte and Lone District of Southern Leyte.[4][5]

Political divisions

Southern Leyte is subdivided into 18 municipalities and 1 city.

City/Municipality No. of
Anahawan 14 8,032 1,514
Bontoc 40 28,535 5,363
Ph seal soleyte hinunangan.jpg Hinunangan 40 27,712 5,438
Hinundayan 17 11,610 2,510
Libagon 14 14,283 2,495
Liloan 24 22,203 4,135
Limasawa 6 5,831 1,108
Maasin City 70 79,737 14,597
Malitbog 37 20,104 3,665
Macrohon 30 24,583 4,684
Padre Burgos 11 10,194 1,672
Pintuyan 23 9,911 1,758
Saint Bernard 30 25,252 4,746
San Francisco 22 12,084 2,337
San Juan 18 14,442 2,789
San Ricardo 15 9,490 1,676
Silago 15 11,163 2,286
Sogod 15 39,864 2,286
Tomas Oppus 30 15,817 2,855

People and culture


While ethnicity of the province is widely Bisaya, most people of the province are farmers and fisherfolks.

In Panaon, an island situated in the southernmost part of the province, a certain aboriginal folks are found locally known as Kongking or variously called Mamanwa which means mountain people.[7] They were believed to be migrants from Mindanao, inhabiting the portions of Agusan, after their migration from the island to evade militarization and the logging/mining corporations’ intrusion to their ancestral domains in the early 1980s.[8][9] Literally, there physical attributes are dark complexion, curly-haired and short in height. Hunting and gathering, mat weaving and rattan craft are among the main economic activities of the Mamanwas, so they prefer to inhabit the forested areas in the newfound Southern Leyte mountain. However, they were again displaced by threats of the recent incidents of landslides in the province.[8]

Generally, rice is the staple food of the province and also includes corn. Mountain living folks, however, prefer root crops which is abundant in the place. Native delicacies of the province includes "tres marias," "bocarillo," "salvaro," "bibingka," and "starhoy." They also have their own "kinilaw."


The native language is Cebuano and the major language spoken in the province. The speech variety however used by natives has also Boholano influences because of its proximity with the province Bohol. Furthermore, Tagalog and Waray-Waray are widely spoken as second languages. Natives also understood foreign language such as English and Spanish.


A detail of Carlos V. Francisco's First Mass in the Philippines painting

Limasawa, an island municipality to the south is believed to be the site of the first Christian mass and the birthplace of Christendom in the Philippines, when Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator and explorer landed on March 28, 1521. The first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was held on March 31, 1521 led by Friar Pedro de Valderrama, the chaplain of Magellan during the expedition, and the start of the Christianity propagation.[10][11]

People in the province are generally Roman Catholics in religion. Generally, 87.28 percent of which adheres to Roman Catholic Church but traditional folks still influence the people in the province. Aglipayan ranks second with 4.51 percent affiliates and Evangelicals with 2.03. Other religious affiliations include Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church among others.

Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Maasin City

A Spanish-era church can be found in the City of Maasin. The church is embellished with an ornate altar and images of saints believed to be the testament of continuing religiosity of the people in the province.



Although most people are Christians, a very few who live in remote villages of the province hold-on to Pre-Hispanic influences in making offerings and sacrifices before planting their crops. Farmers ritually sacrifice chickens and pigs to ensure that the spirits or elementals which they believe to be the cause of good harvest will grant them.[12]

Religious events

Fiesta, a Spanish term which means festivity, is celebrated in the province with prayer, food/drinking dance and music. Every barangay of every town in the province have their own distinct date of celebration. For instance, Hinunangan celebrated town fiesta on 29 June where they highlighted their celebration with the St. Peter and St. Paul Fluvial boat parade before the day of the fiesta which is June 28.[13] The kuratsa - a courtship dance drama - highlights every occasion.[14]

The province also held its unique festivals. Sinulog sa malitbog is an annual religious street pageant in Malitbog, a town in the province, to pay homage to the Holy Child Jesus (Santo Niño) which is their town's patron saint. Its reception has grown steadily, with devotees from other places flocking to the town. Similarly, the historic and religious coming of the Spaniards is commemorated every March 31 in Limasawa with a cultural presentation and anniversary program dubbed as Sinugdan, meaning "beginning."[15] Other festivals held in the province to highlight events are Pagkamugna Festival and Pabulhon Festival in Maasin City, Karomata Festival in Beunavista, Pintuyan, Tangka-tangka Festival in Tangkaan, Padre Burgos and Manha-on Festival in Macrohon.



Green grass covering mountains situated in Maasin City

Southern Leyte occupies the southern one-fourth of the island of Leyte. It is bounded by the province of Leyte to the north, by Surigao Strait to the east, Bohol Sea to the south, and Canigao Channel, across from Bohol, to the west. Its total land area is 173,480 hectares or 1,734.8 sq. kilometers.

The province is characterized by relatively flat lands along the coastal areas where population centers lay, but rugged and mountainous towards the interior.

The province has inland water-form features. Based on a national data, the province has an overall 93 rivers including 18 majors namely Amparo River in Macrohon, Canturing River in Maasin City, Das-ay and Pondol Rivers in Hinunangan, Divisoria River in Bontoc, Hitungao and Lawigan Rivers in San Juan, Maag River in Silago, and Subang Daku River in Sogod which is the biggest river among others.[16] The province has an inland lake called Lake Danao located in the mountains of San Juan and Anahawan, towns in the eastern region.

The flooding Subangdaku River in Southern Leyte on 2001 destroying part of the Philippine National Road.

Subangdaku, the province's largest river, created an issue over the area. By description, it can be considered a braided river comprising of several channels from near areas that divide and reunite forming an alluvial fan with very wide floodplain. As such, the river usually became hazardous during typhoon after a heavy rain.[17] The river sometime overflow spilling its waters on the low-lying towns of Liloan and San Vicente and destroyed an ongoing flood control project worth millions of pesos.[18] The river has been known to meander along its course, ever changing its way over time.[19] During the time it's flooding, it destructs every side of its course. In 2001, portion of the road and banks in Barangay San Miguel along the river have been destroyed.[17] It hampered the economic activities of the local residents as well as national because the destroyed portion is part of the Philippine National Road. The Local officials blamed the rechannelization and uncontrolled quarrying of gravel and sand at the side of river as the cause of the flood.[20] At a meeting on March 18, 2002, one of the representatives of a government agency alleged that the reason of the incidents of flood and other environmental problems in the river was due to the "Philippine Fault" which caused rocks to rumble down. However, the reason was contended because the fault is a geological feature and environmental problems in the province just occurred that time.[17]

Along with other mountain forms in the province, Mount Nacolod in Hinunangan town has the highest peak with an elevation of 948 meters above sea level. Young volcanic rocks are discovered in the terrain areas, which cover the top of the southern mountain ranges of Mount Cabalian in the Pacific Area and Mount Nelangcapan in Panaon Area.[5]

View of Hinunangan Beach

The province lies within the Philippine Fault System. The major fault lines traverse the municipalities of Sogod, Libagon, St. Bernard and San Juan to Panaon Island. Based on MGB Region 8 data, these areas had experienced strong earthquake in 1907 and 1948 with a magnitude of 6.9 and on July 5, 1984 with a 6.4 scale.[5] Bureau of Mines and Geosciences warned that Southern Leyte's natural and geological features make it susceptible to landslides and floodings.[21] The affiliated group stated that there are four reasons why there are some incidents like these:unusually heavy rains; numerous faults and badly broken rocks; steep slopes; and absence of effective vegetative cover.[3]

The province has numerous type of soil. A special soil type within Maasin Clay, Guimbalaon Clay, Himay-angan Clay, Bolinao Clay, Quingua Clay and Malitbog Clay series is found to be a good raw materials for ceramics and pottery activities of the local residence.


In December 2003, a landslide in San Francisco, Southern Leyte destroyed most of the town, killing 200 people.[22] The incident was caused by heavy rains in the province.

2006 Southern Leyte mudslide

On February 17, 2006, several mudslides caused by heavy rains, amounting over 200 cm (79 in), and a minor earthquake destroyed at least one town and many commercial and residential infrastructures, leaving hundreds dead. The municipality of Saint Bernard was one of the worst hit areas where twenty-three are confirmed to be dead with up to 200 estimated as dead and another 1,500 missing. Barangay Guinsaugon, a mountain village on the said municipality with 2,500 people, was almost completely leveled and everything from trees to homes was destroyed killing 1,800 of its 1,857 residents. Many rescuers from national and international responded to the incident. However, rescue efforts were greatly hampered by poor road conditions and lack of heavy equipment. Survivors reported also lack of coordination of rescue efforts. The Philippine Government again stated their inability to cope with disasters. The few handful of Guinsaugon citizens which escaped the mudslide were put up in emergency shelters without adequate nutrition and care despite the National Government collecting millions of Dollars worth of donations for this case.


A graphical presentation of Southern Leyte's 1903-2000 population depicting the negative growth rate in 1999-2000 records.

The 1980 national census recorded the province of Southern Leyte with a population of 296,294 from the historic record in 1903 of 72,369. On 1990, the population of the province increased to 321,940 which was caused by in-migration and increasing rate of birth over death. In 2000, number of population increased to 360,160 with a rate of 2.73 from the negative growth rate recorded on 1995 period with 317,565.[23] The sudden decrease of the 1995 records was due to the late census in the province. While regular censuses were done in May where most of the students were at their respective places of residence, in 1995 the census on population was done in September where the students were out for schooling in nearby provinces. The decrease in population was also, theoretically, attributed to out-migration of the rural population to highly urbanized cities to seek for better employment and livelihood opportunities. A corresponding increase on the number of households was also recorded at 72,894 households higher by 7,327 households over the 1995 figure. Southern Leyte ranked fifth in terms of population among the six provinces in Eastern Visayas with 9.98 percent of the 3.6 million persons of the region. On the contrary, it was the fastest growing province in the region. At the national level, the province contributed 0.47 percent to the total population of the Philippines with 76.5 million.[23]

In terms of ethnicity, on 2000 survey, 80.8 percent of the people living are Bisaya or Binisaya, 16.6 percent are Boholano, 5.1 percent are Cebuano, and other includes Tagalog, Waray and other foreign ethnicity.


Southern Leyte has two types of climate according to the Coronas Classification. These are Type II and Type IV.

Type II is characterized by the absence of dry season with a very pronounced maximum rain period occurring in the months of November to January. This type prevails in the eastern half of the province that includes the municipality of Sogod, Libagon, Liloan, San Francisco, Pintuyan, San Ricardo, St. Bernard, San Juan, Anahawan, Hinundayan, Hinunangan and Silago. On the other hand, Type IV has a rainfall that is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. This type prevails in the western part of the province that includes the City of Maasin and the municipalities of Macrohon, Padre Burgos, Limasawa, Malitbog, Tomas Oppus, Bontoc and little part of Sogod.

The province is located within the area of less frequent tropical cyclones. Yearly typhoons only affect the northern half of the island under the jurisdiction of the Province of Leyte. During passage of typhoons, the province only experienced heavy rains and occasional gusty winds. The province is generally affected by typhoons that pass through Surigao.

In 2004, the province has recorded rainfall data with maximum temperature of 30.95 Degrees Celsius to minimum temperature of 24.09 Degrees Celsius. In addition, mean minimum temperature was 25.24 degrees Celsius. The province has 163 numbers of rainy days and total rainfall of 1,729.20 mm.

Vegetation and biodiversity

A blue-spotted stingray seen in the coasts of the province

People in the province plant rice, white corn, bananas, root crops, sugar cane, and coconut and abacá which is their major products.[12] They also planted various types of vegetable.[24]

A three year effort project was established in Sogod Bay conducted by the Southern Leyte Coral Reef Conservation Project (SLCRCP) to surveyed coral reefs in the area. The undertaking was to provide local residents educational opportunities to have knowledge on protecting the province's biodiversity as well as to have a long-term sustainability.[25]


Southern Leyte was originally consist of 16 municipalities and 349 barangays. It was composed of four islands namely: Panaon Island, Limasawa Island, San Pedro Island and San Pablo Island.[5] After the inauguration of the province, three more municipalities were created subsequently, namely; San Ricardo from Pintuyan, Tomas Oppus from Malitbog and Limasawa from Padre Burgos. Currently, the province is subdivided into 18 municipalities and one city which is Maasin. It has an overall 501 barangays or villages around the province.

On 2000, Maasin was converted into a city as capital of Southern Leyte. The remaining component municipality classes ranges from 3rd to 5th level in the province. From 3rd class belongs Sogod municipality which is the center of trade, commerce and industry among municipalities within the Sogod Bay. Bontoc, Hinunangan, which holds the distinction as the "Rice Granary of the Province" for its vast plain land that is entirely planted with rice, Liloan, Malitbog, Saint Bernard, and Macrohon, are in the 4th level. The remaining municipalities—Anahawan, Hinundayan, Libagon, Padre Burgos, Pintuyan, San Francisco, San Juan (formerly Cabalian), San Ricardo, Silago, Tomas Oppus and Limasawa, a component island to the south—are under 5th level.


Major Products


Most of the people in Southern Leyte go into coconut planting, a widely distributed industry, especially in mountainous and even plain regions. The German Technical Cooperation has embarked on a value chain study on one of the most important products in Region 8 — the coconut, particularly in Leyte and Southern Leyte.[26]

In the year 2004, a beetle pest was observed and threatened the Philippine coconut industry including Visayas. Brontispa longissima causes great damage to seedlings and mature coconut trees and ornamental palms, killing the young spears and eventually the entire trees.[27]


People in Southern Leyte also go into abaca planting. The province is one of the major producer of abaca fiber in the country along with Catanduanes, Leyte, Davao Oriental, Northern Samar, Sorsogon, Sulu, Davao del Sur, and Surigao del Sur. The fibers from Leyte and the province are recognized as having the best quality.[28] On the year 1990 to 1999, Southern Leyte produced abaca with a rate of 17 percent.[29]

A project, Study on the Abaca Industry Profile of Southern Leyte, was funded by DOST 8 GIA and implemented by the Southern Leyte State University (SLSU), one of the college universities in the province, and the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte. It was aimed to conduct a thorough assessment on the status of the abaca industry of the province being its major crop.

On 2003, a certain virus threatens the abaca industry in the province. Almost all of the abaca-producing municipalities in the area namely Maasin City, Padre Burgos, Malitbog, Tomas Oppus, Bontoc, Sogod, St. Bernard, San Juan, Hinunangan and Silago were greatly affected by the deadly virus except from the municipalities at Panaon Island. Eighty percent of the province's abaca plantation particularly in Sogod town was greatly affected while Maasin City was estimated to suffer about 30 percent in damages.[30]


Abaca fiber helps livelihood in the province. Women in the selected areas go into abaca-based handicrafts, which is widely known in the area as tagak or spooled abaca fiber. Natives usually called it as tinagak or continuous spooled abaca fiber. The half-finished product is then made into sinamay or hand woven clothe out of tinagak ready to be made into other sinamay-based products.[31] Products are being exported by Manila to Japan. Because of a wide distribution of an industry called tagak, provincial sectors taught farmers on how to cultivate a suitable variety locally called laylay.

In Bontoc, a project was successfully established with a mudcrab hatchery with eleven hatchery tanks at the RKKMAFTI Compound. Initially, 25 spawners are being worked-on by the project.[32]

Aside from abaca-based products, ceramics and handicraft items made from coconut and bamboo are also the province's industry. Among the province’s economic activity includes fishing, livestock and poultry raising.[33]


Postal communication is the main mode of communication of the province. There are five telephone exchange companies operating in the province and two radio stations. It has also other types of communication including SSB radios for government offices and cellular phones for government and private entities.


The existing road network crisscrossing Southern Leyte consist of major arterial highways that link the province to Leyte, passing through two major outlets. On the western part is the Maasin-Mahaplag-Baybay and the central part by the Mahaplag-Sogod road via the Maharlika Highway. On the eastern part of the province, the opening of the new Abuyog-Silago Road provides fast and convenient travel to the eastern towns of Southern Leyte. Maharlika road contributes to the development of Southern Leyte.

There are six designated bus terminals in Southern Leyte: Maasin, Liloan, Sogod, San Juan, Hinunangan and Silago. However, these terminals are open spaces used by buses as parking areas and are therefore not equipped with buildings and other facilities.

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.

Southern Leyte has a total of 12 seaports, two 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 six hours and a maximum of two hours. A ferryboat from Liloan to Surigao takes three hours.[16]

Southern Leyte has one existing airport the Panan-awan Airport located in Maasin City. 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.

Colleges and universities


  1. ^ GlobalPinoy, Travel - Southern Leyte
  2. ^ | Philippines 2007 Census
  3. ^ a b Policy and Advocacy | Haribon
  4. ^ a b Southern Leyte: Attractions
  5. ^ a b c d e
  6. ^ Villamor, Col. Jesus A. (1982). They Never Surrender. Quezon City, Philippines: Vera-Reyes Inc.. pp. 127. 
  7. ^ About Culture and Arts
  8. ^ a b Bulatlat - The Philippines's alternative weekly magazine
  9. ^ Places of Interest in Maasin City and Southern Leyte, Philippines
  10. ^ A short Philippine History before the 1898 Revolution
  11. ^ Sinugduan Fest recalls great historic event in Limasawa Island
  12. ^ a b The Provincial Profile of Southern Leyte
  13. ^ Southern Leyte Philippines
  14. ^ About Culture and Arts
  15. ^ WOW Philippines:: Explore Philippines:: Famous For
  16. ^ a b Southern Leyte
  17. ^ a b c Inercar Paper
  18. ^ Southern Leyte-News on Samar 5
  19. ^ PIA Information Services - Philippine Information Agency
  20. ^ Manila Standard: The Future is Ours
  21. ^ Taipei Times - archives
  22. ^ U.S. Pacific Command | Official Military Website
  23. ^ a b Southern Leyte: From Negative to a Positive Growth Rate in the Late 90’s
  24. ^ Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (DED) - - The potential of Southern Leyte's Vegetable Industry - Homepage
  25. ^ CCC - News - Southern Leyte Coral Reef Conservation Project: July 2006 update
  26. ^
  27. ^ Beetle threatens survival of RP’s coconut industry: Laguna, Philippines
  28. ^ Genetic Engineering Eyed To Solve Problems Of Abaca Industry
  29. ^
  30. ^ PIA Information Services - Philippine Information Agency
  31. ^ Philippine Ventures & Destinations: July 2005
  32. ^ DOST Region VIII
  33. ^ "Region Viii"

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Southern Leyte is a province in the Eastern Visayas island group in the Philippines.


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