The island was known to 16th-century Spanish explorers as Tandaya. Its population grew rapidly after the 1900s, especially in the Leyte and Ormoc valleys. During World War II, US forces landed in Leyte on 20 October 1944, and, after the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese were expelled. Since the accessibility of land has been depleted, Leyte has provided countless number of migrants to Mindanao. Most inhabitants are farmers. Fishing is a supplementary activity. Rice and corn are the main food crops; cash crops include coconuts, abaca, tobacco, bananas, and sugarcane. There are some manganese deposits, and sandstone and limestone are quarried in the northwest.
Politically, the island is divided into two provinces: (Northern) Leyte and Southern Leyte. Territorially, Southern Leyte includes the island of Panaon to its south. To the north of Leyte is the island province of Biliran, a former sub-province of Leyte.
The major cities of Leyte are Tacloban, on the eastern shore at the northwest corner of Leyte Gulf, and Ormoc, on the west coast. The island was once the location of Mairete, a historic community ruled by Datu Ete. Before being colonized by Spain, the island was once home to indigenous animist Warays to the east and other indigenous animist Visayan groups to the west.
Leyte today is notable for the geothermal electric power plants near Ormoc.
However, Leyte is most famous for its role in the reconquest of the Philippines during World War II. On 20 October 1944, General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on Leyte, saying, "I have returned," but the Japanese did not give up so easily, as the ensuing Battle of Leyte proved. The convergence of naval forces resulted in the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history.
The island measures about 180 kilometers north-south and about 65 kilometers at its widest point. In the north, it nearly joins the island of Samar, separated by the San Juanico Strait, which becomes as narrow as 2 kilometers in some places. The island province of Biliran is also to the north of Leyte and is joined to Leyte island by a bridge across the narrow Biliran Strait. To the south, Leyte is separated from Mindanao by the Surigao Strait. To the east, Leyte is somewhat "set back" from the Philippine Sea of the Pacific Ocean, Samar to the northeast, and the Dinagat Islands to the southeast forming the Leyte Gulf. To the west is the Camotes Sea.
Leyte is mostly heavily forested and mountainous, but the Leyte Valley in the northeast has much agriculture.
Historical and Interesting Sites
Leyte Provincial Capitol
The Leyte provincial capitol is the seat of the provincial government where there is a mural depicting the First Mass in the Philippines, believed to have happened in Limasawa, and the landing of General Douglas MacArthur.
MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park
The MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in Red Beach, Palo marks the 1944 landing by the American liberation forces. It also has a lagoon where a life-sized statue of Gen. MacArthur stands.
Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park
Located in Burauen, Leyte about 66 km from Tacloban City, the Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park attracts visitors with its lakes, craters, hot springs, multi-colored mud, virgin forests, and lagoon. It was proclaimed as a national park in 1937. Like other regions in the Philippines, the area enjoys a temperate climate. It has an elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level and an area of 635 hectares, within the boundaries of Burauen, La Paz, and McArthur towns.
Lake Danao is a violin-shaped lake hemmed by cloud-capped mountain ranges.
Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte is a virgin island with pure white sand. The ecological atmosphere of the island had been preserved by the municipality.
Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum
The Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum boasts the painting of the 14 stations of the cross done by Filipino artists and a bas-relief of the legend of the first Filipino man and woman, Malakas and Maganda.
San Juanico Bridge
The San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines.
- "Leyte | island, Philippines". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
- Abuyog Destination Guide (Eastern Visayas, Philippines) - Trip-Suggest". trip-suggest.com. Retrieved November 29, 2018.