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Visayas Province

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Visayas, this region has every right to be part of the national emblem because of its many islands and islets make up more than half the entire archipelago. The large masses of Panay, Negros and Cebu lie almost side by side. Together with the rounded Bohol, they form the political region of the western and central Visayas. The twin islands of Samar and Leyte constitute the eastern region. A mixture of peoples, languages and customs are found here. Peace and idyllic village life prevail, but urbanisation is spreading.

Samar the third largest island of Philippines was the first point of land in Asia sighted by the lookout of Magellan’s fleet in 1521. Samar is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. Separated from southern Luzon by the treacherous San Bernadino Strait and joined to Leyte in the south by the 1 mile long San Juanico bridge, the island is very thinly populated. There is very little tourism and the island lack the superb beaches. The Sohoton National Park on the southeast is one of the only attraction.


Leyte
with an area of around 3,000 sq miles is ranks eight in size among the Philippines islands. This island is rich in history but offers a poor livelihood to the 2.5 millions Leytenos. For the interior is taken up by an almost inaccessible mountain range, forcing the majority of the population to live on the coasts. Their chief source of income is from copra production, along with timber businesss and fishing.

 

 

Panay, the largest of the Visayas Island with an area of 4,500 sq miles. Topographically Panay is divided into the inaccessible mountains of the western half, a large lowland plain in the centre and some moderately high mountains in the northeast. Rice is the chief product of the 3 million inhabitants and Iloilo in particularly is known as the southern "rice-bowl" of the Philippines. Sugar cane and the plentiful fish from the sea are also important sources of revenue for the island. Iloilo City has over 350,000 inhabitant and to tour the city, visitors should start with a visit to the Museo Iloilo. It has a collection of ethnograhoic and historical items which is presented in an easily understandable way. In the neighbouring towns of Tigbauan and Guimbal stand old churches built from sandstone and block of coral, but which have been rather spoilt by the used of ugly concrete and corrugated iron.

The Miagao Church in Guimbal was built in 1787 and looks more like a fortress than a sanctury dominates the little town and is chiefly notable for the artistic bas-relief on it frontage which shows St Christopher, surrounded by tropical vegatation, carrying the Christ-child and with unambiguous symbolism bringing salvation to the hearthen souls.

Negros the fourth largest island in the archipelago, with an area of 5,000 sq miles. For over a century, sugar cane has been the underlying cause of the crude division of society into a large number of poor and a few rich and powerful people. On Negros, was the sugar barons say, goes. Although more than half the island is under sugar cultivation, the problem lies not just the plantation owners but the fuedal structure of the monopoly economy also creates this yawning gulf. The Sacadas or harvest-workers are right at the bottom of the social ladder and the poorest of the poor.

Apart from sugar cane, the Negrenses live mainly by fishing. Bacolod City, the Capital of Negros has a population of 360,000 is one of the largest cities in the Philippines. San Sebastian Cathedral in the city is built in 1876.

 



Although Bacolod is a pleasant place to be based for excursions into the surrounding areas, it is hardly discovered by tourists due largely to the lack of good beaches in the vicinity. East of Bacolod the sugar fields of La Carlota and Ma-ao stretch interminably from the coast to the fertile slopes of the Kanlaon Volcano.

 

 

Cebu, as early as the 13th century was already an important crossroads of pre-colonial Southeast Asia trade. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan made it a base for exploration and conquest of the islands. However, his effort were thwarted when he was killed in battle on the nearby island of Mactan by ist chieftain, Lapu-Lapu, who became the first

Philippine hero to repulse foreign dominance. Today, Metropolitan Cebu is a 33,000 hectare complex of three cities and six municipalities. Its population of more than a million is a cosmopolitan mix of Filipinos with Chinese, American and European influences.

The recently expanded and modernised Mactan International Airport services flight from all over the world. Ocean-going vessels dock at the modernised ports. As the site of the oldest Spanish settlement in the country, Cebu retains traces of its colonial heritage, Centuries-old churches and Antillan houses, high-rises and modern buildings jostle for space along the tree-lined streets.

Fort San Pedro, the smallest and oldest triangular bastion in the country was built in 1738 to repel Muslim raiders. In turns, it served as a stronghold for Filipino revolutionaries, as US army barracks and a prison camp during the Japanese occupation. Today, it a historical park.

The Taoist Temple in Beverly Hills, the millionaire’s enclave is evidences of different faith and also the prevailing number of Chinese who have settled down in Cebu. Nine-nine steps lead up to the flamboyantly - attractive palce of worship looking out towards a panoramic view of the city and Mactan Island. In its hall redolent with incense, one can light joss sticks and have his fortune told by kindly monks.


Cebu have beautiful beaches and fantastic divesities. More than a dozen of beach resorts are scattered all around the coastline of Mactan Island. Divesities along the edge of the island are convenient for beginners and advanced divers. Olango Island across the east of Mactan Island has an underwater peak for more experienced diver. Beautiful corals gardens and a dense fish population make this site ideal. The town of Sta. Rosa is delightful with its natural rock formations composed of coral cliffs rising up from the ocean floor.

Bohol, the tenth largest island in the Philippines, is in no hurry to catch up to its neighbour Cebu. It basks in the leisurely pace of a small town content with more than its fair share of natural, cultural and historical attractions. Its friendly islanders smile the slow-breaking smile of the gracious host, intent on welcoming vsitors with unquestioning hospitality. Bohol is famous for two thing, the "Chocolate Hills" and the dwarf-maki or Tarsius, a rare mammal.

The Chocolate Hills, a rolling terrain of 1,268 haycock hills whose height range from 40 to 120 meteres. Recognised as a Philippine National Geological Monument, the hills are green in the rainy season and turn brown during the dry months. Panglao Island has facilities for windsurfing and other water sports. Balicasag Island,, approximately 30 hectares in area, is considered one of the best dive sites in the country. A thriving fish community resides in the area.

   
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