Samar Tourist Information
The fact that it is not yet as widely known or visited as other island provinces is what makes Samar an attractive alternative, especially for those who would like to experience something totally different. But it won’t be long before it rises up to take its place among the must visit areas in the Philippines.
Geography & Location
Samar is an island province, divided into three parts, Northern, Eastern and Western Samar. On the latter side are several small islands that are part of the province. On the southeast coast is the Leyte Gulf. On the north is the San Bernardino Strait, and on the southwest is the San Juanico Strait. From the island you can also see the Pacific Ocean and the Samar Sea.
Nature has gifted the land with a wide variety of terrain and landscapes. While the coastal portion consists of level plains, large parts of the central lands are rugged hills and valleys.
From the northwest to the southeast are mountain ranges, some of the most breathtaking in the Philippines. The tallest is Mount Capotoan, rising up to 2,789 ft (850 meters). There are several other impressive mountain ranges in the northwest, with heights reaching up to 1,800 ft (550 meters).
Situated roughly in the center of these chain of mountains is the Ulut River valley. Other prominent and well know rivers are Oros, Suribao and Gatubig. There are also plenty of lakes and streams throughout the many rainforests in the area.
Nearly all the inhabitants belong to the Samar/Leyte (Waray-Waray) cultural and linguistic group. The native language is Waraynon, although in some parts of the island Cebuano is spoken, particularly in Almagro. As with most of the provinces in the Philippines, the dominant religion is Christianity, and the most practiced denomination is Roman Catholicism.
As such, there are several fiestas and celebrations honoring saints and patrons in the various parts of the island. However, while Catholicism is widespread, there are a small group of people who practice various of Protestantism.
The main source of income for the people of Samar is agriculture and fishery. With annual rainfall averaging about 170 inches (4,230 mm), the land is almost always fertile. Among the most widely produced agricultural products are rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables and cassava. A growing number of fruits, like bananas and coconuts, are now being exported to other countries, boosting the local economy.
Another growing source of income and, at the same time a tourist attraction, is the kut-kut art. This ancient art form (it is believed that the basic techniques had been already developed by 1800 AD) is reminiscent of sgraffito and at the same shows some resemblance to the various art forms in Asia. The ancient artworks themselves are prized collector’s pieces, but there are now some local artists that produce works in this manner.
Before the advent of the Spaniards, the island was known by numerous names, including Ibabao and Tandaya. When the colonists came in 1596, the name Samar was chosen. Taken from the local word “samad” meaning wound, it was thought to be an appropriate name given the island’s appearance.
For the most part in its early history, Samar was a part of Cebu province. Following several failed revolts, including a bloody one in 1649 the island was incorporated with Leyte. However, in 1768, some 33 years after being made a part of Leyte, it was again declared a separate province.
Samar was captured by the Japanese during World War II, but two years later in 1944, it was liberated by America. Much of the battle took place in Leyte Gulf, widely considered as the biggest naval battle in history.
Facts and Figures
Region: Eastern Visayas (Region 8)
Capital City: Catbalogan
Number of Cities: currently there are two
Number of Municipalities: 24
Congressional Districts: 2
Total Area: 5,600 sq. km (3,360 sq. miles)