AirAsia in Tacloban: 2-Day Travel Guide + Sangyaw Festival + Ulot River Adventure

I'll be honest, when I was told I'll be flying to Tacloban to witness their Sangyaw Festival, I was ecstatic because I'll be going somewhere I have never been, but I also imagined a place that is gloomy, sad and eerie. Maybe because the image that got stuck in my head (and I'm sure in most of yours too) is the devastating tragedy which happened 5 years ago when typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan destroyed almost 90% of the city. And even before that, the place was never in our list of places to visit or fly to when planning our vacations. I always thought, "Not much to see, not much to do". BUT BOY, WAS I WRONG!!! And during the trip, I kept asking myself this question over and over-- "Why didn't I come sooner?!" Read on to know more...

 I was the last to arrive at NAIA Terminal 4, AirAsia's domestic hub. Checked in and got my boarding pass in less than 5 minutes!:) 

 Flight departed on schedule! So excited to fly to Tacloban!

 Time to board our plane!

 My seatmate and roomie, Nicole!

 So cute this plane!

 Lovebirds Seph and Trice and hot momma Yen!

 Finally landed in Tacloban! Yey!

I now agree!!!

Warm welcome by Sir Bing Lumbre, Product & Market Development officer of Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas!

Our service during our trip!

Our first stop is Hotel XYZ for lunch! This is also where some of our companions stayed. It's a lovely boutique hotel in Tacloban City!

Lunch feast! YUM!

Ate so much OMG.

Rooftop of the hotel. Nice view of the city!

Contrary to popular belief, Tacloban has already recovered well from the devastation & horror it went through 5 years ago. On our way to the city from the airport, I was really surprised to see a thriving & bustling city filled with warm, friendly and nice locals. Our tour guide Sir Butz even expressed his thanks (in behalf of the people of Tacloban) for all the help and prayers we extended during their times of hardship. Mejo naiyak ako! Huhu. Anyway, a lot has changed since then and all the new buildings & businesses stands as testament of the city's rebirth. From being known as "ground zero", it has now been dubbed as the "rising phoenix of the East". :)

We waited for the rain to stop before heading out again 

So many excited and happy people waiting for the parade to start!

Statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and President Sergio Osmeña at the Capitol Building

To give you a brief background, here are a few fun facts about TACLOBAN!

1. Tacloban became the provincial capital of Leyte in Feb. 26, 1830! They chose Tacloban because of the ideal location of the port and their well-sheltered and adequate facilities.

2. It serves as the regional center of Eastern Visayas having the biggest population of more or less 300,000! 

3. The name Tacloban came from the word "taklub", a bamboo fish-catching contraption used by the Kabatoks (the city's early inhabitants) for hunting. 

4. The arrival of Colonel Murray in 1901 made him the first military governor of Leyte. His first official act was the opening of Tacloban port to world commerce.

5. Leyte was the first to be liberated by the combined Filipino and American troops druing World War II. On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his famous promise "I shall return" when he landed in the Tacloban and Palo beaches which meant victory for the Filipino and American forces. 

6. On October 23, 1944 at a ceremony at the Capitol Building in Tacloban, MacArthur, accompanied by President Sergio Osmeña, made Tacloban the temporary seat of the Commonwealth Government and temporary capital of the Philippines until the complete liberation of the country. 

7. Paulo Jaro was the Liberation mayor of Tacloban. The first mayor of this capital upon inauguration of the Philippine Republic was Epifanio Aguirre.

8. Waray or Lineyte-Samarnon is Tacloban's predominant dialect. While we were there parang mix sha ng Bisaya ang Ilonggo. I'm Ilongga and I understand some of their words! :)

Rain was on and off but that didn't stop people from celebrating

So many happy & friendly faces!

So what is SANGYAW Festival???

Aside from Pintados, Sangyaw Festival is the other festival celebrated in the city of Tacloban. Sangyaw is a popular religious & native festival held every 29th of June which means “to herald news” in the local dialect. It was created by Former First Lady Imelda Marcos in 1976 but was abolished by the late President Corazon Aquino. It was then revived in 2008 by Mrs. Marcos' nephew Mayor Alfred Romualdez and was widely accepted by the Taclobanons across the region. The 129th fiesta celebration showcased the city's rich history, traditions, heritage, arts & cultures through different performances & through wonderful floats! 

Last year's grand champion of the National Float Competition! So cool that they included Tacloban's symbols on it like the "taklub" :)


Bida ang saya with Jollibee!!!

Hello mga Kapamilya! Hehe

Shempre d papakabog the AirAsia float!!! So cute!!!

After an hour of waiting on the side of the street, the parade finally started! Woots!

President Duterte made a surprise visit to Tacloban for the festival. We thought sasakay sha dito. Hehe.

The winning float and on it are the pageant winners! I see Ms. and Mr. Sangyaw and all the runner-ups. :)


Miss An Maglipayon USA 2018 winner!

Yasss Never Lost. Buti pa sila. Hehe.

ganda ng sa Brgy. 35-A! 

Dancers :)

Gorgeous! And wow her costume!

But this is the most bongga of them all. My favorite! And alam mo ba kung ano sha?

They re-created their famous landmark, the San Juanico Bridge! WOW!

Most of them are carrying different images of Sto. Nino. Reminds me of Sinulog too!

My favorite float. Enge pong lechon!

Love love love kapamilya!

Goldilocks and their 2 bears! hehe

More Sto. Nino statues 

All smiles!

And then came the AirAsia float! They asked us if we wanted to get on it, we said yes!

On board! Yey!

The AirAsia team with Sir Bing

We handed out AirAsia merchandise and these fans were a huge hit!

It was super hot that day so it was the best giveaway

Best part? Nasa likod namin the float of Jollibee!!

Kilig na kilig ako haha! It made everyone, especially the kids, smile!

Cuteness galore

We got off near Bo's Coffee. It's already sunset and start na ng Festival of Lights!

Got mesmerized by all the beautiful lights, wonderful performances and amazing floats!

After our delicious dinner at Lorenzo's Way, we headed straight to DREAMLAND 2018 to party a bit!

AirAsia's booth inside the venue

Let's volt in party peeps! Hihi

The crowd was amazing! The youth of Tacloban knows how to party all right!:)

Nice vibe and great music

It was a pretty long day so we were all excited to retire for the night! And our home in Tacloban for 3 days? The Oriental Hotel!!!

The hotel is located in Palo, Leyte. About 15-20 minutes from downtown Tacloban

Driveway and reception area

Beautiful lobby

Haggard but thanks Sephie for taking my OOTD photo! Wearing Jukaykay Atbp. dress (worn as top) and shorts & Payless Champion shoes

Nicole and I shared this amazing beachfront twin room!

Spacious bathroom with basic toiletries

Glass shower! I wish it has a door though. The floor gets wet. Hehe

The room has 2 queen beds, a work desk, refrigerator, flatscreen TV, clothes rack, bedside table and sockets

There's also free bedroom slippers, free coffee & tea, laundry basket and hangers

Our room was so cozy! The bed, pillows and sheets made me sleep like a baby. Hehe. My only complaint was that the toilet flush's not working. Overall it was an amazing stay! Their staff are all friendly and helpful. Super sarap also their food! I ate so much. Hihi. Also loved the hotel's interiors, love the oriental feel and vibe! Wish we could have stayed longer but more reasons to come back, right?

We had a jampacked itinerary so I was not able to swim and experience their amazing pool. Next time!

Restaurant is on the left

Cabanas by the pool

Have drinks at the Sand Bar!

I wasn't able to take photos of their food but there was a wide assortment and masarap! 

My favorite was the lechon and pasta! Offering a wide array of local and international cuisines, Samsara Restaurant and Sand Bar will give you a memorable dining experience throughout your stay. 

Favorite spot outside! So chill!

In the middle of dinner, we were treated to an amazing performance by their staff! 


So galing their firedancers! Loved the effects ha!

May pa fireworks pa! Such a beautiful night!

Nakisama pa si Sir Butz sa sayawan! Hihi

We woke up early the next day, fueled ourselves by eating heavy breakfast and excitedly left the hotel not knowing what to expect from our scheduled tours. From Tacloban we drove North, all the way to Samar (just a quick 1 1/2 hours ride) for our first activity-- the ULOT River Torpedo Boat Adventure!   

On our way, we saw the M/V Eva Jocelyn Memorial Marker at the town of Anibong. It is one of the cargo vessels that was swept ashore during the typhoon which killed many.  

The starting point of the Ulot River adventure is this house along the road in Tenani, Paranas, Samar. We got off the van and went inside the house to register and to put on helmets and life vests. Safety first, always!!! We left our things in the van and only brought what we need which we secured inside a waterproof bag. My list includes my cellphone (enclosed in a waterproof case given to us the night before by the Dreamland organizers), lip tint (para kissable lips anywhere, everywhere haha) and powerbank! That's it. I wanted to leave my phone na din because no signal at all in Paranas (No Globe, Smart or Sun or any haha) but I thought instead of my camera, I'll bring my phone nalang for documentation. I also didn't know what to wear for this activity that I even researched about it.  Since mejo extreme, I just wore a sports bra, tanktop, shorts and flip-flops. D nako nagpacute cute na outfit haha. Okay naman sha for this. Approved! Haha. Next time I'll wear a rashguard coz I got toasted talaga! Two shades darker after. Huhu.

Helmet and life vest muna!

Group photo!

Ganda ng river noh? ULOT is Samar's longest river!

Our ride! Thin, wooden motorized boats. Exciting!

Group 1 is ready! 

And we're off! We were asked to sit on the floor and just hold onto the side rails. 

Everytime Kuya moves it tips the boat to the side! I thought we were gonna fall off haha. 

The ride was not as intense as I expected it to be. There were a few parts where the water got rough (for 2-3 seconds) and we got wet, but it was not scary at all. For an adrenaline junkie, I honestly expected more. But if you think about it, this is actually a nice activity for the whole family because everyone gets to experience and enjoy it! I even saw a family with their Lola with them. And what makes the 40-minute boat ride worth it is the amazing landscape and lush scenery you get to see along the way. Fresh air, locals waving at you from their huts, soothing sound of birds and other animals, it made me think-- "Ang ganda ng Pinas!". All of my worries were automatically washed off by all the beauty around me. 

We got off the boat upon reaching Deni's Point. This area is where the current gets super wild and tourists could spend time to eat, rest, take photos or jump off the rocks into the raging river. SO MUCH FUN! We were not that wet from the boat ride so I thought I won't swim anymore so no hassle na of bathing and changing clothes after. But it was scorching hot, as in literally nasunog ako and I was starting to feel weak from the heat, that when Seph announced he'd jump in the river, without second thoughts I jumped right after! Haha. Best decision eveeer.  I thought no one's gonna try it na and that we'd go back after taking lots of photos but buti nalang Seph started it! Soon after more people followed. I also jumped again! I could jump 10x more but we don't have much time. Hihi. 

Deni's Point!

Scary the raging water but it was not scary na after I jumped!

Me and Nicole!

Drone shot by Seph! Sa right side is where you jump off.

Wear your life vest because the current is really strong! The rocks are also hot so Kuya made me bring my slippers. He tied it to my vest hehe.

I persuaded Nicole to jump with me...

... but she changed her mind. Huhu! Minsan iniiwan talaga tayo sa ere eh. Haha love you girl!

My new motto, "If you jump, I'll jump. If you don't, I'll still jump. BYEEEE!" Self-love na tayo ngayon guys okay? Hahaha

 Thanks Yen for my boomerang! 

How was the experience jumping off the rocks into the river? Fun and liberating! You get churned inside the water upon jumping but you surface immediately because of the life vest and then you just float all around right after. Try not to hit the rocks! And then hold on to the rope at the end. It's like being inside a washing machine hehe. Saya!!! After an hour, we headed back to the jump off point...

There was a point where we had to get off the boat because the water was too shallow and they had to carry the boat to the other side...

Madame Yen! Hehe

Our boats being dragged by the Kuyas

Breakdown of costs. The torpedo boat adventure is P1825 maximum of 5 persons. Not bad! Just contact the numbers above if you plan to book a tour!

They have a bathroom in the hut, so we all washed up and changed first (didn't take a bath na) and then we left na for our next stop-- San Juan by the Bay Floating Restaurant and Boardwalk!

We registered first and then we were led to our raft

You could also reach the restaurant through this 400-meter boardwalk along a beautiful mangrove forest. It started raining so we decided against it. Next time!

Our ride to the restaurant!

Reminds me of Loboc River! 

Hungry kids

After a few minutes, we finally arrived at the floating restaurant! Woots!

It was just one raft with 4-5 tables so it's best to book ahead

Love the ambiance though! Very chill and close to nature. Plus, you have the famous & historical San Juanico Bridge as your backdrop! I love it.

End of the boardwalk 

Our table! Sobrang saya po ni Sir Greg! Hehe.

We feasted on local cuisines! Seafood galore! Yum.

We took photos on the boardwalk.

Aura pa more haha

Boardwalk leading to the mangrove forest!
You could also rent a kayak and paddle along the San Juanico Strait! 

For reservations, contact San Juan by the Bay: Concepcion Hineman (Reservation) - 0906 429 0458

May lalabo pa ba dito hahaha

Headed back to the hotel after, rested for a bit, freshened up and then met up with the gang at Samsara restaurant for the hotel's dinner buffet! The food was amazing and while dining we were treated to amazing performances and a spectacular fire dance show complete with fireworks after! It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Tacloban. 

We checked out early the next day because our flight was at 1pm and we will be heading straight to the airport after our San Juanico Banca Cruise by Aqua Momentum...

See the San Juanico Bridge in style! 

We boarded this fancy banca, sailed along the San Juanico Strait and saw the San Juanico Bridge up close and personal from underneath! 

With my girls, Nicole and Trice! Where you Yen? hehe

Trice and Sir Bing

Seph flew his drone! Ganda ng drone shot nia!

It was my first time to see this historical bridge and it was as magical as I imagined. 

OMG what a sight. So beautiful! 

The magnificent San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines spanning 2.162 kilometers connecting the provinces of Samar and Leyte. It was constructed in 1969 under the late President Ferdinand Marcos' administration and was completed in 1972, only 4 years after! Wow sana ganun lahat ng pagconstruct noh? Also called the "Bridge of Love", it was said to be the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos' gift to the "Rose of Tacloban", his wife Imelda. Hope to see the bridge from the top naman next time! :)

After the cruise, we were welcomed by this delicious boodle feast! YUMMM.

Thank you Aqua Momentum for this wonderful tour! If you want to bour a tour with them, just contact them below:


Headed straight to the airport right after to catch our flight. Super sepanx! Didn't want to leave. I was wrong, there's so much to see and so much to do here. There are still a lot of places to explore and so much adventures to experience in Leyte and Samar, super bitin. You could even go to Kalanggaman Island which is just 3 hours away from Tacloban. And because of this, I am already planning to go back soon with Nico and my family! Thank you Air Asia and Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas for taking us there. I went home in awe of all the beauty I saw and experienced and so inspired by the resilience, kindness and positivity of all the people (and strangers) we met. I can't wait to be back! :)

*AirAsia flies to Tacloban from Manila 5x daily & from Clark 4x weekly!

San Juan by the Bay

Concepcion Hineman (Reservation)

Mobile : 0906 429 0458

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