Guinhangdan Hill derived its name from the word "hangad" or "to look upward". Alternatively, it is called Hill 522 owing to its height of 522 feet above sea level.
It is the entrance to the first liberated town (Palo) from the Japanese forces. A cross is planted at the highest point as a memorial to the event. This cross is visible from the ground surrounding the hill.
Much as I would have liked to hike it, I backtracked because of the slippery trail going up. The hike starts at the La Purisima Shrine where there were concrete steps upto the third level. At this point, I was surprised to find a small community and from hereon, the foot path becomes grassy and slippery. Hence, I decided to cut short my hike.
Palo Metropolitan Cathedral was built in 1596 by Augustinian friars. Like most Catholic churches in the country, it also served as a refuge and hospital during World War II.
Although the church's exterior may have lost its past splendor, the interior retained its grandeur particularly its main altar which is covered in gold leaf. The stations of the cross lining the church's walls were carved by local artisans.
Red Beach is a stretch of water with a view of Samar island on the other side. It figured prominently in Philippine history as the site of Gen. MacArthur's Leyte landing.
Today, Red Beach is lined with resorts and picnic huts. It has fine gray sand and the warm water is good for swimming as there are no big waves. Early morning seems the best time to stroll and swim. It faces the east thus affording one a frontseat to witness the sunrise.
The La Purisima Shrine was erected in 1879 at the foot of Guinhangdan Hill. Since then, it has been a site for Marian pilgrimage. A very small prayer room is located at the ground level, while an icon of the Virgin is placed a few steps above it.
Considering its relevance in the religious life of the Leyte people, I don't think the shrine is given proper recognition. I passed it on my way to Hill 522 and offered a short prayer never realizing that it is already the Shrine. There is no sign, no identification nor indication that the site is a sacred site. It was only when we were about to move to another site, that the trike driver informed us that "that was the shrine".