The mere mention of Limasawa – the island municipality at the mouth of Sogod Bay – instantly calls to one’s mind, especially among Filipinos, the Magellan-Elcano expedition. The rugged 698-hectare island is the site of the first documented Roman Catholic mass in the Philippines and the Far East. After snorkeling with whale sharks and scuba diving around Sogod Bay, I excitedly decided to hop on over to this slender-shaped island. According to legend, the island takes its name from the five wives (“limang asawa”) of Rajah Kolambu, the ruler of the island when Magellan and his men arrived in 1521.
The most important heritage sites on the island are at Barangay Magallanes on the east coast. The National Shrine of the First Mass in the Philippines (free admission, open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm) is a mausoleum-looking structure built to commemorate the historic event. Inside, a life-size tableau of the planting of the First Cross can be found, surrounded by historical paintings. The first documented Roman Catholic mass in the country was celebrated by Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, the chaplain of the Spanish fleet led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on March 31, 1521, an Easter Sunday.
From the park fronting the shrine, a series of 450 concrete steps leads up to the First Cross Monument, a six-meter-tall commemorative replica of the cross planted by Magellan’s expedition on a hill on the island.
In 2021, a Quincentennial Marker for Limasawa was erected in Barangay Calubihan, south of Barangay Triana. This marker belongs to a series of 34 monuments installed across the southern Philippines, tracing the Philippine leg of the first circumnavigation of the globe by the Magellan-Elcano expedition (1519-1522).
Beaches & Rock Resorts
Aside from historic sights, Limasawa is also blessed with rugged natural beauty. The best white-sand beaches are on the east coast with Dakdak Beach Resort (entrance fee: ₱30, Tel. +63 9155202660, +63 9367196004 or +63 9158482835) in Barangay Lugsongan having the longest beach line. Amy Beach Resort (, on the southern end of Barangay Magallanes, also has a nice white-sand beach, a small swimming pool, and A-frame huts with private toilet and shower (₱1,200, good for two persons) while farther south is the new South Parola Beach Resort (entrance fee: ₱30), a cliffside property next to the modern lighthouse on the south end of the island (no overnight accommodation available yet).
On the north end of Limasawa is the picturesque Island Lagoon Resort (entrance: ₱35, Tel. +63 9567903306), a remote cliffside resort which features rock formations surrounding a swimming area, accessed by 84 steep concrete steps. The resort is located near the North Lighthouse standing next to limestone cliffs. Accommodation starts at ₱1000 for a double fan room with shared toilet and shower.
There’s also great diving around Limasawa Island, especially off the northeast coast! The most popular dive sites are Gunther’s Wall and Adrian’s Cove, which feature coral-rich walls. Unfortunately, there is no dive center on the island, and the sites are accessed via boat drives from resorts based on the Leyte mainland. For more information on scuba diving in Limasawa, read my blog about scuba diving in Sogod Bay.
How to Get There
Padre Burgos is the jump-off point to Limasawa Island. Southern Leyte. M/V Asuncion (Tel. +63 9750150359) is a large outrigger ferry that plies between Limasawa and Padre Burgos. The boat departs Padre Burgos Pier at 11 am daily (except Sundays), and departs Limasawa for Padre Burgos at 6:00 am everyday. Travel time is at least 1 hour, depending on sea conditions. Fare is ₱100, exclusive of environmental fee (₱60). If you miss the lantsa (big ferry), there are small bangkas (outrigger boats) that ply the same route (₱150 to 250 per person, depending on number of passengers and sea condition).
Padre Burgos is a three-hour drive from Tacloban Airport, which serves regular flights from Manila and Cebu. Alternatively, from Cebu City, you can take a ro-ro ferry or fastcraft to any of the ports along the southwestern coast of Leyte island (ie. from north to south, Ormoc, Baybay, Hilongos, Bato or Maasin), then travel southwards by bus or van to Padre Burgos. (Tip: Cebu-Ormoc route has fastcraft options, while Hilongos has daily ro-ro ferry trips).
I took a Roble Shipping ferry (₱680 for tourist class, 6-7 hours), which departed Cebu City at 9pm and arrived at Hilongos Port at 4am. While onboard, one can purchase bus transfer tickets to other places on Leyte island. I bought a bus ticket for Maasin City Terminal (₱150, 1 hour), where I transferred to a Sogod-bound van (₱100, 45 minutes), which dropped me off at Padre Burgos.
Check out the Facebook pages of the ferry companies for the latest schedule:
- Roble Shipping (Cebu-Hilongos) – Ro-ro ferry, 6 hours
- KHO Shipping Lines (Cebu-Maasin)* – Ro-ro ferry, 6 hours
- OceanJet & SuperCat (Cebu-Ormoc) – Fastcraft, 3 hours
Where to Stay
The most convenient place to stay is Evashore Beach Resort (Tel. +63 9195355694), a budget beach hotel located just a short walk away from the pier (which is ideal since the ferry returning to Padre Burgos leaves at 6:00 am). Accommodation rates start at ₱1,000 for an air-conditioned double room with shared toilet and shower.
Where to Eat
There are only a few carinderias (eateries) around Triana, the main village on the west coast of the island. The largest and most popular restaurant is Pinkapple & Natalie’s Restaurant, a seaside establishment that serves an assortment of food and drinks. They also offer baked goods and sundries at the adjacent sari-sari store.
The most practical way to get around the island is to hire a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) or rent your own scooter. The Municipal Tourism Office lent me a semi-automatic motorcycle but there are a few scooters for rent. Ask your resort or accommodation.