In an unruffled rural setting in Southern Leyte, lies a city draped by remnants of its glorious past. Maasin, the capital of the province blissfully sits on the western coast and is largely not a tourist favorite. Not much is written about the points of interest in this tranquil metropolis, but intrepid travelers curious to explore this part of the country will be rewarded with interesting treks, immaculate waterfalls and uncharted caverns.
Getting here requires extra stamina since the closest airport is located in Ormoc roughly 3 hour drive or you may also reach Maasin via Tacloban in approximately 4 hours by land. Alternatively, you can ride a ferry from Cebu or if coming from Mindanao, you can take the route I took which also entails a degree of travel discomfort – board a ferry at Lipata Port in Surigao City to Liloan, Southern Leyte and hop on a bus bound to Maasin.
At the downtown area, the modest streets are clad by forgotten colonial-era houses. The massive 17th century Maasin Cathedral looms over the central square fringed by buildings important to city life including the Municipal Hall. Adjacent to it is the age-old school of St. Joseph College established way back in 1928 and ruins of an old Spanish balaurte (watchtower).
The cathedral’s interior is enhanced by a beautifully painted ceiling showing images of saints; however the modern altar seems to contradict the archaic elegance of the entire edifice. Its ochre colored walls were built out of coral stones. The Maasin Cathedral began its constructions during the time of Jesuit priest Fr. Serapio Gonzalez and continued from 1839 to 1852 under the guidance of Fr. Jose Paco. Unfortunately in 1884, the church was devastated by fire but was later restored.
Maasin beckons Catholic devotees because of a number of pilgrimage sites scattered around the city. The most accessible is the Shrine of Mother Mary that provides a tranquil refuge to weary visitors. It is believed to be the tallest privately owned shrine in the country. The colossal statue crowns Jaleca Hills and offers a scenic view of Maasin shoreline.
If you have the luxury of time, pay a visit to the lovely Monte Cueva Asuncion de la Virgen Shrine (Shrine of Our Lady of the Assumption and Precious Blood of Jesus), a cave perched on top of a hill transformed into a humble chapel.