“In the sweet by and by we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”

When lyricist Fillmore Bennett wrote this well-loved religious hymn in 1868, little did one know that his classical work would not just be referring to the Great Beyond prepared by the Almighty. Down south in Leyte is the beguiling city of Baybay which is likewise characterized in the song. A host of apocryphal stories concerning the origins of the city’s name abound.

One version says that during World War II, an American soldier from the liberation forces said he could not say “bye bye” to the charming coast which had enraptured him. While it may sound like an old wives’ tale, there seems to be a grain of truth to it. The most logical explanation would be is that the town has the longest coastline in Leyte province, and common sense dictates that it was named “Baybay” which literally means “beach”.

It goes without saying that its tourist magnet for visitors is its beach which will surely captivate every stranger on the shore. It may be afar cry from Boracay’s powdery white sand beaches and vibrant island beat, but what it offers is its natural charm away from the madding crowd. Thus, its tagline declares, Baybay is a “City of Discovery, Beauty, and Serenity”.

Sandwiched by the mighty Pangasugan mountain rangers, the tranquil Camotes Sea and comely Camotes islands, Baybay offers the allure of best worlds. This experience can be had at the Visayas State University, a sprawling educational enclave which has earned the moniker “resort university” because of its enviable location.

One of the country’s biggest agricultural schools, VSU is a vital component of the city’s blossoming agro-industrial tourism. Baybay takes pride in its 13, 820- hectare coconut plantation, the biggest in Eastern Visayas, making it the site of two-world class coconut oil factories and a pulp paper exporter. Talk about “using their coconut”, the city is home to two major coconut oil which are exporting the derivatives of the tree of life.

Meanwhile, a pulp paper firm exports security paper commonly used in foreign currencies, specifically in the Japanese yen, because of the abundance of abaca and fresh water in the city. Tourists can expect more than the usual sight-seeing trips, with the insightful factory visits to give them a glimpse of the vibrant local industries.

Baybay is also Leyte’s “heritage city” because of its well preserve colonial houses dating back to the American era. Visitors can walk around the heritage lane that will transport them back in time as they visit the antediluvian homes.

The city is currently reclaiming a nine-hectare new central business district which will house the public market and transport terminal, a P200 million sports complex, a hotel fish port, fishing area, a shopping mall and the Tent City Garden Park. These developments will be offering a front row seat to a romantic sunset while munching on the local tasty chicken barbecue.

In the outskirts is the wind-swept upland village of Lintaon which affords guests a breath-taking view of the city and the mountain ranges. The area is ideal for zipline or cable car park, a retreat center with a Stations of the Cross, or a back-to-the-basic nature camping grounds. The more adventurous can explore its cavernous chamber of Lintaon Cave, dip at the rejuvenating water of Bakwitan Falls, paddle at Ambacan River, or trek at Mt. Pangasugan.

With the beauty and serenity it offers, one can really say that Baybay is a sweet by and by.

Edited by Isabel de Leon

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