This pleasant and peaceful city in Leyte is known to most Filipinos as the center of many tragedies: the flash flood in 1991; the deadly fire in 2006; and the destructive super typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Amid all these tragedies, the people of Ormoc have learned to survive and move on.
Visitors to this bustling metropolis in Eastern Visayas will find a city on a gently rolling plain, bounded on the west by a beautiful bay and on the east by the majestic Mount Magsanga with its familiar twin horns, separating Ormoc from the eastern portion of Leyte. Rivers and streams traverse Ormoc: Bao River in the north; Bagong-bong River in the south; Pagsangahan River in the west; and the Rivers of Anilao and Malbasag in the east.
“Ogmok” is the Visayan term for “lowland” or “depressed plain” between the mountain and the sea. This is where the city’s name was derived.
The city has a population of almost 200,000. They speak mostly Cebuano but can also converse in Waray.
Ormoc is the gateway to the Eastern Visaya Region, as the city is in direct link with Cebu and the rest of the region. It is also one of the commercial centers of the region. The city’s economic base is from agriculture and aquaculture. Sugar can, rice, seafood and pineapple are the city’s major products.
The city is also a major supplier of geothermal power through the Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant in Barangay Tonganan. It is also a gateway to the Leyte Industrial Development Estate where one of the largest fertilizer plants and copper processing plants in Asia are located.
Ormoc City is also a jump-off point to the major adventure destinations in the Island of Leyte, such as the picturesque Lake Danao, the beautiful Kalangaman Island and the challenging Leyte Mountain Trail.
How to get there
There is no direct flight from Manila to Ormoc, the quickest way to get there is to get a flight from Manila to either Cebu or Tacloban.
From Tacloban, there are buses and UV Express vans that travel to Ormoc. Travel time is about two hours.
From Mactan Airport, take a taxi to Cebu port, and from there, take a fast-craft direct to Ormoc City. Travel time on a fast-craft is two hours.
Philtranco has a daily bus trip from either of their terminals in Cubao (departs at 10 am) or Pasay (departs at 11 am). The trip takes 27 hours and costs around P1,570. The bus drives south via Bicol Peninsula before exiting the Island of Luzon at Kilometer 646 at Matnog, then crossing to Allen in Northern Samar, then continuing the drive thru Maharlika Highway, passing by San Juanico Bridge, then Tacloban, then driving west to Ormoc. Reservation is required particularly during peak seasons.
What to see, what to do
The road going up to Tongonan leads to two of the city’s main attractions: Tongonan Hotsprings National Park; and Lake Danao.
The Tongonan Hotsprings National Park is a valley of geothermal power source that supplies electricity to the region and the nearby islands. It is the first geothermal plant to operate in the country.
Further up on the road is the guitar-shaped Lake Danao. At an elevation of 650 meters, the Lake Danao National Park is now classified as a protected area under Proclamation No. 1155. It supplies potable water to several eastern Leyte towns, including Tacloban, and is also a source of irrigation to several municipalities surrounding the area.
Entrance to the park is P10 per person. Bamboo rafts and boats can be rented to explore the lake. The locals collect freshwater clams that they call ”tab-ang.” An eatery near the lake’s entrance serves a big plate of “tab-ang” adobo for P100.
In Barangay Hibunawon, a 210-hectare pineapple plantation is located. Called Ormoc’s Queen Pineapple, it is famous for its sweetness and juiciness and has become the city’s unofficial icon.
At the town center, right next to the ferry and bus terminals, is the Centennial Park. People come here day and night to enjoy the cool breeze coming from Ormoc Bay.
Where to stay, what to eat
As a commercial center, lodging options in Ormoc are plenty and not so expensive. But for those looking for more comfortable places to stay, try Sabin Resort Hotel in Bantingue or the Leyte Golf and Country Club in Mabini.
For those looking for a good location, Hotel Don Felipe is right next to the ferry and bus terminals at Centennial Park. There are also many pension houses that offer overnight accommodations from P200 to P500. They include 3M, Amber Mia, Buenas, GV, JB Garden, Pongos, Pelacor and Sky Garden.
For dining, the favorite local hang out place is the cozy café called Bedida’s. Or one can head to the public market and look for Doro’s Carenderia. They serve a local version of Bulalo called Pacdol (a clear broth with carabao knee meat).
At the stalls right next to the bus station, sample the local lechon. It is almost the same as Cebu’s in terms of taste but less expensive (less than P100 for a quarter kilo). It is best eaten with hot rice, fish sinigang and finished with fresh Ormoc Queen Pineapple at P5 per slice.
But the best way to experience the placidity of Ormoc is to go to Lake Danao, rent out a floating cottage and sleep there for a night. Ormoc may be one of the places in the Philippines that have been hit many times by natural disasters, but the resiliency of its people is both inspiring and comforting.