For students and historians of the Pacific and WWII, the word 'Leyte' conjures up images of bloody naval battles and the site of MacArthur's famous return. For Filipinos it's equally associated with the rags-to-riches rise of Imelda Marcos and the nostalgic, romanticised portrait she painted of her birthplace after she made good in the capital. For travellers, Southern Leyte, wrapped around the deep-water Sogod Bay, is one of the Philippines' many diving hotspots. The Cebuano-speaking Leyteños live in the south, and their Waray-speaking neighbours live in the cattle-ranching country of northern Leyte.
It was Leyte's north that endured the worst of Typhoon Yolanda's tyranny in 2013, but today the island has bounced back remarkably well. Provincial capital Tacloban has a vibrant cafe and restaurant scene while the deep south settlements of Padre Burgos and Panaon remain as seductive as ever.