Baybay isn’t just all about being the second largest city in Leyte Island in terms of land area. It is also an important seaport in the province with interisland ferries that ply to Cebu City. Baybay cannot rival with the country’s biggest cities but there are certain facts that make the city truly noteworthy that might change your outlook. Whether you are a resident of Baybay or not—or perhaps you didn’t even know that we’re an existing Philippine city, here are some facts that you need to grasp:
5. Baybay is the Philippine Arm of a United States-based Papal Congregation
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration (SSFPA) headquartered in Indiana, USA is a papal congregation of the Catholic Church founded on 20 July 1863 by Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel in Olpe, Germany.
Years later, the growing size of the congregation and the large number of houses in the United States and Germany necessitated the division into two provinces; the German Province with the Motherhouse in Olpe, Germany, and the American Province with its Provincialate in Lafayette, Indiana.
By the time of Blessed Maria Theresia’s death in 1905, the order had sisters spread worldwide that established several schools, hospitals and orphanages. The German Province was named “Sacred Heart of Jesus” and the American Province is under the patronage of the “Immaculate Heart of Mary”. They received the acknowledgment as a Congregation of the papal rights on 31 July 1931 by Pope Pius XII.
In 1962, they opened their first foreign mission in Baybay and has significantly contributed to the construction and expansion of the Franciscan College of the Immaculate Conception (FCIC). The growing number Filipino nuns made possible the establishment of the Immaculate Conception Provincialate in 1993 with its office located right inside the FCIC campus.
4. Baybay is Home of the Zonal Agricultural University (ZAU) for the Visayas
The Visayas State University (VSU) is globally-recognized for its breakthrough research in agriculture. It is the Zonal Agricultural University (ZAU) for the Visayas under the National Agricultural Education System (NAES) in the Philippines. The university also takes pride as Centers of Excellence (COE) in Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering, and Forestry.
The sprawling 1,479.086-hectare campus is also home of the following research and training centers, namely : the Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops); National Abaca Research Center (NARC); National Coconut Research Center (NCRC) – Visayas; Farm and Resource Management Institute (FARMI); Philippine Carabao Center (PCC); and Agricultural Training Institute – National Training Center (ATI-NTC) – Visayas.
Furthermore, VSU’s excellence in research made the institution a multi-commodity research center by the Bureau of Agricultural Research. It is also the CHED Zonal Research Center for Eastern Visayas.
3. Baybay is Home to a National Park with Rare and Endemic Flora and Fauna Species
The Kuapnit Balinsasayao National Park is a protected area by the Philippine government that is shared by the town of Abuyog and Baybay City. The park covers an area of 364 hectares deep within the mountainous forests of Leyte, some 60 kilometers south of Tacloban City via the Maharlika Highway. It was declared a national park in 1937 by virtue of Proclamation No. 142 by President Manuel L. Quezon.
The park lies at the southern fringe of the Anonang-Lobi Range that runs north to south through western Leyte. This mountain range consists of the highest peaks in Leyte Island including Mount Burauen Graben, Mount Camaiyak and Mount Lobi, the highest at 1,346 m. Mount Maganjan at 754 m. is the most prominent peak nearest to the park.
It is home to three (3) bird species endemic to the Eastern Visayas region, the Samar hornbill, Visayan broadbill, and yellow-breasted tailorbird. The Philippine deer, Philippine warty pig and the tarsier are also found here.
2. Baybay is Host to the World’s Biggest Trader of Abaca. It is Home of Asia’s Biggest Abaca Pulp Mill
Ching Bee Trading Corporation had its humble beginnings in post-war Philippines when its founder and namesake, Lim Cheng Bee, began to trade in abaca fiber and copra right in Tabaco, Albay. From a small-scale single proprietorship in the late 1940s, the company was registered as a stock corporation in 1960 when Mr. Lim was joined by several colleagues and business partners.
By 1967, the they began exporting abaca fiber and copra to different countries all over the world, including Japan and the United States. Since then, Ching Bee has grown to become an industry leader in the global abaca market. More than six (6) decades from its inception and four (4) generations of Lims later, Ching Bee has secured its place as the biggest abaca trader in the world and foremost leader in the Philippine abaca industry.
The Company also manufactures and exports abaca pulp through Specialty Pulp Manufacturing, Inc. (SPMI) with the plant site located in Hilapnitan, a village north of Baybay City. Abaca pulps are used in currencies, filter papers and tea bags.
Today, Ching Bee maintains four (4) branches and one (1) agency that are strategically located in the major abaca centers of the Philippines: Tabaco, Albay; Davao City; Baybay, Leyte; Virac, Catanduanes and Meycauyan, Bulacan. It also has a Manila Liaison Office located in Quezon City.
1. Baybay is Home of the World’s Largest Producer of Virgin Coconut Oil
SC Global Oil Corporation, located in Caridad, a village 20km north of Baybay City lies the first facility in coconut producing countries like the Philippines to produce organic VCO in huge volume. Baybay City has the largest coconut plantation in the region making it the ideal plant site of the company. Coconut trees are so abundant they grow from the lowest to the highest points of mountains.
SC Global, which has been exporting 6,000 metric tons of coconut oil weekly, had ventured into banana chips production, citing the suitability of banana for intercropping under coconut trees.
They also produce organic refined cooking oil, aside from organically-grown banana chips that are also international bestsellers. The “Proudly Made in Baybay City, Leyte, Philippines” coconut oil that they sell abroad, bears the brand name “BioCoco“.
So there you have it. Baybay is a vital hub for education, research and agri-industries in the Philippines. I regularly pass by the plant sites mentioned above because they are just located near the national highway. Believe me, they all look ordinary on the outside—but thanks to my curiosity I learned that they are indeed industrial marvels. A national park in Baybay? I know not even half of the population of the residents in the city are aware it’s existing. And Baybay is the only Asian arm of SSFPA, a papal congregation based in the United States, not even the capital, Manila—it’s just here. Interesting? You’re welcome. 😊