Eastern Samar had been a significant backdrop of the country’s rich colonial history through the island of Homonhon, where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521 on his way to conquer the Philippines for the western world. Its tiny island of Suluan Guiuan was likewise where the U.S. Army rangers had their first encounter of the Philippine territory in 1944, three days before General Douglas MacArthur made his historic landing in Leyte.
In his account, Pigafetta, the chronicler aboard Magellan’s ship, describes the island of Humumu, now Homonhon, as so: “We found two fountains of very clear water, we called it the `Waters of Good Signs,’ having found the first sign of gold in the said island. There also can be found much white coral and tall trees that bear fruits smaller than an almond and look like pines. There were also many palm trees, some of the good kind, some of the bad. Thereabouts are many neighboring islands. Hence, we called them the St. Lazarus Archipelago because we stayed there on the day and feast of St. Lazarus.”
Historians have since described this part of Samar Island as the “eastern gateway to the Philippines.” The coast of the small province faces the Pacific Ocean and much of the land is rugged with the vast parts forested. The interior part is rough and hilly and covered with dense tropical vegetation but drained by numerous rivers and creeks. Mountain ranges and peaks abound in an interior. Narrow plains hug most of the coastal areas and, in some instances, the banks of its principal rivers and their tributaries.
The province occupies a total land area of 4,470.75 sq. km. It is bounded on the north by Northern Samar, on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by Western Samar, and on the south by the Leyte Gulf.
The province is composed of 23 towns. Capital is Borongan.
As of the 1995 census, the provincial population was 58,285.
Waray-waray is the major dialect spoken in the province.