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

When hymnwriter Fillmore Bennett wrote these well-loved lyrics in 1868, little did he 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 abounds how the city got its name. But the most logical explanation is that the town has the longest coastline in Leyte province, and common sense dictates that it be named “Baybay” which literally means “beach”.

It goes without saying that its major tourist magnet is its beach which will captivate every stranger on the shore.

Baybay may not be as popular as the well-known white sand island beaches, but what it offers is its natural charm away from the madding crowd.

To put to the fore its coastal bounty, the city recently celebrated the Binaybayon Festival , a thanksgiving ritual influenced by the traditional Waray curacha dance. Coinciding with the patronal feast, the festival is also inspired by the townfolk’s pastoral way of life with the street dances depicting the various stages of the planting and harvest seasons.

The festival was incepted when Baybay was declared a component city of Leyte in 2007 to showcase the strides it has made in economic progress and tourism development.

Tourists can expect more than the usual sight-seeing trips, just as Baybay’s tagline states—a  “City of Discovery, Beauty and Serenity”.

Sandwiched by the mighty Pangasugan mountain ranges, the tranquil Camotes Sea and comely Camotes islands, Baybay offers the allure of both 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 beach-front location.

One of the country’s biggest agricultural schools, VSU is a vital component of the city’s blossoming agro-industrial tourism.

The city also takes pride in its 13,820-hectare coconut plantation, the biggest in Eastern Visayas, making it the home of two world-class coconut oil factories and a pulp paper exporter.

Baybay is also Leyte’s de facto “heritage city” due to its well-preserved American-era ancestral houses. Visitors can walk around the heritage lane which will transport them back in time as they visit the antediluvian homes which have become “living museums”.

As part of its expansion, the city is reclaiming a nine-hectare new central business district which will house the public market and transport terminal, a P200 million sports complex, a hotel, fishport, fishing area, a shopping mall, and a tent city garden park.

These developments will offer a front row seat to a romantic sunset while munching on the local tasty lechon manok (chicken barbecue).

In the city’s 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 a zipline or cable car park, a retreat center, Stations of the Cross, or a back-to-the-basics nature camping grounds.

The more adventurous can explore its cavernous chambers of Lintaon Cave, dip at the rejuvenating waters of Bakwitan Falls, paddle at Ambacan River, or trek Mt. Pangasungan.

With its beauty and serenity, Baybay is indeed a sweet by and by.