E is for Eastern Samar

There are places which needed proper planning and schedule of visit or travel because it is very far and the option for transportation is close to none. Stories of isolation and the lack of available information could deter anyone from trying at least to schedule a trip to these unpopular land.

But for me, Eastern Samar is not one of those places. This province is just biding its time to be made known to the rest of country, or to the travelers, and perhaps to the surfing world.

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Sidlangan Samar or Eastern Samar is my 63rd province to visit. This province occupies the eastern section of Samar Island, facing the Philippine Sea, which is a part of Pacific Ocean, to the east. It is bordered by Northern Samar to the north and the province of Samar (Western Samar) to the west. The Leyte Gulf is at the south.

Typhoons often come to Eastern Samar. Its southern town of Guiuan was one of the many places where super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made landfall. Almost 3 years had passed since it was ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda, Eastern Samar is now back on its feet and has since moved on to face new challenges in the present time.

One of the challenges it might be facing is how to draw tourists and travelers to its shores. The province has a long shoreline and several islands which promise significant swells or waves that can attract surfers or the thalassophiles. Although the main roads going through Borongan City, the provincial capital, is good, options for transportation is still limited to mini-buses, vans and the tricycle.

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My visit to this province was focused on Borongan City. How to get there?

If you are coming from Tacloban or any place in Leyte, there are several van transport service companies that ply the Tacloban-Borongan route. The distance is about 187km or roughly 4hr travel. There are also bus lines that serve Manila – Borongan route via the Pan-Philippine Highway. Currently there are scheduled flights to Borongan from Manila thru SkyJet Airlines.

I took a van (Duptours) for Borongan which left at 6am in Tacloban City. We passed through the towns of Basey and Marabut then taking a turn north in the town of Quinapondan then through several municipalities of Eastern Samar before reaching Borongan. The stretch from Basey to Marabut provides scenic coastal views, especially the rock formations off the coast of Marabut.

I got off at the van terminal which is just a few meters away from the only mall in the city, Wilsam Uptown Mall. The ever reliable GV Hotel (Real St cor Circumferential Road) was my choice of accommodation. At the time, there was a rotational power outage being implemented, so I had no choice but to drop my bags in the room and start my DIY tour of Borongan.

As always, I started the tour of the city with a visit to the town plaza. Dominating the skyline is the Borongan Cathedral. It is also called the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Blessed Virgin Mary. The church may have been built in 1710 but at present, it is a faded blue Jesuit architecture. The circular bell tower is said to be the only remaining original structure (although another level was added to the tower thru time).

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In front of the church is an old statue of St. James the Great and city hall which, as of this writing, is under renovation and expansion. Beside the city hall is a waiting shed with several murals. One of these is the mural of Borongan’s tricycle. Across this shed is the Hamorawon Park which has a centuries-old acacia tree, a giant clamshell-shaped stage supported by two mermaids and decorated with murals at the sides.

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Borongan Tricycle

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Clamshell Stage of Hamorawon Park

Then the beaches of Borongan.

The city has several black-brown beaches which are easily accessible by tricycle. Borongan’s more popular beaches include Hilangagan Beach, Guintacigan Beach, the beaches in Divinubo, Monbon and Andis Islands. These beaches were several kilometers away from Borongan proper and may require a few hours to and fro so I decided to visit the beaches that are of close proximity to my hotel.

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First up is the beach along Baybay Boulevard. It is one of the surfing spots in the province. The coastline is about 1.5km that runs from the mouth of Borongan River in the north and up to the Lo-om River in the south. The beach offers a scenic view of the port of Borongan against the backdrop of the Pacific horizon.

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Skim boarding is one of a few things to try out in this beach. Drew Arellano, a local TV host of travel-adventure show, has tried out skim boarding and said that it’s relatively safe to do it in this beach because it isn’t rocky.

Next is Bato Beach which is a few kilometers south of Baybay Boulevard. I decided to go the distance on foot.

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The bridge spanning Lo-om River.

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The statue of Eugenio Salazar Daza , a local hero of Borongan.

It’s a bronze monument in honor of the son of Borongan who was a teacher who taught in Borongan Municipal School, established his own school and then joined the revolutionary forces in Samar during the 1896 Revolution against Spain. He was most remembered as the ‘Brain of the Balangiga Massacre’ an event in September 1901 where the Filipinos succeeded against the American Forces in Samar. This event was said to be the bloodiest chapter in the history of the American Army in the Philippines.

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Bato Beach

This beach has a section which is rocky and sharp, hence the name. Bato Beach is a long stretch of black-brown sand connected with Cabong Beach.

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Young surfers about to the ride the waves

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From a bridge spanning Bato River at Can-abong

I went further south towards the border of Borongan and Maydolong, this time I hopped on a tricycle and got off a few meters from the Suribao bridge.

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Welcome Arch in Camada

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Suribao River View

Taken from the Suribao Bridge, an amazing view of the river about to connect with the sea. This river also serves as border between the town of Maydolong and the city of Borongan. A welcome arch can be found at the north end of the bridge. I walked the length of the bridge towards the south end and noticed that people were gathering black sand for a living. A few narrow wooden boats are docked at the riverbank and these boats were filled with the sand extracted from the river.

I got on jeepney heading back to Borongan and got off at Brgy. Lalawigan. This barangay is the jump-off point to Divinubo Island. Divinubo has a stretch of white sand beach and coral formation. It is a favorite weekend getaway. The last trip to the island is 3pm and it was already late in the afternoon when I arrived so I decided to enjoy Lalawigan Beach instead.

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Lalawigan Beach

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A view of Divinubo Island

It was a full day of exploring Borongan City of Eastern Samar through its beaches and its landmarks. Hopefully, tourism will pick up. The province definitely has a lot to offer. Come and explore Eastern Samar. Come and visit Borongan.

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