Eastern Samar: 10 Things I Love About Borongan, My City

I was born here, my parents, my grandparents, and my great grandparents before me. I grew up and studied here so I always have an affinity to this beautiful place and here are the 10 things I love about Borongan, my city.

Borongan landmark along Baybay Boulevard

There are many of them, actually, but I only limited my list to 10 and I have listed them below at random.

1. It is a clean city. Yes. If you go out on the streets at 4 am, the street cleaners are already sweeping so that when the sun is up and the people are out, the streets are already clean.

The city employs people to watch out for tricycle drivers and other people on the streets who drop their cigarette butts. They are fined for this.

When you go to the park, some people are assigned to watch for vendors and people out there who drop their garbage on the streets.

So you would prefer to put your trash in the garbage can or in your bag because it is embarrassing to be approached by these people. You never know who they are because they blend in the crowd.

2. The air is still fresh. Air pollution is a non-issue here. Thank God. Not just yet.

The city is nestled between mountains and the vast Pacific Ocean. The city proper has three rivers that act as natural air fresheners. These three rivers make the city cooler during hot summer days.

In the early mornings, the city is blanketed with fog  from the mountains and rivers surrounding it.

Fog means borong in Waray. Since the town is a foggy place, it became known as Borongan, meaning, foggy. So this place lives up to its name.

Loom River in the heart of the city

The smoke from vehicles that pass the boulevard are carried away by the winds to the sea.

Stray dogs are impounded to prevent them from littering the streets and to avoid vehicular accidents.

Since the streets are clean and there is no decaying garbage, you won’t notice any unpleasant smell as you walk along the streets.

Don’t expect smoke coming out from factories here. This is not a manufacturing city. The livelihood of people here are fishing, farming, business, working in government or private institutions, or working abroad.

3. It is a quiet city. No, don’t expect a ghost town. There are many people living here so expect the sound of life. What I mean is, the place is not noisy like the bombs in a war-torn city, nor the horns of jeepneys and the sound of gang wars in some cities. It’s just the sound of everyday life here. Just enough for you to still have your siesta and for you to sleep early at night when you want to.

4. There is no traffic. I guess it has something to do with the population. Borongan is not densely populated. There is plenty of vacant space here.

There are not too many vehicles that pass bumper to bumper. So your ETD and ETA from your home to your work or any destination and back can be accurate.

The heart of the city

5. It is peaceful. Borongan may not have zero crime rate but it is comparatively lower than other cities. Except for a few isolated cases, it is safe to walk on the streets at night.

You can leave your door open and never worry about burglars. You can sleep with your windows open when the nights are hot. But when you do this, know your neighborhood first.

6. The people are religious. There are many masses celebrated every day to accommodate many church-goers. Feasts of saints are always celebrated with processions and many people attend these, too.

Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady

Many people join religious organizations or communities so they are active in church activities like catechism and other charity work.

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These colorful umbrellas outside the church are waiting to be claimed by children attending the flores de mayo

But one thing that strikes me most, is the Angelus. When the church bells strike at 6 PM, the people stop walking, and vehicles stop running. For a few minutes of their busy lives, people stop to pray the Angelus, and even if they’re not Catholic they stop to give due respect to the predominant religion in the city, and perhaps to pray their own prayer.

Traffic stops during the Angelus

7. The people are hospitable.  Borongan  fiesta celebration is not only a religious affair but also a socio-cultural activity.

It is also a showcase of the people’s hospitality. The locals make their houses presentable and they prepare and serve plenty of food for their guests from far and near.

Even on ordinary days, when you are at a friend’s or a stranger’s house during meals, you will be invited to eat with them. It is always considered rude for the family to eat without inviting the guest.

The guest may then accept or politely decline the invitation and watch TV or read a magazine instead. But the host won’t feel awkward anymore by having invited the guest.

8. It is a haven for nature-lovers. Name it, and we have it. Beautiful islands, white sand and black sand beaches, big and small caves, thick watershed, waterfalls and rivers; it’s an all-in-one package in my beautiful Borongan.

Hilangagan Beach, Punta Maria

You can go walking or jogging by the beach or at the boulevard, you can hike a nearby hill, you can scale the mountains, go rock-climbing, spelunking, boating or tubing down the river.

Yes, these can all be done here. I know because I used to do these things except for rock-climbing and tubing.

I didn’t go tubing because to me it is more exciting to follow the source of the river from cave to civilization. I did this with my friends wading in brooks to streams, to rivers, until we could see the bridge in town from afar, which indicated that we couldn’t wade in the river anymore because it is too deep. So we walk on the riverbank.

My point is, you just have to network with people who have the same inclination as yours. Locals can be your tour guides or you may contact the city’s tourism office. They’re just out there, unless you prefer solo backpacking.

9. Food is delicious but affordable. I am referring to casual dining restaurants not the turoturo (you point at the food on display that you want to eat). The prices are reasonable. Food is delicious so you get value for your money.

Street foods are also popular here. If you want to eat tasty barbecues of different kinds, you may go to Baybay Boulevard and take your pick.

The boulevard is a must-visit for its famous barbecues

If you want native delicacies for breakfast, snacks, or pasalubong (presents), you will find these at the backstage of the town plaza. There’s the puto, puto bagol, puto nga bilanghoy, salukara, bibingka, bakintol, alisuso, suman latik, kurukod, etc.These sweets are made of rice, cassava or sweet potato with coconut milk or with grated coconut in caramelized sugar for filling.

The city’s native delicacies

For snacks, my kids and I particularly love turon, banana cue, and camote cue. Believe me, they don’t prepare it like this yummy in other towns, except here in Borongan. The secret, which is no secret anymore, is in their use of calamay instead of sugar.

In fact, I brought turon to a PTA induction party because I wanted mine to be unique, and to my delight, it was an instant hit  among the parents.

10. Tricycles. It’s called a tricycle because it has three wheels. It’s a motorcycle with a sidecar for passengers.

Tricycles can be seen anywhere in the country but ours is a different kind. It’s bigger and wider so it’s more comfortable to ride in. The paint is glossy like that of a car so it’s more attractive, particularly to teenagers, so they enjoy going all around town in these tricycles before going home from school.

So if cars are toys for big boys, tricycles might as well be toys for teenagers.

This tricycle design is made by Borongan artisans. It has become so popular that people from out of town who want to own a tricycle come to Borongan to commission a tricycle or to buy one.

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Borongan tricycles

I love these tricycles because they are colorful.  The many different colors of these tricycles bring life to the city streets. But more than that these tricycles not only serve the people but they also put food on the table of many families in Borongan, mine included. Isn’t it beautiful?

These are the 10 things I love about Borongan, my city. Do you have anything more to add? Feel free to comment below.

Balangkayan, Eastern Samar: Minasangay, An Ideal Island Getaway

If you’re looking for an ideal island getaway, Minasangay is the place to be.

Minasangay Island is located in the town proper  of  Balangkayan, Eastern Samar, and Balangkayan is only 23 kilometers away from Borongan City, the capital of Eastern Samar.

The town’s landmark right across the bridge bordering Maydolong and Balangkayan

Because of its proximity to the city, you could see many Boronganons coming to the island. Not only that, people from neighboring towns, in and out of the province frequent the island, too.

If Tacloban City Airport is your point of reference, you can reach Balangkayan by vans bound to Borongan, like 3K Tours, Borongan Transport, Duptours, and Van Van. There are also buses to  Borongan at the Tacloban terminal.

It is only three and a half hours drive from Tacloban to Balangkayan and the fare is P200 or 4USD as of this writing.

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The beach flags before crossing the hanging bridge.

One main advantage of Minasangay is it’s accessibility to many people. Balangkayan is a coastal town by the highway, and Minasangay is only seven hundred meters away from the highway.

The beautiful garden greets guests and gives a homey atmosphere as if you never left home. The pink periwinkles look lovely against the green backdrop.

Once you get to the island it feels like you are far away from civilization. There are no houses and vehicles in sight unlike other beach resorts. Here you  are in total commune with nature. All you would see are rocks, trees, sand, and sea.

Across the island, you could see mangroves, coconut trees, and mountains from afar.  At the back of it, from a vacationer’s point of view is the vast and deep Pacific Ocean.

If you want to feel like you own the island, you should come here on ordinary days or weekdays. There are other people, of course, but just enough for you to have the privacy, the peace and solitude that you may be looking for.

If you want to experience a vibrant Minasangay and you like to mingle with many people, come here on a Sunday or on a holiday. The place is full of life.

As for me, I seek for a quiet place. So I purposely come here with my family on a Saturday. I know there will be other people around but I know that the crowd will not overflow into the sands.

Even on a Saturday, the cottages are still fully-booked and the tables and chairs occupied. But I still have my personal space.

I love the rocks. They do not only give shade but they serve as natural partitions for the privacy that I really value.

I can hear the sound of other people talking but I don’t find it distracting. Just enough for me to feel that I have company in this beautiful island.

This beach resort is ideal for family gatherings, friends, and even corporate team-buildings. Here you can mix business with pleasure like what I do now.

Blogging about Minasangay, my Muse.

As I sit here by the beach facing my laptop under an umbrella and a Talisay tree, I can see the crystal-clear waters in front of me, big and small rock formations scattered on it, which add to its natural beauty.

Sun, sand, sea, and sky
Experience the thrill of diving from this cliff

There are many things you can do here in Minasangay aside from swimming. You can go cliff diving as there is a diving spot here. You can go bush walking and climb the rocky hill of the island.

You can also have videoke with your friends and family.  Just bring your videoke or rent from here. Yes, there is power supply here, and internet access, too.

You can also go boating around the island by renting a boat from a local fisherman. You can explore every nook and cranny of this rocky island or simply sit, relax, and bask in the setting sun.

Some fishermen occasionally pass by the island.

Minasangay Island  Marine Eco-Park and Resort is operated by the Municipality of Balangkayan. This beach resort is a work in progress as you can see on-going construction  in this island.

As a backgrounder, this island resort was heavily-damaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 when Balangkayan was inundated. (You can still see the brown mangroves destroyed by the super typhoon but slowly these mangroves are now coming back to life.) But it is this same island that served as a natural break from the big waves of Yolanda so that the devastation of the storm surge was only limited to the town proper and not the barangays outside of it. Thankfully, there was no casualty in this town. Other towns were not as lucky.

Because of this the town officials and the locals are bent on preserving the natural beauty of the island in spite of the development.

The hanging bridge which was destroyed has now been restored and there is a concrete bridge more than a meter wide for those who don’t want to pass on the bridge. This is to facilitate the elderly and the PWDs who are on wheelchairs.

The rustic hanging bridge is what sets Minasangay apart from other resorts.  It simply is captivating.
The view of the island from the hanging bridge.

Outside the island, just before the bridge, are stores where you can buy lechon manok (roasted chicken), softdrinks, hard drinks, and island souvenirs. You can also rent banana beds, and other floaters here.

I love this place not only for its beauty but also for the beauty of its people. The locals are hospitable. Even if you’re a stranger, if you ask for directions, they would be eager to help you around the island. The staff of the resort are just around the island 24/7 to attend to your needs. You can even stay here overnight and never be afraid of your safety.

You can sleep in the open cottages, pitch your tent, or lay a mat on the sand and sleep under the stars. When you wake up, be on time for the sunrise. It is glorious.

You can also go jogging or walking from the resort, passing by the hanging bridge, and on to the 700-meter road and back. On the road, you will pass by vast mangroves, and the morning sea breeze will work wonders on your lungs and your nose. Trust me, that’s how I cured my allergic rhinitis – jogging by the beach. The salty air dries up the runny nose. After all, that’s what my doctor prescribed to me, a saline solution. Well, there’s a natural way with no side effects on me. But that is a story for another day.

The mangroves by the roadside going to Minasangay.

Anyway, if you only want to enjoy Minasangay for the day, you may stay in hotels of your choice in Borongan less than an hour away.

Minasangay is an ideal island getaway because it is beautiful, accessible, peaceful, safe, and affordable. Here the prices are reasonable that you get value for your money. This place is ideal for vacationers who have much to spend and also for those who are on a budget.

Check out the fees here.

For inquiries  and reservations you may call Minasangay Island Eco-park Resort on this number: +639270350774

Enjoy your vacation in Minasangay!