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.

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