- Airport – Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, Tacloban (TAC)
- Currency – Philippine Peso
- Official Languages – Filipino, English
- Borongan Population – 60,000
- GDP (Philippines) – $292 billion (39th Overall)
Borongan is a city in the Eastern Samar province of the Philippines located on Philippines’ third largest island: Samar. As a small city with 60,000 inhabitants, it may be overshadowed by larger Philippine destinations like Manila or Boracay, but Borongan offers an array of delicious food, adventurous activities, beaches, and more to satisfy the wanderlust in all of us! From a quick stroll or leisurely jog along Baybay Boulevard to island hopping, surfing, skim boarding, hiking, river adventures and more, Borongan offers you the opportunity to marvel at nature’s canvas-splashed colors and beautiful sunrises and sunsets at this truly one-stop tourist destination.
While smaller than other Philippine cities, the Boronganons take pride in claiming theirs as the city of golden sunrises, warm smiles, and much more. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, Borongan offers one a great view of the sun’s golden glow. To catch the sun, one only needs to go to the main boulevard to marvel at the brilliant colors of the sunrise and the warm smiles of the early joggers, Zumba enthusiasts, and the city’s street cleaners who are up and about before dawn.
West of the city lies a plethora of mountains and forests. Here, the adventurer can explore the caves, waterfalls, and rivers. The mountains west of the city are the perfect destinations, but the beaches and islands nearby can also offer as much adventure, with plenty of island hopping, skim boarding, and surfing available.
Borongan may not have state-of-the-art equipment, facilities, or activities for the modern tourist. You’ll have to head elsewhere for parasailing, zip lining and the like, but come to Borongan to the experience nature in its original state, and this will more than compensate for the lack of technology.
How to Get to Borongan?
- Fly from Manila to Tacloban Airport
- Tacloban is a 1-hour plane ride from Manila, a major airport and the capital of the Philippines
- You can fly via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia to Tacloban from Manila
- Drive from Tacloban Airport to Borongan
- Borongan is a 3-hour ride via public transport (Borongan Transport, Duptours, Van-vans, 3K Tours)
Borongan has two seasons: dry and rainy! The dry season starts from mid-March and ends in September or October, and the wet season goes from October to mid-March.
We recommend the best time to visit is during the dry season – from mid-March to October.
The Filipino culture is a mix of many different cultures. The Philippines was ruled by Spain for more than 300 years, and as a result, Catholicism is the largely practiced religion, with customs and traditions mostly founded on the faith.
Forty years of American occupation following Spain’s colonization is also a long enough time for Filipinos to integrate some Western culture into their own, and most of the remaining older generation would say they will forever be grateful to the Americans for teaching them how to read and write (only the rich Filipinos were able or even allowed to go to school during Spanish time) from where sprung their thirst for learning and education, and of course for the liberating the country from oppressors.
And you can toss into the mix influence from the Chinese, Indonesian (believed to be the first settlers), Malay, Dutch (who have long been in trade relations with some parts of the country), and Japanese (though they will best be remembered for the atrocities of the Japanese soldiers during the Second World War).
Despite the mix and match of the different cultures, one is assured of the ready, warm, and welcoming smiles of the locals, especially to visitors and strangers. Everyone is willing to go the extra mile to help and extend a kind of hospitality that is uniquely Boronganon.
People understand the English language well, but may be reluctant and shy at first to utter the first sentence. But once started, they definitely have lots of funny stories to tell. And what funny stories they tell when they try to outdo each other spinning tall tales! Majority of Boronganons have a funny bone.
Communication and the Internet
Borongan has two network providers, Smart Communications and Globe Communications. Both Telcos provide cellular and data services as well as roaming services. It is best is to buy a local SIM and network promos on calls and data to save on phone bills. Hotels and lodging houses provide free WI-FI to their customers.
Credit Cards vs. Cash
Cash is the better option. There are banks and money changers that convert dollars to Philippine Peso.
Attend the Padul-ong Festival
This festival which is based on a myth passed down from generations of how Borongan came to have its Patron Saint, is held in September. It starts with a parade carrying the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary from a fishing village in Punta Maria where the statue was purportedly disembarked from a Portuguese ship. Upon the flotilla’s arrival at Rawis Port, the icon is then handed over to the Hermanas Mayores. The street dancing from the port to the church follows. The festival concludes at the city plaza where dancers/contestants from different schools dressed in colorful costumes best each other in the Padul-ong Festival Competition, a dance interpretation of how the Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary came to Borongan.
Visit Ando Island
A 20- to 30-minute boat ride from mainland Borongan, Borongan’s island paradise is accessible via Sabang South fish port, Sabang North wharf, Rawis Port and Maypangdan wharf. Visitors may want to stay overnight at any of the three island resorts: Patigayon Beach Resort, CBRM Eco-resort, and Coral Reef Beach Resort.
Aside from white sand beaches and large swimming pools, one should also visit Sangat Cave – which the islanders claim to be the burial ground of ancient gigantic early settlers. The Baluarte – the watchtower during the Japanese Occupation is also a “must visit” on the island.
Guests also have the option to island hop to Monbon Island (Islet), which is a mere ten (10) paddle minutes away.
Visit Monbon Island
Monbon Island is the best getaway when one needs to unwind and escape from the mainland bustle. This island is one of the best places to catch a good sunrise. It’s a destination where the wind and the soft splashing of waves keep one’s company.
Visit Divinubo Island
A 20- to 30-minute boat ride from Brgy. Lalawigan, Cabong, or Rawis Port, Borongan’s divine island offers nature at its best: swimming pools, white sand beaches, and the best sunset views
The island is also home to the “Parola”, a lighthouse perched atop the island’s highest point which was built by the Americans in 1906 as the guide to Pacific wayfarers.
For overnight visits, nature lovers may want to sleep in tents or beach mats and CBRM Karawisan Eco Resort is a good place to stay. Ang’s Resort also offers cottages complete with amenities.
Surfing and Skim Boarding
Not all of Borongan’s beaches are playgrounds for surf and wave lovers. Borongan Bay, Bato Beach, Suribao Beach, and Lalawigan Beach are the few that offer the nice swells that surfers love. Local surfers have their secret spots and it is best to seek them out when looking for a good wave. Borongan Bay and Bato Beach are the skim boarders’ playground.
Hilangagan Beach is located in the fishing village of Punta Maria 20 – 30 minutes north of the city. It has a white sandy beach hidden in a cove surrounded by foliage. The locals have provided open cottages, a space for beach volleyball, and visitors are welcome to stay overnight.
The cave may be considered a destination for extreme caving adventure, and due to its proximity to the city proper, it is being recommended as a “must see” for visitors.
The cave entrance is a 40-minute hike away, but time stands still once inside: where one gets to see, scrutinize, and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites hanging and jutting from the ceilings and floors, that took years to take form.
The cave also has a pool where one can take a dip as a short break, before continuing on to the “altar” area where the most wonderful “formations” are on display.
Beginners may only want to go up to the altar point, but extreme adventurers have the option to continue to the “cathedral” – a large cavern that could easily fit the Borongan Cathedral, and continue to trek the fissures and hollows and exit on the other side to completely explore the 1.8-kilometer deep cave.
Accessible by trekking (one hour 45 minutes) or by banca (canoe – one hour 15 minutes). How deep this cave is remains to be discovered; however, it has the coldest cave pool in all the pools in the area. The storyteller prefers swimming alongside the canoe on the way home and having fun while playing in the rapids.
Ganap Cave is a 20-minute ride from the city passing through rice fields via the Maypangdan-Bayobay-Cagbonga road followed by a 5-10 minute hike to the site.
The pool inside the cave offers a most refreshing dip, and the cave is recommended for caving/spelunking beginners. Borongan’s waterfalls are situated in upstream villages and going there is quite physically demanding.
The four-drop waterfalls in the mountains of San Pablo involve a two-leg journey:
- 20-30 banca ride from Maypangdan wharf to the village
- Followed by a 40-minute hike to the site
The greenery along the way and the cool mountain waters provide nature lovers and adventurers a refreshing break from the daily humdrum in the city.
For extreme nature adventure, visitors may want to explore more by taking the San Pablo-Cagbonga road through the mountains which is an approximate 1 hour 30 minutes hike that ends up at Ganap Cave in Cagbonga.
Mono Falls and Mono Cascadas
This trip includes a motorized banca ride along the Suribao River. There are several stops along the way to unload passengers so to allow the boatmen to steer the banca upstream in the rapids sans the extra weight of passengers. Passengers need to hike further upstream to deeper waters and wait for the boat. The journey may take 3 -4 hours depending on the water levels (more rapids to battle and more treks to take when the water level is low).
Mono Falls and cascades are only a few minutes away from the village. The water level, however, drops during the summer season.
Going to the site entails starting at the break of day to avoid the scorching heat while trekking in the river. The trip may be done in a day, but constant visitors opt to stay overnight at Benowangan, three villages downstream.
The extreme adventurer may want to ride the rapids (in tubes or simply in their life vests and/or floaters) while traveling downstream from Bagong Baryo to Benowangan.
A physically demanding 3-4 hour ascending hike in the San Gabriel Mountains, along river crossings to reach the site; but worth every aching muscle once the 80 foot Pangi Falls is in sight.
This path leads one to the top of the falls. The descent to the pool at the foot of the falls may be a little tricky and requires one to be extra careful; there are no stairs to use in the descent but foot trails and roots and trunks of young trees for support.
The river trek is the best way home. It may be as physically taxing as the mountain trek, but it allows one to take dips in the river to cool down and somehow relax the body from the hike.
Tourists have the option to stay overnight at the campsite near the top of the falls. Since the campsite is basically just a clearing, the camper would need to bring his own tent or hammock or any sleeping gear.
Where to Eat
Most, if not all, restaurants cater local, Asian, and even western cuisine. The city government has also converted a portion of the boardwalk at the Boulevard for stalls selling street foods.
Foods to Try
- Kwek Kwek
- Most street vendors will carry this tempura-like Filipino food made by deep-frying batter covered hard-boiled eggs
- A delicious Filipino dessert of shaved ice, candied beans or fruits, topped with ube jam or ice cream, and drizzled with evaporated milk. The summer months are very hot and you will see many vendors selling this as a delicious treat and thirst quencher!
- Pork Adobo
- A must try dish during your trip to the Philippines!
- Borongan’s native cakes made from rice flour and leavened with fresh coconut “tuba” (wine). They are cooked like pancakes, look like pancakes but taste better than pancakes!
- Made from shredded taro and young coconut, sugar and wrapped in young coconut leaves
- Coconut Dishes
- With coconut trees all over, many dishes are filled with shredded coconut or delicious coconut milk
- Suman sa Talipupo or Suman Latik
- o Sticky rice, soaked in a salty solution, then wrapped in “talipupo” leaves from a plant that grows wild in most backyards, boiled and eaten with a thick syrup made from coconut milk and calamay
Go to the Lechon Parade!
For the gastronomes, September 6 is one for the calendar. The city holds a Lechon (roasted pig) Parade – a parade that features a dish that Borongan claims to be one of the best-tasting in the country. The contest is held at the city plaza, and while judges are deciding whose roast is the best, visitors get the chance of tasting the entries while washing it down with Igot Wine (a locally fermented wine from the berries of the Jambola Plum). A contest for School Marching Bands is simultaneously conducted on this day. The activity starts at with the parade at 7 o’clock in the morning and normally ends at around 11 o’clock or 12 noon.
The Borongan Cathedral
Right in the heart of town, this church symbolizes how religious the locals are.
Here you can visit the remains of a Japanese garrison from World War II where many were imprisoned or tortured in the belief that they were working for the American soldiers.