Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a BS degree in Information and Communications Technology.
The Phantom City
Along with its wonderful, world-class beaches, picturesque forests and nature, beautiful go-to travel places, tourist attractions, as well as magical, entrancing caves, Samar Island was also one of the most badly affected locations in the Philippines during supertyphoon Yolanda/Haiyan. But did you know that it is also a place where a multitude of out-of-this-earth sightings are recorded and passed on as myths, lores, and legends? It is also where a supposed hidden city is located.
The City of Biringan is a popular urban legend about, generally, a phantom city of the magical Engkantos, elementals that are deeply rooted in the country's ancient animistic culture, with legends and folklores and mythologies rooted in anitism, as well. And if you don't know what they are, they're basically the elvish-like, quasi-alien-like versions of out of this world humanoid creatures in the Philippines, but more broad and complicated.
1. the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
2. the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.
Meaning "ancestral religion" that historically refers to mythologies and indigenous religions of the Philippines.
If you're going to ask about the locals about the missing place, however, they'd rather have you talk about it in whispers. Any conversation about the said city will make any local hush you, for retribution committed by the said inhabitants of the mystical metropolis is guaranteed. You see, most locals are afraid of this place not only because it is not any other ordinary city found in the "human world," but also not any other ordinary legend either. It is not even there in the first place.
So, Where Is It?
The existence and exact location of Biringan City is a doozy.
Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the eastern Visayas, within the central Philippines. The island is divided into three provinces: Samar, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar.
The location of the city, however, varies from person to person, as per experts and experiences. But because of these personal tales and monumental research, it is theorized that it is somewhere between Calbayog City and Cataman in Samar—though the exact location is pretty much unknown. And I guess it's good to keep it that way, hidden and unknown. Locals would never venture too far out in the dark night, nor speak of it, for the said ghost city's inhabitants are rather malignant in nature.
How Does One Get Inside the City?
If you're a truck, bus, or vehicle driver passing through the said location of the hidden city, you might find yourself looping again and again in the same asphalt road.
If you're a maiden or a beautiful young lady, and if someone from the said city likes you, they may lure you in by tempting treasures or forcibly abduct you.
If you're a fisherman on the near bodies of water, you might find yourself catching batches and batches of fishes not knowing that the city is right below your boat, with the then body of water as the city's sky.
If you're a simple businessman, some of the city's inhabitants may pose as imposters, pretending as normal human beings, to lure you into their city.
As scary as it may sound, it is all according to the accounts of those that are taken and those that safely escaped from it. However, only a handful of "chosen ones" are taken into the city, according to the townsfolk, for it is engulfed in magic that hides the place from the naked eye. According to them, trees are used as "portals" to their world. An example of this tree is the Balete tree (you can look it up in Google Images). Only seven of these portals exist, and one is said to exist near the Pagsanghan falls. These portals connect their world to our world, letting Engkantos out of their world to ours, letting people from our world to "accidentally" come to theirs, and vice-versa.
What and Who Are Inside the City?
The inhabitants are vastly Engkantos: the magical ones, or Elementals. They are pretty much spirits of nature, sometimes described with elvish-like forms, but each varies depending on the origin of the lore or their regional origins in the Philippines. Some are good, some are neutral, and some are evil. It is the etymology of their name, whatsoever: to enchant.
Just one of the many thing's to remember, even if you do or do not believe in such creatures: you do not want to mess with them. Their name's etymology does take into account that they can be tricksters or magicians or corporeal supernatural beings capable of casting spells that are either beautiful or harrowing.
They can take form in any manner, but the prominent ones are those described as majestic, tall, humanoid creatures with long ears, majestic hair, no philtrum, and fair skin wearing nature-like garments. They also have their own society, typically portrayed as either absolute monarchies, socialistic democracy, or fascistic autocracy in most mainstream media. Though these are highly debatable since no one really knows how their societies work.
They can also be ghost-like, monster-like, or any other form of a spirit. They are also invisible to the human eye, but their presence can either be vaguely and noticeably felt. The ones on Biringan can, however, take on any living forms. They sometimes pretend to be humans, or animals, in the real world to lure people inside their city. They look very human-like, and you wouldn't necessarily suspect that it is an Engkanto pretending to be one. They also don't show their true forms, especially to the "unchosen." Much of the myths and legends of shapeshifting magical creatures in the Philippines somehow stem from these Engkantos.
These beliefs, though preposterous as they may seem, are deeply rooted in the country's animistic culture, even before Christianity and Islam were the major religions that tried to convert the country's natives during pre-colonial and colonial times. Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words—as animated and alive.
The Engkantos that dwell inside the mysterious city is said to be living in cathedral-like buildings, with dusk skies that are seemingly similar to ours, flora and fauna that await to be discovered, and riches that are beyond real-world comprehension. And though these materialistic ideas pretty much created a perfectly utopian-like city, when one enters the city, accidentally or forcibly, you have to trust no one and have to get out immediately.
One major rule to follow if you do end up inside the city is to never, ever eat anything in the city or anything the inhabitants may offer, no matter how tempting it may be. The inhabitants of Biringan may offer you black food. Sometimes, you may also have to choose between black food or white food. But no matter what, never, ever eat anything while inside their city. What happens if you do? Your spirit will be trapped in there forever. Your physical body maybe somewhere in the real world, lying as if it's in a state of everlasting coma or worse. If you do manage to avoid these foods, follow other rules, and manage to get out safely, you'll find yourself awake in the real world days, weeks, months, or even years from being asleep along with nothing but a memory of the said city. Just imagine: days within their city would be months or years in the real world.
Biringan in Cultural Impacts and Current Affairs
Biringan City is still the talk of the town, even making its way into various featured and news headlines. It also made its way to literary and artistic forms, with some adopting the stories of those who got trapped in Biringan made into written stories or shows. It's also a head-scratcher for those that wish to find it. For another city in Samar, one in the real world, almost carries the same city name: Borongan. Telltales of the ghost city still linger in the minds of those who know it, especially those that have entered and escaped from it.
Other Philippine mythology also stems from the city, especially when you're venturing in pockets of forests in the country. One example is that if you ever find yourself lost, you have to turn your shirt inside-out. Another is the terrifying Tambal, malignant spirits that lure and steal your children, as well as their identity, and almost realistically impersonate them. Another is the Santelmo, or unfathomable floating orbs of fire or lightning.
Nevertheless, Biringan City is still an alive culture that lives purely for its intriguing peculiarities. It may or may not be true, or people may or may not believe in it, but if victims of the said city tells you otherwise, you may want to think and believe if the whole thing is either true or false.
- Bakunawa: Tale of a Dragon and the Seven Moons
The Bakunawa is a dragon in Philippine mythology that is often represented as a gigantic sea serpent. It is believed to be the cause of eclipses.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente