What is Biringan? It is reportedly an undefined location somewhere between Calbayog City and Catarman, Northern Samar, where a mythic city(ies) of indescribable grandeur is/are said to exist, unvisited by ordinary mortals, known only by magnificent folk stories that refuse to die despite the advent of television and the internet. Other reports extend its area to as far south as San Jorge, Samar.
Biringan’s “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t” quality indicates it is not of the usual land and water terrain in which we live in. It seems to exist in a different dimension, which explains why its boundaries can overlap with known towns and cities of Samar island. On moonless nights, seafarers aplenty have reported seeing a dazzling city of light. In a few minutes, though, the manifestation is no longer visible. Obviously, Biringan is not likely to be shown on any map or atlas. But specialized (infrared, ultraviolet, etc.) satellite mapping photography have reportedly turned up a shining area in the reported general location of Biringan.
They say Biringan is the legendary home of the encantos (enchanted ones) and half-encanto, half-human progeny. The encantos are most likely elementals, as old as the mountains and rivers in the area. They are apparently shapechangers because they have been reported to appear in whatever form they wish, human or not. But in human form, their distinguishing characteristic is the lack of the philtrum, the indentation below the nose and above the upper lip.
Portals to and from an ethereal city. There are places in the island of Samar that have been described thus.
There’s one story of a bus plying the night route from Catbalogan City to Tacloban City. Somewhere halfway, when the bus had been emptied of its passengers, the driver and conductor stopped to pick up two young lady passengers. Their stated destination was quite off the main route but the driver consented because the two had offered triple the usual fare. When the two mysterious passengers had alighted, and the driver turned the bus around to get back on the highway. But, to his utter bewilderment, he could no longer distinguish the dirt road they had taken just moments ago. Conceding that they were lost, they decided to spend the night at that very spot. At dawn the next day, they were confounded when they found themselves and the bus at a desolate mountain top. A large tow truck had to be sent through rough mountain trails just to bring the bus back to civilization.
Then there’s the story of a bus that somehow lost its way and the driver stopped to pass the night at some sort of depot. When he and his passengers woke up the next morning they were in themiddle of a clump or bamboos with no roads anywhere around them that would have brought them where they were.
Perhaps the most classic example of these gateways involved two motorcycle riders riding tandem on one bike. They were traveling the highway at night from (Western) Samar to Eastern Samar. It was around nine o-clock in the evening and they were negotiating the foggy, winding passes halfway to Borongan, Eastern Samar. The night air was chilly and only their motorcycle headlights split the dark ahead. The deafening silence was only punctuated by the occasional chirping of insects.
Suddenly, as they rounded a sharp curve, they were suddenly engulfed in a bedlam of sound! It was as if they had entered a very busy freeway, invisible to them but its sound assaulted their ears. Shrill air horns blared from every direction and sudden gusts of wind rocked their motorcycle as if huge trailer trucks were passing them by on all sides. The driver tried his very best to keep the motorcycle handlebar steady.
It was only after they had round the next curve that the noise suddenly died down and the night air was deathly still once more. Still, these two motorcycle riders and scores of other highways travelers will never forget their encounters with Biringan’s portals.
Biringan : Supernatural Abductions
Supernatural abductions. Quite seemingly out of this world, but reportedly true. Some of the most persistent incidents related to the Biringan phenomenon involve the “relocation” of humans from the mortal world to Biringan.
What happens is, whenever a Biringan inhabitant takes fancy on a mortal (usually a fair maiden or attractive lad), he or she is taken away from the mortal world by was of bugkot (a Visayan vernacular term). The transition usually takes the form of sudden “death” (i.e., accidents, fatal illness lasting a few hours at most, sudden disappearance from any physical location). In reality, the mortal never really dies but his/her consciousness or spirit is taken by the Biringan entity.
The anguished kin of the victim are left with the “lifeless body” where in fact it is not the actual cadaver but a log or similar physical object configured to look and feel like a real lifeless human body. All the while, the victim now resides in Biringan as the wife, husband, or servant of the supernatural being which took her away.
I once knew of a very beautiful lady in Catbalogan City in the province of Samar in the Philippines who was separated from her husband and had three good-looking kids. One day, in the mid-Seventies, the car she was driving suddenly turned turtle on the highway near San Jorge, Samar causing her sudden untimely “demise”. The bereaved family held a decent wake for her and had her body properly buried. Until the present, however, there are persistent recurring reports of this lady being seen in the reported location of Biringan City and she is reportedly now queen of the encantos who live there.
No wonder a portion of the population of the city are half-encantos, half-human. It is these progeny who are reportedly fond of frequenting places where mortals abound for relaxation and entertainment (i.e. parks, beaches, nightspots). This is a direct result of all the cases of supernatural abductions.
Biringan : Heavy Equipment for an Invisible City
Heavy equipment for an invisible city? Uncanny but true. In the Sixties, Tacloban City in the province of Leyte, the Philippines was the commercial hub of the Eastern Visayas region. It was the natural port of call of passenger and cargo ships plying the Visayas-Manila route. Who could ever imagine that manifestations of Biringan’s existence would take physical form?
One particular incident which is still word-of-mouth to this day involved the arrival of a large lot of first-class heavy equipment from the United States. The shipment consisted of bulldozers, graders, payloaders and hauler trucks. Post officials were astounded when they examined the freight documents and discovered the entire consignment listed the destination as Biringan City. Since the fabled city’s reputation had spread far and wide in the Eastern Visayas region, people were in a tumult of speculation as to who will claim the equipment.
Following prescribed port rules, the heavy equipment were unloaded and neatly parked in the concrete confines of the Tacloban port under heavy guard. Months passed and still no one came to claim the shipment. The elements were taking their toll on the equipment. Conflicting reports have it that the entire lot was either sent back to the shipper or hauled to the junkyard. Was this a matter of mistaken port of delivery of heavy equipment for an invisible city?
Biringan : The Japanese Venture Into Biringan Territory
In the late Eighties through the Nineties, the Japanese ventured into Biringan territory. They conducted rural development work focused on the town of San Jorge, Western Samar. The implementing agency was the Japanese International cooperation Agency (JICA). The entire Samareño population was perplexed as to why the Japanese would concentrate on San Jorge when there were a lot more towns in the province which needed the development work more. To implement the project, the Japanese brought in tons of equipment (vehicles and machinery) and Japanese engineers and field personnel descended on San Jorge in full force.
One story involved a team of Japanese who went into the forest accompanied by a Filipino guide. Inexplicably, the guide lost track of the terrain. The Japanese promptly whipped out a very detailed satellite-generated map of the area and the team immediately found its bearings again. A related report had it that infrared, ultraviolet, or similar satellite pictures of the area kept registering a shimmering effect right on the location where the JICA was concentrated. This led to further reports that an enormous deposit of uranium is embedded deep in the bowels of the earth beneath that particular area. Others speculate that a mother lode of gold has been detected in the area. The thickest deposits are reportedly under the San Jorge area with the ends tapering as far a San Juanico Strait to the South and the San Bernardino Strait to the North.
Could there be a connection to the reported location of Biringan in the area? In Philippine folklore, elementals supposedly guard vast treasures hidden deep in the forests or deep underground.
Nevertheless, the Japanese left the area without any tangible results of their “rural development” work. That ended the Japanese Venture Into Biringan Territory.
Biringan : Conclusion
What really is Biringan? Is it a city or kingdom existing in a parallel dimension with ours? Do these two dimensions interpenetrate at times, causing the meeting of inhabitants from ours with encantos? Does this explain the ethereal now-you-see-it, now-you don’t quality of Biringan and its denizens?
To this day, Biringan remains a mysterious part of Philippine folklore. In addition, everyday stories of encounters with Biringan’s residents continue to be told. If these had simply been figments of the imagination, these stories would have died down a long time ago, what with the advent of 100+ channels cable television and the Internet. Still, fresh stories continue to crop up.
Stories such as spirit possession by Biringan’s encantos over ten school children just because their school Principal unwittingly made a bonfire next to the large balete tree in their school yard. How was the poor teacher to know that the huge tree looming large near the old school building was the abode of a Biringanon? And that she had unknowingly injured the youngest child of the invisible occupants of the tree abode?
Even modern-day kids in the Philippines, well-versed on the Japanese animé sagas of the new century, still believe in the existence of the legendary kingdom of Biringan. This is an undeniable fact. Despite all the terror attacks, all the coup rumors, the hunger, the droughts, the floods, and everything, only one thing remains unshaken by it all … Biringan.