Stories still persist of an invisible city situated between Gandara, Tarangnan, and Pagsanghan, Samar, in Eastern Visayas (Coordinates: 11°57’47”N 124°46’21”E). It’s not the usual land and water terrain in which people inhabit. The city, according to stories, exists in a parallel dimension. It’s like a movie from Avatar. The mere mention of the city evokes fear, awe, and hushed silence. Yet, if you insist and beg for more information about this enchanted city, the townsfolk of Samar have more than enough to tell.
Biringan is a Waray (Visayan) word which means “a place to look for lost people” or hanapan ng mga taong nawawala. It is said that there are seven (7) portals leading to Biringan. One of these portals is an old yet huge Balete tree located in a school. According to eyewitness accounts, Biringan is a sprawling metropolis with high-rise buildings, cathedrals, splendid structures, and massive infrastructure similar to New York, Hongkong, and Singapore. The only difference is, the city is inhabited by otherworldly beings – engkantos, or elementals, at worse, demons?
Some folks say that the good engkantos live within the city, while the bad engkantos live in the outskirts, outside the city itself. They say that these engkantos would “capture” humans who venture alone, usually, near their city. Why? It could be because they are “attracted” to the human, who may either be a pretty lass or a handsome lad, or they “pity” this particular person, or worse, they “envy” this mortal being. In some instances, these engkantos would even “pick” a mortal in crowded areas like a beach or park and bewitch the unfortunate soul. The Warays refer to a particular Visayan term: bugkot. The poor mortal is taken away from his/her world by way of transition: the mortal experiences sudden “death” (an accident, mysterious illness, or a sudden disappearance from one’s present location). In fact, the person didn’t die but his/her consciousness or spirit is taken to Biringan. If you’re a movie buff, check out T2 starring Maricel Soriano. A good portion of the film describes the engkantos. The movie producers did some detailed researching on engkantos and the film location did appear to be in Samar.
It was said that a long queue of jeepneys filled with cavans of rice, grocery items, etc. were destined to Biringan City. At some time, residents in Samar also reported the influx of luxury cars, high-end and very expensive technical gear, heavy equipment coming even from the US, and drone-like flying objects. Who could afford such luxury in Samar? But they have been fully paid in advance and the address states Biringan City, although the person named has been assumed dead by the townsfolk.
There’s more: a Japanese group under the implementing agency of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted a rural development project focused on the town of San Jorge. This was sometime in the late 1980’s through the 1990’s. Majority of the residents were puzzled as to why the Japanese would concentrate on San Jorge when there were a lot more towns in the province in need of more rural development. Vast deposits of uranium were believed to be buried deep beneath that area. Philippine folklore was ripe with stories of elementals keeping careful guard over immense treasures in the forests or deep underground. Nevertheless, the Japanese group abandoned the area without any concrete action for “rural development”.