I Did as the Locals in Catarman, Northern Samar

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

June 25 to July 1, 2014

My recent trip to Tacloban and Samar was another frontier for me. It opened my mind to a completely different environment, a different kind of adventure.
Tacloban from up in the air
I've plied almost half of Leyte, from Tacloban to the two-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, to Northern Samar.

Related Adventure: Too Much Awesomeness in One Place: Biri Rock Formations, Northern Samar
San Juanico Bridge from the driver's perspective
I crossed into different municipalities of the region, from Catbalogan to Calbayog to Allen then to Catarman.

Hello, Catarman!
One sure thing I can say of the place: there was an abundance of bridges. It was when I crossed into the Samar part of the San Juanico Bridge that I noticed bridge after bridge. There were all kinds of them - short, convex, concave, relatively long ones. I counted three, six... I stopped when I reached ten.

At any rate, I spent most of my days in Catarman. During my free days, a local friend, Lyndon, showed me around, together with another friend, Kambal Tophe, who was, coincidentally, visiting Lyndon in Catarman. Fun!

Here are few (for there are many) of the things that had left a lasting impression on this adventurer's mind, the things that made me want to return.

The University of Eastern Philippines
UEP is a huge campus, similar to UP Diliman. It is like a town all in itself. I envy the students who get to spend their schooldays here. The place is teeming with sources of inspiration. I could picture myself sitting Under the Mango Tree, looking out into the playing field, writing poetry and prose.
With Lyndon, in front of the UEP Amphiteater

White Beach/Alma Beach
Inside the UEP Village, one will find a beach with tan-colored sands. Interchangeably known as White Beach (the resort) and Alma Beach (the portion that remains free for all).

Lyndon related that Alma Beach got its name from one Ma'am Alma, a UEP professor who lived near the beach. Students would tell tricycle or pedicab drivers (the two most common means of transport in Catarman) that their destination was "Ma'am Alma's house, near the beach." Later on, as it is with Filipinos, it was shortened to "Alma Beach".
Cartwheeling in the tan sands
Macagtas Water Reservoir
One needs to go on a short trek before one could reach the dam
In Brgy. Macagtas, one would find a man-made dam that spans a portion of a river. This dam, I've come to know, provides most of the water supply for Catarman.
Looking out into the river, the water served as a mirror to the mountains and the sky, making the scene surreal and a little bit dizzying. One could not help but feel that the place is enchanted.

The Airport Runway-cum-Thoroughfare
Runway by day...
It is only in the Philippines, in Catarman in particular, that what serves as an airport runway by day becomes a main thoroughfare in the afternoon. Awesome!
...a thoroughfare by afternoon!

The Black Sambo
The dessert that changed my life. Seriously, who knew gello could play host to a symphony of chocolate and milk? I tried recreating it. But my version is far from the same delectable taste that I had the pleasure of experiencing in one of Lyndon's friend's house.
My sub-par version of the Black Sambo
The Sinarungsong
A kakanin made from rice flour, steamed in banana leaf. It is similar to a suman; has the same gelatinous texture and the rustic taste. Very Filipino. I ate no less than three of this in every seating. It was that good.

Verbenotta and Mac-pao City
During one of our walks, Lyndon told us the story of Verbenotta. He said that Verbenotta was a wealthy man from Mac-pao City - one of the mythical cities that Samar apparently serves as a gateway to. It was said that he owned a ship made entirely of gold, and during the days of yore, when the source of light at night was only the moon, the stars and a lampara, rivers and lakes would be awashed by a golden gleam, signaling the arrival of Verbenotta's ship.

Another story was that expensive sports cars were ordered, paid full in dollars and were to be delivered in Mac-pao City, to Verbenotta. But the delivery could not be made because they could never find the address.

From what I've gathered, I take it that Verbenotta was not a malignant force. There were no accounts of him hurting anyone.

The Cities of Araw and Biringan
Araw City is said to be a city inhabited by people with Albino characteristics. Arawans were good-looking, highly-intellectual people. And these people were said to be descendants of Lakandula - the last king of Manila.

Biringan City is believed to be home to encantos who have the ability to create illusions of plush subdivisions, with grand mansions and houses, to lure victims. Inhabitants of this place have the power to curse and possess people. They were also known to abduct children and beautiful women. It is said as well that once you got into Biringan, you can never go back.

The gateways to the three mythical cities used to be ancient Dalakit trees but was later on transferred into ancestral stone houses. Sigbins are described to be feral dog-like creatures which served as guardians to these gateways. They are similar to the chupacabra, but more bad-ass. They ate raw meat and are said to be used by Filipino rebels during the Spanish era to fight the conquerors. The rebels fed the cadavers of Spanish soldiers to the sigbins to keep them under control.
Rendering of a Sigbin
Photo courtesy of bubblews.com
Up to this day, sigbins are still used by older locals to discourage children from misbehaving.

hilo - the Waray term used for the act of poisoning by food; I was constantly being told not to eat dark-colored foods as I might suffer from hilo.
palengke - pronounced palingke; while it translates into "market" in Tagalog, in Waray it means "insane" or "crazy"
sangkay - Waray for "friend/s"


I'd like to think that I had thoroughly experienced the Catarman way of life. I had only spent a week in this Visayan town but I can say that a part of me stayed behind.

I lost a part of my heart in Catarman.

Cheers to the next adventure!

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