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Borongan to hire former rebels as tourism ambassadors, guides

Borongan City in Eastern Samar is a haven for countless natural wonders. The city boasts  a golden sunrise over the Pacific Ocean in its eastern part and lush, unspoiled forests and mountains in its western part. It was primarily known for its "sea of clouds," which covered the small coastal town before it became known as a significant surfing hub in the country.

The name Borongan comes from the Waray-Waray term ‘borong,’ which means fog or mist from the river. The city’s name dates back to the 1600s, when the Spaniards arrived in a little town covered in fog.

The steep mountains surrounding Borongan are usually fog-covered in the early morning, especially throughout the cold and rainy seasons. The mountains along its river barangay of Hebacong are home to the city’s breathtaking borong vista points.

From terrorist citadel to a tourist-friendly spot

Barangay Hebacong is one of the hard-to-reach barangays in Borongan. It can only be accessed via a 1-hour boat ride from Borongan City Wharf along the Camada River, making it a hotspot of insurgency back then, along with its neighboring barangays.

The barangay can now be reached in 20 minutes via an access road, which is one of the priority projects of the Borongan City Government.

Local tourists take turns for a photo opportunity with the ‘sea of clouds’ at the view deck. (Photo courtesy of BCIO)

Kinukulba gad kami dati kay damo ma naagi nga mga NPA didi tapos makuri pa at kay may emergency ngani diri kami makakadali-dali, kaulangan pa sumakay pumpboat (We were always afraid before because several NPA could be seen passing by; it was also difficult during emergencies because we needed to first ride a pumpboat to go to the city),” said a Hebacong resident, Teresita Catudio, when asked about the situation in the barrio before.

She also expressed her excitement upon seeing local tourists visiting Hebacong, which further paved the way for the development of the once rebel-infested barangay.

Nalilipay ak kay damo nakadi didi ha amon barangay, kunta damu pa nga pagpapakaupay para damu pa an kumadi ngan makita an kamaupay han Borongan (I’m happy because many people visit our barangay; I’m looking forward to more developments so that more people will visit and appreciate Borongan),” she added.

The new access road in Barangay Hebacong leads to several barangays upstream. (Photo courtesy of Alren Beronio)

DOT, TIEZA see ‘Sea of Clouds’

Some officials from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and the Department of Tourism in Eastern Visayas (DOT-8) took notice and visited Borongan City to conduct a site inspection of the Hebacong Sea of Clouds and Nature Park in January this year.

Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Agda said the team is in Borongan to see how they can help the city government develop the emerging tourist spot into a more attractive, sustainable, and environment-friendly attraction.

“Yana pala, masisiring ko, nga dako na ini nga aton pagdarag-an nga kinanhi kita ha Borongan hini nga opisina nga andam mag-gahin hin pondo agud kita buligan hit at paningkamot ha natad han turismo, basi kita maka ingganyar hin hura pa nga bisita nganhi ha at (This visit, I can say, is already a big win for us. They are willing to allot funds to help us in developing tourism sites here in Borongan to attract more tourists in our city),” Agda added, highlighting that tourism will help alleviate the lives and economy of Boronganons.

The DOT-8 and TIEZA teams conducted an ocular inspection of the Hebacong Sea of Clouds, eyeing it as an emerging tourist spot in the country. (Photo courtesy of BCIO)

Former rebels as tourism ambassadors

The DOT and TIEZA officials’ visit resulted fruitfully as TIEZA committed P17 million in funding for the development of the Hebacong Sea of Clouds, as announced by Mayor Agda himself.

During a recent public consultative meeting, Agda shared his plans to hire former members of the CPP/NPA as tour guides after a series of special trainings. This will happen once Borongan’s “Sea of Clouds” in Barangay Hebacong becomes fully operational. Opportunities for livelihood will also be given to the former rebels. 

The mayor believes that social injustices, such as lack of job opportunities and accessibility to government programs, drove these former rebels into the underground movement. Thus, the city government is keen on giving them opportunities to start a new peaceful life.

The view deck of the 'Hebacong Sea of Clouds' overlooking the fog-covered lush forest of Borongan City. (Photo courtesy of Jake Marasigan)

With the financial assistance of about P17 million for infrastructure development of the “Sea of Clouds,” it is expected that the architectural design of the view deck, coffee shop, cottages, parking lot, and other facilities will be completed and turned over by TIEZA within the year.

He does, however, reassure that the project's sustainability and the preservation and protection of the forest cover will continue to be the administration's top priorities.

Mayor Agda also outlined his intention to create zip lines, cable cars, or both to showcase to visitors the breathtaking beauty that the small town of Borongan has to offer. (AAC/VTG/PIA Eastern Samar)

Aerial view of the proposed architectural design of Hebacong’s Sea of Clouds and Nature Park View Deck. (Photo courtesy of BCIO)

About the Author

Samuel Candido


Region 8

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