Samar for the Adventurous Traveler
Welcome to Samar, Philippines
Samar Province occupies the southwest of the island of Samar. It is a mix beautiful coastlines and rugged terrain with low mountain ranges. It is one of those places in the Philippines that is nestled between the sea and the towering mountains. To add to its picturesque appeal, a tropical rainforest adorns the province and becomes one of its highlights.
The Province’s Climate
The province of Samar does not have a distinct season unlike the other areas of the Philippines that experience wet and dry seasons. Rainfall here is more evened out for the entire year, which adds to the growth of the nearby rainforest. The best time of the year to visit will still be during the summer months from April to July when the climate is best suited for beach trips and inland trekking.
Brush with History
The province owes its historical records to Jesuit missionaries who founded the place in 1596. Samar has been known by names since then including Achan, Ibabao, Tandaya, and Zamal. It is said that when the Spanish first arrived they met an injured local and asked him the name of the place. Not understanding exactly what the foreigners were asking, the local pointed out his wound and said ‘samad’, which means wound in the local dialect, thus the name of the province came about.
Americans took over the area in 1900 and established their own city government in 1902. After World War II and consequent eviction of Japanese occupation forces the place became a chartered province of the Philippines in 1949.
There are several lodging options when you get to visit the province. Room rates range dramatically depending on your choice of lodgings, accommodations, and available amenities. For instance, the Maqueda Bay Hotel is a bit more expensive than average hotels in the region. Rates here would go from $40 to $80. It isn’t a five-star hotel but the price is quite fine for the service, rooms, a great view of the bay area, and amenities.
Now if you’re looking for accommodations that are somewhere on the average when it comes to rates you might want to try the Rose Scent Inn. Rates here go from $20 up to $40. It is conveniently located within the urban area making services and other destinations very accessible. The size of the rooms are modest and are air-conditioned. The cheaper accommodations will usually go below $20 like in the Sohoton National Park Guesthouse. The amenities are just right and would still give you a good view of the beautiful scenery.
There are some dining options in Samar that may suit your taste but you shouldn’t expect to get something really gastronomic. You’ll still have some of the fast food options in the Philippines like Jollibee. Other dining options that highlight the best of local cooking include Tina’s Garden Restaurant, Eduardo’s RestoBar, Charito’s Delights, JC Foodspot, Ermie’s Pizza, and Fortune Restaurant for some delectable Chinese food.
Meals in the province would usually fall below $10, which is very reasonable. Fast food will be a bit cheaper at times averaging around $5. You can say that food prices in Samar will fit any backpacker’s budget just right.
Nature Tripping in Samar
Treks and upriver cruises are the highlights to any visit to the province. Other natural attractions here include the Guinogo-an Cave, Mapaso Hot Spring, Bangon-Bugtong Falls, Danao Cave, and the Malajog Beach. Cultural highlights include a trip to the Archeological Museum in Calbayog City and various festivals like Mayaw-Mayaw Ethnic Festival, Pahoy-Pahoy, and Kaadlawan Festival that celebrate local customs and culture.
A visit Samar would be like a tour into rugged terrain highlighted by tropical rainforests and scenic natural views. It is one of the places in the Philippines where quiet and serene living become the major theme of the day.
Samar is an island from that part of the Visayan region that dares face the challenges of the Pacific head on—like super typhoons, several times annually. Locally, it is a province where some of the bravest people in the country are known to come from.
When we hear the word “Waray” anywhere in the country it often brings our thoughts to the island province of Samar where inhabitants are known for being extremely daring. At the same time, we picture a people with known hospitality and mild manners. Samar people are a mix of both extremes.
Samar is literally “wound” or “cut,” probably describing the rugged terrain of the island. It has a rough and craggy topography (though no high mountains), thickly forested, and cut by numerous streams and creeks.
Samar people mostly speak Waray or Waraynon or Samarnon, except for some island localities, like Almagro and Sto. Nino, where Cebuano is more popular. Hence, Samar natives are also called Waray. The province can be divided into north, south, west, and east parts but we only frequently hear of northern, eastern, and western Samar.
Down Samar is its closest relative—Leyte—and then Surigao in Mindanao. To its right are the vast Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Trench. To its left are the Visayan Sea and Masbate with far flung Cebu and Bacolod. To the north of Samar is the Bicol Peninsula. Strait, gulf, sea, and ocean surround it. The capital city is Catbalogan, another city is Calbayog (only 2 cities here), with 24 municipalities.
Samar fosters a rare art form said to trace way back the 1600s or 1800s A.D. The art is a subtle mix of Oriental and European swirling strokes of interwoven line designs, texture multi-layering, and some 3D space illusion effects. Locally, this is known as “Kut-kut”—something only the extremely adventurous would dare take time in.
And talking of daring adventures, Samar history is replete with exciting risk-taking episodes. To name some, around the late 1500s the island took on various identities and names (Samal, Tandaya, Ibabao, among others) and even risked perpetually being a mere annex of Cebu when the Spaniards came. Then, of course, who would forget Homonhon Island in 1521 when Magellan and party first stepped on Philippine soil
Today, Samar affords lots more adventure for the extreme thrill seeker. There are still scores of uncharted caves, subterranean rivers, rock formations, waterfalls and dive sites. Samar has numerous things to reveal to daring travelers who want more than just the usual risks.