BORONGAN CITY, Eastern Samar—As the province has been able to keep COVID-19 cases to a minimum, some municipalities and this capital city have started to reopen their doors to leisure travelers, albeit just from the province for now.
Borongan Mayor Jose Ivan Agda has allowed the opening and resumption of activities of local attractions to kickstart the tourism industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“While there is no massive rollout due to the lingering pandemic, we are happy to welcome visitors so that they can experience the warmth and hospitality of the people of Borongan as long as health protocols are followed,” he said.
And the city has a lot to offer, from fine sand beaches to unspoiled islands, rivers, forests, caves and surfing areas.
Together with the City Tourism Office, Agda, with the help of Eastern Samar Rep. Maria Fe Abunda, is upgrading a kayak facility into a water sports station where adventure seekers can rent jet skis and speedboats.
“We are also happy to welcome all surfing enthusiasts as well. We successfully hosted in 2019 one of the national surfing competitions. And like Siargao, Borongan Surf Camp has been approved by the Philippine Sports Commission as a venue for Southeast Asian games,” he said.
Agda, an engineer by profession, also showcases his brainchild, the Riverfront Park—a 3-meter-wide and almost a kilometer-long paved walk, lined with palm trees and flowers and brightly lit at night.
“I call this the Riverfront lovers’ lane, a symbol of our people’s care and respect for one another and a reminder for those whose hearts are full of hate and indifference,” he said.
Sulat is another municipality that had kept tourists at bay for months but is now cautiously reopening to visitors.
Seeing that some islands within the town have almost the same white sand and inviting waves as other famous tourist spots in the country, Mayor Javier Zacate decided to convert one into a tourist destination, the Ohana beach resort in Makati island, a 20-minute boat ride from the town proper. It was officially opened late last month.
“Between Boracay and Makati island, I will advise tourists to choose locally so that they will know that we also have our own paradise here where almost all our family members can enjoy, young and old. In Boracay, not all of us can afford to go because it is far, expensive and crowded. As long as safety protocols are observed,” he said.
The island boasts of some 14 diving sites with a beached and sunken shipwreck. Small shark species and dolphins also show up from time to time.
“Ohana is a Hawaiian term, which means family. In the Lilo and Stitch cartoon, Ohana means nobody gets left behind. So this resort is really for the whole family,” Zacate added.
Can-avid Mayor Gil Norman Germino, meanwhile, says his town has been hosting local visitors despite the onslaught of COVID-19 as it has been able to keep the outbreak outside its doors.
“Our municipality is one of the hardly hit and less affected municipalities, so people come and go. But we make sure that guidelines are observed,” Germino said.
Balirig Peak, sought after by hikers as well as joggers and bikers, the Bunga view deck and Balay Uno that frequently hosts weddings and parties are three of the most frequently visited attractions in this northern municipality, about 70 km north of the capital. Recent additions are floating cottages and water sports facilities for those who want to better enjoy the outdoors.
“The local government is helping in the promotion [of these sites] so that visitors may see how beautiful our town is,” Germino said, adding that the slogan says it all: “Upay Can-avid,” or beautiful Can-avid. —STORY BY CYRAIN G. CABUEÑAS