The Invisible Biringan City in Samar, Philippines
While in Samar, if you are travelling between the towns of Gandara, Tarangnan, and Pagsanhan, you may just find yourself transported to another world. It is called Biringan City, apparently known to the locals, but a mystery for those trying to find it. Is this city truly invisible, or could it be a portal to the realm of engkanto?
There is no shortage of mythical places in this world. If we look back through history, they include (among others) the esoteric Agartha at the earth’s core, Atlantis, El Dorado, the Greek northland of Hyperborea, Shangri-La, Thule – the list just goes on and on. One of the more recent entries belongs to the Philippines. Although few have seen it, their accounts are so convincing that it has sparked the imagination of explorers and artists from all over the world.
Like many hidden cities, there are stories from the locals which may only be spoken about in hushed whispers, for fear of retribution from inhabitants of the mythical metropolis. You see, in the Philippines, such a place could only be inhabited by the spirits of ancient times. Regardless of Catholicism being spread throughout the Philippines, early animist beliefs still have a firm hold on the people. Not as ignorant superstitions, but in understanding nature, the land, and our health, by connecting all that surrounds us. It may seem like mumbo-jumbo to a “sophisticated” mind, but science is very close to explaining how the energy of everything (including our soul) is connected.
Abductees of Biringan City
Those who have seen Biringan have compared it to the likes of New York or Hong Kong. However, instead of skyscrapers, it has massive cathedral type buildings with an elegance that has yet to be produced with modern architecture. Some of the visual accounts differ, but there is one similarity between them all – those drawn to the city were lured through a trance or feeling possessed.
Bus drivers and truck drivers from around the area have blamed their being lost to the Biringan City legends. It is said that engkanto who have been visiting surrounding cities will sometimes enter the mind of the drivers and have them deviate from their intended path. When the driver regains control, they find themselves lost in the area where Biringan is purported to exist.
Fishermen who disappear are sometimes thought to have been lured to the ethereal city of Biringan. If food from the sea is scarce, a fisherman may suddenly find himself in calm seas with an abundance of aquatic life. In an attempt to catch as much as possible, he may not realize he is floating in the skies of Biringan and no longer in the sea.
Businessmen who vanish from the area are also suspected to have been lured to Biringan City. Elementals will pose as entrepreneurs with irresistible deals and investments. It is said when a business person enters into a deal with an engkanto, they are never seen again.
One of the most troubling accounts of those being lured to the invisible city, are when people are thought to be possessed. As with other areas in the Philippines, locals believe that an unnatural spirit has taken control of the body – generally affecting a child or young adult. Even though Catholic priests are often enlisted for aid, make no mistake, dark animist beings are said to be the ones taking control of the body – spirits that existed long before the Spanish arrived with their demons. This is also why many locals will revert to traditional healing from Babaylans when such an occurrence happens.
Inhabitants of Biringan City
The legends of Biringan City take a chilling turn when the inhabitants are described. It is believed that everything they wear or eat is black. They look very similar to the local residents except they have no philtrum on their upper lip (the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the border of the upper lip). This is also how aswang are described in the Visayas – the ghoulish being that feeds on unborn babies and the filth from the ill and dying.
What further adds to the dark aura of the ethereal city are the other beliefs that coincide with those of the mythical beings of the Philippines. For instance, when there is a sudden unexplained death, it is believed that an engkanto has taken a fancy to that person and has abducted them into the realm of Biringan. Left behind is a lifeless body. This is not unlike the stories of the Batibat, or Duwende whose tales are also used to explain such incidents. It has also been rumoured that the body left behind is not actually the body of the abductee, but instead a banana tree log, or stump, with a spell cast to make it appear like the body. This is similar to the folktales of the Bal-Bal and Aswang, who also partake in such an activity.
It leaves me to hypothetically question if all mythical beings live in such a place. This would undoubtedly be in tune with the mythical places of other folklore and mythology. Are the dark spirits in Philippine Folklore the offspring of Biringan engkanto and their mortal abductees? Or perhaps the invisible city was built as a safe haven for the engkanto after the Spanish arrived and the natives were forced (or convinced) to abandoned their beliefs for a monotheistic God.
The existence and exact location of Biringan City may never be known, but one thing is certain, the accounts of those who claim to know of it have a similarity which can’t be denied. The ties that Biringan shares with traditional Philippine Folklore is also uncanny. Regardless of your personal beliefs in the unknown, Biringan is definitely one of those folk stories which can’t be brushed off as a simple urban legend. If it doesn’t cross your thoughts while you’re awake, it will certainly visit your imagination while you sleep.
GMA7 Report on Biringan City:
Jordan is a Canadian documentary director/ producer. He made the 2011 feature length documentary THE ASWANG PHENOMENON - an exploration of the aswang myth and its effects on Philippine society. Currently he is in post production for "The Aswang Project" web-series, which will feature 6 myths from the Philippines. The TIKBALANG, KAPRE and BAKUNAWA episodes are available to watch on YouTube.