In this article:
- Biringan City is an urban legend originating from the Visayas region of the Philippines. The hidden metropolis is said to be nestled in the forests and mountains of Samar, Leyte, a tourist destination known for its idyllic beaches and underdeveloped infrastructure.
- Compared to most of the region, Biringan City is said to have towering skyscrapers straight out of a science fiction novel (or Black Panther‘s Wakanda). The kicker? Its inhabitants are said to be fae creatures.
- The mystical inhabitants of the city are rumored to be the cause of strange disappearances as they will either spirit away a human they take interest in or provide shelter for people lost in the untamed areas of Samar.
- While stories about Biringan City tend to be inconsistent, common themes about its legends emerge once you learn about them in depth.
The island nation of the Philippines may be one of the most popular destinations for summer getaways, but it’s not exactly the best place to go to if you’re looking to immerse yourself in vibrant city life. The streets of Manila are filthy and no matter which city you go to, there’s an overwhelming lack of efficient public transportation.
Beaches it is.
But the residents of Samar, Leyte, a region known for being the home of the 2nd largest cave system in Asia, say otherwise. The locals claim that deep in the forests of Samar lies the legendary Biringan City. Unlike other legendary cities you may have heard of, like Atlantis or El-Dorado, Biringan is neither a lost ruin nor a land of untold treasures.
Instead, Biringan City is an advanced civilization that serves as a home for ancient fae-like deities who may or may not be responsible for tourist disappearances.
What and Where Is Biringan City?
Depending on who you ask, Biringan City is either the Wakanda of the Philippines, a city for the souls of the dead and/or lost, or the home of fae-like local deities known as diwatas (or enkanto, if you want the Spanish colonial name).
These deities are spirits of the land that are able to command the forces of nature. They’re said to reside in the mountains, woodlands, and other wild regions of the country that have remained untouched by civilization and colonization alike.
Biringan City, however, stands out from all other legends of the diwatas. While other diwatas in the country are said to appear to humans in ancient attire, the residents of Biringan City supposedly live in an advanced metropolis that honestly just boils down to it being Southeast Asian Wakanda.
While that might make it sound more like folklore, the oldest stories about Biringan City only date back to around the ’60s. This may explain why it’s the only legend in the country involving a metropolis. Biringan City seems to be a fairly modern dream, a fairytale about urbanization.
Fishermen interviewed by local reporters claim to have seen Biringan City while sailing along the coast of Samar. Biringan, according to them, is a gleaming skyline of glass towers arising from the mists, towering over the entire island.
As they got closer, though, the city vanished.
Biringan City’s ability to disappear and reappear seemingly at will makes people question what its residents’ motives are.
Are they trying to lure people to the city in the hope that they get lost and are stuck there forever? Or do they see lost people and try to help them find their way by lighting the path to land or, if you’re on foot, to their city?
Whichever it is, no one can agree exactly where Biringan City is. The only thing locals agree on is that it’s somewhere between the municipalities of Gandara, Tarangan, and Pagsanghan.
The latter happens to be the home of Pagsanghan Falls, a popular tourist spot in Samar. Legends about Biringan say that if you’re unlucky enough to get lost during your trip, you’ll end up spending your vacation with the region’s fae deities.
Where the Lost Are Found: Legends and Folktales About Biringan City
Biringan City’s name means “where the lost can be found” in Waray, the local language and locals say that the only way to get to Biringan City is to get lost yourself. Or, at the very least, don’t actively look for it.
Locals say that a bus driver once picked up a pair of women while plying his route and asks him to go off his usual route so that they can get to their destination without having to walk.
Likely concerned for their safety, or simply tempted by their offer to pay him triple the usual fare, the bus driver agreed. After the women get off, the driver turns back to the highway only to realize that his bus was in the middle of nowhere.
Older locals, who would have been alive when the urban legend first came to be, say that they have seen the residents of Biringan City.
Much like fae creatures from other mythic traditions, the residents of Biringan are said to look almost exactly like normal people. Some may say they tend to be strangely attractive. Regardless, the residents of Biringan are said to have no philtrum — a groove between the upper lip and nose.
Construction materials have even been shipped to Biringan City. Other tales say that construction material suppliers in Manila, a city roughly 800 kilometers or 497 miles away from Samar, would get orders from addresses located in Biringan City complete with delivery instructions that told them to leave the materials on dirt roads, far from any major city or construction site.
The materials would always disappear in the morning and, presumably, the companies that sent them got paid.
Another urban legend says that representatives from a Japanese company once went to Samar in the 90s in search of answers after they found a brightly lit spot in the area on their satellites. Which company this was exactly, let alone records about the visit, remain unknown. Look, it’s an urban legend for a reason, not an urban absolute truth.
Though some locals describe the residents of Biringan as friendly and helpful, to the point that some claim they are stewards of the forests of Samar, other locals are terrified by stories of bugkot.
Bugkot or “being spirited away” happens to humans who are unfortunate enough to catch the attention of Biringan’s mysterious residents.
The target may fall ill, appear to suddenly “die” (it’s said that their dead bodies are actually tree stumps made to look like them with magic), or disappear altogether. Alternatively, you can be trapped in Biringan by making the Persephone-esque mistake of eating the local food.
One of the most famous bugkot stories involves a woman named Carolina who was said to have gone to Samar on vacation from Manila. Carolina never returned but her family received a letter telling them that she was okay, that she has no plans of returning home, and that they need to stop looking for her.
The return address was in Biringan City.
What Exactly Is Going On With Biringan?: Fae Kingdom, Advanced Civilization, a City of Ghosts, or a Collective Dream?
The simplest explanation for Biringan City is that, like many other urban legends and folklore, it is the amalgamation of several stories that share similar themes.
They may have been inspired by truth once though the truth about Biringan is now obscured under layers of hearsay. It’s no coincidence that most of the stories about it are just “this person says” or “that person says.”
But what we can do is figure out the inspirations for Biringan City.
The obvious one is animistic beliefs. Before Spanish colonization made the nation predominantly Catholic, natives worshipped the elements, natural phenomena, and the land. That explains the diwata and even the dead spirits/lost people since many myths involve abductions as long as there are fae involved.
What remains a puzzle is the city. Why, out of all possible settings, did the locals of Samar imagine Biringan as a city when it could have been a tribal paradise or a fantasy-style kingdom? Either of these would be more in line with the divine roots of the Biringan City legend.
Jhonil Bajado, a history and anthropology teacher at Samar State University, told Rappler that Biringan City may represent the region’s collective desire to modernize without losing the untainted beauty of Samar.
Biringan City is a beautiful dream. In its many descriptions, one of the few things that remain consistent is that it is a world of sci-fi-like urbanization without the filth and grime of Manila. It even sits in the heart of the forests of Samar, forever connected to the natural world without sacrificing economic advancement.
“Our dreams are an extension of our realities, our hopes, our aspirations, and our frustrations. Maybe they have been dreaming of progress and development, and these became part of their subconscious,” He explained.
The internet has only made the cultural relevance of Biringan stronger. These days, it’s the subject of a local meme about a fictional university located in Biringan City where you can learn everything from gaslighting your lover to casting forbidden spells.
Like the mythical city that inspired it, the International State College of the Philippines, a university that doesn’t exist, does a lot of things better than its real counterparts do (like having a really spiffy-looking website).
Whether it’s the work of Samar’s collective unconscious, a city of fae-like gods, or an advanced yet hidden civilization, we can safely say that we don’t recommend Biringan City as your next travel destination.
Word of advice? Check your hosts’ faces for any oddities before you take a bite of the local food and do your research before signing up for student exchange programs.