Samar Island: A popular Place for Expats
Just before the Spaniards came in the year 1596, Samar Island was given several names like Tandaya, Ibabao and Samal. Samar is actually from the word “samad” which is a local word which means cut or wound. This word exactly depicts the physical appearance of the island which is deeply divided by streams. Its past history tells that Samar was first under Cebu and later on merged with Leyte, it became a separate province. It was in year 1768 that Samar stands alone as separate province.
The Island is found in the eastern section of the Philippines. It belongs to the Visayas region and is in the Eastern Visayas. It is bounded by San Bernardino Strait in the north, San Juanico Strait of Leyte in the southwest, the Pacific Ocean in the east, Samar Sea in the west and Leyte Gulf in the south. The province consists of three provinces namely Western Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar.
The province is mountainous with peaks that range from two hundred to eight hundred meters high with lowlands. You can find them in a large area in the Northern Samar. Due to logging, slopes are bare already thus flooding is quite common especially in the lowland area after heavy rains.
The region experiences two types of climate that is the second and fourth type of climate. The second type of climate is experience in the southeastern section of the province. This type of climate features a specific heavy rainfall period that happens in December to January. This type of climate does not have a dry season.
The rest of the island experiences the fourth type of climate where rain is distributed the whole year through. It also has no dry season and it is most likely like the second type of climate.
Majority of the household about 90.2% uses the Waray language. The remaining percentage speaks various dialects like Tagalog, Boholano, Cebuano and many more. Other language widely use and understood is English and Chinese.
About ninety-five percent of the locals are Roman Catholic. In the province exist other religious groups like Mormons, Iglesia ni Cristo, Aglipay, United Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventist, Born Again Christians and Baptists.
Base on the 2000 Census, total population was 641,124. Calbayog City of Western Samar hails the largest population with 147,187 followed by Catbalogan City of Samar province. Only ninety-five percent of Samar province is Filipinos, the remaining five percent consist of Americans, Chinese and other foreign nationals.
The major ore commodities in the province are manganese, nickel, magnetite chromate and Hematite. Other mineral deposits are copper and bauxite. In some areas a large amount of coralline limestone is found.
The western section of the island has a long coastline thus fishing is its major livelihood. Through the years, fishing production has increased and even inland fishing has doubled its production.
Its major crop production is rice, coconut, and corn. Vegetable production is minimal and selected root crops like ubi, gabi, sweet potato and cassava is produced.
The major industries in the province include Copra, Fishing, Ticog, Abaca, Native Cheese Processing, Tinapa, Coco Oil and Integrated Mussel Industry.
There are definitely enough schools to cater to the population. To date, they have 688 public elementary schools and 53 public secondary schools. The province also have two State University and several agricultural and fisheries school. They also have vocational schools for those who want to get short term courses.
Samar has five government hospitals – One Provincial Hospital, one municipal hospital and three district hospitals. Aside from that they also have thirty Rural Health Units and one hundred five Barangay Health Stations. Unfortunately the number of medical personnel is not enough to meet the demands of the province increasing population. Just in Catbalogan City alone the ratio of a medical practitioner against the patient is one to over four hundred patients.
Infrastructure of Samar Island
Roads and Bridges
The island is linked to Mindanao and Manila through the Maharlika Highway. Cargo vehicles as well as passengers are being transported via ferryboats from Northern Samar to Luzon through the Bicol road network. As for Mindanao ferryboats transports passengers to Surigao from Southern Leyte.
In general roads in this province are classifieds as National Road, Municipal Road, Provincial Road, City roads and Barangay roads. Not all of the roads are concrete, in fact about 35.9% is concrete and the rest is not.
Most of the coastal municipalities have their own seaport which also provides shelters to small fishing boats. But the port of Calbayog City and Catbalogan are national ports where inter-island boats docks on a regular basis. It is a passenger as well as cargo ships mostly from Cebu and Manila. There are two shipping lines that serve the Catbalogan port and one for Calbayog City. You can also find motorboats to bring you to nearby municipalities or Barangays.
The province has two airports but only one is operating. It is the Calbayog airport and it service five flights schedules to Manila every week.
Water source are protected rivers and springs; surface water, shallow wheels and deep wells. Only 8.84% of the total household is un-served, the rest has water connections at home.
The local telephone systems in Catbalogan are TELOF or Telecommunication Office and BAYANTEL while in Calbayog city is the Calbayog Telephone System with PLDT. These telephone systems provides both international and domestic direct dialing. Text messaging through Cellular phones is also available in the province. This makes communication accessible even in the remote areas in the province.
Government telegraph facilities are present in every municipality with the exception of course of private telegraph company which you find in Calbayog and Catbalogan City. Philippine Postal Corporation provides postal service to all municipalities of Samar except San Jose de Buan and Matuginao. Express mail services is provided by private forwarders like LBC, JRS and many more and this is available in Calbayog and Catbalogan City.
National newspapers are available in the province as well as radio stations. You can have your choice to hear local news in their four local radio stations in the province. Two in Catbalogan city and the other two are in Calbayog City. There are two TV stations in the province both are in Calbayog City. As for cable television provider, they have eleven providers, two in Calbayog city, two in Catbalogan and the remaining are on other municipalities of Samar.
The power provider in the province of Samar is SAMELCO. The company provides electricity to Calbayog City and ten municipalities of the first district of Samar as well as to Catbalogan City and fifteen municipalities of second district of Samar. Unfortunately they are not able to serve all places with energy.
To date there are ten banks servicing the province and has nine branches in Catbalogan city. There are also rural banks in different municipalities and it provides loans and other services aside of course from their regular savings deposits.
Samar Island Tourist Spots
Samar is blessed with beautiful sites and most of them are still unexplored and untouched. It will be great to be able to witness the unspoiled beauty of the island. This place invites all to discover its yet to be explored caves and mountains, see exotic wildlife at close range, their falls, rivers and lakes and of course their beaches which is teeming with various marine life.
You can also see historical landmarks as well as cultural heritage that are a living proof of what the island is. Furthermore you can tour the Basey 17th Century, Ruins of 15th Century Church, Samar Archeological Museum, Calbayog Cathedral, Obelisk, Ruins of Bangahon and the famous San Juanico Bridge.
All the towns have their own town fiesta to celebrate but for the Samar Day celebration, all of the municipalities of the province are free to join the celebration. They can join in the parade contest, you will see dances and colorful costumes during the parade. All in all there are over 20 festivals being celebrate there.
How to get to Samar Island
In effect you have lots of option if you want to travel to that place. There are no direct flights to Samar so your best choice is to fly to Tacloban City or Cebu City. Although Masbate is much nearer but Masbate has no airport either. You can find daily flights from Manila to Cebu or Tacloban. But the best choice is really Manila to Tacloban where you can take a bus going to the province. If you choose to fly to Cebu then you have to travel by boat from Cebu to Tacloban and take a bus to go to there. It will be a long travel so better go for Manila – Tacloban flight and once in Tacloban you can then take a bus.
Another option if you do not want to travel by air, then you can travel by land and sea from Manila to Samar. It takes twelve hours bus ride to Matnog in Sorsogon and from there you can ride a ferry that will take you to there. The bus ride usually stops every three or four hours mostly in restaurants or terminal so passengers have time to go to comfort rooms, eat or just stretch before they go on the road again.
Is Samar Island the right Place for You?
It is not a surprise to find a large community of expats in Samar Island since five percent of the total population consists of foreign nationals. This only shows that this province is for expats one of the best place to retire in Philippines. Cost of retirement is definitely cheap and a foreign national can live comfortably or even can live like a king in this place. So if you are planning to move in the Philippines but do not know where then make sure to add Samar in your list. It will be great if you can visit the place and live there for a time for you to get the feel of the place and be able to decide whether the place is for you or not.