Perched on a short of the Samar island coastline facing the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Lapinig is a thoroughly laidback bucolic town very few outsiders would hanker to visit.
Till today the town is considered one of Northern Samar’s last frontiers, where for a time it was once widely known for its abundance of wild bees ready to defend their territory from human encroachment. The miniature winged creatures succeeded once or twice before, but not anymore. The bees are long gone, driven deeper into the forest by crawlers and fliers, thrived and multiplied.
Still much of the town’s vegetation remains, splashed through with flashy wild blossoms their color and fragrance enjoyed by young boys and girls in school grounds at the rim of coconut plantations and dense foliage. This at the town center, flanked by a wide open sea and untamed mountains forests.
Lapinig is the last Northern Samar town along the stretch of settlements that fearless seafarers established on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, where pale unsullied beaches and dark forest lands converge in a scenic interface of nature.
The town used to be a sitio of the centuries-old poblacion of Palapag, its name derived from an angry swarm of bees said to have attacked a group of conquistadores when they accidentally disturbed the home of these raging insects. When the soldiers asked the natives what it was that assaulted them, they were told it was the lapinig, the vernacular for bees.
Early settlers consisted of families who migrated from the adjoining towns that are now part of Eastern Samar, who crossed the river from Arteche, drawn by the abundance of resources in this stretch of the island. They established their homes along opposite sides of the river that they simply called Sapa sa Lapinig, an area about 1.5 kilometers from the present town center.
When the neighboring sitio of Gamay, which was then also part of Palapag, became a municipality in 1949, Lapinig became part of the territory of the newly created town and one its of more progressive barrios.
Not long after, Lapinig itself was established as a municipality through an Executive Order in 1949 by President Elpidio Quirino. But the Order was revoked only a year after, reverting the town back to the status of a barrio of Gamay. It was a temporary setback though, for on June 14, 1956, a law authored by Samar Rep. Eladio T. Balite was enacted in Congress, declaring Lapinig a full-fledged municipality.
The municipality first appointed, and subsequently elected mayor was Lorenzo S. Menzon, considered the father of Lapinig because of his determined efforts to win the town’s independence and autonomy from Gamay.
Backdoor to the next province
In spite – or perhaps because – of its remoteness and inaccessibility the town still comes through as a pleasantly quiet and languorous place to settle in.
Time and progress may be slow in this seaside town cut off from its neighbors by impassable land trails and changeable ocean moods, but the earth has always been generous to Lapinig, laying out a spread of marine resources like crabs, prawns and fishes within reach.
Lapinignons themselves claim to be a blend of Nortehanons and Estehanons, and many of them actually prefer to engage in the activities of life and livelihood and relate with institutions of Eastern Samar.
For some parents too, schools in the capital town of Borongan and other towns of the next province are the learning institution of choice because travel is more convenient in that direction.
From this town known as Northern Samar’s backdoor, Arteche in Eastern Samar is just a few minutes awsay by boat through a road that can only be navigate by motorcycles or the public utility habal-habal. But with the opening of the new highway linking Northern Samar and Eastern Samar, the town of Lapinig is happily bracing for its new role as the gateway for travelers from Eastern Samar going to Luzon and vice versa.
A new bridge linking Lapinig and Arteche promise to spark a new wave of economic opportunities for the town with possible investments from neighboring Northern Samar and Eastern Samar towns.
Canawayon – isle of solitude
As in all Northern Samar, there are no malls or shopping complexes in Lapinig, no movie houses, coffee shops, or other fun places that normally abound in major towns and cities elsewhere in the country.
Life comes to a halt as early as six in the evening, with generally all commercial establishments, including public markets and eating places, closing shop and only the nocturnal sounds of crickets and other forest animals to mark nightfall and daybreak.
The Lapinignons do not seem to mind. Their leisure sanctuary is the island “resort” of Canawayon, a two-hectare public estate with a sugary white beach visible from the mainland and crystal waters that shimmer up close. It may not have the amenities of a Boracay or Palawan – not even electricity yet – but Lapinignons swear by its natural beauty and charm, and are fiercely determined to protect it from encroachment and violations by declaring it a sanctuary – literally for marine life and figuratively for the native Lapinignons.
Local residents consider it their secret paradise because not too many people, including their fellow Northehanons, have been there. Canawayon, named after the birds that make their home there, os the Lapinignon’s isle of solitude. It is their source of fortitude in their changing fortunes, and their beacon of hope in the emerging new future as it unlocks its door to another corridor that leads to new opportunities.
After many years of seclusion, isolated by bad roads and lack of transportation facilities, the town of Lapinig is very much like its people – survivor. They grow in number and experience each year, unabashedly in live with their town and always willing to return for a homecoming from wherever they are in the province, in the country, or in the world.
Depites its sometimes unsavory but altogether undeserved population on issues of peace and order, Lapinig is one of the better planned, work-in-progress communities in the entire province, with a purpose-built plaza, complete with a newly renovated town hall, police station, expansive when they coming from the East, the provincial capital and beyond.
They are generally unfazed by their reputation, ever hopeful that everything would come to pass as soon as new highways are opened and more farm-to-market roads are paved to receive more investors and visitors.