With the nearest municipality at least seven hours by motorized banca and winding river, or three hours by motorcycle over rough torturous roads and muddy riverbeds, it may be difficult to understand how and why people found their way to this cool hillside retreat at a bend of the river, and decided this would be home.
Till today the residents themselves refer to their place as iraya, understood to mean the boondocks, with no offense made and taken in these parts. Land travel is rendered virtually impossible after heavy rains due to swollen river tributaries, while it takes longer to negotiate the Pambujan River during dry months when the waterway gets too shallow and the pambot (pumpboat) risk running aground at the riverbed.
Ascending the rocky steps from the pier to the town center. Feel the blast of cold mountain air while walking through pine trees and under a canopy of giant hardwoods. Scale the highest peak and gasp at the spectacular sight of mist-cloaked mountains. Savor the extremely rare experience of coming into town as a stranger and being welcomed with a drink and a kind offer of lodging for the night (the next trip out of town is always the day after).
“Shangrila” is the word that readily comes to mind.
The town whose wonders many Nortehanons have heard about but very few have actually visited was known as barrio Suba of Pambujan until it was declared a separate municipality in the same year the province of Northern Samar as founded in 1965. The word suba is a Samarnon term for river, underscoring the significant of the forested waterway in the life and times of the people of Silvino Lubos.
Silvino Lubos as not in the original list of 17 municipalities mentioned in Republic Act 4221 which created Northern Samar. Its founding came shortly thereafter, largely through the efforts of former Pambujan councilor and Barrio Suba Teniente Silvino Lubos, who donated considerable tracts of prime land to the municipality.
The new municipality was named after Lubos in recognition of his efforts and perseverance to help the town chart its own destiny and fortune, although it was former Samar Representative Eladio T. Balite who sponsored the bill for township in Congress.
At the time, the old-timers recall, river travel from Pambujan to Silvino Lubos took all of two days by oar-powered bancas. At nightfall, the boatmen would simply steer their craft and secure them to the closest bank, and the passengers would pass the night crouched in darkness descending on the river, with only moon, stars and the aniniput (fireflies) from the marshes to light up the shadows.
This changed in the 1990s when the wooden hulled boats were outfitted with engine motors for faster and more efficient trips.
A new road link
Today, travel time from the Pambujan Bridge to Silvino Lubos still takes seven hours by boat, but this situation is about to change with the completion of the road linking the town to Brgy. Nenita in Mondragon, which should literally pave the way for the entry of various makes of public utility vehicles at any time of the day and in all weather conditions.
The townsfolk of Silvino Lubos are bracing for this possibility after years of relative isolation and seclusion from the rest of Northern Samar and the outside world. With the sounds and movements of earth and equipment drawing closer to the town each day, local officials, town planners, and workers are hastily charting new blueprints for more municipal roads and other infrastructure to accommodate more settlers from other towns.
While the outside world would certainly bring in and promote more commerce and trade, the iraya town of Silvino Lubos has more to offer in terms of land and other natural resources to explore and exploit into productive use foe agriculture and tourism.
The poblacion is centrally located close to Pambujan River, a snakelike labyrinth traversing dense forest grounds inhabited by wild bird species. The Municipal Hall and the adjacent Legislative Building provide one of the best views of the mountains and overlook an amphitheatre shaped like a bowl at the foot of lush hills.
Town leaders are considering building a zip line for tourists from the top of the Legislative Building to the foot of the green mountains to give them a sense of adventure and allow a closer look at the town’s rich forest resource. As an interior town, Silvino Lubos does not have coastal resources for fishing and swimming, but it has a host of caves and waterfalls with natural spring water pools for people to explore and enjoy.
One of them is the Hilulugayan Falls, a pleasant mountain hideaway among giant trees and rocks. The water from the busay is so cool that trekkers and picnickers dip their sodas and beers in the pool to keep them cold for the customary irignom or drinking binge.
The town has been christened by some as the summer capital town of Northern Samar, although everyone seems to ignore this title due to the difficulty of going there any time of the year. The months of December and January of each year are generally cold, with temperatures dipping as low as 10 degrees centigrade with mist and fog engulfing almost the entire town. It is generally chilly all throughout the year, especially in the early evening until sunup.
It is still the coolest place in Northern Samar primarily because of its virgin-like mountain forests and relatively sparse population.
Mountain slopes are covered with green foliage and fields are verdant green. Even the Pambujan reflects vegetation and greenery.
Many houses in the poblacion are made of concrete materials and hardwood, and are designed to be in harmony to a green environment, with mist pervading the scene in the early morning or soon after rains.
Whether by design or accident, no other town in the entire province of Northern Samar, or probably the entire Samar Island, can claim the title of a green town. There are no hotels and resorts in this town, but its biggest tourist draw and claim to fame is its fresh and cool mountain air and scenic landscape.
Located at the buffer zone of Samar Island Natural Park where plant and animal life are protected by law from destructive commercial logging and mining, the town is certain to sustain a fresh, cool, and green environment in the coming years.