Travel: Siargao

“Am I going to die today?” was a question I asked myself every day I was in Siargao.

It’s hard to believe that a place as stunning as Siargao Island could pose any real danger, and while admittedly it is a possibility (just like every other place in this planet. Constant vigilance, y’all), most of my worries were all in my head.

Doesn’t mean they’re any less true though, when you’re in a tiny AF pump boat going to Sugbo Lagoon and the dark clouds and foreboding fog make the surrounding rock formations look like f*cking Lian Yu. Or when you forget to go behind your surfboard once a strong wave hits, and your surfboard hits you on the head. Hard. (Also: Idiot.)

But, as Syrio Forel told us to say to death, Not Today! And thus, the tale of how I survived my second trip to Siargao.

It’s been a little over a year since I took a trip that was entirely personal. Most of my recent ones have been work-related—not that I can complain much about getting to go to Taiwan, Korea and Davao (and okay, Manila, because I got to have the best meal of my life in Vask). Still, it’s different when you’re actually on vacation and not have to worry about getting enough material for a piece.

It’s also the first time that I get to plan a trip on my own. All my previous ones, whether personal or for business, always involved a ready itinerary prepared by my companions. Much as I loved exploring a new place, I didn’t have to overthink how to get from point A to B, which I don’t really mind. Add to that the fact I was traveling with my younger brother, and the responsibility of being an adult and planning our Siargao Island trip was both exciting and intimidating. Luckily, I knew friends who are also in love with Siargao enough to having been there several times (hi Mayan and Neil!), and I’ve already been there once for work two years ago, so it was a matter of considering which places to make time for, and then asking for tips from there.

Where We Went

 

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Sugba Lagoon

SUGBA LAGOON came highly recommended, and with good reason! At first, we honestly didn’t know what to expect (and I didn’t bother Googling except for how to get there), but it ended up being my favorite stop throughout the whole trip. It’s a lagoon situated within the Philippines’ second largest mangrove plantation, and surrounded with aforementioned rock formations, the biggest of which (not pictured), eerily do look like Lian Yu when the weather is bad, which it was when we were on our way. I believe my first, “Am I going to die today?” came about when our tiny AF pump boat was surging through the rain and fog. But I had just spent at least an hour on a motorcycle just to get on that boat, so heck if I was turning back.

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A rainy Sugba Lagoon when we first arrived

Thankfully, the weather cleared up right after lunch, and we were able to further enjoy Sugba Lagoon. I even went and rented a stand-up paddle board to explore the lagoon a little bit more. Closer to the rock formations were schools of stingless jellyfish, which made for a fascinating sight.

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Naked Island

THE TRES MARIAS weren’t new to me, having been to the three islands back during my first trip to Siargao. They’re worth going back though. First, we docked at Naked Island, appropriately named after the fact that it’s basically a huge sandbar, and nothing else. It may not seem like much (my brother seemed to think so anyway) but it has its charms for me. And even if Naked Island itself isn’t that appealing to some people, it’s surrounded with the most amazing waters.

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Daku Island

Next was Daku Island, appropriately named because it’s the biggest one of the three (‘daku’ in Bisaya means ‘big’). It’s also the most populated one, actually being occupied by a village. Usual island hopping trips entail lunch here, but since we were only doing the island hopping for half the day, we skipped renting a cottage and just settled down on the sand.

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Nico making a new friend in Daku Island

If Naked Island was too bare, and Daku Island too populated, then Guyam Island was, as Goldilocks says, just right. My favorite became my brother’s favorite too, the moment he stepped on Guyam’s sandy-rocky shores. A small island surrounded with lots of greens and edged with both fine white sand and coral formations, it’s the perfect place to laze away the day. We definitely would have stayed there longer if we didn’t have plans in the afternoon.

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My brother exploring Guyam Island

MAGPUPUNGKO TIDAL POOLS was a place I’ve wanted to check out, even back during my first time in Siargao. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong—the tidal pools were fascinating, but we made the mistake of going there on a weekend, and it was obscenely full of people. That made the one-and-a-half-hour trip going there not worth it. I would love to return again, but perhaps on a leaner season.

SURFING—yes, in Siargao, that’s a destination. 😛 On my first trip, I was able to stand up and even ride some waves in Jacking Horse. It’s such a thrill that I knew I had to surf again. And I thought Jacking Horse was exciting already. This time, our surfing instructor took us to ‘cemetery’, a surfing spot so-called because of its proximity to one. We took a pump boat out into the sea, where there were these even bigger waves just waiting for us to ride them! At first, they were immensely challenging, but once I found my footing (literally), I experienced the thrill that makes surfing so addicting.

My only regrets: I had no photos taken, and we only opted to surf on the third day. Next time I come back, I’m dedicating two hours every day just to surf (are you reading this, Aimee and Anton?)

What We Ate (and Drank!)

Most people who live in Siargao often say the dining scene isn’t big enough, which may be true, but for tourists like ourselves, there’s plenty to choose from.

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The epic Siargao Inn Burger with Fries

We were billeted at the SIARGAO INN BEACH RESORT in General Luna, and had most of our meals there. My very first meal there was their burrito, and while it wasn’t authentic, it was very flavorful that I personally regretted that was the only Mexican offering on their menu. It definitely spurred a craving for Mexican food, which I was unable to satisfy during the whole trip. I loved their Thai fried rice and curry as well. Serving size is humongous (even my brother, a big eater, would have trouble finishing his food), which, for its price, is very worth it.

Prior to getting on the tiny AF pump boat bound for SUGBA LAGOON, we bought meat from a nearby market, which we then had cooked at the Lagoon for a small fee. Grilled pork belly right after swimming is good.

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Baboy!

After our Sugba Lagoon adventure, we asked our motorcycle driver to drop us off at BRAVO BEACH RESORT. It came highly recommended by friends but unfortunately they were fully booked. Even if you don’t stay there, the restaurant is worth checking out. The peri-peri chicken is amazing, and they have great cocktails. Super cute and Instagrammable interiors too!

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The mojito from Bravo

We also ate at KERMIT SURF RESORT AND RESTAURANT, which is a mainstay in various Siargao must-visit lists. They’re best known for their pizzas, but I opted for a specialty pasta, and Nico had their version of adobo. Plus, it was buy one take one on some pretty refreshing cocktails, which always makes a place A+ in my book.

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Kermit Surf Resort and Restaurant

 

Where We Stayed

As mentioned earlier, home was the SIARGAO INN BEACH RESORT. I have to admit that, at first, I wasn’t fully impressed because we got an old cottage-style room. But inside, the bathroom looked like it was recently renovated, the split-type AC was a new unit, and there was a safe. The bed’s mattress could be thicker, sure, and they could get nicer linens, but the accommodations were very decent and service is top notch. No wonder they were full during our visit.

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Siargao Inn Beach Resort
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One of Siargao Inn’s resident bulldogs

Special commendation goes out to the owners for being extremely helpful and nice. You guys made our stay special.

Plus points also to Siargao Inn for having a very nice beach front. Had I stayed longer, I would have taken a lazy afternoon to lounge around the beach.

How We Got Around

Okay, everybody, listen up for some words o’ wisdom: While the number of people you’re with shouldn’t dictate how much fun you’ll have, I’ve come to realize Siargao is best enjoyed when you’re more than two people. Especially if said two people are, like my brother and I—derps. If we were more outgoing people, we probably could have joined groups going to all these places and save money. Self-drive cars are available for rent at around Php 2,500.00, excluding gas, and private vans are even pricier than that. Pump boats going to Sugba Lagoon and the Tres Marias are around Php 1,500.00, good for four people. If we were more than two , we could have split those expenses and it would come out cheap, and we would have comfortable transportation.

But, well, derps. So we endured… motorcycle rides. The. Entire. F*cking. Time.

For Php 1,500.00 whole day and round trip for two people, we were able to go to the port going to Sugba Lagoon. For another Php 2,500.00, we were able to hop the Tres Marias and go to Magpupungko. Actually, cost-wise, it’s not THAT bad—that is, until you consider that means at least an hour’s ride one way. On a motorcycle. With two other people.

My butt has never felt so toned.

We were fortunate to meet Larry, a motorcycle driver recommended to us by Siargao Inn. He’s a very quiet and polite bloke who ended up becoming our personal driver over two of the four days we were in Siargao. It was one less worry not having to think about transportation, when you have a trusted driver. He also ended up partly planning the rest of our trip for us, because of all these recommendations he gave.

 

What We’re Coming Back For

First off, let me get Magpupungko Rock Pools and more surfing out of the way, because those two, having been mentioned early on, are given.

Even during my first visit, I’ve always wanted to go to BUCAS GRANDE, which is where you find the Sohoton Cove and the jellyfish sanctuary. It’s sort of similar to Sugba Lagoon, but farther, which is the main reason we opted to do the latter instead, considering we were only going to be in Siargao for four days and wanted to do so many things.

THE PLEASURE POINT CAFE is something that has been recommended to me time and time again. At least this trip, I actually passed by it on our way to Kermit. The next time I’m in Siargao, I’m definitely making it a point to stop by.

I’ve already been to the iconic CLOUD 9 BOARDWALK, but skipped it this trip because my brother, killjoy that he is, was more keen on eating. Still, it’s a nice place to witness Siargao’s beautiful sunsets.

Oh, who am I kidding? Everything else is worth coming back for—and I definitely will.

 

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