With endless blue skies and even deeper crystal waters, this tiny island in the north of Mindanao makes a splash
Written and Photographed by Heidi Manabat
Traveling has always been therapeutic for me. Contrary to how other people might feel about the tedious planning, packing and airports, I absolutely love it. Ironically, it feels like home to me – I always look forward to going to places that hold unforgettable memories and more so new places, case in point is Siargao.
I have long heard about the beauty of this charming province in Mindanao but I never really had the time to plan while I held my post in an international hospitality brand, so when I resigned, booking a ticket to Siargao was one of the first things I did. Of course I wanted to share the experience with people dear to me so I included tickets for my family and a couple of friends via PALExpress. It served as a birthday trip my son Jiyuu, myself and one of my good friends Arnie since our birthdays were merely days apart from each other.
On the day of our departure, we were all ecstatic to take a break and just take in everything the island has to offer, and of course try our hand at surfing. It was a two hour flight and upon arriving in Siargao, we took a communal van that functioned as transfers for travelers going from the airport to their hotel. After a 35-45minute drive, we were already in the epicentre of the province – General Luna. A few minutes later, we were dropped off at our hotel, Bravo Siargao, one of the hip and happening places in the island. Upon entering, you’ll immediately notice the mini-skate park located on the right-hand side, beside their souvenir shop – not something usual to resorts but it was definitely a welcome touch for guests.
Check-in was a breeze but since it was close to lunch time, so we decided to head over to Bravo’s restaurant, situated by the beach. As soon as we sat down, there was this feeling of relaxation that came over all of us – we were officially on holiday. Some of the must-trys are the Gambas, Vegetarian Burger, Tortilla de Patata and Peri-Peri Chicken. Our first day was used to explore the culinary offerings that General Luna was known for so after lunch, we headed out to see where we could grab dessert and coffee. Right across Bravo was this cafe Crepes Siargao that served up the best coffee I had on this trip. At night, they transform the frontage to a quaint pizza place on wheels. We passed it after havingdinner at Mama’s Grill, and even though I was full, the smell of the pizzas they had made me buy a slice – I got the bacon and egg and it was worth the second dinner. Another must-visit in General Luna is Bake Siargao – they have the best Lemon Cake and the owner, Rachel’s pitbull is such a sweetheart, we literally spent 20 minutes with him on the floor just goofing around.
I didn’t really think that Siargao would have such great food options that friends recommended around 10-15 places to try. Another one that we got to fit in our 4-day itinerary was Kermit. Now, being the most popular one on the list, you can expect a long waiting period, especially if you’re not staying in their resort (in-house guests are prioritised, of course), BUT trust me when I say that it’s worth the wait. Their pizzas are made fresh – you can literally see their chefs preparing them. Their desserts are also great – we thought we were already filled to the brim with food but when the dessert came, it was gone in literally 5 minutes.
A SIGHT TO BEHOLD
Now, unto the magnificent beauty that is Siargao. There is literally so much to see here that it would be best to plan a trip of at least 6 days and 5 nights to be able to maximise the places to visit. We were there for 4 days and it was honestly too short – I feel like we only got to see a few places given their distances from each other.
On our first tour, we went island hopping on the three major islands – Daku, Guyam and Naked Island. I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of people in Naked Island but it’s so easy to see why – crystal-clear blue waters that stretch for miles and fine white sand certainly has its appeal. Though there is not much more in Naked Island, it was worth the visit. Next on our itinerary was Daku where we had lunch, this is where those boodle fights that you see on Instagram happen – the locals offer another option though which is their a la carte menu where you can customise the food and eat with cutlery but of course, to enjoy the food it is suggested that you dig in with your hands. This island a lot more relaxed, with huts where you can just enjoy the island life. Last was Guyam, an island surrounded by rock formations and shallow waters so its normal for visitors to jump ship and swim to shore. Just like the first two islands, it was absolutely beautiful.
Our third day was reserved for the Coconut View Deck, Sugba Lagoon, Magpupungko Rock Pools and Cloud 9. It was one tiring day but it was definitely worth it.
Our last stop was Cloud 9 and we decided to try our hand at surfing – I’ll admit I was scared to let my son do it at first because of all of the news that came out before but since I was going to be on the water with him and since the locals offered extra protection by having another person aside from the instructor, I decided to let him take on this adventure. To my surprise, he was so courageous and got up on his board on his first wave. After that experience, and after seeing how well the locals took care of us, all of my fears of the safety in Siargao were instantly erased. Another memorable moment was on our way to Sugba Lagoon, while on our boat, I saw several Philippine Eagle face to face for the first time and I feel like that says so much about how Siargao has preserved its local and natural resources even with the influx of tourists in recent years. I barely saw trash in the places we went, unlike in other famous provinces and I applaud their local government for that. I could only wish that others could follow suit. In totality, I would say that Siargao is definitely a must visit not just for surfers but it’s also something that I highly recommend for families and friends that just want to escape the city life.
To summarize Siargao in three words, they would have to be laidback, unspoiled, and absolutely breathtaking.