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I’ve always loved the beach. Though I wholeheartedy embrace urban living, I truly appreciate the rural lifestyle. A dose of some fresh air, green countryside and simple, unpretentious food are like vitamins to my consumed-by-capitalism soul. So I make it a point, at least once a year, to go someplace…arcadian and underrated. And where did my feet take me? To Siargao, baby!

Siargao is a tear-drop shaped island in the province of Surigao del Norte. This is where the famous Cloud 9, is situated. Cloud 9 (according to wiki), is “one of the best known surfing waves in Siargao, with a worldwide reputation for thick, hollow tubes.” This earned Siargao the title as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” And let me tell you, it is very famous in the international scene as well. Aside from the yearly international surfing competitions, I’ve talked with a bunch of foreigners who have abandoned their comfortable first-world nations to settle here. Just to surf. How hardcore is that?

My first impression of the island: a charming place with friendly folks. No intrusive mongers anywhere, believe it or not. Their airport is the tiny, no-frills type.

Sayak Airport – the green structure. New airport is being constructed beside it.

You alight from the plane, get your stuff from the baggage cart (no carousels here) and meet manong who will drive you to your resort. There are no cabs, jeepneys are rare. Tip: It is best to contact your resort or anyone with a van or multicab to fetch you. Other alternatives are the habal-habal or occassional tricycle. But let me tell you that the distance from airport to General Luna (GL), where the resorts are located, is around 50 km. It can be gruelling if you’re not well-seated.

Siargao Inn was my resort of choice. It has several cottages, nipa hut style. The owner, Rico, is a really nice guy. He talks to all of his guests, very accomodating and friendly. And he has such adorable dogs!

Cottages in Siargao Inn

Bruno, the resort’s adorable mascot

The cottage we stayed in has all the basic stuff. It has its own bathroom with hot and cold shower, toilet and sink. The room has an airconditioner and fan. The pillows, towels and blanket were clean. Everything was clean. Even the built-in shelf was dust-free. I felt right at home in no time. All the cottages have balconies too. Perfect place to enjoy an ice-cold beer at night.

Let’s get to the best part: Cloud 9. It takes around 20 minutes or so of brisk walking to reach Cloud 9 from our resort. Or if you’re too lazy,city folk that you are, you can take the habal-habal for only Php20 per head.

I opted to take the long walk to Cloud 9 instead of riding a habal-habal

Since we’re not so familiar with the territory, we kind of sniffed around for a bit and found the perfect hangout right in front of Cloud 9, The Boardwalk. It is a resort with a square type dining area. The restaurant has a bunch of knickknacks to keep you entertained for free. Pool table, guitar, board games,you name it. Let me say that the food is good though pricey. And we later found out that the food in GL resorts are generally pricey. Might be for the reason that they have to transport supplies from other places. Anyway, this is also where we met our surfing instructor/tour guide Jerson.

The Boardwalk resort

My favorite American breakfast: Eggs, burger patty, hash brown and bacon. Php 195.

The main attraction of Cloud 9, aside from the surf(er dudes) is the actual boardwalk. It you’re too afraid to surf, this is the closest path that will take you to the waves. It is simply picturesque. Folks of all ages, color and disposition come here to chill, lurk and gawk at surfers.

The actual boardwalk leading to Cloud 9.

On the second day, we decided to do what we came here for: to surf. Early morning we trooped to Cloud 9 after a hefty breakfast. Best to do it early as the sun is not scorching hot and the tide is high. Though I have surfed in La Union years ago, I was still charged up, excited as a child to ride the waves again. It is indeed one of the best highs in the world. I surfed for two hours. And damn, there’s no single photo of my first Siargao surfing experience. Pffft. While walking back to the resort, I was thinking how I could forsake the corporate grind and make a living here so I could surf everyday of my life.

That night: muscle pain galore.

Cloud 9, nicknamed Crowd 9. Yes, those are all surfers.

Third day was island hopping day. Jerson contacted his boatman friend to give us a tour of the three famous islands for Php1500 all in, all day. First island was Pansukian or Naked island which is actually a sand bar about 200 m long. Why naked? Because it is indeed naked, nothing in there. Not even coconut trees. =D It reminded me of Bohol’s Virgin Island.

Naked Island, devoid of anything but shells. And grass.

The second was Daku Island. It’s called as such because it is daku or big, relatively. The highlight of my stay there : fresh coconuts, for only Php20 a pop. Happiness! The island has several cottages for rent. Usually, tourists eat their lunch here. They bring food or ask the locals to cook fresh seafood from the market.

Trivia: Daku Island utilizes solar energy for power generation.

Coconut! Yum!

The last destination was my favorite, Guyam Island. It reminded me of the beaches in Bantayan Island. Fine, white sand and eternally shallow waters. The island was practically ours for a day. I could live here. Sigh.

Guyam Island with its shallow waters.

Trees perfectly aligned.

We decided to end our boat trip at midday. We were stark hungry. Jerson led us to Ronaldo’s barbecue and bingo! This is where tourists, both local and foreign, eat!

Ronaldo’s Barbecue – very affordable, good food.

They have a range of silog dishes and Pinoy short orders for less than a hundred bucks. Barbecued stuff is only available during dinner time so we came back later that evening. Bingo again! It has the second best isaw I’ve ever tasted (best is still Mang Larry’s in UP Diliman, of course). I ordered 10 sticks as appetizer. Yes I’m an isaw monster.

Isaw and chicken liver.

We went back to the resort after dinner, grabbed a couple bottles of beer and concluded that if we were to live in a remote island, we’re gonna choose Siargao. I understand why it is so underrated here in the Philippines. And that’s entirely a different story. It is not just about the beach, the majestic waves, the scenery and all the hype about Siargao. It is about the friendly, unassuming locals, the passion of the people for surfing, the untainted intentions to make visitors happy. Yes I’ve seen the place beyond tourist eyes…and that’s a first for me. Someday, somehow, I will surf my way to happiness.