Siargao In The Eyes of a First-timer

Sunrise at Cloud 9

Siargao is a tear-drop shaped island in the Southeast part of the Philippines that will leave you breathless and lets you go home with a peaceful heart.

I am not sure if this is the right time to write about Siargao since there is currently an influx of tourists and travelers with an ongoing struggles on the waste management. However, I think I would miss the opportunity to share this treasure to the people who wanted to find peace amidst the hustles and bustles of life just like me. Hence, I am writing this.

I may not gone to many islands, and cities and countries, but I can say that Siargao has stolen my heart as soon as I set foot on the island. The quality of life – it’s simplicity and tranquility made me re-think about my life’s choices and of the things that actually matters. One of the locals I was able to talk to during my short stay in Siargao described the life in the island as “slow and peaceful, yet very satisfaying”, to which I couldn’t agree more.

Best Time to Go

Surfing season in Siargao is from August to November with the Annual International Surfing Competition being help in September. If you wish to experience the island without too much crowd, you can try booking from January to March. However, heavy rains come some days in between those months, so it is very important to be mindful of the weather when booking as flights are very likely to be cancelled when that happens.

Sayak Airport

Siargao is served by Sayak Airport, which is located in Surigao del Norte. One of the most elusive destinations in the Philippines before 2018, with limited airlines that fly directly to Siargao. Thanks to the airlines who are constantly stepping up to meet the demands, there are now daily direct flights to Siargao.

Budget Estimate

Airfare to Siargao is a bit expensive. On average, a round trip ticket from Manila to Siargao is estimated at PHP 3,000 and up. During peak season, a one way ticket can be higher. But this hefty price tag is worth it once you arrive.

An alternative and the cheapest option to Siargao is to take the overnight ferry from Cebu City to Surigao City and then take a fastcraft to Siargao. Here is the complete Cebu-Surigao-Siargao-Cebu boat schedule.

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Accommodation – There are several budget accommodations in Siargao that are less than PHP 1,000 but are more than Instagram-worthy and offer quality spaces. You can also find very cheap hostels that cost around PHP 250. For a five-star resort, an exclusive villa is priced at around PHP 7,000 and up.

I was able to book a fan room for a 3 nights stay at Point 303 Resort, which is just a minute walk from Cloud 9, for only PHP 1,550!

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Food – Enjoy good food for as low as PHP 100 when in Siargao. From home cooked-style meals sold in local eateries to Western cuisines and more fancy dishes (I didn’t go for fancy ones 😉 ), foodies will have a hearty meal all throughout their stay.

I’m sure there are a lot more places to visit and things to do in Siargao. but here are the places I was able to go during the trip:

Magpupungko Tidal Pool and Tayang Ban Cave

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From General Luna, we took a ‘habal-habal’ going to Magpupungko Tidal Pool and Tayang Ban Cave and back to Point 303 for PHP 800 for 2 persons. Magpupungko is about an hour travel time from General Luna, and Tayang Ban Cave is just a few minutes away from Magpupungko Tidal Pool. We paid PHP 50 each for the environmental fee at Magpupungko and a donation at Tayang Ban Cave.

Hop Daku, Guyam, and Naked Islands

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The jump-off point is from General Luna. Boat rates range from PHP 1000.00 and up depending on the number of persons joining the tour. Lunch is not included in the tour so you have an option to bring raw food from General Luna for lunch and have it cooked by the locals at Daku Island, or you can just buy food from Daku Island if you don’t want to hassle going to the wet market early in the morning.

Cloud 9

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A Siargao trip is not complete without the view of Cloud 9. Besides surfing, the sound of the waves and the majestic view of the sunrise and the sunset in Cloud 9 is something you would not want to miss. Surfing rate is at PHP 500/hr including surfboard rent and an instructor.

There are still a lot of places in Siargao that I haven’t ticked off my list, that’s why I am coming back!

 

Insider Tip

-You can rent a motorbike so you can explore more of the island.

– Bring water during island hopping.

-Bring enough cash since most establishments do not accept credit cards and there are very few ATM machines around the island.

 

Contacts:
Island hopping – 09090106886
Surfing Instructor – 09364612114
Hotel and Airfare – bookings.graceawaytours@gmail.com

 

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3D2N El Nido + Puerto Princesa

26113990_1920837151266021_3279115851522348987_nPalawan was one of those “I-only-saw-on-TV” places for me when I was a kid, and having been invited to join a trip to El Nido via Puerto Princesa is like giving me the key to unlock the door to Palawan – how can I say no?

Luckily, we were able to book a promo fare with Cebu Pacific from Cebu to Puerto Princesa for only 898 pesos! I said to myself, “This is a good sign that I am really meant to visit El Nido!”.  Booking 5 months ahead of your travel dates is always worth it if you’re looking to get the airfare at the cheapest.

Came September 22, 2017…El Nido, here I come!

Onboard a ferry boat going to Toledo from San Carlos

Since I am traveling from Negros, I had to travel by a ferry boat and a bus ride (or V-hire) from San Carlos to get to Mactan International Airport.

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Mactan Bridge – on the way to the Airport

After a 3-hour travel from Negros going to Cebu, I waited another couple of hours for our flight to Puerto Princesa. It was raining when we left Cebu for Puerto Princesa – we’re just glad our flight did not get cancelled.

After an hour flight, we finally arrived at Puerto Princesa. Yes, I conquered the land, the air, and the sea just to get to Palawan! Haha!

Fresh ka pa ba, bes? haha

There’s more! We still have to endure a 4-hour drive from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. I basically traveled the whole day!

We stayed at Amigos Inn for the night and also booked the island hopping tour with them. I was very excited for the island hopping and woke up at around 5:30 in the morning for sunrise…and this view greeted us in the morning…

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A very photogenic cat! And oh, boats…lots of it!

I was not expecting to see lots of boats considering it’s not a peak season! Oh, well..it’s El Nido I thought.

We started the island hopping at 9:oo AM and went back ashore by 4:30 PM.

Here’s the itinerary for the tour we availed:

El Nido Tour A 
📍9:00 – 7 commando beach (Php250 picture – optional)
📍10:45 – Matinloc Island
📍11:20 – Big and Small Lagoon
📍12:01 – Payong-payong island free seafood buffet lunch + snorkeling (missed Shimizu island – too crowded)
📍13:51 – Secret beach/Secret Lagoon (open sea)
📍15:00 – Miniloc Island
📍16:30 – Check out

💡 Few tips for Island Hopping:

 Bring enough water for the entire dayThere are ‘floating’ vendors in the area, but they sell food and water twice the price in the supermarkets!
✅ If you want to rent a kayak, do rent it for half day which costs 400 pesos than renting it at 200 pesos for one-time use.
Don’t forget to ask your guide to enter the small cave for a full experience 😉

We wanted to make the most out of our 3 days in Palawan and so we decided to book a day tour in Puerto Princesa. Amigos Inn’s owner was kind enough to book us an exclusive van (with a driver/tour guide) for our day as well as the Inn for an overnight stay! How convenient is that?

PPS City Tour (Php1500/Van)

📍7:45 – Check out at Roma Bed and Breakfast
📍8:10 – Butterfly garden/Palaw’an Tribal Village
📍9:03 – Mitra Ranch
📍9:22 – Baker’s hill
📍10:09 – Baywalk Park
📍11:00 – Cathedral/Plaza Cuartel (5 mins by car from Baywalk Park)
📍11:25 – Must try Chaolong/Pho noodles + garlic bread
📍13:10 – Lunch at McCoy’s
📍14:45 – Souvenir shop

Total cost of the trip was around 6,000 pesos including the return airfare and souvenirs I bought for my friends and family back home.

Watch a video of the trip here:

Contacts:
📍Amigos Inn, El Nido - 0918 241 3292
📍Van for City Tour, Puerto Princesa - 09122593770/09267253019
📍Roma Pension Bed and Breakfast - 0939 791 0271

 

Summer and The Beach: Sumilon Island

Sumilon Island is just a few minutes away by boat from the Whale Shark watching site in Tan-awan, Oslob. It is usually included on the list to visit for the whale watchers in Oslob (planned or unplanned) since the island is very close to the site.

Even before we finished the orientation for the whale shark adventure at the briefing area, a boat owner already came to us and offered to bring us to Sumilon Island. Since we don’t have an itinerary, we agreed to spend a few hours on the island and rent his boat for 1,700.00 pesos. A fixed rate of 1,500.00 pesos for 1-5 persons, and 2,000.00 pesos for 6-10 persons. Since we are a group of seven (7), we were supposed to be renting the boat for 2,000.00. As usual, Filipinos are very known for our great bidding skills, so we did try to bid and got the boat 300.00 pesos less than the fixed rate for the whole afternoon. If you’re planning to go to the island, booking a boat ahead to bring you to the island is not necessary. However, for your convenience and peace of mind, you could always opt to do so. 🙂

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On the boat going to Sumilon. *Photo grabbed from Korina May Gomial*

15 minutes on the outrigger boat and we have this view in sight.

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View from the cliff, just on the right side of the stairs going to Bluewater Resort.

Summer and weekends here in the Philippines, always expect a big crowd of tourists – foreign and locals, on the beach and other tourist spots.

Since we did not plan to include Sumilon Island on the trip, we didn’t have the budget to stay at the resort. We also could not use the sandbar to place our things at while we go swimming because the water level is high that day, and so we did it “cowboy sytle“. We ate our lunch by the cliff and left our things there as we dipped into the clear waters.

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View by the cliff while having lunch.

After lunch, we took a few photos before plunging in.

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My failed blogger pose. 😛
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The group I went with.

Other than swimming, cliff jumping is also one of the things that you can do in the island, among many others.

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Trying to gain courage before jumping. 😀

After a couple of hours in the water, we started packing our bags and waited for our boat to fetch us.

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Just before leaving the beautiful island.

All in all, it was a great experience. I have proved again to myself that having fun and exploring places doesn’t have to be costly.

Summer and The Beach: The Whale Shark Adventure

Beach

When talking about summer, beaches always comes to my mind. Everyone is on the “salt in the air, sand in my hair” feels, and so am I. Going to the beach doesn’t only mean getting a nice tan. It is a great place to free your mind from all the daily stresses, to find relaxation, and just feed your eyes with the view of the sea and the clouds.

However as time went by, people are more inclined to traveling. The beaches in the Philippines has been one of the go-t0 places by travelers – local and foreign ones. As they say, it is always summer here in the Philippines. Beaches started to get crowded, especially the famous ones and it has become a place for drinks and parties. Luckily, living in a country with 7,107 islands (and counting), I could just go on an hour bus ride and find a beach somewhere. Without spending too much, I can get a beautiful, relaxing view away from the crowd.  If you feel like getting more adventure, island hopping could be one for you.

One of the best things I was able to do this summer was, yes, beaching. This time, with a little taste of adventure. As usual, I joined another group of travelers going to Oslob, Cebu City. The town is best known for the whale watching adventure and the nearby Sumilon Island.

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Sibulan Port going to Lilo-an Port

From Dumaguete, we went to Sibulan Port and got into a ferry boat going to Lilo-an Port. And yes, the 6am view at the port was beautiful.

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Lilo-an Port, Santander, Cebu

After 30 minutes on the ferry boat, we were welcomed by this amazing view at the port. I wanted to jump into the water right then and there! Good thing we have a bus to catch going to Oslob where the whale sharks were waiting for us, or I already took a dip into that crystal clear waters.

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This was not even 1/4 of the tourists waiting for their turns to watch and swim with the whale sharks.

A 30-minute bus ride from Lilo-an Port got us at the briefing and registration area in Tan-awan, Oslob for the whale watching adventure. I was told that there might be quite a lot of tourists going to the place during weekends, but I was not expecting that we will be welcomed by a sea of people! Because of that, we have to wait for a couple of hours to get on the boat.

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On the boat going to the site. *Photo credit to Korina May Gomial*

 

After two long hours of waiting under the scorching heat of the sun, we finally got into the boat going to the site. Whale sharks, here we come!

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*Photo credit to Korina May Gomial*

And there goes Mr. Whale Shark! This friendly giant was definitely worth the wait. The thrill and the excitement every time they pass by in front of me was just priceless. It was very tempting to touch them, but I wouldn’t risk paying 20,000 to 50,000 pesos as fines for touching the whales, or worse going to spend some time in jail. They said that whale sharks are pretty sensitive that touching them wouldn’t be good for these gentle giants. So, nope! My eyes are already satisfied just by watching them swim right by me.

Yes, under Republic Act 9147, an Act for the conservation  and Protection of Wildlife Resources and Habitats, it is illegal to maltreat or kill endangered species, like the whale shark. The penalty is three to six months in jail with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 for maltreating an endangered species.  A longer prison term and higher fine is slapped for killing and destroying them.

We were on the site for 20-30 minutes and then we went back to the briefing area. Swimming with whale sharks was an experience of a lifetime. Although I am not part of their food chain, seeing these gentle giants up close with their mouths wide open as they were being fed was terrifying. However, they seem very calm and kind.

 

 

The Ruins: Abandoned by Time

Abandoned

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The ruins of an old church in Camiguin Island, Philippines. One of the oldest churches that was built during the Spanish occupation in the country.  It was constructed in the 16th century at the island’s Spanish era capital called Cotta Bato. In the 1870’s, the eruption of a nearby volcano shook the town pitilessly until all the houses and the structures went down to rubble.

Although the walls of the building was the only structure that was left by the devastating incident, it has continued to be a sanctuary to the people until this day.

The old church might have been abandoned by time, but it was never abandoned by it’s people.