Enchanting islands, dramatic and powerful reef breaks, caves with vanishing entrances swallowed by the tide—these and much more await one in this patch of paradise
Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
“Are you ready to go?” The message, sent privately through my social account, was from my sister, Marilou Eplite, who now lives in the United States. “What do you mean?” I inquired. “Would you come with me to Siargao?”
I was totally flabbergasted. She talked about it when I visited her last year in Florida. I wasn’t expecting it would happen too soon. But before I could ever think about it, she already purchased our plane ticket.
And so, two weeks before the Holy Week, my sister and I traveled together in a plane for the second time. We went together in 1999 yet when she accompanied me to receive the Journalist of the Year from the Rotary Club of Manila.
Now, we were on the same plane going to Siargao (which lies close to the deepest point of the Philippine Trench, measuring 10,700 meters below sea level) in Surigao del Norte. The island itself was made famous by film director Paul Soriano, who did a movie with the same name.
The flight took about 50 minutes. We arrived at Del Carmen and rode a van in going to General Luna. Travel time was almost an hour and the fare was PhP300 per person. After settling at the place where we would be staying for almost four days, it was time to explore Siargao.
There are no jeepneys or taxis in this island; the most convenient transportation is motorbike. To make our land tour memorable, we decided to hire a BiNGGO, a sort of tricycle where the driver is at the center while the passengers are at the back. We could actually just rent a vehicle but since we don’t know to drive, we decided to have a driver to go along with it. The cost: PhP700 for the vehicle and PhP 1,000 for the driver.
We started our land tour almost lunch time already but we were more eager than hungry. Our first stopover was the Maasin River, about 30-minute drive from General Luna. This place is famous for the coconut tree that bent where a rope is tied. A visitor can swing back and forth and then plunge into the 60-foot deep water.
From there, it was on to the town of Pilar, where Magpupungko Beach is located. The beach is known for its limestone formations and tidal pools or nature-made bathtubs scattered all over the place that can be enjoyed only during low tide. The name of the beach was taken from an odd-shaped boulder that rests on a flat-surface stone; from a distance the boulder looked like a face of a man.
Outside the beach, we had our lunch. Then, we decided to go back to General Luna to visit Cloud 9, for which the island is actually known for. In fact, Siargao has been called as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” The CNN Travel listed Cloud 9 as the No. 8 break in the world.
The website, Siargaoislands.net, gives this intense description: “(Cloud 9 has a) dramatic and powerful reef break, which crashes onto shallow razor-sharp coral, offers right and left death rides to those who dare. Those who do will experience a slice of paradise, or magic mushroom-like hallucinations, as the wave wraps over them like a Cornish pasty shaped cocoon of water. Don’t slip, or your skin and bones will be ripped to shreds by the ocean bed.”
On our second day, we decided to do island hopping. There were four islands to be visited that day. Bucas Grande was the farthest; it took us two hours to reach the place. The boat trip was boring but once we were in the island, it was a different matter.
Our boat stopped at Sohoton Cove National Park. Since it was still high tide, our guide told us to go first to the stingless jellyfish sanctuary. My sister and I took a small boat and the boatman himself was our guide.
On our return, the group was ready for the Sohoton adventure. The boat can accommodate eight persons. When we were to enter the Blue Lagoon, our guide said to watch out head as we entered the vanishing entrance (it was sort of like Underground River in Palawan but shorter). It was called vanishing since during high tide it disappears as it is under water.
My sister did enjoy getting into the Hagukan Cave. Once inside the cave, if you splash the water, it gives an electric blue glow; which is why is it is labeled as the luminescent cave. In Magkuku-ob Cave, you swim into it and then climb up to emerge at a 5-meter cliff, where you jump into the lagoon.
After all the fun, we returned to where we had started to eat our lunch. After doing so, we were ready again for another boat travel going to three more islands: Naked, Guyam and Daku. If the initial boat trip was boring, this time around it was something exciting: the waves were higher and we all got soaked. “It was a two hours of wild boat ride,” I told my sister.
The 200-meter Naked Island is called so because it is just a stretch of white sandbar with nothing to it – not even a single coconut tree where you can take a shade to get save your skin from the intense heat of the sun.
Resting at the east of the Naked Island is the Daku Island, noted for its surf breaks. It is called as such because it is the biggest among three islands. Since it was getting late, we stayed in the area for a short time, then traveled to nearby Guyam Island, a tear-drop shaped island.
On our third day, we continued our island-hopping saga. Our first stopover was Sugba Lagoon in Del Carmen; it is somewhat “hidden” as the place is surrounded with mangroves. The main attraction is the diving board (where I had my picture taken but didn’t jump as I was afraid of heights). Other activities you can do include kayaking (which we did), stan-up paddling and bamboo rafting.
After the Sugba Lagoon, we went to the Kawhagan Island. It has towering palms trees, a stretch of fine white sand shores (where I had taken some of the picturesque photos of my sister), and crystal-clear waters. We also had our sumptuous lunch in the island.
Our fourth day was spent on sleeping at the place where we were staying. After eating our late breakfast, we went touring around the place to buy some souvenirs. Then, we returned and packed all our things ready for our trip back to Davao!