I first get to see Siargao in a blog of someone who I used to follow on Facebook. He went there during rainy season and blogged about his experience. I was amazed with what I saw and I promised myself that as soon as Cebu Pacific Air will have their piso seat sale, I will grab the opportunity.
Not long enough, Cebu Pacific Air had their piso seat sale on October 16, 2015 and I immediately booked a flight to Siargao on June 1, 2016. Yes, it’s 8 months away from the booked date. The advantage of doing this is you get more than enough of preparation and planning. You also have time to save for your travel funds.
It is important to note that Cebu Pacific Air does not have a direct flight from Manila. This contradicts the information that you can find from their official magazine, Smile and website. You will have to have a connecting flight via Cebu-Mactan International Airport. However, if you are planning to visit the Hinatuan River in Surigao del Sur and some other attraction in the province, you might want to consider booking a direct flight to Butuan City. This way, you will also save money for your airfare. Further, I have learned from fellow travelers that there are times that flights in Siargao get cancelled. This happens when the wind blows so hard and the aircraft could not land. You might to consider that as well as it may ruin your schedule.
As usual, I planned my itinerary at least a month before my travel date. I have read blogs hoping to find affordable accommodation and tours in the area as well as the attractions that I could visit during my travel. My point of origin is in Market! Market! in BGC, Taguig City. I took a cab to reach Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. Although, it is possible to commute by taking a jeepney that ply Gate 3 and from Gate 3, you have to walk your way to the u-turn section of Nichols IKOT jeepneys. Total fare would be around Php25.00 only compared to Php130.00 cab fare. Another option is to take a jeepney that will bring you to EDSA-Ayala or EDSA-Guadalupe. Then, you can take the MRT or a bus to go to the airport bus terminal located on the side of Sogo Hotel in EDSA-Taft. You may ask a local for direction of the terminal but it is really easy to locate. Total fare on this route would be around Php45.00.
My departure time in Manila going to Cebu is at 4:20 AM and the arrival in Cebu-Mactan International Airport is at 5:35 AM. This is my second time to be in Cebu but I was not able to see the Mactan Shrine the first time. I decided to go to Mactan Shrine by commuting. From the arrival area in Cebu-Mactan International Airport, I made my way to the departure entrance. This entrance is near the Waterfront Hotel. In Google Maps, it is labeled as Airport-Departure Rd. V-Hire (or also known as jeepney in Luzon) is located here. I tried asking people in the airport including personnel but they are not aware about it. They said that only cabs are available in the airport. I told them that it was my second time in Cebu and I have tried commuting with it that time.
Ask the driver to drop you off at Marina Mall. The fare is just minimum, Php7.00. Once you are in the area, just walk toward the M.L. Quezon National Highway. Ask a local for the V-Hire route that you should take that will bring you Mactan Shrine. The fare is just Php9.00. Just tell the driver that you will get off at the Mactan Shrine. The drop-off point for the shrine is just along the main road. There is no way that you will get lost. I spent few minutes in area taking photos. I also bought souvenirs in a shop situated just outside the park. I took V-Hire on my way back to the airport in a similar fashion. Take V-Hire from Mactan Shrine, get off at Marina Mall then walk your way to the V-Hire terminal that goes to the airport. But before I head back to the terminal, I bought myself something to eat for my breakfast.
I arrived in the airport 2-3 hours early so I decided to take a brunch at the Jollibee. This the counterpart of McDonald’s in the Philippines, which has expanded their operations globally as well. By the way, in case you would like to take earlier flights, you may want to ask at Cebu Pacific Air counter personnel if there will be available seat for you. They will accommodate you once the check-in is closed
I arrived at the Sayak Airport in Siargao at around 12:15 PM. Kuya Bebot, the habal-habal driver slash tour guide was waiting for me outside the airport. He brought a motorbike with an improvised shade on it. This is good to protect you from the sun. I did not book any accommodation yet because Kuya Bebot assured me that he will look for accommodation within my budget when I get there. I do not suggest doing this during peak season as you might end up staying in a place outside your budget.
I stayed at Dormitels, formerly known as Happy Gecko Siargao Backpackers Hostel. They offer the most affordable accommodation in the island. A bed is priced at Php200.00 per night. The room is air conditioned but it has a schedule. They offer free coffee every morning or you can just buy instant coffee or choco at the nearby sari-sari store. I spent the rest of the day taking rest and checking the sunset in the beach.
I woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise in the beach. Surfers are started coming in as early as 5:30 AM. Maybe the best time to do surfing is early in the morning where waves are good. I just took some photos in the beach and the famous Cloud 9 Boardwalk. At around 7:00 AM, Kuya Bebot and I headed to Magpupungko Beach and Rock Pool, which is about an hour drive away. This means, I get to enjoy the nature and the cold breeze while riding a motorbike. We spent almost 2 hours in Magpupungko Beach and Rock Pool taking pictures and enjoying the nature pool.
We headed to the town proper where we need to take a motorboat for island hopping. We took our lunch first at the nearby eatery before we went to the Naked Island, our first destination. Although Kuya Bebot did not inform me ahead of time, I get the feeling that it was his first time operating a motorboat. It took us a while before we finally left the docking area. He later confessed that it was his first time and he did take the opportunity because I’m solo and he feels that I will not complain. I told him that I support him 100% and I am happy to be an instrument.
It is called Naked Island not because people going here required to be naked. In a conservative country like the Philippines, it is something that you can only wish for–laughs. It is called Naked Island because you cannot find anything there but the island. They have tried planting trees like coconuts but it never grow. Although, there was a metal frame in the island that looks like a frame for a tent. Legend has it, that some creature is guarding the island. I told Kuya Bebot that if the local government is really into planting trees or plants in the island, they can do so by bringing in huge planter’s boxes in the island and watering it every time someone visits it. There is no entrance fee in Naked Island.
Our next stop was the Daco Island. There is a community in the island. Locals do not have a good source of electricity and is limited. Light posts are solar-powered. They do have primary schools in the island but only up to Grade 6. For senior high school and college, they need to cross the ocean to reach the main island. You can rinse with fresh water in the island from a deep well. You can also check the community as well. There are sari-sari store where you can buy affordable snacks. A fresh coconut costs about Php30.00. Docking fee in the island is Php100.00 per boat. Usually, this fee is shouldered by the travelers unless you have an agreement with the boatman.
The last island we visited was the Guyam Island. This is the island that I like the most. If you are planning to spend the rest of the day in your island hopping tour, I would suggest to spend most of your time here. You can pitch in tents or put a picnic cloth under the shade of the trees. Take note though, that there is no comfort rooms here or a supply of fresh water so you have to bring your own before starting your island hopping tour. When you get back to the main island, you can rinse to the nearby water pump. You have to pay Php10.00 per head for the entrance fee to the island.
Before we head back to Dormitels, I ask Kuya Bebot if we can purchase pandesurf and pandecoco. Unfortunately, pandesurf is already sold out so we end up buying pandecoco only. This is a must try delicacy in the island. I have never tasted such pandecoco in my life ever. Very tasty and fulfilling. As a matter of fact, I bought 10 pieces of pandecoco. It served as my breakfast and merienda the next day with my Sohoton Cave Tour.
Sohoto Cave Tour was no longer in my plan because the travel agency that I contacted for this did not meet the minimum of 6 pax for a day tour for them to go back to Hayanggabon Port. With the turn around of events, a group of traveler from Manila has contacted Kuya Bebot for a Sohoton Cave, Siargao and Island Hopping tours. I asked Kuya Bebot if I can join them. Kuya Bebot was more than willing to accommodate me. I made it clear to Kuya Bebot that at the end of the tour, I must go to Hayanggabon Port for Surigao City. He said, he will take care of it.
The original plan of leaving General Luna docking port for Hayanggabon Port at 3:00 AM became 6:00 AM due to a problem with his motorbike. Originally, Kuya Bebot will pick me up at Dormitels but after so many text messages and unanswered calls, I was told around 5:30 AM that he got a problem with his motorbike. He asked me if I can just go directly to docking port in the town proper. I told him that it is ok. Though, I waited that long, I did not feel that my time was wasted at all. I have a strong vibes that the plan will push through, which it did.
We arrived in Hayanggabon Port at around 8:30 AM where the group of travelers from Manila are waiting. I met Jen, Emm, Ivy and RJ. It was fun meeting them and they were very friendly. They told me that this is their second attempt to visit Siargao. The first one was cancelled because the aircraft cannot land on the airport due to strong wind. This time around, they booked a flight via Butuan City. They intend to visit the Hinatuan River but they changed their plans for some reasons. We spent island hopping, swimming with sting-less jellyfish, caving, cliff jumping and a light of trekking.
At the end of the tour, Kuya Bebot asked the owner of the boat, who coincidentally had a Sohoton Cave Tour as well, to drop me off at the Hayanggabon Port. There is no fresh water in Sohoton where you can rinse. When I reached the Hayanggabon Port, I immediately went to the eatery on the other side of the main road. I took a bath in a water pump together with other tourists. It is actually an open air shower area where you need to pump for your water. It is a give and take, you take turns in pumping for water. Sounds cool eh?– laughs. I then took my early dinner in that eatery and took a passenger van going to Surigao City.
Accommodation in Surigao City is a bit expensive. Fan room costs about Php350.00 a night. I took an air conditioned room for Php450.00 a night. It would have been cheaper if I traveled with companions. I visited Mabua Beach the next day. I rented a tricycle for Php200.00 with return. I only spent about 30 minutes in the beach. There are other things that you can do in Surigao City. You can the Luneta Park, City Hall, Battle of Surigao Strait Museum, Surigaonon Heritage Center, Pagkawasan Beach, Looc Beach, Sabang Beach, Basul and Danawan Islands, San Pedro-Cantiasay Wooden Footbridge and Barbecue Stands, among others.
Here is a video clip of myself with my new found friends in our Sohoton Cave Tour. It was taken using my SJCAM SJ5000+ Ambarella. I started having problem with my SJ5000+ a day before my travel to Siargao. It always stuck during boot up. I needed to removed the battery several times, blow on to it and tap on it hard. Sometimes it works but most of the time it does not.