Island Life on Siargao

In March, I have taken a small break from motorcycle traveling and visited the Philippines. So many islands — 7,600 in total, thereof 2,000 inhabited ones — made it seem less practical to bring a motorcycle along. So I decided to leave the R on Borneo at a friend’s place and took a very affordable flight into Manila (thanks, Air Asia).

From Manila, I started traveling with my friend Paul from Germany, who had come there for a vacation (needless to say I got him to bring some spare parts along). I did like Manila for its busyness and energy, and we could enjoy some of the city views and also the nightlife. Compared to other South-East-Asian countries, Manila does have a very good nightlife with rather cool and stylish bars, and good music.

Our further route led us to the Visayas, the central part of the archipelago. The Philippines have it all: outdoor activities, diving, rock formations, pristine beaches. Having spent one week on Cebu, Siquijor, and Bohol, we wanted to visit Siargao, a smaller island a bit further off the track that is said to have a very laid-back atmosphere and the best waves in the country, also known as a Surfers’ Paradise.

The boardwalk to Cloud 9, a world-famous surf break

Reaching Siargao was a journey of its own. Although there is a small airport on the island, we preferred to go there by overnight ferry via Surigao City. The overnight ferry has two levels of bunk beds and is a very genuine and comfortable way of traveling while sleeping on the ocean. Taking the second ferry from Surigao to Siargao, it was still dark outside and on the top deck, I got to see one of the more beautiful sunrises of my life. As the sun was up, it was also apparent what else Siargao is known for: palm trees! Reputedly, it has the highest density of palm trees on the Philippines, which makes it very pretty to look at and rides around the island tend to be very scenic.

Overlooking the countless palm trees of Siargao.

The good thing about Siargao is that even if it is touristy, it still has a very untouched feel to it. Especially when leaving General Luna (saluting) as the central hub for accommodation and driving around the island, there’s some beautiful empty beaches and small villages to discover. On a Saturday afternoon, we got to visit Santa Monica in the north of the island, where we found very curious kids and were chatting away with some shop owners. We got a job offer at a bakery and were invited to hang out on a speed boat with some of the locals. Most Filipinos seemed very laid-back, humble and friendly to me, always ready for a chat. Sometimes I got asked whether I have a girlfriend. No? Why not pick a Filipina then? The cliché of the Westerner who would find his love on the Philippines seems to be mutually popular.

Alegria Beach marks one of Siargao’s more beautiful beaches in the North.
Visiting Santa Monica on the North of the island.
Villagers on a cock fight, a popular event throughout many of the Philippines’ islands on Saturday afternoons. In between two fights, the roosters are scouted and matched, and bets are set.
Villagers preparing roosters for a cock fight.
Locals playing Pool in General Luna. Thanks to the American influence after the Second World War, Pool and particularly Basketball are very popular throughout the country.

Most of the rental motorbikes on the island already have a surf-board rack, so you are basically encouraged to work on your surfing skills, which I did for a few days. Having surfed two or three times in South Africa, I did remember some of the basics, but surfing is quite tough to learn. At least, it is a good way to work out and tan, and even if you only stand two or three ways in a go, it makes you come back and is therefore kind of addictive.

Surfer coming out of the water at sunset.
World’s famous Cloud 9 surf spot features a three-story lookout platform.
Only for the more skilled ones: the surf break at Cloud 9.

Spending the days on Siargao with surfing, exploring the island and watching the sunset mostly every day was very relaxing and made a week seem rather short. It’s understandable that some tourists spend weeks there and tend to come back.

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