Island-Hopping and Surfing in Siargao: Meet the Fast Learners

Paradise still exists. In a land frozen in time and beauty, every waking moment is a dream. Experience walking on a dream in Naked, Daku, Guyam Islands in Siargao.

I love meeting people on my travels. Whether it be some seatmate during a short ride on the public bus, buddies during an adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting adventure, fellow bloggers during a meet-up at a festival, or some mates with whom to share an island-hopping experience, every encounter is worth remembering.


Harvey and I took the fastcraft  from Surigao City  for the 2.5-hr trip to Siargao. We checked in at ocean101 with the insistence of our habal driver. Come day 2, we were fortunate to have met Myra, Jun and Salse because then the five of us could split the boat expenses for our island hopping plans. More than just sharing the expenses, we shared uncontrollable giggles as everyone was wonderfully jovial. Jun and Salse have been traveling the Philippines and Southeast Asia for quite a while now as a couple. Jun is quite a character and a hit with the ladies at the restaurant because of his ab-forming jokes! Salse mentioned that she wants to travel to Harbin, China. Situated in Northeast  China and once the biggest Russian enclave outside Russia, Harbin (famous for its frighteningly cold winters) seems more Russian than Chinese. I knew of the place because of an episode (of a show whose title I forgot) in TLC. I’m looking forward to your Harbin photos, Salse!

Meet the fast learners: Jun, Salse, Myra, Ella, and Harvey

Jun compares his abs with the boatman's. damn close!

Myra, on the other hand, is a solo traveler who I thought was a local surf instructor when I first saw her. She did so well when we went surfing later that day that we only could marvel and be envious at how easily she could stand and be one with the waves. She works in advertising and graphic design and as much as she wanted to stay longer in Siargao, she has deadlines to meet. Oh well, all good things must come to an end. But then there’s always an opportunity to travel and not too long after this Siargao trip, I received an invite from Myra on FB for a Baler surf trip. (Ikaw na Myra! haha)


After the five-hour island-hopping to Naked, Daku, and Guyam islands, we then headed straight to cloud 9 for surfing lessons. Salse was asking if it was possible not to take lessons and just hit the waves, because they (Jun and Salse) were fast learners. From that moment on, we decided to call ourselves the fast learners (though I don’t really consider myself as one). I hope to travel again soon with this rowdy and witty group.


I never really admitted that I was a fast learner and I was risking my life on the ocean so I sought the professional help of Jose, a surf instructor. And though I haven’t conquered yet my fear of drowning and crashing onto sharp dead corals, at least I’ve tried standing on my board. (EMPHASIS ON TRIED.) And yes, I drank gallons and gallons of saltwater.


This I’ve realized after a hard day of battling the waves instead of riding with them: YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO STAND IF YOU ARE AFRAID TO FALL.


I know it would take me a long time to look at a surfboard the way Myra does (she’s totally in love with it) and though I could never be a true fast learner like Jun and Salse, I would always have fond memories of Siargao not only because of the beauty of the island but also because of the people I shared the memories with.

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Where to Stay in Cloud 9, GL, Siargao: Ocean 101 Beach Resort

large viewdeck fronting the ocean101 resort

We didn’t really organize our Siargao trip unlike our previous travel itineraries. We didn’t have any hotel reservation and we didn’t know what GL means until we docked at the Dapa port, Surigao del Norte. Such idiots. haha. Motorcycle drivers were swarming the port and shouting “GL!” “General Luna?!”. “Oh, so GL is General Luna”, I thought to myself in deep embarrassment. And yeah, everyone in the world (except us) knew that the famous surfing spot, Cloud 9, was in General Luna. (cringing to nothingness now)

We went past the swarm of harassing drivers and out of the port. A reasonable price is what we want and not P300. We found such a deal (P100) care of Mang tata.

Upon Mang Tata’s recommendation, we checked in at Ocean101 beach resort. Imagine how surprised we were to spot not a single filipino in the crowd except in the reception desk. Oh wow. Hot and daunting surfer bods were all over the resort. I say, bring it! (lol)

surfer dudes up for some wave action

The published rates were pretty affordable (cheap even) and the rooms were clean.

room at the left was our humble abode during our short-lived escapade

ocean101 by night

Type Rate
Honeymoon cottage    1500
Waterfront air-conditioned room Good for 2 persons 2000
Extra bed or extra person 900
Waterfront fan cooled  Good for 2 persons 1300
Extra bed or extra person 600
Air-conditioned room Surfer favorites  Good for 2 persons 1400
Extra bed or extra person 700
Fan cooled room Surfer favorite Good for 2 persons 750 
Extra bed or extra person 350
2nd floor w/ common T&B
Beach front 600
2 single bed 600
Backside 500

We chose the fan-cooled room (surfer favorite) and it didn’t disappoint us. It even had a heater for the shower. The bed was wide, and the sheets were immaculately white. I also had no problems with the fan conditioning.

This is what our room looked like.

Say hello to ate receptionist

rustic windows

sensual night lamp

And the food was divine. The portions were large (perfect for sharing) yet still very affordable. The selection was vast and varied; you can always find something you like.

These were our meals for our two-day stay at ocean101. Brace yourselves for some saliva action.

super burger for 150 pesos

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Exploring Surigao City: Day-asan Floating Village

Regarded as the “Little Venice of Surigao”, Day-asan is a quaint small fishing village comprised of houses on stilts and coral rocks. Everyone earns a living by catching fish and raising crabs and lobsters in fish cages. To get to the actual “Floating Village”  one has to cross the wooden bridges that link the cluster of houses to the mainland or hire a small motorized boat.

We reached the village at around 11:00am and asked a group of men where to book a day tour. A man introduced himself as a boatman and directed us towards the dock where a table is set up. He said we have to see his brochure. After agreeing on the scope of the day tour (mangrove tour, floating village, white beach) and buying packed lunch from the nearby hawkers, we took off.


We navigated the waterways framed with lush mangrove cover.

And stopped at a fish cage for some lobster and crab sightings.

Clear as can be, the sea was teeming with life. We could see the colorful corals and regretted not bringing a snorkel set. (Note to self: buy a good underwater camera)

Our boatman, Manong Julito, is the brother of the barangay captain (or the village chieftain if you may). He is strong beyond his years and kind beyond all measure.

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Exploring Surigao City: Mabua Pebble Beach

25 Aug 2011- Gloomy skies and and intermittent drizzles greeted me during my first few hours in Surigao City – the city of island adventures. Nat, a friend I met during the bloggers’ meet-up in Davao, texted me soon after touchdown and asked if my flight was delayed because of the weather. Fortunately it took off on time as planned, I told her. I was fetched at the airport by a friend, A, who was “commissioned” to be my acting tour guide. (I’m sorry for the task A but it was also a great experience for you because you realized you were a tourist in your own city. )

From the fundamentals of geology (which I took at uni way back when), I learned that beaches are formed through sediment transport influenced by wind, waves, and currents. The Mabua Pebble (or cobble, only that I wasn’t able to verify if the particle sizes are within the range 64–256 mm) beach, having composed of sediments with large grain size, may have been formed by wave action of very strong forward swash (forcing pebble material to be driven onshore) and a weaker return swash or backswash (causing material to be deposited). Choz! Chika lang. (I work with geologists and they will have me stoned to death if I get this wrong, quite literally.)

The beach could have looked better in the photographs if the sun wasn’t acting up. But the winds and and the raging waves of the sea all together provided the atmosphere I deemed appropriate for the soliloquy I was staging at the top of the stone hill. The view was magnificent and with every crashing wave came the refreshing splash of water onto my face, enlivening me with a newfound appreciation for the aggressive sea.

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Incense-Burning 101: Davao’s Lon Wa Budhhist Temple

A friend asked me where I get the diligence to write all my adventures and recall all the details of a previous trip. My answer: COFFEE. But seriously, I want to showcase the awesome people I meet during my trips like the security guard at the LongHua (or Lon Wa) Buddhist Temple who also accompanied me as my tour guide and photographer. I should have written down Kuya’s first name because my memory failed me this time and I cannot, with all my powers combined, produce a name from the depths of my mind. It was a good thing though that he had a name patch stitched on his uniform with his last name on it.
Meet Kuya E.S. Cervantes!

I was led into the prayer room, “the office”, the Thousand-Armed Kuan Yina, and even where they keep the ashes of the dead members. My guide suggested I say a quick prayer and burn three incense sticks. I stopped midway through my reflections because I found the smell of incense very sweet and addicting.

A myriad of colors and textures greeted me as I moved from one room to another.

How to get to Lon Wa (also Lon Hua) Buddhist Temple, Davao City :

  • Ride a Sasa-bound jeepney which will pass through Cabaguio Street.
  • Ride a Route 4 or 10 jeepney.
  • Don’t go looking for the Lon Wa Buddhist Temple signboard. LOOK FOR THE PHIL. ACADEMY OF SAKYA.

Pamulak and the Cancelled Davao-Zambo Flight (to my advantage)

I planned to go to Zamboanga right after my Kadayawan experience. Quite a packed week it was, with my 4-day Davao escapade and I didn’t want to brush off the travel bug yet as I already booked Manila-Zamboanga roundtrip tickets care of Airphil’s 100-peso seat sale six months prior to scheduled trip. I would still want to use the return flight so after booking a Manila-Davao ticket, I went for Davao-Zamboanga. Hayok kumbaga.


It was the 21st of August, the day of the flower parade or Pamulak (another highlight of the Kadayawan Festival 2011). As much as it pains me to miss out on the festivities, I carried on and checked out from the hotel early for my 8am Davao-Zamboanga flight. I saw a lot of celebrities at the Davao International airport, some of which I have photographed diligently to make my sisters jealous.


Already at the pre-departure area, the passengers of flight 5J 393 were informed that the flight has been cancelled. Zamboanga-bound passengers were enraged by the short voice-over and I saw an angry mob brewing and going towards the nearest cebupac crew. I pitied the lady in that yellow polo shirt who was assigned to the angry crowd because no matter how many times she explained the situation and the options available, the passengers (mostly composed of senior citizens) still shot the same questions at her, with the same intense fury as the ones who berated 2 seconds before. Kaloka!

The options presented were:

  1. Davao-Zambo next day flight
  2. Davao-Manila same day flight, Manila-Zambo next day flight (5am)
  3. Davao-Cebu same day flight, Cebu-Zambo next day flight (early morning)

I took option number two, lined up for my boarding passes and my complimentary one-way domestic flight (valid for 6months from date of cancelled flight) and went back to the downtown area to witness Pamulak with several travel bloggers! Yehey, something good came out after all! And yeah, we hit the beach too! (The Passig Islet adventure deserves a separate post so watch out for it!)

I was dead tired and I do know that I won’t enjoy Zamboanga anymore because of a wasted day out of my short 3-day supposed itinerary. I also wanted to catch up on my sleep debt so I chose the Davao-Manila, Manila-Zambo option with intention to avail only the first flight. My original Davao-Zamboanga flight only cost me 900pesos and now it will fly me to Manila. Kill me now for being an opportunist.


The supposed 9:40pm Davao-Manila flight was an hour delayed! Talk about overkill. To make up for the all-too-unbelievable damage inflicted on the passengers’ schedule, free dinner was served (a beef dish in tomato sauce which I liked). Upon touchdown in Naia 3, a shuttle service was arranged that would take us to Palm Plaza Hotel (which is neat and cozy despite its ancient feel). The 3-hour hotel accommodation came with a complimentary meal (another beef dish!) and I thank CebuPac for that. Wake-up call came at 3am shortly after I turned on the television and had a hearty laugh with an Eddie Murphy (arrogant-boxer-who-became -accomplice-to-CIA-agent-Owen-Wilson) movie. All I did at the airport was sip a cup of coffee and kill time waiting for the airport-loop shuttle (first trip was at 6am). At that moment all I wanted and needed was an 8-hr sleep.

At the end of the whole fiasco, I realized that the odds were in my favor. I just needed to play my cards right.

The 10-peso 20-minute ride to Paradise: Samal Island

Yet another solo adventure.

My wake-up call was the sweet chorus of birds making their presence known. Yes, there was a mini-aviary in my hotel. Eager to start the promising solo trip, I skipped breakfast and hurriedly left the hotel. Sasa Wharf was my stop and the jeepney fare was a mere P15. I noticed the group of people outside the wharf seemingly waiting for their companions; I approached them but was hesitant to ask for directions to the ticketing office. Instead, I turned towards the sari-sari store nearby and bought myself a bottle of water hoping that I could easily segue into sharing my travel concerns. The vendor turned out to be quite snobbish and as much as I hated having my questions answered in the form of another question, I kept my calm. I saw a group of teen excursionists hurrying their way past a tollgate of some sort and then I followed them. The ticketing station, it turns out, was a small booth where you get a token for 10pesos and you drop this token into a slot in a gate very much similar to that in MRT and LRT stations. How clever and efficient!


Not too long after I paid for my token, the barge was ready to accept passengers. Standing beside a motorcycle and a ladder dripping with oil the color of soot, I didn’t find the transit uncomfortable since it lasted for only 20minutes. I asked a lady near me if she knows of any resort she could recommend as I really don’t know where I’m going. She told me there are dozens, but never really gave a specific name. haha.


Disembarked and walked towards a convenient store for some snacks. I was starving but I needed a quick fill and something I could bring along the way so I opted for some chips and oatmeal cookies. Not knowing my destination, I approached and asked a Habal driver if he could bring me to the city tourism office for my inquiries. He gave me a better deal instead: a half-day tour around the island with stops in Monfort Bat Sanctuary, Hagimit Falls, and a beach resort of my choice (but I didn’t really know the choices so I went with what he recommended- Paradise) for just P350. The fare was originally set at P500 but I worked my charm. haha


 Monfort Bat Sanctuary (Entrance Fee: 40pesos)

It was a sight to behold. The cream limestone walls held black curtains of fruit bats. I marveled before the five cave openings that serve as home to 1.8billion Geoffrey Rousette Fruit bats, the largest colony of the said bat kind in the world! I didn’t mind the mosquitoes and the humid, putrid air filled with the stench of guano. I simply clicked away.

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Kadayawan Festival 2011: One Davao

Davao is a bustling metropolitan city still perfectly in touch with nature and tradition, keeping a careful balance of the new, the old, the strong, the wild, and the free. I was truly surprised to find the wide avenues, the heavy traffic, and the numerous malls. Yet more surprising was the fact that within access were the nature parks (Gap Farm Resort, People’s Park), the beach (Island Garden City of Samal, Passig Islet), and the wildlife centers (Philippine Eagle Center, Crocodile Park). Davao is a city of equilibrium. A sweet harmony of nature, tradition and progress is also exemplified by the Kadayawan Festival, this year having the theme “10 tribes, 1 vibe”.

P.S. I was lucky to have witnessed this colorful affair and I have Olan Emboscado to thank for the media pass.

Art Stud 1: Davao’s Ponce Suites Art Gallery

Ponce Suites is an unconventional hotel in Doňa Vicenta Village, Davao City which doubles as an art gallery as works of the celebrated Filipino artist Kublai populates the hallways, the hotel facade, the walls and the ceilings. Sculptures surround the establishment from a man taking a dump, to a kid in the quintessential oblation pose, to individuals coming to life out of a giant durian fruit. Kublai Ponce Millan is a UP Fine Arts graduate whose works are very much visible in the whole of Davao, from the Davao International Airport to the center’s People’s Park. And recently, Kublai embraced the world’s spotlight when his works were displayed at St. Peter’s Square, Rome, Italy for the Vatican Nativity scene.

I hailed the first tricycle that came to sight when I happily came out of Kangaroo Coffee Company (at the corner of V.Mapa and Tionko Streets). Fare was 30pesos and I was still in disbelief as I could not make out how close Ponce Suites was from the coffee shop with my google map as reference. Good thing I asked the cafe employee for directions. One of the many things I appreciate about the Davaoeňos is that they always are helpful in giving directions, answering questions, giving advice, and providing options.

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Tales of the G.I. in Davao: The Phil. Eagle Center on Public Commute

 Jumpstarting the long day ahead, I left the hotel at 6:30am. I knew that I needed time to spare for the instances that I would get lost. I was pretty certain of this.

The hotel receptionist informed me that in order for me to get to the Annil Bus Terminal, I have to ride a jeepney to Gaisano Mall and then ride another one passing through Quirino. My stop was at San Pedro Extension Corner Quirino Avenue where one can find the Calinan-bound buses. My destination: the Philippine Eagle Center.

For some strange reason, I missed my stop yet again and found myself already at Buhangin Road going towards the Davao International Airport. Oh silly me, I saw the nearest Jollibee and alighted from the jeepney. Aside from the growling stomach I was nursing, I was also drawn to the food store because of the free Wifi. No, I didn’t ask for directions from the guard which was the instinctive thing to do. The first thing I did was tweet about getting lost in Davao. Talk about priorities! Haha

Eventually I asked directions from the guard after having breakfast. I rode the Buhangin jeepney which passes through Qurino, and asked the driver to drop me off at Annil Bus Terminal. Seeing that the bus was still empty, I asked the conductor the departure time. I didn’t really hear what he said and simply assumed that we all have to wait till the bus is filled to the brim. I was surprised that we left after 15mins, with me being the only passenger. (Bus Fare to Calinan: P36)

From the town center, I rode a motorcycle (habal) to the Philippine Eagle Center for P20. I paid the entrance fee of P50 and went to see croc, the monkeys, and of course the eagles. There was a group of kids who were guided by Ateneo de Davao University students. Perfect opportunity for a free tour-guide through eavesdropping! Haha. Portions of what I heard: artificial insemination (which I don’t know how they explained to the kids), Junior, and Pag-asa.

I grabbed some refreshments at the souvenir shop and took photos of the cute keychains. Weeee! Now I had to catch another bus to the city because it was nearing noon and I still have a list of places to go to.