No thanks to tropical storm Usman, the Coast Guard said “no” to Cloud 9 — the mecca of surfing in the Philippines.
What the heck do I care? I don’t know how to surf. I can’t even swim! But I would have wanted to test my baby skills in photography on surfers in action…and then I found out Cloud 9 wasn’t even in our itinerary. Ahahahahaha.
So, what do you do in Siargao aside from surfing? A whole EDSA-traffic-level lot (based on a 2-day itinerary).
We first went to Sugba Lagoon where you can either swim or dive, or test your core and balance on kayak, raft, and paddle board. I didn’t do any of those. I know, I know. I’m such a downer. But I wasn’t feeling good (headache for more than a week now, and cold). But everyone seemed to have a rambling good time, so all is well in the world.
We headed next to Magpupungko Beach, and there we saw Cloud 9-ish waves. It was low-tide when we got there, so they (I’m feeling sick, remember?) got to swim in a rock pool. It’s a depression from a rock formation where you can also dive. I got to take a few lame photos of the teasing waves, bought pan de coco and grilled plantain (rolled in margarine and sugar), and tasted tiny fish balls made right before your eyes. Life is fair.
The following day was a real challenge and test of will. If I learned something at all from this trip, it’s that the local tour guides have a major issue about measurements. No disrespect here because they’re good-natured, patient and accommodating. But, dude! Someone said the boat ride to Sohoton Cove will take from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on weather conditions. That’s a huge disparity, and who would take the boat ride on a crazy weather? Well, uhm, we did. Hehe. In another instance, we were told that the dive going inside Hagukan cavern is 3 meters long, when I think it’s probably just 3 feet. I’ll go to that later.
Sohoton Cove is where everyone is promised to experience serenity and peace (and perhaps develop love for all mankind). I welcomed the idea after taking perhaps the longest boat ride of my life. Approximately two and a half hours nonstop, bitch! (I was told going to Cloud 9 will take about 9 hours, but again, the measurement issue…) Pardon the language, but wheeeeeew! I just had a newfound appreciation of my physical and mental strength and endurance. The strength training and yoga practice paid off.
Our first stop in Sohoton was the Hagukan Cavern. By the way, it’s called Sohoton because you will “sohot” (go through) narrow crevices to get to the caverns. We were required to wear helmets to avoid bumping against stalactites as we go through a low cave.
At Hagukan, you’re supposed to dive to get inside the cavern where the water “glows” in the dark. Tempting, right? When it was my turn, I chickened out. For a non-swimmer like me, fear would always be there. 3 meters is not a joke. But my friend (who’s also a non-swimmer) took the challenge and I’m like “WTF, I paid for this”. So I asked the guide again how far the dive would take me. He said about eight seconds for 3 meters. He held his arms at full length on both his sides, and I told myself, “well, that’s definitely not 3 meters, so let’s do this”. I mean, I’m not an engineer, but that doesn’t look like 3 meters to me. So I plunged, my right ear hurt a bit, but no panic attack. When I surfaced inside the cavern, I heard my name accompanied by gleeful cheer. I’m with such supportive friends.
And did the water glow in the dark? Yes, it has that effect especially if you create ripples and tiny splashes on the water. It’s the light coming from the crevice reflecting on the water. And just like how I conquered my fear in El Nido’s Secret Lagoon, I’m glad I gave fear the finger on this one as well.
Next stop was Magkukuob. Here, you need to take a shorter dive, climb up through steep steps, see crystals (yihee), end up in a platform, and dive your way back down into the water. Needless to say, I just stayed in the boat and took videos of my millennial companions who took the dive.
Our final stop at Sohoton was the jellyfish sanctuary. We saw two small jellyfishes, yey! It’s hard to focus on the activity because we were on a small boat that almost touched the water surface when we got inside (three passengers in all, including our guide). I did get to help paddle the boat on our way back, though. I wanted to go back to the dock pronto because a NDRRMC warning said there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in nearby Davao Oriental, and advised against going near or in the water. The message came right when we were halfway through to the sanctuary on a really small boat. Impeccable timing.
The boat ride going back was craaaaazy. Maybe it’s the earthquake aftermath, or maybe it’s paranoia and lack of faith working. Because earthquake+storm+water=probable tsunami, right? And remember 2 and a half hours? So yeah, it was a bumpy ride, with water spraying all over us along the way. We were actually screaming with amusement more than anything. We’ve experienced going through bigger waves when we went to Nagsasa in Zambales a few years ago, so yeah, this was nothing. We did have to move all the way to the back of the boat to minimize the splashing of the water against the boat.
Mind you, there are still three more island beaches to explore in our itinerary for the rest of the day, so why not? NOT, because it was already a little past four in the afternoon and it was really getting chilly and the waves are not cooperating.
Mid-way to our next destination, we had to stop for several minutes because our propellers needed some fixing. I have to admire my group because despite the stressful situation we’re in, no one got difficult. Secretly, though, we already wanted to go home.
We finally reached the Naked Island sand bar. By this time, I was really feeling cold. This is probably the fastest time I’ve ever spent on a beach. We went down, took a few photos, and got back on the boat in world record pace. The sun was almost down by this time, so we decided to ditch the two islands on the itinerary and went back to our inn.
I did say we went to Siargao when typhoon Usman made landfall, right? I was praying for the typhoon to melt away before, during, and after the trip. The Man up there heard me. He’s awesome. There were rains during our stay, but they only came at night when we were safe inside our rooms.
Looking back, we actually appreciated the fact that the weather was cool when we had that grueling boat ride to and from Sohoton. Had it been scorching hot, we would have been sore all over until we get back to Manila.
One important note: food prices are high. As in, Makati and BGC high. Nothing below 150 (which is the cheapest) for one meal. Night life thrives in Siargao until the early hours the following morning, which explains why restaurants open late for breakfast.
Just like my previous travels to some Philippine islands, this Siargao trip deserves another round. I will not stop saying that the Philippines is breathtakingly beautiful, not because I’m from here, but because it has more than 7,000 reasons to prove it. Your life deserves to try at least one.