Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29

Happy birthday Papa! I miss you very, very much!

Papa Mike (1939-2007)

Papa's last birthday @ Masao beach
(with co-celebrant Tito Jody and Lolo Tarudo)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Siargao Adventure: An Epilogue

We left Travellers Resort at almost 4AM on Tuesday, Sept. 23. We were all very quiet on the way to the port. Perhaps we were sleepy, perhaps we were musing, or perhaps we were simply in disbelief that this one good thing has come to an end.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We rode the Fortune Angel and left Dapa at 6AM. I stayed at the upper deck and watched Siargao slowly disappear into the horizon...


Ronnie left Siargao a day after us. Dondi came to Butuan yesterday, Saturday. I invited both of them to a small dinner gathering at the Flores house in Doongan. It was Uncle Gumer's death anniversary. We introduced Dondi to our other friends, Janice, Caryl and Lynn. Jurgenne also came with Ronnie.

If our Siargao nights were crazy, this night was a laughfest. Dondi was visibly in awe of Lynn's hilarious antics. After all, Lynn/Lino, is the one who gave us "Gigicamer", "T-Fronter" and "Chikert! Chikert!" - all seemingly meaningless words but words that, to us, bring a million laughs...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Siargao Day 3: Almost goodbye...

I was roused from sleep once again at 4:30AM on our third day in Siargao. I changed from my sleeping attire and went down to the beach. It was cloudy so I went back to the room and took a shower. An hour later, I was ready to go. I waited at one of the kiosks and enjoyed the morning chill. Dondi came out, greeted me good morning and rushed to Cloud 9. The first round of surfing heats was rescheduled for that day because the waves were not big enough on Sunday. Ronnie came out a bit later and started taking pictures.

It was around 7AM when everybody was up and ready for Cloud 9. When we got to the site, there were still very few people around. As usual, we did what we have learned to do best in Siargao - photo sessions.

Darlene and me by the surfing "monument"

With our new friend Alex C., #4 surfer of the Philippines

Surfing champion of the Philippines, Heavyweight Division :)

Darlene on the new walkway leading to the viewing tower

The last leg of the walkway - I thought this was going to be easy!

The viewing tower

No ID, No Entry?

The comp begins...

Defending champion, Wade Goodall

More surfers...

It was a slow morning and the world-famous Cloud 9 barrels were nowhere to be found. One surfer commented, "The waves are sleeping!".

We left the tower and had brunch at Marife's, the best food joint in Cloud 9. I had spaghetti while the rest had omelettes and crepes.

Darlene's bacon and cheese omelette

Humongous, yummy, syrupy banana crepe!

Darlene with No. 1 Filipina surfer Nilde Blancada @ Marife's

After eating, Darlene, May and Jane went back to the resort to catch more Zzzz's. I was left behind with Ronnie and Alex, who placed 3rd in his heat. He complained about the lack of waves and how they were forced to ride on bad ones just to get Round 1 over with. We learn a little later that the rest of the heats were postponed because the waves continued to lull. Alex and Ronnie recalled last year's competition which was finished in three days. They said the waves were near perfect! Where are those waves now???, I wondered.

Ronnie and I decided to go back to the resort and wait for Dondi there. He was supposed to bring us to the former mayor's house for lunch. It was the town fiesta!

Dondi came from his organizing chores at around 1PM. We proceeded on HH to our hosts' house. The couple were both former mayors of General Luna. We were served food al fresco. Again, there were so much food that I could not recount everything. There was lechon, fried lumpia, humba, afritada and many, many more! Our lady host was very accommodating. We told her about the new love team brewing in the group and she readily said she would be the ninang at the wedding!

Our balikbayan hosts from the other night came by when we were on our way out. We said hi and goodbye and went back to Cloud 9.

Welcome to General Luna!

Back at Cloud 9

Less than 5 minutes in Cloud 9 and May was already asking, "Asa tong namaligya ug halo-halo?". We were all floored! We could not even walk straight after all the eating at lunch! Alas! There was no halo-halo available that day. We walked to Ronnie and Dondi's "hideout" and found two girls sleeping there. We talked and shared some more laughs. Dondi was his usual crazy self and entertained us no end. He pointed to us "Quiksilver" and "Jacking Horse". A little later, the boys took a dip in the water while eying some bikini-clad girls swimming nearby. Jane contented herself by posing for more photos.

Billabong babe!


The view from the "hideout"

Jane and her favorite surfboard

We stayed at the hideout until it was time to eat again. We went back to Marife's and cooled off with milkshakes. It was already dusk when we went back to the resort.

Back at Travellers Inn, the group decided to go night swimming. I changed into my swimming gear and was last to follow in the water. Dondi started telling ghost stories so I covered my ears and hummed to myself. I also sang "Part of Your World" which Dondi thought was a religious song! When it started to drizzle, the three girls went back to our room. I stayed behind with my two "bodyguards". We relaxed in the warm water and watched a firefly flutter by. It has been ages since I last saw a firefly! I recall catching them at our backyard when I was little. I trained my sight on the firefly until it was gone. At that exact moment, I felt like a kid again.

Soon, Ronnie came out of the water and headed back to the resort. Dondi and I followed shortly. It was time for dinner.

On our way in, we saw Alex waiting for us. I talked to the resort owner to get our bill and went inside the hut. We took turns taking our shower while May and I did our computation. The boys were early and got impatient so they decided go ahead and eat dinner at the local barbecue stall. We were still full anyway so we told them we'd meet up at Nine Bar.

It was almost 8PM when we were finally ready for our last romp in Siargao. May had to do some reports so Jane and I left while Darlene stayed with her. Ronnie and Dondi were already at Nine Bar when we arrived. They caught the last of the lechon party and were having ribs and free beer. Alex had to meet up with a friend somewhere and would return later.

The GL party owls continued to pour in as the night wore on. Alex came and so did Chris Pulo and his puppy. Darlene and May joined us at almost 10PM. They brought tempura chips and I ate it with my "innocent" Sprite.

By this time, the "Siargao Super Six" already had a bunch of inside jokes to share and laugh about. A different mix of people would come to our table, say hi and continue on. An Israeli named Kenny(?) introduced himself to us and made small talk. An Australian girl who owns one of the resorts in GL sat beside Ronnie and lingered there for a while. Ronnie, who swears loyalty to his wife, did not even bother to look and say hi. Snubbed, the drunk girl left and moved to another table. Later, Alex and Jane made their way through the dance floor.

They did not stay long because Jane was not comfortable being stared at by different girls. Alex apparently had too many admirers who were eager to check out his dancing partner. He smiled innocently and denied knowing all those girls.

With the surfing heats continuing early the next day, the crowd thinned out as quickly as it swelled. We left the bar at a little past midnight.

Last shot

Back at the resort, we prepared our stuff for our return trip to Butuan early the next day...

Goodbye Siargao...

(Photos courtesy of Ronald and Darlene Chua)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Siargao Day 2: The adventure continues...


I started my second day in General Luna at 4:30 AM. While everybody else was asleep, I got up to watch the sunrise by the beach. It was low tide and I can see some rocks and corals protrude from the still waters. It was a magnificent sight!

The body of water along the shore of Cabuntog, General Luna is actually a lagoon, protected by a reef at a distance. That is why there are no waves in this part of Siargao waters. On that particular morning, the lagoon was very peaceful. I sat at the floating cottage and took in the view - sun, sea, sky and sand. Perfect! This is one of those moments when you are simply in awe of the wonders of nature and the divine hands that created it. I started to sing "God of Wonders" in my head.

I stayed on for the next two hours. I watched small fish bob in and out of the rocks underneath the hut. Occasionally, small flying fish would jump out of the water, one after another. I also spotted the famous non-stinging orange jellyfish.

When I got back to the room, Darlene, Jane and May were still asleep.

I took a shower, dressed up and prepared my stuff for our island hopping trip that day. Dondi already contacted a boatman the day before. We planned to go to Naked, Dako and Guyam Islands. I really wanted to go to Sohoton but it was too dangerous for travel at that time of the year. It takes two hours to sail from General Luna to Sohoton.

I stayed at one of the open cottages while waiting for the other girls to wake up. Darlene joined me a little later. A vendor stopped by the resort and sold us some crabs. Darlene and I bought 5 and 1/2 kilos of large crabs at P320/kilo. We gave the crabs to the cook and instructed her to include it on our lunch basket which we pre-ordered from them.

Shortly before 8AM, breakfast was ready. Ronnie was kind enough to pick our order of surf bread from the panadera. We had a hearty breakfast of rice, surf bread, liver spread, eggs, longganiza, danggit and bananas.

Pan Surf (Surf-shaped bread)

Ronnie went to the boatman's house and was informed that he cannot make it. So, we had to rent the boat of the resort. I figured that we would leave a little later than scheduled so I decided to take a dip while the rest had another photo session. It was a bright, sunny day! Two kids came near me and told me that they were catching sayaba, the stingless orange jellyfish. I joined them and fearfully scooped my first jellyfish in my hand. It literally felt like jelly! I soon got the hang of it and caught more jellyfish. The kids would play with them for a while and release them back to the water. It would be a crime to kill this rare species!

Island Hopping

It was almost 10AM when our boat was finally ready.

Our first stop was Naked Island, the one farthest from our resort. The water was calm when we headed out.

When we were a few meters from the shore, May brought out the munchies. This time, it was E-aji Nacho Chips with cheese dip. We shared her chips while sharing jokes, recalling the events of the previous day, and, of course, taking more pictures.

The waves got bigger when we approached Naked Island. A few bumps later, we finally docked. Another boat was docked there first and somebody was waving at us with a grin on his face. I waved back. It was Mateo, the birthday boy!

I jumped off the boat and walked around the very small island. It is named Naked Island because it was literally naked, much like the White Island of Camiguin. Naked Island is just bigger and it does not submerge at night. It also has a few shrubs and a single palm tree.

It was very windy and there was a slight "sandstorm" but that did not dampen our moods. No wind can overpower the beautiful sight before us.

A flock of seagulls

We frolicked on the beach while Ronnie dutifully stuck to his photography chores.

Sheer fun!

Perhaps Jane dreamed of becoming an FHM model when she posed for these shots:

See the sand gathering up at the distance?


Soon, the waves became more and more treacherous. We quickly packed up and headed back to the boat. It was a hellish ride to the next island. Our boat stopped three times amid the menacing waters. Mateo and company have gone ahead and was nowhere in sight. The boatman said there was something wrong with the rudder. This troubling news silenced us. I said a quick prayer while May started praying the rosary. From the start, she was the one who expressed a great fear of travelling through the huge waves. Jane stuck to her side of the boat, ready to throw up. We can see the concern on Ronnie's face as we were rocked mercilessly by the waves. After all, he is our Kuya in this entire adventure.

The engine restarted for the fourth time and we headed straight to Guyam Island. We have decided to skip Dako Island. Except for Jane, we have all been there before and we agreed that it was not worth a life-risking trip.

After what felt like a lifetime, we reached Guyam Island.

Guyam Island on a normal day

We were the only visitors of the island. It was still windy and the windswept sand was stinging. We brought our bags and lunch basket to the innermost table and stayed away from the mini "sandstorm".

Our nerves quickly calmed when our lunch was laid out. We called our boat captain and his assistant and asked them to join us. We ate steamed crabs, adobo seashells, grilled squid and kinilaw. I was lucky enough to get the biggest, heaviest bayot crab from the bunch. Burp!

When we finished eating, Darlene, May and I dipped in the water, attempting to burn the calories we just packed. We stayed at the mini "cove" where a rock formation served as wave breaker while Jane continued to torture Ronnie with another photo shoot.

Darlene, before swimming

Soon, another boat arrived with a group of bikini-clad girls. Ronnie wasted no time shooting the "landscape".

At around 1PM, it was time to go back to the resort. It was a calmer return trip. When we reached the lagoon, the water was still again. We chugged on very slowly to avoid disturbing the fish below.

After we docked, we continued swimming by the floating hut. We recalled our morning ordeal and laughed about it. Darlene got back to shore and returned with more chips to munch on. We chatted there until it was time to prepare for our bisperas affairs. We had five pending dinner invitations to attend that night!

It was Sunday and we wanted to hear mass at the town church. We hopped on an HH and posed for a souvenir shot before heading to town.

We wish all 4 of us would fit in one HH!

Bisperas de Fiesta

When we reached the church, there were a few people present. We asked them if there was a mass at 5PM. All of them said they did not know. Apparently, most of them are also visitors who are only there for the fiesta. I looked at the schedule posted by the door but it was for the fiesta masses and activities. There was nothing about Sunday masses. We just lit some candles and said our prayers. The church bells were ringing. We asked some more people and we were told that there was no afternoon mass on Sundays.

Nothing to do and with time to spare, we took another stroll around the town center. We settled at the plaza and watched the people go by.

People watching in General Luna

There was an interesting mix of passers-by in General Luna that afternoon. The locals were bustling to and fro, scampering for last minute preparations before the BIG bisperas dinner. Visitors were garbed to the nines, heading for the houses of friends and strangers. Local surfers also strolled by, relaxing before the first round of surfing heats the following day. Foreigners zoomed by in their motor bikes. "Councilor" Dondi was at his element. He greeted everyone he knew who passed by. At times, a friend of his would stop and chat for a while before moving on. Other times, he would shout or wave to friends on motorcycles or HH.

At dusk, we proceeded to our first dinner stop. It was a big property owned by relatives of the former town mayor. The balikbayan siblings who owned the house were in town for the fiesta. There were already a few guests there. We bumped to our tricycle driver from Dapa on our way in. Somebody led us to the lawn where a wooden round table was waiting for our group. We shyly made our way through and admired the landscape. The lawn was filled with orchids and other exotic plants. There was a screen-covered kubo which, I thought, would be perfect at the farm in Kinamlutan.

And then, our food was served. One by one, different dishes were placed on our table. The fresh homemade hopia came first. One bite and I got addicted to it. I could even go the whole night without anything else. But of course, we had to try the other recipes. There were too many that I could not recall all of them. I only remember eating bola-bola... and hopia. I gave my dessert to Dondi. He pointed out that we were served at our table while the other guests had to line up at the buffet. "VIP gud ta!", he exclaimed with a very wide grin. Our hosts dropped by our table to chitchat. One of them asked if we wanted tequila or wine, to which we sheepishly said no. He went inside the recreation room and came back with our cocktails.

Cocktails through personalized service

We lingered on for a while, never getting enough of the heavenly hopia. Dondi even tried to put a platefull of hopia in my big bag! When more people came in, we decided to leave so the other guests will have a place to sit on. Too full with no HH in sight, we started to walk in the dark road. I was a bit scared. Dondi made it worse by telling ghost stories. The two boys continued to tease us girls about being scared of ghosts and started running, pretending to leave us in the dark. Darlene shouted, "Nong Ronnie, isumbong ta gyud ka kang Mama!" As if hearing the magic words, Ronnie froze in his tracks. We all laughed. An HH came a bit later. Darlene and I got on it while the rest continued to wait.

We regrouped at a store/eatery and continued on foot towards our next stop. I learned that the loud girl from the boat in Surigao knew Ronnie and Dondi. Her name is Sarah. She also befriended Darlene and Jane on the boat and she invited us to her house. We knew we could not eat some more but we just wanted to show up out of respect. We saw her at the gate and told her we cannot stay because we just came from another house. She told us to come back for lunch the next day.


We skipped our other invites and we headed towards Nine Bar. It was closed because it was Sunday. We were told to come back the next day because there will be a lechon party. We decided to go back to Siargao Inn. The bar was quiet when we arrived. We sat on the bamboo benches and ordered our drinks. Again, the girls had cocktails and the 2 boys had beer. And as usual, we took pictures.

Class picture!

Butuanons in Siargao

May with a new friend

Jane with Balinese surfer, Rahtu Suargita

With Peter Thew of Billabong Southeast Asia

We looked at some souvenir shirts that were for sale at the bar and I chose one for myself. "Mango Rhum Girl" from the night before came and chatted with us. She also liked the shirt I picked so I decided to buy it. We drank, table-hopped and mingled with the other visitors. Jane, the cam-whore, posed for pics at every opportunity.

Shortly before 10PM, Darlene and May said goodnight. All of the events of the day proved to be too tiring for May who barely had enough energy to walk back to the resort. Jane and I stayed behind with Ronnie and Dondi. Dondi was talking to a Filipino friend who was visibly upset.

A few minutes later, Darlene texted me and said they didn't have the key. Worried, we followed them to the resort. Dondi had to stay behind and talk to his friend.

Everybody else also retired early. The fist round of surfing heats was starting the next day...

(Photos courtesy of Ronald and Darlene Chua and some clueless citizens of the internet.)