Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Siargao Adventure Day 1: Meet, Greet and Eat!!!

Our official model - Jane @ Dapa port


It was a gloomy day when we set foot in Siargao. We feared that overcast skies will continue during our whole trip. Still, we were thankful that it was not raining.

When I got down the boat at Dapa port, I was approached by Dino D., my brother's high school buddy. He works for San Miguel and is now based in Siargao. Lucky guy! We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk. He bid us farewell when he spotted his San Miguel colleagues who arrived with us on the same boat.

We then boarded a yellow tricycle and headed towards Travellers Inn and Beach Resort in Cabuntog, General Luna. The ride took 20 minutes.

Travellers Resort

At the gate of the resort, we were greeted by two guys named Mark and Sammy. They were Ronnie's friends from the regional office of the Department of Tourism. Mark is the bachelor whom Ronnie previously mentioned to us. Apparently, he was eagerly awaiting our arrival because Ronnie informed him that he was coming with 4 "chicks". Ronnie did not mention that 2 of the 4 "chicks" were married, one is his younger sister and the other is very much committed to her US-based boyfriend.

Mark and Sammy escorted us inside the resort where we were told that the room reserved for us has not been vacated but there were other rooms available. The occupants of our room were supposed to check out the day before but decided to extend their stay. It was not clear if they were leaving that noon. We checked the other rooms and settled for the private hut for 3 with 1 additional bed at P1,000 per night. Not bad! We had the hut all to ourselves and it has a veranda. Ronnie was sleeping at another friend's room, also in that resort. Mark and Sammy were staying at the neighboring resort, Cabuntog Resort, with the rest of the DOT team.

The guys waited while we freshened up. Then, we hopped on the fastest means of travel around the island - the habal-habal! It takes practice to squeeze into these things which I call HH. (I am not an HH virgin. I have experienced riding an HH twice in Davao del Sur.) I rode with May. Being the heavier one, I was designated to the middle to maintain balance.

We proceeded to Cloud 9, the surf site, to watch the opening ceremony of the 2008 Billabong Invitational Surfing Cup.

Cloud 9

When we got there, the ceremony has not started so we decided to eat brunch at one of the food stations along the road fronting Cloud 9 Resort. We opted for the faster turo-turo style eatery. We had fried fish, sauteed mix vegetables and pancit bihon. Darlene ordered an additional piece of fried chicken, violating our pact that we would only eat seafoods and vegetables in Siargao.

While we were eating, May suddenly asked, "Asa man ta mag-dinner Nong Ronnie?". Ronnie replied, "Nagkaon pa gani ka, nag-huna-huna na ka asa ta mag-dinner." We all burst out laughing. Little did we know that this would set the "theme" for the rest of our stay in General Luna.

Several people approached our table, most of them Ronnie and Mark's friends. We were introduced to one of the foreign guests whose name now escapes me.

After eating, we spotted the Nestle ice cream cart parked across the road from the eatery. We ran to it like little kids and bought some Nestle Pops, our new favorite ice cream snack. (Ronnie would tell us later that Mark, on seeing us eating our ice cream commented, "Di ba gikan lang sila nagkaon?". He clearly had no idea!)

Spot the Pops!

With our Pops in hand, we walked towards Cloud 9 Resort. There, we saw a group of foreign surfers assembled at the welcome sign right before the bridge leading to the viewing tower. On instinct, Jane posed for a photo with some surfers in the background.

A tent was setup midway through the bridge where the opening ceremony would be held.

The program was supposed to start at 10AM. It was almost 11. We asked around why it has not started yet. We learned that the governor is running late. Oh well, no surprise there. We just made most of our time by having our first major photo session.

My travel companions (L-R): Jane, Darlene and May

Surfboards in the background

Me with the boards


The opening ceremony went underway at 11:30AM. The governor (and former Congressman), Robert Ace Barbers, ended up missing the whole event because he was sick. A group of teachers sang the doxology. A little girl sang the National Anthem. The "lively" emcees introduced various important people who said their speeches. Blah blah blah. Click! Click! Click! We only paid attention when the competing surfers were introduced one by one by Mr. Gerry Deagan, the head of the organizing committee.

The competitors on parade:

And then there were more speeches. Blah blah blah. Click! Click! Click!

At this point, the desire to nap took over my sleep-deprived friends. Ronnie went missing. So, the four of us decided to head back to the resort.

General Luna

Back at Travellers Resort, we went to the beach area for another photo session. I decided to get my sarong and nap at the beach. Just as I laid down on the sand, the 3 girls finished with their shoot and went back to our room to grab some winks. I hurriedly gathered my stuff and followed suit. The three started dozing off while I listened to my Walkman. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. It was Ronnie. He bragged about how full he was from all the food at the official lunch for the guests and organizers. He told us we shouldn't have left and ate lunch there with him. He then bugged us about sleeping on vacation. He said we should already go to the market if we wanted to buy seafood for our dinner. I went outside to wait. Darlene and May followed with chips in hand. Jane was the last to come out.

Outside, Ronnie was waiting with another friend. He introduced him to us as Dondi, a member of the technical staff of the Surfing Cup. This guy would be our official "tour guide" for the rest of our adventure. We said our hellos and started walking towards the town proper. It was a looong walk.

@ the Secretariat prior to our mid-afternoon walk
(Note the chips on Darlene and May's hands)

Along the way, we passed by a hut where Dondi asked about somebody he knew who could prepare our dinner. The cook was out so we moved on. We paused and took pictures of this:

L-shaped coconut tree. Weird Jane no?

And this:

J-Spot, a local surf shop

We stopped by a quaint souvenir shop called Liku-un and bought surfboard-shaped key chains for P60 (haggled from P75). The vendor said he sells it for P150 each to foreigners. Good thing we were native-looking enough!

Liku-un Souvenir Shop

Surfboard key chains

May got thirsty after all the chip-munching and craved for coconut juice. Dondi led us to Shats Resort where he asked somebody to climb the coconut trees for us. The fruits were not so young but the juice was still good. Nothing beats a gulp of coconut juice after a long walk!


We paid P10 for each coconut and strolled on.

Not long after, we reached General Luna proper. At the junction, somebody was selling hot bread cooked in a makeshift pugon using coconut husks for fuel. There was a waiting line so we paid for our order of pan de coco. We will just come back for them on our way back to the resort. We also ordered surf bread in advance for the following morning. I also bought Ovaltine sachets from the nearby store to drink for breakfast the next day.

What's cooking?

We continued walking until we reached the boulevard. Here we took more pictures. Ronnie was our official photographer.

Tsunami warning at the Boulevard

Boulevard Beauties

There was a stage with the Billabong backdrop where we had our "jumping photo session". After around 10 takes, we still haven't nailed the perfect "jump shot" . We were still willing to give it another try but Ronnie was getting tired. It was not easy for him to keep from laughing while maintaining focus for a perfect shot. The whole scene was hilarious! A crowd of small children gathered in front of the stage and watched us, giggling.

One... two... three...


We recovered our senses and headed towards the small wet market. There were no fish available. There was a small octopus and a baby shark, my first time to see one. These were too exotic for us. We continued to walk towards the town plaza, still in search for our first dinner in Siargao.

It must have been Divine Providence that brought us to Mateo, Ronnie and Dondi's friend who was celebrating his birthday that day. We bumped into him at the town center and he invited us to his house for dinner. Dondi and Ronnie readily accepted. Mateo said he was just on his way back to his house to continue roasting the lechon.

It was only 4PM and with our first dinner date sealed, we hailed an HH, picked up our pan de coco and headed back to the resort.

Snack time with Dondi

We settled in one of the resort cottages by the beach to feast on our pan de coco with liver spread and Coke. We started with small talk. And then, Dondi started really talking. At this point, he was beginning to warm up to us, entertaining us with his never-ending stories. We learned that he is the brother of Zeny, Ronnie's friend who used to work in Butuan at the DOT-Caraga office. I remember working with Zeny at the Philippine Centennial celebration in 1998. Ronnie and Dondi met thru Zeny in one of the past surfing events. Dondi is from Gingoog City and not an original Siargaonon. He just visits Siargao during surfing and other special events to help the organizing committee. He has been doing this for the past 9 years. That explains why he acted like a town councilor during our walk earlier, greeting and waving at almost everyone we met on the road. This guys seems to know everybody in General Luna!

When we expressed our reservation about going to the birthday party of a stranger, Dondi told us not to worry because we all heard Mateo's invitation, which makes us his official guests and not gate crashers. He told us we should get used to it already because we have more parties to attend for the next 2 days. It turns out that it was the town fiesta on Monday and when Dondi learned that Ronnie was coming with some friends, he thoughtfully secured our invitations for the bisperas dinner, fiesta breakfast, fiesta lunch and fiesta dinner! He even boasted that we had at least 3 pending invites for each meal including one from the former town mayor! We were horrified! None of us have experienced going house hopping on town fiestas. In fact, we shun at the thought of being mami (mamistahay) and kuma (kumakaon). Now, we are about to experience our baptismal of fire! God help us!

Dinner and Bar Hopping

Dusk came and Dondi brought us to Siargao Inn, a short walk from our resort. It is one of the classier resorts in the area with mostly foreign guests. There was a bar there and true enough, it was filled with foreign surfers. Most of them were Australians.

@ Siargao Inn

We were just about to get settled in our seats when Mateo called Dondi to tell us that dinner is almost ready. We hurriedly paraded outside the resort, waited for an HH and zoomed to Mateo's house.

Dinner was ready when we arrived. Mark was already there to join us. We tasked Dondi to lead the prayer but he did not oblige. May saved him, we said grace and began to chow on lechon and crabs. By now, our "all seafood pact" completely went out the window. Their home-cooked lechon was so tasty!

L-R: Darlene, Me, May, Dondi, Mark, Jane and Ronnie

After eating, we brought our dirty plates to the kitchen one by one, led by Dondi. Our hosts told us to come back for lunch on Monday. Dondi looked triumphant. Another invitation scored! We lingered around for a while, listening to the singing from the videoke party across the street. We mentioned that Jane is a good singer so we decided to go to a videoke joint owned by another of Dondi's gazillion Siargaonon friends. We bid farewell to Mateo and his wife, who repeated her invitation for fiesta lunch.

We went to Joan's V-Ok in a more quiet part of the town. We ordered our drinks: rhum Coke for Darlene and me, plain Coke for May and beer for the rest. There were three other tables filled with locals. Jane started choosing her signature songs, gave the list to the waitress and waited for them to play on the machine. After an eternity, Jane's first song came on. She sang "Superstar", "Stars Are Blind" and "Tattooed On My Mind". There must have been something wrong with that machine because she only got a highest score of 90. Back in Butuan, she would have nailed an easy 100!

While Jane was singing, a surfer guy, again one of Dondi's friends, joined us. I didn't catch his name. I only learned that he was also from Butuan and he belonged to the Ratilla clan. A few minutes later, another guy followed. And then another.

Dondi confessed to us that Ratilla guy texted him earlier and invited Dondi to join him and his new model friends from Davao. Crazy Dondi texted back that he can't make it because he was with some "rich and famous" friends from Butuan. Thus, the 3 new guys rushed to join us one after the other to see who Dondi's new "rich and famous" friends were. We only learned later that one of the guys commented, "Isa ra man ang slim sa ila". Hahaha! Who were they expecting? Angelina Jolie???

When Jane was done, we transferred to Nine Bar, the most happening place in GL. May and Darlene were already very sleepy so they went back to the resort. Jane and I were left with Ronnie, Dondi and Mark. It was only around 9PM. Nine Bar was filled with all sorts of people from the yearly GL surfing crowd. There were Australians, Germans, Hawaiians and Israelis. There were visitors from Luzon, Visayas, and other parts of Mindanao, like us. There were surfers, tourists, and organizers. I liked the vibe at Nine Bar - laid back, friendly, good music. Standard dress code: shirts, board shorts and flip-flops. Some surfers were even shirtless and barefoot! There were some clueless girls who looked so out of place dressed like they were going partying in Greenbelt. Hello! We are on an island!

We spotted the 2nd guy who joined us earlier at the videoke bar. He was reintroduced to us as Al-al, one of the elite Filipino surfers and currently ranked 4th in the Philippines. I preferred calling him Alex. The nickname Al-al just reminds me of an expression we use back in Butuan. Alex did not stay long because he had to compete in the 2nd heat the next day.

The guys ordered another round of beer while I had my "innocent" Sprite. A little later, Mark asked Jane to dance. Ronnie, Dondi and I stayed at the table, enjoying our drinks, bobbing our heads to the music. A foreigner girl stopped by our table and offered us shots of mango rum.

Soon, Ronnie was getting sleepy. We called out Mark and Jane. Mark generously paid our bill and we went back to Travellers Inn.

We sat by the resort's mini bar and ordered some instant batchoy noodles. Mark had another beer. Everybody was a bit tipsy and we were getting a bit loud. I kept shushing everyone so as not to wake the resort guests. At one point, Jane interchanged Dondi and Mark's names, eliciting more laughter. Then, I made the "gihatagan ug P500 si Dondi para dili motug-an si Mark" remark which cracked everyone up. Dondi almost rolled on the sand laughing! That brought out his "tipak ang utok" kantyaw.

When the ruckus subsided, we finally said goodnight. It was already past midnight. We needed all the energy we could get for what was in store for us the following day...

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


Janeygurl_79 said...

grabeeee ko ka starring sa mga pics..hahahha... i love ur blog!!!

Mark Villanueva said...

Great pix jen.I'll grab a pic of guyam if okay lang coz i lost my copy.actually i lost a lot of pics of siargao especially during the awarding night of '05 when I presented the awards sa int'l surfers sa Cabuntog.whew!makaulit.

jaspercaesar said...

i read through your long but eventful blog entries of siargao ha! parang na feel anko inyo kahadlok sa trip to Guyam Island, which looks so inviting, parang Temptation Island baga. : )

i think i want you to bring me to Siargao, even off-surfing season.

funny that as a butuanon who's near siargao, bohol, and camiguin (been there for exactly 24 hrs only), wala pa jud ko ka anha sa mga nindot na places near agusan. hay pastilan.

i luv all what you did except that i might have packed 20 lbs right after the trip. hahahaha

and the pictures are great. DSLR cam , nindot jud. jane as usual is always photogenic. : )

Janeygurl_79 said...

jat!!! ika duha lang ko sa imo..maau man ka nabutang ang face sa edsa..hehehehe...

jaspercaesar said...

hahahaha jane - it will be a casting coup kung naa ta duha sa usa ka picture hehehe : ) feeling kaayo ko.

pero uy, guapa kud ka always. : )