When I first learned about the schedule of the 2008 Billabong Invitational Surfing Cup in Siargao, I immediately made plans to go with my friend, Darlene. We have been mentioning this in passing for the past few months and we were raring to go. We both have been to Siargao before and the island just keeps beckoning. I was there in the summer of 1998, a "safe" season to go because the seas were calmer. At that time, there were very few resorts and air-conditioned rooms were rare. Since then, several other resorts sprouted in the area, thanks to the growing popularity of Cloud 9 in General Luna, which is considered the Philippines' prime surfing spot.
Our adventure started at 1:30AM of September 20. Toto was our official driver. He was supposed to bring us to the port in Surigao and come back for us when we return from Siargao. We picked up the rest of our travel party: Jane, Darlene and her brother Ronnie, and May. When everyone was aboard, we stopped at May's WillGlo Convenience Store while Jane went inside Jollibee to order takeout. Darlene realized that she didn't have her camera's battery charger so we had to go back for it. We wouldn't dare go without it or Jane, "Miss Photo Op", might go nuts when the camera dies. Que horror!
At 2:30AM, we were on our way to Surigao. The three girls were asleep most of the time while I just listened to my Walkman. I always have a hard time sleeping in a moving car or bus, or in this case, our Tamaraw FX. We girls were seated at the back while Ronnie stayed in front with Toto.
It took us 2 hours to get to the port of Surigao City. It was windy when we arrived. We were a bit nervous about this trip due to the presence of Tropical Depression Niña off the coast of Catanduanes. The sight of the small motor boats didn't help. We decided to ride the earliest boat, "Britphil Express", which was scheduled to leave at 5:30AM and will travel to the port of Dapa for 2 and 1/2 hours. We bought our tickets and proceeded to a nearby gas station to use their wash room. On our way back, we bought some bibingka. We boarded the boat at around 5:00AM.
At 6:00AM, we were still in Surigao, cramped inside the small boat. The Coast Guard was nowhere to be found and we couldn't leave without being inspected. More people were coming in and everyone was becoming restless as gentle waves kept rocking us back and forth. I couldn't see much from where I sat but I'm pretty sure we were overloaded at this point. Our group was seated separately so we just exchanged text messages while waiting. My feet were numb and my skin was becoming pasty - definitely not the best feeling in the world. Good thing I was in the company of Surigaonons whose language amuses me. Plus, there was this very loud and funny Siargaonon girl who was with her Caucasian husband. Her hilarious antics provided entertainment for the other passengers.
At around 6:10AM, 2 guards finally showed up in a motorcycle. The extra passengers "hid" and occupied what was left of our breathing space as the 2 Coast Guards went through the motions of inspecting and re-inspecting the obviously overloaded boat. My thoughts went to sardines in a can and it was not because I was hungry.
At 6:30AM, we finally moved and off to the port of Dapa we sailed. For the next 150 minutes, I settled with this view from my window:
Throughout the trip, I enjoyed watching mild waves splash against the outer rigs. At midway, Darlene, Jane and Ronnie came out and stood by the side rails. They were hit by a huge splash and I heard the two girls squeal shrilly, to the delight of some and to the dismay of the awakened sleepers. As we drew nearer, the waves got bigger, but not as big as I expected.
From the boat, I called our resort for final confirmation of our reservation. I informed them that we were on our way aboard the "Britphil Express" and we will be checking in early. When I hung up, I can already see the port from a distance. We docked at Dapa port at past 9:00AM.
Finally, we were in Siargao!